Defense Paradox

Effective offense is built on effective defense.

We’ve all heard the old saying: “the best defense is a good offense.”  This sounds like good advice on the surface, and in a lot of ways, it is: your opponent can’t go on the attack if you’re constantly forcing them to defend.  That said, this old adage has a bit more nuance to it, so let’s dig deeper.

Yes, to some extent it’s true that your opponent can’t easily attack if they’re being forced to defend.  Danaher and team refer to this as offensive and defensive cycles: you always want to be in an offensive cycle, and you want to trap your opponent in a defensive cycle.  On the podcast, we’ve referred to this concept as dictating the pace.

So yes, it’s better to be on offense than on defense.  But the old “best offense” adage omits one crucial piece of info: if you want your offense to work, you can’t leave any defensive holes.

I call this the defense paradox: effective offense is built on effective defense.

If you’re overly focused on attacking, you leave a lot of openings that your opponent can exploit.  This is one of the reasons it’s so easy to play guard against a white belt: they’re so focused on aggressively passing that they leave major openings for sweeps and submissions.

I’m not the only one who feels this way: John Danaher disciples, Saulo Ribeiro, and Priit Mihkelson have also advised that defense should be the first thing you focus on.

Why is prioritizing defense important?  Here are the main reasons:

Your offense is only as good as your defense.
If you have any glaring defensive holes, any attempt to attack will backfire and be turned against you.

Even if you don’t use a tactic, you need to be able to defend against it.
You don’t have to be a master of every aspect of Jiu-Jitsu, but you do need to know how to defend against any attack that could be launched against you.

Being good at defense makes it easier to get back on offense.
If you’re good at defense, you’ll be fluid at defense.  This makes it much easier to transition out of a defensive cycle and back into an offensive one.

Good defense gives you the confidence to be aggressive.
Good offense requires confidence in your strategy, and you’ll be a lot more confident if you know that your defense will protect you in the worst-case scenario.

So what does all this mean?  For starters, if you want to adopt new tactics, your first step should be learning to defend against them.  Offense is built on defense.

On the podcast:

Further study: