Occupy Your Opponent’s Space

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People often say BJJ is like chess.

I don’t think this analogy is that accurate, but I get the sentiment behind it.

BJJ is not a game of brute force. You have to be strategic if you want to beat skilled players.

And each player in a match tries to control the other player and achieve checkmate – by reaching a dominant controlling position where the other player has to tap out (or pass out).

Perhaps this much is similar.

But everyone has different pieces in BJJ (I.e., different physical attributes and their weapons of choice), unlike in chess, where every player has access to the same pieces and starts the game on the same terms as their opponent.

I think it might be easier to understand how most BJJ moves require you to occupy your opponent’s space by imagining that this is like taking a piece away from your opponent in chess.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a takedown, sweep, guard pass, or submission. You typically need to insert your structure into some space where your opponent’s structure is supposed to be.

When you do that, how you place your structure (your arm, foot, shin, etc.) matters a lot. Positioning is the key here. And in many cases, it’s not just an individual component, but you need to use your entire body as your structure.

When that space is occupied, your opponent will have a hard time reclaiming that space. And a typical result here is that your opponent’s movements will be significantly restricted.

For example, watch this clip of Gordon Ryan submitting Roberto Jimenez with armbar from the S-mount position. The video uploaded explains what’s going on here pretty well. So you can listen to it, but basically, Gordon is taking away space where Jimenez’s elbows need to be by using the underhooks and S-mount. You need to keep your elbows close to your torso in most defensive scenarios.

By the way, this video above might get taken down… so if you want to check it out, do so right away.

Another example… this video explains how Lucas Lepri does his knee cut pass. In every step of the pass, the passer is taking a piece away from the guarder and thus occupying the guarder’s space little by little. It’s just an example, and the same idea applies to any guard pass unless it’s something like a cartwheel pass.

Does this idea make sense to you?

If it does, try keeping this in mind and see how you could apply it to your game.