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Teaching postural alignment and principles of proper biomechanics helps our students practice martial arts safely and gives them a deeper understanding of technique. This deeper understanding also gives students the tools to problem solve on their own.
These principles were identified by Head Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Michael Jen after he studied biomechanics and earned a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt from Joe Moreira in 2001. Joe's incredibly effective BJJ relied heavily on causing mis-alignment in his opponent while maintaining proper alignment in his own body.
Below is an article written by Michael Jen in 2008.
Pressure Guard Passing and Postural Deviation
In order to understand this, we need to first examine the ideal posture that serves as the original blueprint for the design of the human body in the standing position. From the front view, this consists of the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joints being vertically aligned. In addition, the center of those 4 load joints on one side of the body should be horizontally aligned with the same joints on the other side of the body. Also, from the front view, the head and spine should be aligned with the center of the body. From side view, the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joint, in addition to ear, should be vertically aligned. This alignment should be the same when viewing the left and right side of the body.
If you were to draw a line from one joint to the joint that is either vertically above or below it and also the joint that is horizontally on the other side of it, those lines would form a 90-degree angle. If you examine the vertical alignment of the joints from the front and side view, in addition to the alignment of the spine from the front or back view, you will see that it is at a 90-degree angle to the earth. So, if you look at the structural blue print for human posture, you will notice that it is all based upon 90-degree angles.
When the alignment of the body begins to lose its 90-degree angles, what is created are known as postural deviations. The greater the number of deviations that occur and the farther the angles are from 90 degrees, the weaker and the more structurally unstable the body becomes.
One of the most destructive postural deviations on the body is counter-rotation. Counter-rotation is when one side of the hips is rotated forward while at the same time, the opposite side of the torso is rotated forward. The more the upper and lower body are twisting in opposite directions, the weaker the body becomes. To comprehend how destructive counter-rotation is to the body, imagine trying to do a squat using a barbell loaded up with a lot of weight with the upper and lower body severely twisted in opposite directions. It would be very clear that the greater the counter-rotation, the less weight it would take to make everything come crashing down.
For this exact reason, the application of counter-rotation is an essential component to passing the guard with pressure. When an opponent is playing guard, he has the ability to use all his limbs against you at once. Power comes from the shoulder and hips working in unison. By applying counter- rotation to your opponent’s body, you are essentially severing the connection between those two sources of power. Once this disconnect occurs, all aspects of your opponent’s body weakens and that makes it much easier to pass, and much more difficult to counter. Let’s look at some guard passes that use pressure and see how the application of counter-rotation is an absolutely essential component.
The Margarida Pass:
I am placing my right shin over my opponent’s right inner thigh, pinning his leg to the ground. (A) This forces my opponent’s hips to rotate towards his right. My left hand is pulling up on his right sleeve as my right forearm pushes against his left torso. (B) This causes the upper body to rotate towards his left -- in the opposite direction of his hips. However, the rotation in my opponent’s upper body is not created solely by the push and pull of of my arms. My left leg is placed in a position where the driving force is directed towards my right forearm.
The Leg-on-Shoulder Pass
(A) I have the opponent stacked up on his left shoulder blade. His own body weight (as well mine) keep his shoulder pinned to the ground. (B) My hips, abs, chest, and body weight drive my opponent’s right hip in the direction of his left shoulder. My left hand grabs my opponent’s left lapel and the pulling action further enhances his counter rotation. The compression through counter-rotation is what prevents the opponent from applying the triangle or armbar.
The Arm-Between-the-Leg Pass
(A) My right arm threading between my opponent’s legs forces his hips to rotate to his right. My left hand holds onto his right sleeve. (B) I place my head between his left chest and shoulder. The driving force of my legs is transferred through the straight line of my spine and head, twisting my opponent’s upper body in the opposite direction of his hips.
These three guard passes demonstrate how the one principle of counter-rotation can be applied in three different ways. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are many other postural deviations besides counter-rotation, and many other techniques in which they can be used. For those who are interested in improving the tightness and pressure of their guard passing, the main point to understand is: it’s essential for pressure to be applied in a way that creates and amplifies postural deviations. Without the creation of postural deviations, the feeling of crushing pressure can only be accomplished through the use of excessive strength or body weight.
