Taking Notes on Jiu Jitsu

I have all these notes from jiu jitsu classes. I’ve always learned through writing, and with jiu jitsu I’ve found it super helpful to have a journal of the techniques I’ve gone over. I was going to just paste in my notes on a recent class, but it got me thinking about the writing process itself when the subject is martial arts.

Technical Writing and Jiu Jitsu

I was a technical writer for two years, so it was my job to break down arcane concepts and write procedures for non-experts. Writing good instructions for martial arts is a classic tech writing challenge in that it’s difficult to decide how much detail to include. For example, I know you have to stay tight to the shoulder whenever you’re setting up a straight arm bar. But if you’re writing for someone new to the game, you should probably make a note of this somewhere, right? Should this be included in the procedural explanation of a technique? Or should it be noted beforehand to keep the procedure concise?

I also like to keep my instructions ambidextrous, which presents its own challenges. I’ve noticed you can usually refer to the “inside” and “outside” half of the body, because you’re rarely totally square with your opponent. And when you’re perpendicular in side control, you have a “head side” and a “foot side” with reference to your opponent. In the midst of a technique, you can also refer to the “same” or “opposite side” of the body you were just talking about. It’s best to use this kind of language when you’re demonstrating live, as well, because it puts less demand on your listeners.

There’s a BJJ black belt who instructs at the Combatives schoolhouse. At lunch, he teaches jiu jitsu to the other instructors, and I’ve been scarfing down a Clif bar and joining them. His style reminds me of my BJJ instructor, Jay Jack. He does the same variation on the side choke (link to instructional by Jay). These are my notes on a class he taught last week.

Osoto Gari and Baseball Choke to Armbar Series

3 March 2011 – Gi class during Lunch @ the Combatives Schoolhouse – Lvl 3 Combatives

Pull to Osoto Gari – Exaggerated pulling kuzushi: Instead of driving forward from the start, yank him backwards, hard. He’ll probably plant and lean back. This sets you up to step in for the throw.

After landing Osoto Gari: Side control to baseball choke: From modified scarf hold side control (hips turned toward his head, deep underhook on far side, pulling up on near side).

  • Instead of underhooking on the far side, control his far-side collar with a thumb-inside grip, pinning his solar plexus with your elbow. Keep the elbow tight to prevent his underhook.
  • Control the near-side arm at the elbow, gripping the gi at the elbow and pulling tight. He shouldn’t be able to bend his elbow.
  • Use your near-side hand to open the far-side collar and switch the far-side hand (the one controlling the far-side collar) to a thumb-outside grip.
  • With the inside hand, put in a thumb-inside grip on his collar.
  • Switch base and walk around to north-south to choke.

He pushes on your chest: Step up to straight arm bar:

  • Roll your shoulders back and turn your chest up, pulling his arm past you.
  • Trap that arm with the far-side arm.
  • Pop up to a high knee-on-belly mount. To get up, push down on the elbow on his stomach. It should be pretty uncomfortable for him Make sure your shoelaces are tight against him and high up in his armpit.
  • Step around for the straight arm bar, maintaining the far-side grip on his collar.

He turns away from the arm bar: As you step up, your opponent may try to flip over on his belly away from you to escape, probably thinking of attacking your legs. Transition to a face-down arm bar on the far side.

  • Release the grip on the collar and post that hand on the ground.
  • Switch the foot that’s over his face to the back of his head.
  • Complete the arm bar by driving your hips to the ground, spreading your knees to make room, if necessary.
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