Technique vs. Strength In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Technique vs. Strength In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

For years, BJJ practitioners have debated the importance of strength and technical prowess in competitive and real-life situations. Some athletes claim that strength is of no use if you do not know how and when to employ a particular technique. On the other hand, when seasoned grapplers fail to win a bout, they attribute their opponent’s success to greater strength rather than greater skill. This leaves BJJ aspirants frustrated because they remain unable to decide whether to prioritize technique or strength. This article delves deeper into the old technique vs strength debate so you can focus on what is important and improve your performance on the mat.

1. Technique vs Strength in BJJ - The Big Debate

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the few martial arts that allow smaller competitors to dominate and submit athletes who are larger in size. For beginners, learning fundamental BJJ positions and techniques is crucial to succeed on the mats. Hence, instructors always ask the practitioners to drill certain techniques. It is unlikely for instructors to ask their students to strength train before starting rolling on the mats. Many BJJ practitioners claim that they enjoy practicing techniques more than their regular fitness or strength training routine. Even the pioneers of BJJ, the Gracie clan, never stressed upon bulking up in order to become a successful grappler. The members of the Gracie family were not weight-lifters but they still managed to effortlessly submit wrestlers, BJJ black belts, judokas, and heavy-weight martial artists. A great case study for the technique vs strength debate would be Rolls Gracie vs Bob Anderson.

Bob Anderson, a seasoned wrestler, who weighed 195 lbs., always believed that he could defeat Rolls Gracie easily due to his small stature. However, Rolls Gracie, who weighed 160 lbs., proved Anderson wrong by outdoing him in BJJ and wrestling. Gracie surely had the technique required to defeat a skilled wrestler. But did Gracie lack strength? No.

Rolls Gracie’s training sessions were not restricted to BJJ drills. He also trained Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. This proves he had the strength and the skillset to defeat a strong opponent, Bob Anderson. However, there are other BJJ practitioners, who have overcome stronger fighters with just technique.

1.1.Techniques are the Basics of BJJ

When all the fighting styles had focused on bigger and stronger bodies, Carlos Gracie introduced a fighting style that was based on fighting techniques in which a smaller person can also beat a larger person by employing useful techniques.

Techniques are very helpful to escape from unfavorable conditions during a fight or defend against any submission. If you are better at performing good techniques, you have more chances to overcome a bigger and untrained person. Besides, good techniques help you to submit your opponent.

Like all other fields, there are also advancements in BJJ. Initially, BJJ was a defensive art, and was implemented mostly in street fights where BJJ practitioners faced untrained people. Now it has transitioned into a sport and practitioners face other well-trained people. Now other factors like strength, intelligence, focus, and conditioning also come into play.

1.2. Importance of Strength

In BJJ, techniques are the most dominating factor in winning a fight or to lead a fight to a submission ending but it does not reduce the importance of strength. In fact, techniques and strengths are interlinked. The technique is a movement of your body. If your body is not strong enough to perform a technique, it will be difficult for you to overcome an opponent with only an appropriate technique. Your muscles must be strong enough to execute a technique to escape from some unfavorable conditions during a fight. If your muscles are strong, you can apply any submission technique and persist it until your opponent taps. With weaker body muscles, your techniques cannot help you to overcome a stronger body on which any of your techniques will not work.

Strengthening the body does not mean larger and bigger muscles. It is not about the size, rather it is about strength and conditioning. Muscles that are stronger are really helpful to apply techniques with more strength that is almost impossible for the opponent to escape from. If your opponent gets rid of your technique easily due to having more strength in his muscles, your effective technique cannot help you to get a submission.    

1.3. How a Good Grappler Can Overcome a Stronger Person?

Helio Gracie had a thin body and weaker physique than his brothers. Therefore, he was not allowed to practice with them. His father had always asked him to sit in the corner and learn the technique. This exposure to techniques increased his cerebral strength and he learned to control bigger opponents. Helio Gracie has faced many bigger opponents yet he managed to defeat them. According to Helio Gracie:

“Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger, and faster than you; so that you learn to rely on technique, timing, and leverage rather than brute strength.”

1.4. Are Techniques Enough?

The modern BJJ world is more competitive than ever. Therefore, technique alone may work against a fighter who is bigger but does not know jiu-jitsu. But once you are against someone who is a competent grappler and also has a stronger physique, chances are you will lose to him. In all combat sports, increased strength coupled with perfected technical skills escalate an athlete’s performance in a competitive environment. The best way to improve your performance on the mat is to strength train off the mat.

Now it is important to understand that becoming stronger does not mean becoming a powerlifter. Barbell lifts are all it takes for you to develop necessary strength and enhance your BJJ skills. Many BJJ academies also offer state-of-the-art gyms where you can strength train. Discuss with your instructor or personal trainer the minimum level of strength you should develop to become a better fighter.

2. FAQs

2.1. Why is technique important in training?

Answer: Technique is an important factor in training. Because if you are poor in technique, it will lead you to more injuries. But if you are poor in strength but know about the techniques, you can escape from the techniques of other fighters and at least secure yourself from injuries.   

2.2. How can I improve my BJJ technique?

Answer: BJJ techniques can be improved by training, drilling, conditioning workouts, rolling, and extracting weaknesses. 

3. Takeaway

Technical skills are extremely important in jiu-jitsu. However, if an athlete wants to ensure his victory on the mats, it is important that he also work on increasing his physical strength. By making improvements in techniques and strength, you will not only increase your chances of winning but will also greatly reduce the risk of getting injured. When on the mat, it is important that you focus on learning and perfecting the technique. However, don’t just rely on your technical game. If your body is not strong enough to pull off a technique, all of your hardwork will go to waste. Therefore, it is recommended that you develop an adequate strength foundation to succeed on the mat as a BJJ professional. 

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