All techniques in Jiu-Jitsu are just combinations of frames, levers, and wedges.
The bad news? There are potentially infinite techniques in Jiu-Jitsu, each with dozens or hundreds of details. You’ll never remember them all.
The good news? You don’t have to. All techniques are comprised of just three things: frames, levers, and wedges. These are the core mechanics of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Once you understand the core mechanics, you’ll start to see the commonalities behind all techniques. More importantly, you won’t need to remember every single step when applying a technique; you just need to remember to apply the core mechanics. This lets you focus less on rote memorization and more on “filling in the gaps” on the fly. It also allows you to be more creative and modify techniques to suit you, or even create your own.
Frames are perhaps the most important defense concept in Jiu-Jitsu, and are critical to making the space necessary to protect yourself. Framing means creating a shield with the hard and bony parts of your body to prevent your opponent from closing in on you.
Good frames don’t rely on muscles. You shouldn’t be trying to bench press or force your opponent away from you. Instead, you’re using your skeleton to create a bony shield that keeps your opponent at a distance. Good frames are solid.
It’s also preferable to make frames that don’t involve joints your opponent can exploit. For example, if you straighten your arm and try to push your opponent away with your hand, it’s easy for your opponent to collapse your arm because your elbow is a weakness in the structure of the frame. It’s usually preferable to frame with your forearms or elbows. Similarly, with your legs it’s usually preferable to frame with your knees or shins, rather than pushing away with your feet.
Levers are the primary way to create openings and attack your opponent. A lever is anything you can grab onto and use to control your opponent’s body. The levers to the body are (from strongest to weakest): your legs, your arms, and your head. This is the Anatomic Hierarchy.
Using the head as a lever primarily attacks the posture of your opponent, while using the arms and legs primarily attacks structure. See the Theory of Alignment for a more detailed explanation of posture and structure.
Both your arms and legs have three primary joints:
- For arms: Shoulder, elbow, wrist.
- For legs: Hip, knee, ankle.
Generally speaking, to control an arm or a leg effectively you need to have control of at least two of these three joints.
When you are on the attack: Lever control is what allows you to advance to more dominant positions and ultimately secure a submission. After all, all legitimate submissions are an attack on a lever. See: Isolate a Single Target.
When no one has a clear advantage: Lever control is especially important because the first person to secure a dominant lever will usually control the fight. See: Grips Dictate Position.
There are two types of wedges:
- A blocking wedge, which immobilizes part of your opponent’s body
- A prying wedge, which pries open your opponent’s frame.
Placing your hand next to your opponent’s hip to prevent them from re-guarding is an example of a blocking wedge.
The knee cut pass, where you drive your knee through your opponent’s guard so he cannot utilize his legs, is an example of a prying wedge.
Wedges and levers often go hand in hand. In order for a lever to be effective, you usually need to create a wedge on the opposite side of the lever so your opponent cannot escape.