Postural Deviation to Help Your Guard Passing

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

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–