Don’t abandon one point of control until you’ve replaced it with another.
You have five tools for controlling your opponent: two arms, two legs, and your head. When you’re transitioning from one position to another, you’ll need to let something go. But you never want to release one point of control until you’ve taken another.
As an example, if you’re releasing a grip with one hand, make sure you’re grabbing something useful with the other. You never want a situation where both of your hands are unused. Think of it like climbing a rope: you never want to let go with both hands at the same time.
Placeholders aren’t only about your arms. The same rules apply to your legs, and even your head. As a general rule, make sure that you’re always using as many of your five weapons as you can. One of the most challenging – but also most important – parts of Jiu-Jitsu is learning to synchronize your head, both arms, and both legs together to constantly control your opponent.
Always be asking yourself: am I doing something useful with my hands? Am I doing something useful with my legs? Am I doing something useful with my head? Every unused weapon is a weakness in your game. To the greatest extent possible, you want to be using all of your five weapons at once.
Examples of placeholders
When you are completing a knee cut pass, you need to control your opponent’s arms or torso before you pass the legs.
When switching your grip while playing a collar, sleeve, or lapel guard, you need to have at least one hand grabbing something at all times. If at any point both your hands are unused, there’s nothing stopping your opponent from beginning a pass.