How To Watch A Jiu Jitsu Match That Ends In Submission – written by Geeza
This article has links to 51 matches that end in submission filmed at ADCC UK, The Bristol Open UK, and The South East Asian Grappling Games, Thailand.
A. WHY WATCH JIU JITSU MATCHES?
1. For entertainment.
2. To gather information.
3. To increase your understanding.
4. To help learn technique and match strategy.
B. THE 7 KEY FACTORS THAT AFFECT A MATCH ENDING IN SUBMISSION
1. The rules.
2. The referee and judges.
3. The people watching.
4. The coach of the player who gets the submission.
5. The coach of the player who submits.
6. The player who gets the submission.
7. The player who submits.
C. THE 3 LEVELS OF WATCHING JIU JITSU MATCHES
1. 1st level – ELEMENTARY; learning to watch a BJJ match.
2. 2nd level – INSPECTIONAL; skimming a BJJ match.
3. 3rd level – ANALYTICAL; an in-depth examination.
a. Pigeonholing a match.
b. X-raying a match.
c. Coming to terms with each player and understanding their strategies.
f. Criticising a match fairly.
A. WHY WATCH JIU JITSU MATCHES?
The first time I watched a competition Jiu Jitsu match was in the days leading up to my first BJJ tournament. I had been promoted to blue belt two months before entering the Asian Open in Tokyo 2004 and my coach, Niko Han, gave me DVDs of the Pan American Games and the Mundials to aid my preparation. Up until that point, my idea of Jiu Jitsu was either locking someone in my closed guard to set up a triangle, or tapping to whatever my coach happened to be practising that week. Watching the DVDs, I was amazed and fascinated by what the players were doing at the top levels of competition and had never seen anything like it before, despite being an avid fan of MMA. Since that time, I have noticed that what I am doing when I watch a BJJ match has evolved and this email details the current state of that evolution. With handy-cams, YouTube and DVDs, matches can be replayed countless times and thereby provide great material for study. Nevertheless, a good deal of what I write about in this email is also relevant for watching live matches at tournaments.
A.1. WATCHING FOR ENTERTAINMENT
There is something primal, instinctual and exciting about watching two men fight. It is pure entertainment. Like many people, my first exposure to BJJ was renting a VHS of UFC 1 from Blockbuster. I trembled and sweated with exhilaration watching Royce Gracie pawn the other fighters. I knew immediately that I had found passionate new interest. Over the next few days I rented from UFC2 all the way up to UFC 20. Some fights ended in submission and some ended with knock-outs. Striking and knock-outs are great and I love them. I just happen to prefer submissions. I like the build-up to a submission. The set-ups are often slow and controlled; you can see thought in action. And there is always a chance a player will escape a submission as every move comes with its counter move. A submission is a definitive and decisive outcome highlighting the skill, cunning, planning, reflexes and preparation of the winning player. A Lucky Submission almost never happens in the way that a lucky knock-out sometimes happens. Nevertheless, despite the slower build-up to a submission than to a knock-out, submissions are entertaining.
One of the problems with watching BJJ for entertainment is that there are often long periods in a match where it feels like nothing much seems to be happening. That said, this is rarely the case for the guys actually in the match – they feel like something is happening all the time; small adjustments in grips, weight and centre of gravity that are barely noticeable from the outside are felt acutely by the players. This email is not much concerned with watching for entertainment; it is the least demanding type of viewing and it requires the least amount of effort. That said, here is a rule of thumb – if you are watching a match purely for entertainment, wind forward when a player closes his guard or until the moments just before the submission money shot!
A.2. WATCHING FOR INFORMATION
Imagine watching a match while believing you understand completely everything that happens in the match, believing that you know all the background to the match and believing that you know each player’s strategy. By watching you have not increased your understanding of BJJ; you have simply gained information.
There are some guys, often white belts, who seem to have watched every BJJ match ever fought, every MMA match ever fought, and every instructional tape ever made and have at the tip of their tongue facts, figures and examples of every possible BJJ situation. But as soon as you see them on the mat, it is clear all they have is information about BJJ. They lack a real understanding of BJJ. There is a big difference between watching widely and watching well. Watching a match simply to be able to say you watched it is mindless when compared with watching for entertainment.
A.3. WATCHING TO INCREASE YOUR UNDERSTANDING
Now take a second alternative. Imagine watching a match and you understand enough about BJJ to know that you do not understand everything that is going on in the match. You may decide that what is over your head is not worth bothering with. Another option is to go to work on the match and try to figure out what is going on using observation and the power of your mind. In this way, you can lift yourself from a state of understanding less, to a state of understanding more. This kind of elevation requires a highly skilled watching. Any match which challenges your understanding deserves this kind of watching. This email is about watching matches in a way that increases your understanding of BJJ.
A.4. WATCHING TO HELP LEARN TECHNIQUE AND STRATEGY
The starting point for watching a BJJ match to help learn technique and strategy has to be the belief that you do not completely comprehend all the inputs into the match. Learning means understanding more, it does not mean remembering more. We can only learn from our betters. But a player in a match you watch does not have to be better in every sense; they only have to be better in one small aspect of strategy or technique for you to learn from them.
There is a difference between learning by instruction and learning by discovery. When you are taught a technique by an instructor,he may have in turn been taught that by his own instructor. However, BJJ is a relatively new sport. Many techniques came into mainstream use following the research, investigation, and reflection of Gracie family members and many other great BJJ players without those particular techniques first being taught to them. Therefore, BJJ must be a sport that has advanced by learning by discovery.
