Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Proximity


Fact: More than 75% of our lives that we don’t spend sleeping, we spend in an upright position. Whether that is in a standing or sitting position.

Being on the ground is often times a foreign experience for us. Even when we are laying down, most of the time its on a couch, a bed, or some type of furniture that hovers slightly off the ground. This is why I highly stress the elements of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and ground fighting in my self defense curriculum. BJJ allows you to protect yourself from situations where you are outweighed or out-muscled.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most complete self defense system for ground fighting and it allows smaller, possibly weaker individuals to be comfortable on the ground. Often times an individual may seem like they are in a defensive or submissive position but with the use of BJJ they remain calm and they can use technique to advance to a better position. Unfortunately a majority of attacks or rapes occur or wind up on the ground. For those who don’t train specifically in ground fighting, the feeling of being overwhelmed occurs quickly when someone usually larger and stronger is on top of you. This can lead to panic, claustrophobia and eventually a complete loss of energy. So how do we become accustomed to these situations? By training. Its important to train with Proximity to get accustomed to distance; this is true for both for attack and awareness situations. By training on the ground and training with the ideals of proximity you will learn how not to panic and how to stay calm under duress. BJJ ground techniques rely on leverage on not strength or size, they will allow you to A.) Effortlessly reverse a bad position B.) Apply a choke or lock C.) Contain the attack and use striking techniques.

The best way to train is by training in bad positions. By doing so, if and when an attack were to occur you will be prepared. Your reaction will be automatic, and without any doubts on how to handle the much stronger and larger attacker on top of you. Your first movements will be to defend yourself and reverse a bad position into a advantageous one.

Jiu Jitsu not only teaches you patience but it teaches control. Control of yourself both mentally and physically along with control of your opponent or attacker. Some people struggle with the control aspect, the mental game of jiu jitsu in its many forms. Others are frozen, some panic with the sensation of claustrophobia. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, Stephan Kesting, has some of the best lessons and tutorials in the field. He recently posted this great article about BJJ and Claustrophobia which you can read here. In closing, reflect upon this conversation Stephan had with the Legend Rickson Gracie.

I basically told Rickson I seemed to gas out on the mats when I felt stuck or in trouble (especially on the bottom). It was almost like a form of panic. This is when he told me to learn to train like a rat instead of always being the lion. He said the rat’s only motive is to survive. When I learned to play in trouble and survive the attacks of the lion, the mental stress went away and my cardio was better. I learned to actually put myself in trouble with my students so I could learn to mentally deal with any situation. I knew that if I could alleviate mental confusion and chaos, I could eliminate the problem of gassing out for this reason. It really did make a big difference in my training.