POSTURAL ALIGNMENT IN GRAPPLING
The human body contains the blueprint for it's structure which provides maximum biomechanical strength,stability, and efficiency. This answer is contained in the body’s posture. From the front view, the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joints should all be vertically aligned. In addition, the center of those 4 joints on one side of the body should be horizontally aligned with the same joints on the other side of the body. Also, from the front view, the head and spine should be aligned with the center of the body. From side view, the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joint, in addition to ear,should be vertically aligned. This alignment should be the same when viewing the left and right side of the body.
If you were to draw a line from one joint to the joint that is either vertically above or below it and also the joint which is horizontally on the other side of it, those lines form a 90 degree angle. If you examine the vertical alignment of the joints from the front and side view, in addition to the alignment of the spine from the front or back view, you will
see that it is at a 90 degree angle to the earth. So, if you look at this structural blue print for human posture, you will notice that it is all based upon 90 degree angles.
I often discuss placing your body in the strongest biomechanical position possible and your opponent’s body in the weakest biomechnical position possible. Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners understand the term “posture” in the context of positioning the arms and body when in the guard, or on the bottom of a pin or the mount. What must be understood is that posture is the position of your body at all times, in a positions, in all situations. So based on the description of postural alignment described above, how to achieve this should be very clear- when grappling, you must achieve and/or maintain as many 90 degree angles with your load joints as the situation allows while you destroy as many of those 90 degree angles in your opponent’s body.
Note that I am not saying that all the 90 degree angles must be achieved in all techniques or situations(for example, it is obvious that spinning for an armbar from the guard will require that you round your back or when pinning an opponent or kneeling in the guard, it is more appropriate for your knees to be in a position that is much wider than the hip joints), but rather you must achieve as many 90 degree angles as is appropriate for the situation, especially between the shoulder and hips since that area is where power is generated for the limbs.
The human body is a system of levers and the your load joints are the fulcrums. Like any lever, the positioning of the fulcrum is essential in determining the amount of effort which will be needed to produce force. With the fulcrum in an optimal position, the lever can produce a great amount of force with a minimal amount of effort. So when your body’s
alignment contains as many 90 degree angles as possible, all the fulcrums are in their optimal positions. Similarly, when the fulcrum is not in an optimal position, it requires a much greater amount of effort to produce force.
Because the human body is a system of levers, nothing happens in isolation. The body works as a unit. This means that in the event that the 90 degree angles are destroyed in one specific area, it effects the entire body. For the BJJ practitioner, this means you do not need to deal with a problem site specific. For example, let’s say your opponent is
pushing you with his arms. Most people would assume that doing something directly to the arms would be the way to resolve the situation. However, another alternative would be to create a misalignment in your opponent’s body and destroy all the 90 degree angles between his hips and shoulders. The farther the angles between the hip and shoulders are deviated away from 90 degrees, the weaker his arms will become thus making his pushing ineffective.
The effect of proper and improper alignment of the joints is a universal law of human biomechanics, therefore, there are no movements in grappling for which these principles do not apply. Understanding the application of these ideas will not only give you a greater understanding Jiu-Jitsu, but will also give you the key and be the starting point in having a greater ability to problem solve on your own.
--Written by Smash Gyms Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Michael Jen in 2005--
Derek and Aaron Jen represented the Smash Gyms Kids Martial Arts Program and competed in the 5th Annual North Bay Judo Developmental Tournament. This was a smaller competition with fewer competitors, so the brothers were put against opponents of higher rank. Aaron placed 1st in his division and Derek placed 2nd in his division. Congratulations to both boys!
Check out the highlights!
"One day my cousin Desiree Mendel told me about Smash gyms, and started up martial arts again. At this point I was a little over 200lbs of partially fat and muscle. After meeting my coach Brian, he sparked my interest in competing in kickboxing. I asked how much I should weigh, and he suggested at my height, I should get down to at least 145lbs. That was a goal that no one, even myself thought I could make. However with tons of hard work and staying consistent on a balanced, healthy diet, I continued to take other classes Smash gyms had to offer such as kettle bells, strength and conditioning, bootcamp classes and yoga classes. After 8 months I finally reached my goal and weighed in for my first kickboxing tournament at 143lbs!"- Noel Galano
A few weeks ago, Sam Jung represented Smash Gyms at the East Bay Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Open. Sam put on a great performance and placed 1st in the gi division and 3rd in the no gi division. That same weekend, Jonathan Bialoglovski competed in the Calfornia Black Belt League: Victory Challenge and place 1st in his division.