Instruction is aided discovery. When an instructor is teaching a student, the student is acting on something communicated to him, he is being taught; this is aided discovery. An instructor can only do so much for a student. In the final analysis, it is the student himself that must do the learning. When a student is trying to learn something from watching a BJJ match, he is trying to distil key points from the match to aid his overall understanding of BJJ; this is unaided discovery. Enlightenment in unaided discovery is when you know what a player did, why he did it and how he did it.
THE 7 KEY FACTORS THAT AFFECT A MATCH OUTCOME
A competition Jiu Jitsu match that ends in a submission is a complex interplay between 7 key factors each of which can have a bigger or smaller impact on the eventual outcome. As far as I am concerned, any match that ends without a submission is simply unfinished business. There are many times when a player will be happy with a points win such as in the finals match of a prestigious tournament, or when playing against an evenly matched tough opponent; but even against a comparable player, given enough time, one player or the other would tap. Competitions have to be organised with strict time limits because some matches would take too long to get a clear win by submission. For sure competition Jiu Jitsu is about the win, but my interest is in matches that end in a Submission. What follows is a brief description of the seven key elements that fuse to make a match.
B.1. THE RULES.
It always amazes me how many people do not bother to study BJJ rules either in general or specifically before a competition. The rules make a big difference in the way a match should be fought; in a highly competitive match the player who uses the rules to his advantage is more likely to end up the winner.
Effort has been made to unify rules in BJJ. The CBJJ rules are commonly adopted for Gi tournaments and ADCC rules are adopted for no-Gi tournaments. However, many competition promoters disagree with certain specific rules or restrictions. More competitions are held that do not follow CBJJ or ADCC rules exactly than those that are held that do.
In a match that ends in submission two of the most important rules are not written down, but every player should know them.
1. Do not stop until the referee tells you to stop, but then do stop immediately.
2. Do not apply more pressure than is necessary to get your opponent to tap. Players who rip tendons, hyper-extend joints and unnecessarily wreak havoc on their opponent’s bodies are reserved a special blend of contempt.
B.2. THE REFEREE AND JUDGES.
The referee has final say in a BJJ match. Nevertheless, many referees have limited experience as a referee. All referees display personal preferences; some are quick to prevent stalling while some are slow, some are quick to step in when a player is in clearly in a submission hold while some are slow, some are slow to award points and some are fast, and some may even be the instructor of one or both of the players in a match. Some referees looked plain bored.
Occasionally referees undertake phenomenally brilliant on-the-spot decisions. For example, during a Super-fight at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club for which a US$1,000 prize was at stake between Hasan Mussa and Zaid Mirza (search the names on YouTube if you want to see this match), Mussa ran off the mat to escape a triangle that was not quite completely sunk. This was a dangerous thing to do as the mats were up on a stage with a big drop and could have led to injury. Rather than disqualifying Mussa (which would have been completely justified according to the rules, but completely unacceptable to the partisan crowd), the referee brought them back to the centre of the mat and carefully allowed Mirza to reapply the triangle in a way that Mussa could still escape from, but an escape was slightly less likely than before. Great refereeing such as this is more rare than it is necessary.
The uninitiated may think that any match that ends in submission is a match in which the referee’s judgement was not central. This is far from true. A player with a significant points lead is more likely to attempt a submission; similarly, a player with a big points deficit is more likely to attempt a submission. So how readily a referee is awarding points can make a big difference in the final match outcome. And while it does not happen often, the two judges at the side of the mat can over-rule a referee’s judgement which can result in one or the other player being more or less likely to attempt a submission. Some referees are obsessed with the players being neat and tidy and will stop players and ask them to put on the belts and Gis nattily, allowing players to catch their breath and thereby making submission attempts more likely. Referee re-starts when players go off the mats can also favour one or other player. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a referee has no influence in a match that ends in submission. His affect can be huge.
B.3. THE PEOPLE WATCHING.
The crowd at a BJJ tournament can have a big impact on the mental state of the players and therefore on the match outcome. Playing on your home mats in front of all your training partners is a different experience to competing away from home on someone else’s turf. Most of the people watching are BJJ players. Some of them are the kind of women men fight over.
At a BJJ tournament, the crowd is free to make as much and any noise they like and sometimes this can be unexpected; one team from The Philippines is famous for booing every time one of their members wins a match or receives a medal. Frequently, the crowd does really good and useful coaching for either player. Sometimes the presence of the crowd can lift a player to new heights and sometimes it can lead to a sub-par performance.
Occasionally, input from the crowd has completely unexpected consequences. For example, I was refereeing a white belt match in Manila recently and one of the players, a Russian called Vova, went for a straight foot-lock. His corner repeatedly screamed at him, “Vova, No foot-locks!!” More and more people joined in the chorus until about 10 people were yelling at him as his foot-lock was getting tighter and tighter. Once the foot-lock was cinched, I stopped the match, stood up the players and disqualified Vova. Later I asked him, “What were you thinking?” He said that all he could hear from the crowd was, “Go Vova Go!” He believed all his team mates were encouraging him to finish the foot-lock. While this was a particularly unusual impact from the crowd, the crowd always has an impact of one kind or another.
B.4. THE COACH OF THE PLAYER WHO GETS THE SUBMISSION.
