On this page I have compiled the lists and charts that help me study Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
The first list shows the order the basic techniques taught at the dojo. The thirty-six Gracie Combatives techniques are taught through a cycle of twenty-three classes. Carefully planned pedagogy allows students to enter the cycle at any time, without needing to know techniques from other classes.
The next list repeats all of the techniques from the aggressor's perspective. A knowledgeable partner will know all of these indocators to "feed" you clear opportunities to practice every technique during unscripted fight simulations.
This flowchart describes how the basic techniques work together.
There are four big drills (1, 2, 3, 4) that make great practice and exercise. These drills are also used for blue belt testing.
There is etiquette for rolling. Keep it playful. Keep it real. Keep it safe.
For further reference, the entire Gracie Combatives manual is online here or here.
Half of this game is ninety percent mental.
- Yogi Berra
The beginner's curriculum includes thirty-six techniques, each of which has a few variations. At the dojo these are arranged into twenty-three classes so that each class can have both stand-up and on-the-mat portions.
Below is how the techniques fit into the classes, for my own archival use. When I was newer to the material, this list helped me by showing me which techniques to review at home on DVD before class. That really helped me learn the material.
(There are not twenty-three distinct stand-up techniques, so many of these are seen twice during the cycle of lessons.)
The Gracies do not have examples of these techniques freely available (except for lesson one). The best introduction I have found to share some of the basic positions and techniques with someone unfamiliar with the martial art is Stephan Kesting's BJJ Roadmap PDF.
1. Trap and Roll Escape
2. Americana Armlock
3. Positional Control - Mount
4. Take the Back
8. Punch Block Series (Stages 1 through 4)
9. Straight Armlock (Mount)
10. Triangle Choke
11. Elevator Sweep
12. Elbow Escape (Mount)
13. Positional Control - Side Mount
16. Headlock Counters
18. Headlock Escape 1
19. Straight Armlock (Guard)
20. Double Ankle Sweep
22. Headlock Escape 2
24. Shrimp Escape
25. Kimura Armlock
27. Punch Block Series (Stage 5)
28. Hook Sweep
31. Take the Back (Guard)
33. Elbow Escape (Side Mount)
35. Twisting Arm Control
36. Double Underhook Pass
They always remember the bad guy.
- Brion James
A helpful partner playing the role of the aggressor during unscripted practice sessions will provide clear opportunities for his or her partner to practice every technique. This list describes all of the "feeds" for every variation of the thirty-six techniques of Gracie Combatives.
It's like three-dimensional chess.
- Brian Van Slyke
The Gracie Combatives flowchart describes how the most basic techniques might be used in an actual self-defense situation.
When sparring with another jiu-jitsu practitioner there are far more possibilities.
Click on the image for a larger view.
You can also download a PDF version of this chart.
Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
- classic saying
Videos of people doing these drills are online.
Trap and Roll Escape
Take the Back
Rear Naked Choke
Twisting Arm Control
Punch Block Series
Take the Back
Double Ankle Sweep
Headlock Escape #1
Headlock Escape #2
Establish the Clinch
Haymaker Punch Defense
Leg Hook Takedown
Body Fold Takedown
Double Leg Takedown
Standing Headlock Defense
When Brazilian ju-jitsu folk spar they call it "rolling". These are the common expectations for rolling at a Grace jiu-jitsu dojo.
(These expectations are for the more formal rolling that is done while wearing a gi. Some dojos have slightly less formal etiquette for warming up before a class when not wearing a gi.)
I might work for the dominant position but as soon or before it is established I allow myself to get into an inferior position. I also allow my training partner to go for a submission and depending on how I feel I either attempt to defend the submission early, at the half way point or late. I risk being stuck in an inferior position or getting tapped out. I'm okay with this because the information that I collect from experiencing jiu-jitsu this way is different. Due to the KeepItPlayful approach I am less concerned with "winning" and instead looking to create / allow movement while observing my partners jiu-jitsu and therefore creating a greater understanding. If you allow yourself to spend time in all positions you build comfort in all positions, and if you do this, you win.
So, I guess I am very concerned with "winning" it’s just that my definition of winning is being comfortable in every position.
- Ryron Gracie's blog
The motto "keep it playful" asks you to prioritize learning to be comfortable in every position, and slow down to develop optimal habits.
Our bodies use a defensive mechanism called muscular bracing when anticipating danger. Adrenaline is relased to help us think and move quicker. Many muscles tighten, releasing muscular glycogen for a boost of energy. When a muscle contracts the opposing muscle does not completely relax, holding the joints more firmly to protect them.
However, muscular bracing is only healthy in short bursts. Too much adrenaline is bad for the body. Depleting muscular glycogen only leaves the body with liver glycogen, complicating the regulation of blood sugar. Joints held too firmly when opposing muscles do not completely relax suffer wear and tear when they move.
