In Brazilian jiu jitsu, knowledge is literally power. And if knowledge is power, then learning is how you gain it. The more you learn, the better you get.
The result of this is that jiu jitsu places an inherent emphasis on learning. This is the “secret” behind the rapid and continual development of brazilian jiu jitsu as an art form. It’s also the way to get better. Want to improve? Learn more. Easy, right?
Not really. Here’s the problem. There’s too much to learn in jiu jitsu.
Imagine that jiu jitsu is a tree with six branches. Each of those branches are one of the six main positions in BJJ: full guard, half guard, open guard, side mount, full mount, and back mount.
Each of these positions have approximately four sub positions from both top and bottom, eight in total. Positions like De la Riva, Reverse DLR, spider guard, knee-shield, knee-through-the-middle, leite half guard, and S-mount are just a few examples of the sub positions. If we go back to our tree, this means each of the six main branches now have eight smaller twigs branching out from them.
A quick multiplication problem tells us that there are about 48 twigs on our BJJ tree. Out of each of these smaller twigs, there are even smaller twigs branching out. These are the techniques we all know and love. To be honest, I have no idea how many techniques there are. At best, I can name three or four from every sub position, but I’m certain that there are at least a few dozen I don’t know*.
*to be accurate, it’s more like I don’t know how many brazilian jiujitsu techniques I don’t know. There could be just a few dozen or several thousands of them out there and I would have no idea either way.
For the sake of our imaginary tree let’s assume that each of the 48 twigs have a modest 4 smaller twigs growing out of them. Assuming that that there are only four bjj techniques that can be done from each sub position, this still brings us to a hefty product of 192 total techniques in jiu jitsu.
Besides the fact that there are definitely more than 192 bjj techniques in total, this is still a huge number to learn and master. To further the complexity, depending on the user’s body type and the situational demands of the match, every single techniques has hundreds of equally viable iterations.
Given the sheer volume of bjj techniques, how can anyone hope to master BJJ . There are too many. Each jiu-jitsu technique takes a lot of TIME to learn, and even more time to master. Unfortunately, none of us has unlimited time. This conflict between knowledge and time is the hardest problem in BJJ.
Adding time into the equation changes everything. In the beginning of this post, I said that knowledge was power in jiu jitsu, which meant that learning was how you gained more power.
That statement still holds, but merely accumulating a large library of techniques can no longer be seen as a viable strategy towards mastery. The rules of the game have shifted. Everyone is on the clock.