Then this past weekend, Christina Apatow represented Smash Gyms Women's BJJ and competed in the KO Finisher Series Submission Only Tournament. With no competitors to go against in her division, Christina moved up 2 weight classes. She did awesome and placed 3rd. Christina finished two of her matches by armbar and gi choke. The most memorable moment was when her opponent refused to tap to the gi choke and ended up being put completely unconscious.
While Christina was competing in BJJ, Smash Gyms' Strength & Conditioning instructor, James Cebedo, competed in the Redwood Empire Weightlifting Competition. James threw up some big weight and placed 2nd in his division despite only weighing 157lbs in the 170lbs division! This was James' first weightlifting competition so he decided not to cut any weight and still took home a silver medal!
A big congratulations to all the competitors!
Check out the highlights of Christina at the KO Finisher Series!
Smash has become one of the most popular gyms in the Bay Area because of our fun fitness classes designed to help people of all levels live a healthy and active lifestyle. Our beginner friendly classes have had amazing results helping people reach their fitness goals. We offer a safe and supportive path to reaching your fitness goals. Many of our members have commented that aside from becoming fit, our classes deliver an unique additional benefit. Each one of our specialty fitness classes is taught by expert professionals in each subject. At Smash people are learning functional skills in addition to function fitness.
According to author David Grossman, the human population can be divided into three groups: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Grossman says that most people are sheep. The vast majority of people are peaceful and would never purposely hurt another person. They lack both the ability and the desire. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a sheep. If you are a sheep then you are probably a non-violent and productive citizen. Sheep are those who choose not to accept any responsibility for the protection of themselves or those around them.
Sheepdogs are those with the ability to fight off the wolves. Sheepdogs are made not born. At Smash we are helping to turn sheep in to sheepdogs. As you are developing these skills and your abilities, your confidence will grow. You will know that if needed, you can protect yourself and loved ones from the wolves of the world. Our members are becoming a community of good people with a unique set of skills that most predators do not possess. All of our classes are taught by expert instructors in specific subjects. Our professional instructors are not only great practitioners but also have a plan to transfer their skills to you in a fun and safe environment. Take as many different classes as you can to soak up the knowledge of these amazing instructors.
Get off those one-size-fits-all exercise machines and learn from an instructors that can transfer his or her expert skills to you. Self-defense and martial arts classes are becoming an incredibly popular way to get in shape and feel great. Through innovative, beginner friendly, and live training methods we are making good people skilled martial artist through their fitness journey. Men and women of all ages who never had martial arts or athletic backgrounds are experiencing things they never thought possible at Smash. Anyone will get good as long as they keep showing up.
Our classes have a strong focus on safety during live but structured training. Injuries are very rare but a bruised ego is common. Everyone starts off the nail but if you can put your ego aside and keep coming to class you will become the hammer, we guarantee it. Once you are trained you will realize it doesn't matter how tough someone is, it only matters whether they are trained or not.
Anyone serious about self-defense or martial arts should at the very least get a blue belt in BJJ. Anyone serious about self-defense should take our self-defense and combatives classes and learn about knife or gun disarming. Learn how to properly punch and kick in a devastating fashion with our kickboxing and MMA classes. If you are missing classes on this schedule you are passing up an opportunity to not only burn calories in fun classes but to also learn potentially lifesaving skills.
In today's increasingly dangerous world many people are concerned about self-protection and want to learn to defend themselves. It can be a difficult choice on which gym to join so I would encourage you to get off the internet and try the classes out. At Smash we take our responsibility seriously to give our members the tools to protect themselves. Properly researching gyms or styles of fighting can only be done through visiting gyms and testing the the quality of instruction and training methods. Look for instructors and students that are able to demonstrate the effectiveness of their skills in a 100% live situation without hurting you. Good marketing and bold statements does not make realistic self-defense. Pretend fighting with no rules in unlikely scenarios will not help you in when you need it most.
Most importantly, look for instructors and training partners that posses a sheepdog mentality and the drive to protect and help people in all aspects of life. Find a community of people inspiring each other reach their goals and grow together.