Everybody says that that hip movement is the most important thing in BJJ…
“Boca” Oliveira, a de la Riva black belt, recently told me: “the hips are 90% of jiu-jitsu, and position is the other 10%”. Most instructors would agree with the spirit of his statement, because the hips allow you to escape bad positions, throw opponents, pass the guard, and apply armlocks, leglocks and chokes.
Let’s consider the closed guard position. To set up the vast majority of offensive actions in the guard you have to do one, or both, of the following:
- twist your body so your weight is on one buttock only,
- and/or swivel your hips so that he is no longer square with you.
Of course there are some exceptions to this rule (like some lapel chokes, for example), but it is true for the vast majority of offensive techniques from the guard.
An example of the first motion (twisting the hips) can be found in this grappling photo. It is perhaps appropriate that it is the aforementioned Boca who is using this movement to armlock me.
An example the second motion (hip swiveling) can be found in the swinging armbar drill in this article. No swivel, no armbar!
The flipside of this principle is that if you shut down your opponent’s hips you shut down most of his game.
In the guard I call this “Caging the Hips“. If you are in your opponent’s closed guard you cage his hips by always staying square with your opponent and keeping his hips flat on the ground, trapped between your two knees.
Now if he escapes his hips out past your right knee, for example, then you circle to your right until you are square with him again. If he twists his body onto his right side you circle towards your left and roll him flat.
Once you are square with your opponent you can make it harder for him to escape his hips by applying an inward pressure on his hips with the inside of your knees. If appropriate, you can also use your elbows to help limit his hip movement, but the main pressure comes from your knees.
Objectively you aren’t applying very much force with your legs here – your adductors aren’t very strong muscles – but even a little bit of pressure can kill his movement to a significant degree. You can use this inward pressure both kneeling or standing in your opponent’s guard, but it is easier to learn and apply in the kneeling position.
Give these circling movements and inward pressure a try with a training partner and see if it makes a difference.