Creating Dynamics In Jiu Jitsu

I remember playing dodgeball in my youth, and it reminds me of how dynamics in Jiu Jitsu work.  A popular dodgeball strategy was to use feints to get a read on the dodger’s reactions.  After a number of fakes I could often find a pattern to their responses.  “This guy likes to dodge to the right.”

What happens when they realize I’m collecting reactions to predict the future?  Now they start feeding me bad data.  They keep moving to the right on every feint.  Now it will be a surprise when they actually dodge left.Lucas Walker Playing Dodgeball

Or maybe they know that I know they are feeding me bad data.  Since I am ready for them to stop going right and try to surprise me by going left. Now maybe they actually just go right.

The second guessing becomes maddening. When a savvy player realizes this game within the game, the psychological battle becomes OVERWHELMINGLY complex!

What Are Dynamics In Jiu Jitsu?

In music, dynamics refers to the adjustments in volume and intensity that are played.  A certain part of the song may be played so loud it shakes the floors.  A few bars later, it is played so quietly the listener has to strain to hear.  The notes may flow together, or be individually accented.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I focus on creating variety.  I want to avoid predictability and keep my opponent guessing.  A small dose of surprise goes a long way towards disrupting strategy.

What Happens When I Don’t Create Dynamics In Jiu Jitsu?

The beginning grappler is content to complete the choreography of a movement.  He underestimates what the experienced grappler is paying attention to.

The experienced grappler seems psychic in their ability to predict patterns.  Lack of dynamics by someone newer makes for recognizable patterns.

The upper belt feels the lower belt tense their entire body and hold their breath right before they try to bridge and escape a bad position.  This warning shows the pattern, that holding breath, means a big movement is coming.  Riding out an explosive movement is much easier without the element of surprise.

If I am rolling with a grappler who is much faster than myself, I know that I have to hustle between positions or their speed will overrun me.  As the match goes on I am able to start timing their speed.

Finishing A Deep Kimura SubmissionI now know how fast I have to be to enter a position safely on time.  This means that if I know I am going to be late, I can choose options that help me bail out of lost battles instead.

The more predictable my opponent, the better my decision making can be.  Think about rolling with a white belt that only knows one move.  Stifling that move is rather simple.

Shutting down your opponent’s movements when they are predictable isn’t especially difficult.  Especially with regular training partners, you are able to get a feel for how they like to roll.

The Other Choices

What if the lower belt started to relax their breathing to stop giving early warning?

If they can’t relax their breathing yet, what if they started pretending to hold their breath at different times as a feint to make the upper belt think an escape was coming when it wasn’t?

What if a speedy player moved less than full speed leaving some room to crank up the volume during the proper TIMING?

What Does This Mean For Jiu Jitsu?

In Jiu Jitsu we all have natural tendencies or ruts that we fall into.  I call this our default mode.  Everyone’s default mode is unique to them, but over time we start to notice a few archetypes.  These types repeat themselves over and over again.

A few common “Types” we see in Jiu Jitsu
  • Scrambler –  creates scrambles and movement because they  end up getting the better position every time (See Jeff Glover for an example of a master scrambler).
  • Controller –  grinds their way to better positions inch by inch and avoid scrambles at all costs.
  • Hulk – powers out of bad positions and makes unbreakable grips
  • Zen – seems to just flow and never offer any staged resistance, luring the opponent into bad situations.

Each person will have a default mode or two that they fit into.  There is nothing wrong with this, but predictability leads to problems.

Examples Of Adding Dynamics To Archetypes


If I am a Scrambler type, my opponent becomes accustomed to my speed.  He is ready for all of my movements to come quickly and adjust his strategy accordingly.  I have become the dodger that always dodges left.  My default mode has become a liability. Wherever I go, he seems to be expecting it.

I have better results if I create variety to my speed.  Try to slow the pace and pull some of the Controller style into my game.  Grind through some positions and get him worried about countering this inch by inch battle.  JW Wright Passing Mike

Now, when I change gears and turn up the speed, the variety throws my opponent off balance.  Once I’ve seized the advantage, I can slow back down to controlling again.

My opponent’s focus has now been effectively split.  They are concerned both about giving up inches in a grueling battle.  The way to counter a controlling style is diametrically opposed to rushing in to positions to make sure that my speed doesn’t overrun them.

Moving slightly recklessly to beat speed, opens up chances for my advantageous grips and positions where they will be controlled.  If he slows the movements to avoid making a small mistake, his slowness becomes a liability when I turn the speed back on.

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern that confirms their projections.

It settles them into predictable patterns of response occupying the mind while you wait for the extraordinary moment – that which they cannot anticipate.

-Sun Tzu, Art Of War


If I am the Controller type, inserting elements of speed works hand in hand to throw my opponent off balance.  Instead of meeting grinding force with resistance and frames, they now are also worried about opening up a window that will be exploited quickly.

My slow pressure also lulls them, and then I surprise them with a flurry of movement.  I am not be as naturally fast as the speedy guy, but like Einstein said, “everything is relative.”  Going from 10 – 40 mph is a bigger change than from 50-60 mph.

One Easy Example Of Dynamics In Jiu Jitsu To Use On The Mats The Next Time You Roll!

Here is an example of the power of dynamics at work, using the dynamics of force.

Sneaky Collar Drag Back Take From Closed Guard
  1. Start in the bottom of closed guard.
  2. Very casually make a grip on your opponents left sleeve.
  3. Make a cross collar grip on your opponent.
  4. Anchor down on the cross collar grip to emphasize it.  If the opponent wasn’t thinking about breaking this grip before, they are now.  They will likely make the mistake of reaching up with both hands to do a 2 on 1 grip break.
  5. Using the slyly achieved sleeve grip, drag their sleeve across your body to take their back.

This sequence works remarkably well because I made that sleeve grip casually.  If I started pulling and adding tension to that sleeve grip, the opponent becomes hyper aware of it. Instead I made a grip that he hardly cares about, and then made a cross collar grip which he should ALWAYS care about.

Matt Williams CoachingThe level of danger with this cross collar grip essentially causes amnesia to that first benign grip.  Now when both hands come up to grab the cross collar grip to break it, he has created separation from my body.

Before, I couldn’t drag his arm across, because of his connection to my body, but now dragging his arm across is very simple.

By using variables in my force, and capitalizing on his predictability I got an entire move
ahead.  If we were playing Uno, I just played a “skip” card.  Trying to get the collar grip first, then searching for a sleeve grip, his alarm bells would have sounded off and he would have been alert to the danger.

Uno Skip Card


Lack of variety leads to predictability which only benefits our opponent.  

Use different dynamics to surprise and off balance your opponent.

Recognize your strengths and give yourself levels to go above and below your natural mode. (Naturally work below your top speed so you can amp it up when needed, etc.)

Play with dynamics in your game. I would love to hear more examples of how you successfully use these concepts in live rolls in the comments!

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  1. […]  I feel like there are many people that get stuck playing only the very same game. Then you see that happening all the time where after a couple of years there is a new guy. That […]

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