Keeping it playful will retrain the hypothalamus to minimize muscular bracing. You will teach your body to be poised and relaxed when in stress, not braced and tense. You will learn to use very little strength until you are attempting to create or escape from a submission—and then appropriately use a burst of muscle bracing.
Needless to say, this retraining will help your posture and quality of life even when not rolling. Any time you can relax your shoulders and feel the drop, you were doing a small amount of muscular bracing there. Imagine being free from that burden!
Keeping it playful also allows you time to focus on relaxing and applying techniques properly. You and your partner both "win" if you move carefully to best habituate your muscle memory.
Moving carefully often means slowing down and relying on technique instead of strength. Be sure that your resistance is also precise. Keep it playful does not mean to offer sloppy resistance that robs your partner of the feedback he or she needs to refine techniques. You can resist properly without full strength. You cannot resist properly without full dilligence
Rolling while keeping it playful is not competitive. You have a partner, not an opponent. You and your partner should both be sometimes fighting out of bad positions. You should both be attempting to create and escape from submissions.
You are drilling, not fighting. Your partner may even ask to devote a round to rolling without submissions to best practice reading what you both telegraph as you shift weight and move through escapes and sweeps.
Rolling with a partner of lesser skill is a great time to practice starting from weak positions. Or try repeatedly working toward a single goal: your less-skilled partner will notice the pattern and find ways to make you work different and more careful approaches.
To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.
- Bruce Lee
The motto "keep it real" asks you to occasionally try one hundred percent, to take the measure of your ability as you roll with your partner.
Sometimes you need to stop drilling and try fighting. It is a safe and sportive contest. Yet it is still a fight that provides the chance to prove your ability against a partner who opposes you as fully as he or she knows how.
This is not the default attidue when rolling. If you want to try to "keep it real" tell your partner before you start that round. It would be quite rude to go full-effort without warning.
In certain transitions the amount of body weight put on the partner is heavy when keeping it real (but courteous when keeping it playful). For example, when moving from Side Mount to Mount the pressure as the shin slides across your partner's stomach is heavy when keeping it real.
Similarly, when keeping it real you may take advantage of superior weight or position to make your partner tired (this would be rude when keeping it playful). For example, maintaining side control with a partner you know cannot escape, simply to wear out that partner, provides no learning opportunities for you or your partner and thus would be rude when keeping it playful—but it is an acceptable (although immature) strategy when keeping it real.
Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
- William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One
Always keep it safe.
One great advantage of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is partners can safely practice the same techniques that are useful for self-defense, without special gloves or padding. Here are reminders about how to stay safe while rolling.
Tap out by tapping partner repeatedly with your free hand hard enough that he or she can feel it. (Do not tap the mat, since your partner may not hear that.) Tap as soon as you begin to feel the effects of a submission.
Tapping is not only for submissions. If you are too tired to continue, tap to end the round and say something like "I need a break".
Stop immediately when your partner taps.
After a tap you and your partner might start a new round from the prescribed staring positions. Or you might loosen the current position to keep going with a different flow of movement.
In other words, a tap means "Stop and redirect" instead of "I lost".
An important part of several techniques is "crossfacing". You are allowed to push directly on your partner's face with moderate energy. (For example, this happens when positioning their head for the Rear Naked Choke.) But crossfacing should never be done needlessly, or with too much force. Be considerate.
Similarly, a common way to make space is to push your forearm against your partner's neck. This should never be done needlessly, or with too much force. Be considerate.
Be careful not to accidentally target your partner's pressure points. (This accident mostly happens when pushing down their leg to pass their guard.) It is legal but rude. Smothering you opponent with your body or gi is also legal but rude.
During a take-down, remember to stay close and keep control. Do not land on your partner the wrong way. Do not pick your partner up and throw him or her hard onto the mat.
The submissions learned in the Gracie Combatives class are always allowed. You do not need to ask permission to do them. Notice they fall into three categories:
Other categories of submissions are illegal because they might harm to the partner. These include moves that twist or crank the neck, twist the feet, torque the knee, or target individual fingers and toes. Avoiding harm also means no creatively inventing submission. Of course, never jab or pinch your partner or otherwise deliberately cause pain or harm.
Do not put force on your partner's windpipe. The sole exception is when using the Guillotine Choke. Your partner has been trained to escape from this choke, so the pressure is relieved quickly and the "choke" is actually about transitioning positions.
Do not put force on your partner's jaw. If a blood choke is not aligned correctly and is squeezing the chin, pause to correct that error.
Advanced students with colored belts may know other categories submissions that are legal at their level. Their training allows them to safely administer a straight ankle lock, straight kneebar, wrist lock, figure-four foot hold, or "slicers" (compressing the elbow or knee joint around another limb). The etiquette for using these varies from dojo to dojo.
Thanks go to Balto's rolling etiquette for providing many of these safety details.