The coach of the winning player will be an expert on that player’s strengths and weaknesses; indeed, perhaps even more of an authority than the player himself. When this intimate knowledge is combined with the perspective of being physically close to the match, but far enough away to maintain an over-view of the action, the input of the winning coach can be the deciding factor. That said, the winning coach has to give input without giving the game away; whatever the coach says to his player, the other player can hear too. And often it is silence from the winning coach that precedes a submission; he knows exactly what is coming next. A good coach will goad a referee into making the right decisions, encourage a player to keep working towards pre-agreed goals, and highlight those things he believes his player cannot see or is yet to act upon. All players who have won a match by submission know that their coach was an important part of that success. Nevertheless, all good coaches know that all the credit must lie with the player.
B.5. THE COACH OF THE PLAYER WHO SUBMITS.
The coach of a losing player shares that player’s failure. There are countless things that he did not do in advance of the encounter that may include any of: not preparing his player’s game-plan properly for that match; not teaching his student appropriate counter-moves; not focussing adequately on defence; not managing the referee; not giving sufficient warning of pending danger and even something as simple as making sure his player is wearing shorts under his Gi (Bill Cooper was disqualified in the 2007 finals match of the brown belt absolute division of the BJJ World Championships against Otavia Sousa after the latter pulled down Bill’s gi pants to reveal that Bill was not wearing shorts as required in the rules). Coaches make a big difference to match outcomes. For sure everybody gets caught, but look at the success of young up and coming BJJ player’s like Kron Gracie, Ryan Hall or Sim Go – their coaches are nothing less than exemplary.
B.3. THE PLAYER WHO GETS THE SUBMISSION.
It is a rare player who can tell you before a match exactly what he intends to do, why he intends to do it, and how he intends to do it. But a player who has just submitted his opponent can tell you in great detail how he set things up and achieved his goal. Winners can be revisionist. And that is why it is easier to earn from losses than it is to learn from wins. However, the player who gets the submission is our hero.
B.4. THE PLAYER WHO SUBMITS.
The player who submitted made a mistake, or a series of mistakes, that led to him being submitted. The mistake could have been be related to fitness, mental condition, technique, strategy or misjudging the match conditions and his opponent: or some combination of these. Nevertheless, in one sense, the player who loses by submission is a real winner. He can now go back to his coach to learn the defences to the set-ups and submission move to which he succumbed. If his opponent was a warrior with integrity, he was given time to tap and was not physically injured in the experience, but his bruised ego will fuel his next level of learning.
Now that we have covered the 7 key components that make up a match ending in submission, let’s discuss the three different levels of watching a match.
C. THE 3 LEVELS OF WATCHING JIU JITSU MATCHES
There are 3 levels of watching a Jiu Jitsu match, each requiring a different level of involvement from you, the watcher. Each level is cumulative and contains the level preceding it. The first level is ELEMENTARY watching and describes what a player new to BJJ has to go through to start to understand what is happening on the mat. The second level, which includes everything in the elementary level is called INSPECTIONAL watching and involves a process of skimming the main elements of the match. The next and third level of watching a BJJ match is ANALYTICAL watching and it is an in-depth examination of a match.
C.1. THE 1ST LEVEL – ELEMENTARY; LEARNING TO WATCH
There is a rapidly growing population of people who have a basic knowledge of ground fighting. The Ultimate Fighter reality show is now syndicated around the world and the UFC has become the World’s premier martial arts promotion. The audiences of these shows have picked up a basic vocabulary of the key moves and activities in a match. Once the basic moves are understood, watchers start to understand the context of different positions in a fight and the likelihood of certain moves from each of these positions. After watching a few matches, especially with the aid of a commentator, a watcher typically develops a rapidly expanding vocabulary. The meanings of certain moves are unlocked and become clear through context clues. Over time these watching skills become more refined and enhanced. Many people who have mastered the basic vocabulary of fighting have mastered little more than that. They are not able to watch a match beyond an elementary level.
C.1. THE 2ND LEVEL – INSPECTIONAL; SKIMMING A BJJ MATCH
There are two types of inspectional-watching. The first type of inspectional watching is systematic skimming of a BJJ match – this is best done when you have a match on DVD as you can speed through a match at 2X or 4X the normal play speed. Frequently, you do not know if a match is worth watching analytically unless you have skimmed through it. Plus, life is short; no-one has enough time to watch all matches analytically. Giving a match a quick once over allows you to separate out the matches that you really want to study from the matches that are just chaff. Here are some ideas for skimming a match on YouTube or on a tournament DVD.
1. Look at the title of the match – who are the players and at what level is the match?
2. Study the blurb or table of contents to get a general sense of whether a particular match is worth watching – see how long the match is and check how good is the cameraman (I rarely bother to watch a match if the cameraman could not be bothered to bring a tripod!).
3.Do not watch the match all the way through, but dip in here and there. Watch the start and the end at normal speed, and then skim through to find key moments such as a take down, a sweep or a submission attempt.
Even though you may have only spent less than a minute watching the match using these inspectional techniques, you will know a good deal about the match already. Most importantly, you will know whether the match contains anything that you still want to dig out and study in great detail.
The second type of inspectional-watching is best described as a superficial watching. When you have found a match that you want to study, watch it through all the way to the end without ever stopping to check a detail, replay a piece of the action or ponder things you did not catch right away. At school we are taught to pay attention to things we do not understand. But when you first watch through a top level BJJ match, do not expect to understand everything that is going on the first time you watch it. In an effort to study the fine points, you may miss the big picture of what is happening.
