Don’t Skip These First Two Steps

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Let’s talk about a rule of thumb in BJJ.

I had this one in mind when I was a brown belt & started working on my guard passing game, but I didn’t really have a simple and straightforward formulation.

But earlier last year, I learned a pretty good way to formulate this rule of thumb from my friend Thales Nakassu when we were at Bali MMA in Indonesia.

He is a black belt under Ricardo Vieira of Checkmat, and currently teaches BJJ at Evolve MMA in Singapore. He learned this formula from Ricardo Vieira.

This is a simple guideline that you can follow whether you’re trying to pass your opponent’s guard or trying to sweep/submit your opponent from your guard. It applies to the standing phase as well. It’s pretty much applicable in any position you can think of.

It’s made up of these three steps:

  1. Defend
  2. Control
  3. Attack

Quick explanation.

Whatever you do, you have to make sure that you’re safe. That’s the first step you have to take care of.

Once you’re in a safe position to make a move, control your opponent. Typically, you should be limiting your opponent’s options in this phase so you will know exactly how your opponent will react (if they can react at all).

In the final phase, you’ll execute your offensive move. If you don’t skip the first two steps, this one should be the easiest one of these three steps.

Of course, BJJ is not a static game, and your opponent will try to advance their position continuously… you will need to keep adjusting your “safe & controlling” position even after you’ve managed to reach there.

Also, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb. For example, if you’re losing by points and the time is running out, your best option might be to make a Hail Mary attempt to go for a submission or a takedown or whatever that may help you win. (On that note… I watched this old match between Buchecha and Leo Nogueira earlier this week. The last 15 seconds of the match get super exciting.)

But this rule of thumb applies to most situations in BJJ, and it can help you a lot. So, when you roll, keep asking yourself whether you’re in a safe position, and pay attention to what your training partner does.

A related rule of thumb, by the way, is:
If you are not in a safe position OR not sure if you’re in such a position, don’t make that move you intend to make.

If you keep these things in mind and apply them to how you roll, I’m sure your overall BJJ skills will improve.