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.

Principles of Alignment in BJJ

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.

Who is aligned and who is misaligned?

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–

2011 Was an Amazing Year for the Smash Gyms BJJ Program! Watch out 2012!


2011 was an amazing year for all the programs at Smash. I’d like to take a moment and point out the amazing growth of our BJJ program in particular.

The Smash Gyms Jiu-jitsu program is headed by Michael Jen. Michael had been teaching a small group of loyal students out of his garage for nearly 10 years. Most of his students grappled recreationally for exercise, fun and self-defense. He did have one student that liked to compete in Sport BJJ. Seo Perales was only the second person ever to be promoted to Black Belt by Michael. Seo took 3rd and 5th in the World Championships and won his division in the US Open twice. Michael’s students were all complimented on their solid fundamentals when training at other schools and Seo’s success was impressive but still Michael was largely unknown in the younger Sport Jiu-Jitsu world. Michael was one of the first 50 American BJJ Blackbelts but only the “old school” guys knew who he was since he had been not publicly teaching for ten years.

The Smash Gyms Jiu jitsu program officially started in January 2011. We were excited and happy to share the system of BJJ that we had spent 10 years in Michael’s garage helping to design. The system went through many iterations where techniques were changed, thrown out, and replaced. We were confident that we now had a system of teaching BJJ that would help the average person turn into a very good grappler in a short amount of time. We also knew it would help a talented person turn into a monster even faster.

Many of Michael’s top students came and helped lead the new program at Smash. Seo moved to the Bay Area for a few months to help get the program started. Mario Rios a brown belt, was in almost every class teaching the system of jiu-jitsu to beginners. Louie Noble and Andrew Yao purples and all of our blue belts were happy to help everyone. Before opening Smash we were fortunate to have relationships with talented people and training partners with a variety of skill-sets and backgrounds. They all came to help. My younger brother Eli who was a D1 College wrestler came in and combined his wrestling with our BJJ and made some noise. Pretty soon we had state champions like Jacob Palomino, all-american wrestlers and Judokas like Patrick Kong and pro-fighters like Sam Spengler all join the team to train, learn and pass on their existing skills to the students at Smash.

With such a great group of talented and giving instructors our brand new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program literally shocked the Sport BJJ world in 2011. The very first team tournament the Smash competitors attended they brought home 3 Gold Medals. Sam, Seo, and Patrick dominated their divisions at BJJ by the Bay. After a few months the influx of new and motivated faces found Smash to be a place where they could learn and excel. Guys like David, Sam Jung, Rogelio, Joe, Harry and Ruben joined and helped rally the team. A couple months later was BJJ by the Sea and we brought home 7 medals. 4 gold and 3 silver. Exceptional growth but it did not stop there. In July Smash brought a team to the San Jose Open and won it. The Smash Gyms competitors brought home 8 Gold medals, 2 silver, 2 bronze and the Team Trophy. It was phenomenal feeling to have such remarkable success as a new gym in the Bay Area, which is known worldwide to be a BJJ Mecca of top schools. How would we do at a national level tournament though? We found out at the US Open 2011. Smash Gyms had 6 people place in the top 3 at this nationally recognized tournament. This is unheard of for a brand new school.

We are incredibly proud of each and every person on our team. Even more fulfilling than tournament wins is watching someone go from “the nail” to “the hammer” during a practice. 2011 was amazing because of everyone that stepped on the mat and tried to help each other get better. There are too many people to thank in this post but I can honestly say I’ve learned from every single one of the students at Smash. Thanks to everyone that has helped us with the struggle to improve ourselves both on and off the mat. With everyone’s help 2012 will be even more amazing.