Posted on

0-1 Thinking 3-Dimensionally

Page Progress:

The learning curve in jiu-jitsu seems impossibly steep for a brand new white belt. You have to learn guard, half guard, side control, mount, back control, how to pass, how to escape, and how to submit. And then you have to learn the positions within positions, the variations and the intricacies. For someone brand new, the mountains of technique can be overwhelming.

Part of the challenge is complicated by an over-compartmentalizing of positions. You learn one armbar from guard. Then you learn another armbar from mount. And then you learn an armbar from knee on belly and another from side control.

You know that what you’re doing is classified as a type of armbar, but since you’re doing it from a different position, it’s easy to treat each entry like a completely new technique. It feels familiar, and the finishes are similar, but since you are in a different place when you start, you may begin to organize your techniques mentally into what you can do from position A, what you can do from position B, and so forth. As a result, your game is divided into compartments. You leave the guard compartment with a sweep and perhaps enter the top half guard compartment. And then you might enter the side control compartment if you reach into your half guard passing compartment and pick an effective technique.

And the game only gets more complex as you add more and more compartments.

3-D Jiu-Jitsu is a way of analyzing jiu-jitsu positions and techniques to find the commonalities between these compartments. If you freeze-frame a position and reorient it—turning it sideways, upside-down, propping it upright this way or laying it down that way—you can see that one seemingly isolated position is remarkably similar to another.

The simplest example of this concept in action is comparing closed guard to mount. If you flip the guard position over, suddenly mount looks like having guard from the top. When you think of mount in this way, you start to see that much of your closed guard strategy applies to mount, and that the mechanics of your technique do not change all that much, except that having gravity and the mat as extra tools for controlling and attacking augments your leverage and power.

For a new student, this can accelerate learning. No, you aren’t learning a new armbar from mount. This is essentially the same armbar that you do from guard with some minor tweaks. All of the important details, like sucking the elbow tight inside of the hips, creating an angle, and controlling the head, are still essential. You learned why they were essential from guard already, so keep them in mind as you adapt your attack to mount.


Like that cross collar choke to armbar set up from guard? Good, it works from mount to. Yes, you can attack with triangles from mount too. Either pin the wrist to his body and shoot your leg over it, or force him to extend his arm so that you can jump-rope through the gap.

Now, after a small amount of additional instruction, the new student’s game has doubled because he is able to recognize the mechanics and concepts that make his leverage work, forcing him to explore the what, how, and why of positions and technique.

The idea of 3-D Jiu-Jitsu, of reorienting a position to explore similarities to others, can be useful for understanding new positions or for troubleshooting challenging scenarios. We will explore these ideas in some depth, albeit briefly, in this book. In sharing this way of thinking with you, I hope to help you explore your jiu-jitsu by giving you a methodology, a process for doing-so. If you teach, hopefully 3-D Jiu-Jitsu will help your students learn more quickly.