The Give and Take of Jiu-jitsu

I remember seeing a small magic show at a local library when I was about 10 years old. At the time I thought that the magician had a pretty good act, but I had no idea that I was also about to learn a valuable jiu-jitsu lesson.

There was this other kid in the audience (really, I swear it wasn’t me), who kept on yelling bonehead things like “I know how you did that,” and “that trick isn’t so hard.” The audience was irritated, and I’m sure it was driving the magician crazy, but he kept his cool and prepared his solution to the problem.

Eventually the magician asked the kid if he would help him on stage. The kid was beaming – he wanted the attention after all – and ran up into the limelight.

The magician produced a short piece of string and asked him to hold onto it…

…and then turned his back to the kid and proceeded to perform his next three tricks. He never used the string or his helper for anything; he just left him standing there, expectantly clutching onto a stupid little piece of yarn. He then took the string back, thanked the kid, and watched as his humbled ‘helper’ slunk offstage. Not surprisingly there were no more comments or cat-calls from that direction for the rest of the show.

So to bring today’s tip back to jiu-jitsu and grappling: the lesson is that sometimes you need to give your opponent something to hold onto in order to get what you really want.

By doing this you get his mind focused on something irrelevant – the illusion that something is bothering you (when it really isn’t), or that he’s making progress in some area (when you’ve actually got other plans for him). All the while you’re setting up your own cunning evil plan.

You might, for example, ‘allow’ him to fight his way past your guard in order to get the position and momentum that you need to set up a half guard sweep. In order to set this sweep up you first have to give him something to hold onto, namely the illusion that he’s defeating your guard.

Another situation might involve ‘letting’ him go from side mount to full mount, when your real plan is to push his trailing leg between your legs, achieve half guard and take his back.

We’re coming to a season of giving and receiving. Sometimes you need to give your opponent a little something before you snatch it away and receive a whole lot of goodies for yourself.

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