Force Vectors

Identify the exact angle of incoming force, and meet it or redirect it.

You remember the definition of vectors from high school physics, right?

Oh, who are we kidding…of course you don’t. So here it is:

A vector is a mathematical term refering to a combination of magnitude and direction.

Magnitude tells you how hard you’re applying force, or how fast you’re moving. Direction tells you where that force or motion is going.

You can use vectors to measure applied force. So a force vector tells us how much force we’re applying in a given direction.

Option #1: Meet the force vector

In Jiu-Jitsu, force vectors matter because you can absorb a lot more force if you match the vector exactly.

To visualize this, think of the kickstand on a motorcycle. Despite being a thin piece of metal, a kickstand can support the entire weight of a motorcycle. This is because it props up the weight at the exactly correct angle. As anyone who’s ridden a bike knows, if the kickstand is not placed at the correct angle it will collapse.

When you’re playing a bottom position in Jiu-Jitsu, you can apply the same principle by matching your opponent’s force vector. If you can identify the exact angle of incoming force and frame against it, you can absorb tremendous amounts of incoming force without relying on muscle.

It is important, of course, to use solid frames when matching your opponent’s force vector. For example, a fully outstretched arm can collapse at the elbow or lead to hyperextension, so in many cases a forearm frame is preferable.

Note that meeting the force vector is a temporary solution. It’s intended to buy you time to hip escape and re-guard. If you meet the force vector but don’t move, your opponent will eventually switch angles and collapse your frame.

Option #2: Redirect the force vector

In some cases you may be better off redirecting the force vector; in other words, forcing your opponent to change the angle of incoming force. This is a powerful strategy and a lot more fluid than just meeting the force vector.

There are two ways two redirect your opponent’s force vector:

  1. Use lever control (arms, legs, or head) to force your opponent’s angle to change.
  2. Move your own body when your opponent’s weight is resting on you.

Further Study: