Movement vs. control in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!

BJJ, english, Technic | 0 comments



July 10, 2017

by Prof. Martin Guggi


Watching experienced BJJ players roll I am always impressed by their constant movements. It looks like, they never rest. From the beginning of the fight to the end, movement is one of the main goals to get the superior control or finally the submission! This flowing aspect of the sport is very fascinating. When you roll yourself you sometimes feel that everything is working, every move is connected to the next and you feel like surfing a wave. On bad days it feels the opposite way… the wave breaks and somebody else is flowing over you….


Breaking it down there are two phases in the fight! Normally they are always changing.

  1. Movement Phase
  2. Control Phase
    1. increasing control
    2. dominant, superior control
    3. absolute control = submission


I hear my coach all the time whispering in my ear: “Keep moving! Do not stop!” But sometimes this is very hard to achieve. For me there is one rule: The guy who moves better wins the game. When you are able to move you are able to:

  1. react faster
  2. it is easier to change the angles quicker
  3. anticipate the moves of your opponent faster
  4. you are harder to control
  5. but you have to have a good endurance and technique


This means I always want to keep moving. You want to move when you

  1. Standing

Watch two Judo fighters starting to fight. The first contact is the grip fight. Who gets the better control wins the grip fight and can start to go for his favorite throw. But it all starts with movement, the fighters are circling around each other. Setting up their own grip and at the same time destroying everything the other guy is trying to do. Then we have the grip– first control. Who gets the more dominant control is able to get the throw. But the main first goal is to keep moving to get an increasing control over the partner.

  1. Passing the Guard

There are a lot of ways to pass someone’s Guard. You can pass on your legs or on your knees. I talk now about passing on your legs – standing. This means you start moving to get passed your opponents legs. You try to stay close to your partner but not too close that he can get a dominant control over you, setting up any guardform. Finally you can find a hole in your partners guard and start your favorite pass. Before you find this hole in your partners guard you have to keep moving around. Pushing and pulling his legs waiting for a reaction of his legs. Passing, keep the ladder-principle in your head.

            Leader Principle:

Passing means getting your superior control over your partner. Normally you cannot jump to sidecontrol right away, but you have to work your way up. Imagine climbing up a ladder.

  • First you need to pass his feet
  • Second you pass his knees
  • Third you pass his hip
  • Finally you reach sidecontrol
  • And are able to stabilize your position

Do not rest until you reached sidecontrol! Some people are resting already when the get to legdrag position! But this is too early  – You can only relax when you reached your first goal and this is after climbing the whole ladder – when you can control him and stabilize your position in his sidecontrol.

Your partner on bottom wants to stop you from moving around and setting up any guard. This means he wants to bring your body in his guardform and getting an increasing control over your movements. It does not matter if you are on top or on bottom – you always want to be the guy being able to move more than the other person. It does not matter how fast or heavy you are – if you can move more than your partner you can create more control.

  1. Counter a move

When you are thinking about countering a move of your partner – than it means he got superior control over you. He moved better than you already and now it is time to get back to the movement phase. You need to get out of the control and start being able to move again, start being able to set up new traps and getting the dominant control back over your partner.

  1. Escape a position

Similar to countering a move is escaping a position. He is dominating you and controlling your movements more than you can control him. If you cannot get back in your movement phase than you are giving up all your possibilities letting him reach absolute control over you – the submission. You need to find a way to get out of his superior control and start to work with your arms and legs together again.

First contact – The Grip?

When we talk about the first contact we always think about the grip first. Especially in the gi the grip fight is very important to get the first way of control over your opponent. This first control can become a very superior or even dominant control to set up my next move and to stop him from his next movement. But before we are able to get any grip, we are already moving around and controlling distance and angles. First we walk around, trying to find a good angle to set up a more dominant grip then he can. Sometimes we do not even grip but start to push his arms or legs (in the guard) to the side waiting for any reaction. The more details and steps we see in the game the more parts of the game we can concentrate on. We are winning step by step. The control phase is increasing all the time from a dominant to a superior to the absolute control.  


All sports are based on movements of our body. Our legs and arms are connected to our trunk. This means we have to get past arms and legs to get to the trunk. If we are able to control the trunk we are able to look for a dominant position and finally using this to get absolute control submitting our opponent. Talking about movements this means we don’t only have to improve our movements but also concentrate in training which movements the partner can do to counter my technique. Training or drilling I need to understand my move but also I need to think of all reactions he can do to defend my move. Sometimes it is easier not to concentrate on techniques but think about angles which you can use to set up your superior control and think about his angles he can use to move to get out of my increasing control setup.

TIPS for Drilling!

  1. Learn and understand the technique you want to apply;
  2. Concentrate on the details;
  3. Incorporate movement in applying your technique;
  4. Incorporate reactions of your partner in countering your technique;
  5. Start connecting techniques;
  6. Work on using speed and pressure on the right spots; Changing speed and pressure all the time;
  7. Start to incorporate your moves and his reactions in your gameplan!


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