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.
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–