I received a question today from a friend of mine, Leandro Romano who is writing a book about Jiu Jitsu. It made me think, so I decided to share it with you.
What are the immutable principles of Jiu Jitsu i.e those that never change over time?
In order to have a better understanding of what constitutes an immutable principle, first we have to understand what ‘principles’ are, and what ‘immutable’ is.
“Principles are a set of basic and unquestionable rules that govern or guide the interaction between beings.”
“Immutable is everything that cannot be changed or transformed.”
So immutable principles are a set of basic and unquestionable norms that govern the interaction between beings, and no matter how much time passes, they go strictly unchanged.
So, a question arises: In Jiu Jitsu — which changes and evolves constantly — are there any immutable principles?
My understanding is that there are, and the main one is efficiency. Jiu Jitsu evolves at a very high speed which makes a high-level practitioner who hasn’t practiced for say 2 years feel very uncomfortable training with those who are current. This is due to the huge amount of new techniques that appear all the time, in thousands of gyms around the world, meaning at any one time there are many people thinking about Jiu Jitsu and how to do it better.
However, a technique only appears when it generates results that are effective.
If we take a look at the history of Jiu Jitsu and to make the analogy even easier, we will see that in the first rule written by the Federation of the State of Guanabara (Rio de Janeiro), there were only 3 valid sweeps, they were: the backwards sweep securing the heels, the scissor sweep and the balloon sweep. If we compare that with today, there are thousands of sweeps that we could describe that are more elaborate and more efficient.
A technique changes as it becomes out of date and ineffective, creating the necessity for it to be adapted or even replaced, but efficiency is the concept that remains through time as the most important principle. However, efficiency must align with another aspect — not using physical force. A technique should only be considered really efficient when it works with “any” opponent.
Here I need to clarify that in Jiu Jitsu, there is no “golden” technique that works with anyone, we have to understand technical efficiency always in the context of the connection of the movements which are nothing more than a set of combined techniques with the goal of efficiency.
That said, let’s go to a second principle that I consider immutable — connecting techniques based on the opponent’s movements. From the very first moments in Jiu Jitsu we learned not to react by instinct, because that was how the techniques were created, based on instinctive reactions that were predictable. When we face fighters who also know the techniques, this process is a little more elaborate and with more possibilities, but it still forces us to connect the techniques according to the movements made by our opponent. The more we predict our opponent’s game the better we are in Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu Jitsu should never be learned with isolated techniques, but in a logical sequence of movements that brings efficiency together. If you stick to these principles, you will be free to learn whatever technique you feel comfortable using and you will have a much deeper understanding of the true meaning of Jiu Jitsu.