by Prof. Martin Guggi
When you start improving in your BJJ/Grappling journey you will have to answer one question for sure: “which BJJ-Style I am going to fight”.
Let´s clarify the word “Style”:
Like always you need to understand and master the basics concepts first. In Grappling you cannot be great at guard passing but you do not know how to hold your guard. You need to have at least some knowledge in each area of the game. But of course we prefer some areas.
Mastering the basics need 2 – 4 years, or up to your blue or purple belt. Then you can see that students start to develop their own game and style of fighting. Some are getting better in guard passing, some focus more on takedowns, some more (hopefully not only) on leglocks ….
So which styles are there? In the end nobody can say how many styles exist, probably as much as people who train Jiu Jitsu. Everybody is developing somehow their own style and game. But I think we can summarize them to a few, to give an overview.
1. Takedowns and Top Game
2. Guardpuller and open Guard game
1. Pressure Pass Style
2. Loose and quick passing Style
1. Open Guard Styles with less control but a lot of movement
2. Close and Half Guard Style with more control but less movement
The most important fact about styles is – you should not choose your style! Your anatomy is the first reason why one style fits you better then another. I have long legs and I am skinny. Applying some Judostyle takedowns was always harder for me. I still keep on training them because I like to improve in all areas but if I can choose I feel much safer on the ground playing some kind of open guard where I can use my long legs better.
Today the Submission only tournaments are getting much more popular and this also improved BJJ. Leglocks are getting more and more into the focus of grapplers. The reason is simple: If you do not get points for passing, then why waste your energy if the legs of your opponent are right in front of you. The downside is that a lot of newcomers of the art tend to start only working on leg locks and they forget to take a look at their leg anatomy first. If your legs are not very flexible, you are tapping on foot locks very easily you should start to think again – if you really should start to develop a game only based on food locks. If you start to attack the legs of the other person, your legs are going to be exposed too….
Of course the rule set you are fighting in is important too. And if you start to enter IBJJF Tournament, NAGA, ADCC or Submission only Tournament your style and game is going to change and adapt a little bit too. Did you realize that some high level BJJ athletes you only see in events with the same rule set? Some submission only specialist you will never see in an IBJJF Tournament because Heel Hooks are forbidden and you get disqualified for knee reaping. If this are your go to weapons than you have a problem to fight under all rules. The other way around is the same – you see grapplers who fight every year at the IBJJF World Championship but you have not seen them a lot in submission only events. Of course there are some guys you will find in all tournaments. For me these are the real role models in BJJ/Grappling/NoGi I look up to.
Do not make the mistake to choose your style!!! Ask yourselves first which anatomy advantages and disadvantages you have! Like everybody you will have both. My advantage is for sure my long legs but I have a long neck too and my wrists are weak too. Do not stop because you do not see any advantages in your own anatomy. Look at the great BJJ Guys out there: Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, Jeff Glover, Rafael Mendes … they all are good in certain areas. Some fight only under a special rule set… but they all found something in their game where they got famous for. Accept what you have and work on your advantages. Perhaps you also look which Bjj champion is more similar to your body and your anatomy. Please like who every you prefer but if you want to have the same game like a smaller quick quy but you are heavy and not so fast yourself… you perhaps should keep looking from which bjj champion you can copy and use more!
Do not make the mistakes saying I want to be a speed passing guy if you are heavy and not so quick. Accept what you have and start working on your strong areas first and also work on your weak areas. In the end you should be able to fight against lighter, heavier, stronger, weaker, faster, slower opponents and not only against one kind of fighter.
Incorporate the following rolling style into your training:
….and you are going to find out in which areas you feel more natural than other areas and then you are going to find out which style, which areas of the game fit your anatomy better than others!