As previously mentioned, each level of watching is cumulative. The 2nd level, inspectional-watching, is quite distinct from the 1st level that precedes it (elementary-watching) and it is also quite distinct from the 3rd level that follows (analytical-watching). The two steps in inspectional watching allow you to judge whether you want to study a match at the 3rd level. If you want to increase your comprehension of what has happened in a match now you have to slow right down the way you are watching the action. The problem with inspectional watching is a problem of understanding; it is hard to comprehend everything that is going on if you watch a match in real time. But inspectional watching does answer two important questions about the match, namely; what kind of match is it? And what is the match about as a whole?
C.3. THE 3RD LEVEL – ANALYTICAL; AN IN-DEPTH EXAMINATION
No match should be given more of your valuable time than it deserves. Many matches are hardly worth skimming. Some should be watched through. And some are worthy of detailed analytical study (and this is particularly true of any match that you were in!) Analytical watching is undertaken primarily for the sake of comprehension. It is hard to watch a BJJ match well. Watching a BJJ match analytically is a complex activity and anyone who does it cannot help learning to watch all future matches better.
After my first couple of competitions, on the advice of my coach, I started filming every competition Jiu Jitsu match I was in with a handy-cam, (and now I have well over a 100 of my matches on tape). When I get back home, I watch and analyse the match and then write-up the match so that I can learn from the mistakes I made in them. This section outlines the method I use for analysing a BJJ match. If you compete, I cannot advise more strongly to follow this method. If you watch BJJ matches to learn from them, elements of this method will definitely help you too.
Watching a BJJ match in an analytical and complete way takes hard work. I will outline all the steps to properly analyse a match here, but you do not need to follow all of these steps to benefit from analysing a portion of a match. These steps are outlined as a guideline. You may only want to analyse one particular move in a match, but the process is the same.
To analyse a match or a portion of a match, you need to make a close examination of it to determine its nature, content and structure. You need to break it down into its constituent parts and components. You need to examine and identify the impact of the 7 ingredients (as discussed earlier) that go to make up the complex whole and recognize their relationship to each other. So let’s go step by step through the process of analysing a BJJ match.
C.3.a. Pigeonholing the match
The first rule of watching a match analytically is; STEP 1, know what kind of match you are watching; classify the match You should know this as early as possible in the viewing process, preferably before you start watching. To pigeon-hole a match, the kinds of questions you need to ask are: What level or belt is the match? Are both the players seasoned at that level? Is the match early in the division or is it a finals match? Which school of BJJ or academy are they representing? What weight class is the match? Or is the match in the Absolute division? Under what rules is the match being played? Have these players fought before? What about the crowd? Who is the referee? Is it a grudge match?
Some of these questions will be answered by looking at the blurb that comes with the match, while others may be answered from general knowledge you have. Others may be unanswerable. The key point is this: in analysing a BJJ match the first step is: knowing what kind of match you are watching.
C.3.b X-raying a match
To X-ray a match, perform STEP 2: state the unity of the whole match in a single sentence, or at most a few sentences. This means that you must say what the whole match is about as briefly as possible. STEP 1, pigeon-holing, was stating what KIND of match it is. STEP 2 is stating what the match is ABOUT.
Every BJJ match is built up from portions of a standard skeleton. The skeleton is formed from a series of positions each progressing from the last. Your job as an analytical watcher is to determine what kind of skeleton a particular match has by x-raying the match. A classic progressive Gi BJJ match skeleton goes like this:
1. A take-down ending in one player’s guard (2 points).
2. Top player passes to half-guard (advantage).
3. Top player passes to side control (3 points).
4. Top player gets knee on belly (2 points).
5. Top player gets mount (4 points).
6. Top player takes opponent’s back (4 points).
7. Top player chokes and bottom player submits.
Apart from sweep points (2) and stalling points (-1), all the BJJ points scoring opportunities are covered in that skeleton (with the exception of certain advantages). I have never seen a BJJ match that follows that exact pattern, but sometimes I try and follow it when I am sparring during training. Actuall BJJ matches jump steps or miss steps and many submissions might be executed by the top or bottom player in each of those steps. Nevertheless, progress in position during a BJJ match follows that standard basic skeleton.
I think of BJJ as being analogous to the game of snakes and ladders. Steps 1 to 6 (from passing the guard to taking the opponent’s back) is like climbing up each step of a ladder. A sweep or reversal against the top player at any one of those steps, for him, is like going down a snake. When you have an opponent in your full guard, conceptually, your opponent is at the bottom of his ladder while you are in Snakeville. The most valuable positional moves in BJJ are moves which take your opponent from being on his ladder to him being in Snakeville. For example, the Hip Bump Sweep takes you from Snakeville to step 5 up your ladder and you will be rewarded with 6 points: surely that is a move worth practicing a lot? Likewise, the Omplata can take you from Snakeville to side-control if you allow your opponent to escape with a roll: surely another move worth practicing a lot? Similarly, being in half-guard on the bottom gives you the chance to take an opponent’s back – a big jump from Snakeville to the top of your ladder!
To finish X-raying a match do STEP 3: Set forth the major parts of the match, taking into account the underlying fundamental positional structure of the match outlined above and show how the major elements of the match relate to one another and to the unity of the match.
