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.