Bruce Lee was not known for being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo master. He was known for his movies and Kung Fu. But to us martial artists, he was known as, and is still regarded as, a martial arts philosopher. Much of what he taught is not exclusive to striking martial arts. In fact, all of it applies to grappling in general. If you spend enough time in Jiu-Jitsu, you are very likely to hear someone quote Bruce Lee, or you might even do it yourself! In my case, one of the most unforgettable quotes is
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in itself is not a martial art with a large curriculum. There are only a dozen or so submissions and just about the same in positions. Perhaps also that many sweeps. To be honest, I haven’t counted them, but I can’t be too far off the number. This may be contradicting to Master Carlos Machado’s theory that there are 600 moves in Gracie Jiu- Jitsu, but I am not arguing that. I also agree with Mestre Carlos Machado. The difference between both our numbers come from the permutations of those “dozen or so” submissions and the “dozen or so” positions I mentioned.
For instance, an armbar is an armbar regardless of where you apply it from. That is still one submission technique. When you permutate that submission with an application from the full-mount, from the guard, and from side control, you end up with 3 Armbars! This can quickly send you into a rabbit hole that will uncover 600 techniques and possibly more.
What does that mean for us? Does it mean that once we know or memorize those 600 or so techniques, we have learned all of Jiu-Jitsu? I’m afraid not. I would argue, you’d probably know Jiu-Jitsu less efficiently if you tried to achieve this. If we look at some of the most successful Jiu-Jitsu competitors we can almost identify them with a specific submission (Clark Gracie is known for his Omoplatas, Magid Hage is known for his Baseball Bat Choke from bottom, Craig Jones is known for his leglocks, etc).
The reason why they are so successful is because they’ve spent most of their career building an intricate and strategic plan around these submissions. As Master Bruce Lee would say, “They practiced these techniques 10,000 times, rather than practicing 10,000 techniques”. The important part is not learning as much as you can, but knowing it as well as you can. This is best achieved by focusing more on a few submissions and deciphering the permutations so that you are able to pull it off from any position you are in.
Happy training! And I hope one of you reading this will one day become known for a specific submission!