Like a good book, a good BJJ match is an orderly arrangement of parts. A BJJ match is a complex unity. You have not grasped the complex unity of a BJJ match if all you know is how it is ONE. You must also know how it is MANY. And not a many that consists of a lot of separate things, but an organised many. Any match that ends in submission followed a plan and you as the watcher must find it. You cannot comprehend the whole without somehow seeing its parts. So while STEP 2 directs you toward the UNITY of the match. STEP 3 directs you toward the COMPLEXITY of the match.
The major parts of a BJJ match may be seen at the moment you grasp the match’s unity. But each part of a match will also have complexity. Each major phase in the progress of the match and each move has an interior structure and complexity of its own that you must see. So STEP 3 is not just an enumeration of the parts. It means treating each of the parts as if they were subordinate wholes each with a unity and complexity of its own. You may object to this much outlining and it would take a lifetime to watch many BJJ matches in this way, but of course this is only a formula. That said, you MUST watch YOUR OWN matches in this much detail.
In a top level BJJ match there is often more plan and more strategy than meets the eye. The surface activity can be deceiving. You must look beneath to discover the real structure. No top BJJ player ever says to himself at the start of a match – OK let’s roll. He has a carefully thought out detailed plan of action for what to do on every step of his ladder and for every position in Snakeville. Despite the fact that a plan exists, it is rarely possible to execute a plan exactly to plan. Which brings us to STEP 4: detail what you think were each player’s problems.
A BJJ match starts out with the same problem for both players – how do I submit this guy? A match that ends in submission contains the answer to that question for one of the players. It is a fallacy to think that you can judge what was in a player’s mind by the action you see. Any honest player will tell you that odd things can come to mind during a match. But it is useful to write down what you think a player was trying to do or what you think his intentions were.
C.3.c. Come to terms with each player and understand their strategies
The first four steps detailed above for watching a BJJ match analytically allow you to tell what a match is about and allow you to outline its structure. The next four steps allow you to understand what each of the players is doing and how they are attempting to solve the problems they face. The next phase is STEP 5: come to terms with each player by interpreting their key actions.
You must be able to spot the important actions of each player and through those actions determine the meaning and intention of those actions with precision. So this next phase of analysis moves on from OUTLINING a match structure, to the INTERPRETATION of its contents. We are moving from the structure of a match, to the underlying logic of a match. When watching a BJJ match you can be certain of one thing: not all the actions either player undertakes are important. But any action that leads a player up his positional ladder or closer to a submission or results in him being submitted are clearly important actions worthy of close analysis. Every BJJ player has strengths and weaknesses - some have great takedowns; some have great guards; some have great guard passing skills; some prefer to only play top; some prefer to only play bottom. During the INSPECTIONAL pass through of the match, it should be possible to judge what kind of practitioner each player is. But spotting the key action in a match is only the beginning of the task at hand. It merely locates the places in the match where you have to go to work and undertake an in-depth analysis.
STEP 6: judge each player’s intentions by dealing with their key actions or sequences of actions. For example, sometimes once a match gets to the ground, the bottom player will stand back up. From this, it is clear he is not happy being on the bottom with that particular opponent. It is clear he intends to be on top in this match or gain points through a takedown. But standing back up has to be seen in the context of the full range of his options from the bottom – he could sweep, submit or stand-up. Clearly, by standing up he intends to take his opponent down in a certain way, wants the points from doing so and thinks it will be easier than sweeping or submitting his opponent. By studying the actions of each player, their intentions can be deduced.
STEP 7: judge which of the problems that each player faced were solved. And which were not. And decide which problems each player knew he had failed to solve. By way of examples: Was a player able to take his opponent down? Or was a player able to defend all takedown attempts? Or once a player’s guard was being passed, did he manage to recover his guard before points were awarded? Now that our goal in this stage of analysing the match is interpretation, the movement in our thinking and activity is opposite to how it was at the start of the analysis. We have gone from viewing the match in totality to now breaking it down into its major divisions, and then into its subordinate parts.
STEP 8: deconstruct each basic critical action in the match by detailing its parts. If you do not keep notes on individual BJJ techniques you either have a brilliant memory or you are not making sufficient effort to learn BJJ. If you do keep notes, you know that every BJJ technique is built up from a series of individual steps that have to be performed precisely and in sequence. Some steps are mission critical and others are less important. Each move has subtleties and each player will do a move slightly differently. But every BJJ technique is made up from a series of progressive actions that lead to a certain outcome if not countered. This process of breaking down an individual move into its detailed parts is likely to involve re-winding and re-watching. An essential part of watching a good BJJ match is feeling perplexed and knowing that you feel perplexed. HOW DID HE DO THAT? - is the question that should be on the tip of your tongue. After watching and re-watching a critical move, you can start to break down a move step by step in the same way that a BJJ instructor introduces you to a move. Aim to spend more time analysing moves that puzzle you rather than ones that interest you.
C.3.f. Criticising a match fairly
So far we have learned how to outline a match and learned how to interpret the action in a match. But analysing the match does not end with the work of understanding what happened. It must be completed by the work of criticism and the work of judging. You as the watcher have the last word on a match. An undemanding watcher fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand, he also dismisses a match by putting it aside and forgetting it.
For your own matches you must make detailed critical notes on areas related to technique, points scoring, submission attempts and escapes, fitness, your mental condition, your fight strategy and any other general lessons you learned. Over time, your fight diary will become a treasure trove of knowledge you can use and share.
If you are analysing other player’s matches you may be tempted to think that you have no right to criticise a top level player’s match. However, it is clear from many of the comments I read on YouTube that people who have no idea what is going on in a match have no hesitation in setting themselves up as judges. The relatively ignorant often disagree with the relatively learned about matters that exceed their knowledge. That said, there is a tendency among BJJ practitioners to think that top BJJ players are above the criticism of a lower ranking player. But, there is no player good enough that no fault can be found in them.
The more teachable you are as a BJJ player, the more critical you will be when you watch BJJ matches. You must know how to judge match action and not just know how to understand what happened. However, respect the difference between knowledge and your own personal opinions – it is not useful criticism when one player pulls guard in a match to say, “I fucking hate butt-scooters”. Try to understand why the player pulled and whether it was a smart thing to do in light of his opponent.
There is a difference between prejudice and judgement. Men have feelings and men can be rational. Prejudice is opinion based on your feelings. Judgement is opinion based on rational thinking. Try to be impartial when you are watching a match. For example, just because you hate playing against people who stall in the turtle position, it does not mean that a certain player was wrong to do it at a certain moment in a certain match.
Critical comment has to be made from the view-point of understanding, “I understand what happened in the match, but I disagree with….” The player may have been uninformed (he lacked the knowledge to carry out the task at hand), misinformed (he tried to do the wrong thing), or illogical (he acted inappropriately for the challenge he faced). So when making critical commentary on a match do it from a position of full understanding and be rational.
Any critical comment you make of any action in a match has to be in the form of one of three statements.
1. I agree with what he did when he…..
2. I disagree with what he did when he….
3. I suspend judgement on whether he did the right thing or the wrong thing when he….
In this way, you can build agreement or disagreement with each of the actions of each of the players in a match.
So now we have covered the three stages of analytically watching a BJJ match that ends in submission. We covered the rules for finding out the basic nature of a match, for interpreting match action and for criticising a match fairly. So here is a checklist for watching a BJJ analytically by way of summary:
STAGE 1 – WHAT IS THE MATCH ABOUT?
STEP 1: Classify and pigeon-hole the match.
STEP 2: State what the whole match is about with brevity.
STEP 3: Outline the major parts of the match in their order and relationship and outline key elements in each of the parts.
STEP 4: Detail what you think were each player’s problems. What were the problems each appeared to be trying to solve.
STAGE 2 – INTERPRETING THE MATCH ACTION.
STEP 5: Come to terms with each player by interpreting their key actions.
STEP 6: Judge each player’s intentions through their key actions.
STEP 7: Judge which of the problems that each player faced were solved.
STEP 8: Deconstruct each basic decisive action in the match by detailing its parts.
STAGE 3 – CRITICISING A MATCH FAIRLY
STEP 9: Be rational. Agree, disagree or suspend judgement on each of the actions that each player took.
Watching a BJJ match well is a complex activity, just as is doing BJJ. Watching a BJJ match well consists of a large number of separate acts, all of which must be performed in a good watching. It can be more or less active and the more active your watching, the more you will get out of watching. Few people will ever watch BJJ matches in the ideal manner that I have set out above and those that have watch a minority of matches in this way. The ideal remains the measure of achievement.
When I started writing this, I expected to get all my ideas down in a few paragraphs and therefore, I apologize for such a lengthy exposition. What follows is links to 51 BJJ matches that end in submission.
Girl chokes man in BJJ competition - Submission #187
In an unusual match in Bangkok, a young girl joined the men's under 50kg division on no-gi day at the South East Asian Grappling Games and wins by rear naked choke. Ann Wongkhamma had taken 3 months of private BJJ lessons before this match and came to the tournament with the desire to test her jiu jitsu to find that there were no suitable female opponents and so joined the men’s division. I am sorry that I did not get the whole match on tape - I was refereeing on the next mat and as soon as my match finished I ran to get my camera. Ann Wongkhamma vs Atichart Thubtimto. SEAGG 2007, October 21, Bangkok, Thailand.
Submission # 171 - SUPERFIGHT Otavio Sousa vs Leopoldo Mata
Otavio Sousa (blue gi) vs Leopoldo Mata. This Superfight at the Bristol Open Summer Leg was the last fight Otavio had before going on to become a BJJ superstar by winning the brown belt absolute division in the World Championships meeting Bill Cooper in the finals and winning by pulling Bill's gi pants down to reveal that Bill was wearing no underpants and thereby getting him disqualified.
Submission #141 - DelRoy Dodwell vs Neil Down
This match has some of the worst refereeing I have ever seen. DelRoy Dodwell (COLORED BELT) vs Neil Down, Bristol Open Summer This match has some of the worst refereeing I have ever seen. We join the match as DelRoy, who wants his points awarded, is making a shrieking noise to try to get the attention of the referee who is talking to a friend. Many coaches tell their students not to stop fighting unless the referee tells them to stop. Luckily in this match, despite a full on choke being applied while the referee goes back to chat with his Brazilian buddy, the attacking player stops on the first tap. He was a genuine gentleman. Part of a referee’s job is the safety of the players, but on this occasion, the referee did not take this element of his role seriously at all.
Submission # 170 - Oliver Geddis vs Alex Owen
Oliver Geddis (has back mount) vs Alex Owen. Bristol Open Summer Leg August 5th 2007. Oliver is clearly one of the most talented grapplers coming up through the ranks in the UK at the present time. There are 3 other submissions from Oliver on TheRealGeeza Channel - see submissions #166, #167, and #168. He allows his opponent's to get into what at first appear to be dominant positions and he then pulls out submissions. He is calm, strategic, intelligent and a gentleman. Oliver Geddis is a future star of the UK BJJ and grappling scene.
Submission # 169 - Luciano Christovam vs Richad Willis
Luciano Christovam (starts on top) vs Richard Willis, ADDC UK Trials, Reading, July 2007. Luciano is Roger Gracie's nephew and trains with him in London. Luciano had been on a winning streak all year destroying his opponents with quick submissions. Richard Willis proved to be a much harder opponent for Christovam to control and handle. This match is a nice example of how BJJ can produce quick reversals of fortune.
101 Submissions By Geeza - #43 Wade Henderson
Geeza (blue gi) vs Wade Henderson. Purple belt heavyweight division, final match, South East Asian Grappling Games, Bangkok, Thailand, October 20 2007.
Submission #163 - John Nicholson vs Rizman Shah
John Nicholson vs Rizman Shah (white arms on rash guard). This match is a good example of a referee looking after the players. Rizman was stuck in a submission position that the referee clearly thought was approaching the point in time when it would be dangerous and so stopped the match. This was good refereeing. Rizman's poor sportsmanship and behavior was appalling and lasted long after the clip ends.
Submission # 186 - Alex Berezovik vs Ralph Go
Alex Berezovik vs Ralph Go (red belt starts on left). SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok. In the first round of the purple belt absolute division this display of technical brilliance delighted the crowd. It is rare that you can learn so much from a single match. The triangle set up and finish is simply fantastic. Ryan Hall would be proud.
Submission # 139 - Stewart Barclay vs Adam Pearson
Sterwart Barclay vs Adam Pearson (blue gi), Bristol Open Summer Leg, August 5th, 2007, UK. Stewart is a white belt training with Pedro Bessa and is clearly someone with immense potential. He is one of those unusual guys who aggressivey excels in a competition environment while at the same time being a constructive, cool and calm training partner. Future competition success for Stewart in BJJ is assured
Submission #140 - Apostolis Koutsouvelis vs Nick Hughes
This match has an ending that will make you cringe with anxiety. The only serious injury I have ever had in Jiu Jitsu came while rolling with a white belt - this match highlights how inexperienced players came sometimes do unnecessary things to achieve the ultimate goal - SUB-E-MISSION. Apostolis Koutsouvelis vs Nick Hughes (wearing green belt), middle weight bout, Bristol Open Summer Leg, August 5th 2007, UK.
Submission # 138 - Alan Shrek Love vs Jason Anderton
The winner of this Super-heavyweight division final match would be promoted to blue belt as soon as the fight was over - this allowed him to enter the blue belt division in the same tournament immediately after (please see Submission #155 below to see the winner of this match in his first blue belt division match). Alan Shrek (blue gi) vs Jason Anderton. Bristol Open Summer Leg, UK, August, 5th, 2007.
Submission # 155 - Matt Male vs Alan Shrek Love
Matt Male vs Alan Shrek Love (blue gi). This was one of the more unusual matches at the Bristol Open Summer Leg on August 5th 2007 at the University of The West of England. Sheereck had just been promoted to blue belt after winning the Super Heavyweight white belt division. Tournament organizer, Pedro Bessa, allowed his new blue belt to fight Matt Male in the super-heavyweight blue belt division. Matt is a MONSTER who combines his 5-sigma strength with great submission skills and a predator's instinct. From the video, it is hard to get a feel for how huge both these men are, but suffice it to say that their weight division starts at 100.5kg.
Submission #184 - Jean Bui vs Ultraquin Sylvian
Jean Bui vs Ultraquin Sylvian (no t-shirt). Advanced Division semi-finals middleweight division. SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok October 2007.
Submission # 185 - Ray Elbe vs Tien Quik Jee
Ray Elbe (no t-shirt) vs Tien Quick Jee. Semi-finals middleweight elite division. SEA Grappling Games Bangkok, October 2007.
Submission #183 - Scott Calver vs Mark Simmerman
Scott Calver (red belt starts on right) vs Mark Simmerman. Blue belt, Light Heavyweight Finals, SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok October 2007.
Submission # 182 - Sebastien Devignes vs Luke Satoru
Sebastien Devignes vs Luke Satoru. Blue belt light heavyweight division. SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok October 2007
Submission # 181 - Scott Calver vs Sebastien Devignes
This is a top quality blue belt match with several good escapes and reversals of fortune. SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok, October 2007
Submission #180 - Sebastien Devignes vs Luke Satoru
Sebastien Devignes vs Luke Satoru. Blue belt light heavyweight division. SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok October 2007
Submission #179 - Andy Mobbs vs Saelim Pattapong
Andy Mobbs vs Saelim Pattapong (white gi). White belt middleweight division semi-finals. Andy Mobbs has never lost a BJJ match (yet). SEA Grappling Games Bangkok October 2007.
Submission # 178 - Ryan Taylor vs Harvey Alan
Ryan Taylor vs Harvey Alan (no t-shirt). Advanced Middleweight Division. SEAGG Bangkok October 2007. This match has a rarely seen variation of a submission.
Submission #176 - Luke Satoru vs Esau Boen
Luke Satoru (darker colored shorts) vs Esau Boen. Light Heavyweight advanced division. SEAGG Bangkok, October 207
Submission # 177 - Oezdemir Volkan vs Dominique Virge
Oezdemir Volkan (red belt) vs Dominique Virge. Open weight white belt final match with a great take down and nice finish. SEAGG Bangkok October 2007
Submission # 174 - Sattawin Sarun vs Himoto Datatomi
Sattawin Sarun (red belt) vs Himoto Datatomi. An excellent action packed blue belt match middleweight division SEAGG Bangkok October 2007.
Submission #175 - Oeezdemir Volkan vs Ngkul Ekkaphan
Oeezdemir Volkan vs Ngkul Ekkaphan (black gi) White belt absolute division match. SEAGG October 2007
Submission #173 - Scott calver vs Esau Boen
Scott calver (red belt) vs Esau Boen. Blue belt heavyweight division SEAGG Bangkok October 2007
Submission # 172 - Jean Bui vs Sam Lim
Jean Bui vs Sam Lim (stripe on gi pants). Middleweight blue belt semi-final match. SEA Grappling Games, Bangkok, October 2007
Submission #168 - Oliver Geddis vs Karim Shah
Oliver Geddis vs Karim Shah (no t-shirt). ADCC UK trials, Reading UK,July 2007.
Submission # 166 - Oliver Geddis vs Maximilian Stanowski
Oliver Geddis vs Maximilian Stanowski (no t-shirt). ADCC UK trials, Reading UK, July 2007.
Submission #167 - Oliver Geddis vs Fernando Beldo
Oliver Geddis vs Fernando Beldo (no t-shirt). ADCC UK Trials, Reading UK, July 2005.
Submission #165 - Ed Benson vs Antonio Augusto da Silva
Ed Benson (no t-shirt) vs Antonio Augusto da Silva. ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, August 2007.
Submission # 164 - Paul Superman Bridges vs Tim Verissimoni
Paul Superman Bridges (blue t-shirt) vs Tim Verissimoni. ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, July, 2007.
Submission # 162 - Daniel Strauss vs Ali Rustigar
Daniel Strauss vs Ali Rustigar (white arms on rash guard). ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, July, 2007.
Submission #151 - Patrick Baker vs Andrew Manning
Patrick Baker (blue belt) vs Andrew Manning (green belt). Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 160 - Stephen Martin vs Faisal Rhaman
Stephen Martin (Short hair) vs Faisal Rhaman. Two competent blue belts at the Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #158 - Darren Yeoman vs Tomas Gensky
Darren Yeoman vs Tomas Gensky (geen belt). Purple belt match absolute division, Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 159 - Dominic Debrec vs Raphael Neri
Dominic Debrec (blue gi) vs Raphael Neri. Blue belt heavyweight division Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, ,August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 157 - Ken Baker vs Sam Grundy
Ken Baker vs Sam Grundy (green belt). Blue belt heavyweight match, Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #156 - Daniel Strauss vs Martin Schott
Daniel Strauss vs Martin Schott (no t shirt). ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, July, 2007.
Submission # 154 - Ian Rossiter vs Daniel Debrec
Ian Rossiter vs Daniel Debrec (blue gi). Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #153 - Tom Wilson vs Dominic Debrec
Tom Wilson vs Dominic Debrec (blue gi). Blue belt heavyweight match Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 152 - John Nicholson vs Fiteroy Peters
John Nicholson vs Fiteroy Peters (no t-shirt). ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, July, 2007.
Submission #151 - Nick Forrer vs Matt Male
Nick Forrer vs Matt Male (blue belt). Absolute division, Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007
Submission # 150 - Chris Koneczny vs Sly Devine
Chris Koneczny vs Sly Devine (blue gi). Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #148 - Stewart Barclay vs James Fletcher
Stewart Barclay vs James Fletcher (blue gi). Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007. Please see submission #139 for more of Stewart.
Submission # 149 - Robert James vs Russell Glob
Robert James vs Russell Glob. Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #147 - Przemyslaw Mysiala vs Orizu Nwokeji
Przemyslaw Mysiala (light colored shorts) vs Orizu Nwokeji (and yes i do have the spelling of their names correct). ADCC UK Trials, Reading, UK, July, 2007.
Submission # 146 – Pippa Banana Granger vs Emma Baker
Pippa Banana Granger vs Emma Baker (blue gi). Women's blue belt, Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 145 - Tom Wilson vs Scott Fanten
Tom Wilson vs Scott Fanten (green belt), Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission #144 - Darren Yeoman vs Chris Werasingh
Darren Yeoman (white gi) vs Chris Werasingh. Bristol Open Summer Leg, University of West Of England, August 5th, 2007.
Submission # 142 - Alarid More vs Edgar White
Alarid More (white gi) vs Edgar White, light-weight blue belt division. Alarid went on to win the absolute blue belt division and in the finals went against a man who was literally twice his weight. Bristol Open Summer Leg, August 5th 2007, UK.
Submission #143 - DelRoy Dodwell vs Mathew Drake
DelRoy McDowell vs Mathew Drake (colored belt), 2nd round light heavyweight division, Bristol Open Summer Leg, August 5th 2007, UK DelRoy McDowell vs Mathew Drake (colored belt), 2nd round light heavyweight division, Bristol Open Summer Leg, August 5th 2007, UK.