BJJ: Hierarchy of Positions and How to Teach Them…with chart

Larry Shealy // Uncategorized


August 8  

I’ve found over the years that the most effective way to teach BJJ, and have students understand it, is to work with them ‘early on’ with the names of the positions, and give a visual demonstration of the various positions that we work with in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  (BJJ)  

As a teacher, trying to understand how individual students learn is essential.  Some students are visual, some auditory, some kinesthetic. (most people have a bit of each of these learning styles  going on….I personally am very visual and also kinesthetic.  Show me, and let me do it, about a zilllion times and eventually I will get it!).  Also some are right brain, some are left brain thinkers.  As I get to know the students I observe how they best learn and try to ‘meet them where they are’ in the learning cycle.

Do they get it when I tell them something?
Do I need to show them?
Do they have to actually do it?
Is there a combination that works best for this person?
The answer to all 4 when teaching BJJ, typically, is YES to all of them.

Are they right brain thinkers or left brain thinkers?…. Easy way to figure this out is to have the student give you directions somewhere:  

If they are very meticulous with their explanation like: take Atlantic Blvd 1.2 miles to A1A, take a right on Beach Blvd at the red light, and go 7 blocks and take a right on MK Avenue…..chances are good they are Left Brain Thinkers… very precise, detailed type folks.

How would a Right Brainer explain?  Take the main road that has the Big Church Steeple until you see a really neat Plant store with a huge grey Dolphin mailbox,and take a right, drive past the McDonalds, and then take a right at Silvers Drug Store, and your there!  

Big Difference, right?

So how do we teach keeping these learning dynamics in mind?
The answer is two fold,  if we understand 2 things:
1.  Are they right or left brain thinkers?
2. The Hierarchy of Positions (we must walk them through these positions)

Right or Left brain let’s us know how to speak with the individual, while the hierarchy of positions allows us to determine how they will actually take in and retain the information.  We talk about the positions (auditory), we demonstrate the positions (visual), and we train in the positions (kinesthetic) to the entire class.  

As we break into training groups we can connect individually with the students and determine if they are right or left brain thinkers.  I find the the ones who need precise instruction, detail by detail, are left brainers; right brainers are more conceptual as they learn. (again, most folks have a mix of the above, but for simplicity, I think you understand where I’m coming from)

ierarchy of positions helps put things in perspective for the newer students.  They are learning a ‘new language’…… guard, pass the guard, side control, submissions, 1/2 guard, north-south, back mount, turtle….etc..  So to help connect it all together, we use a Hierarchy of Positions chart.  Where are the best positions, and worst positions.  If you have me in the best position for you, then I’m in the worst position for me.   Worst Case is the inverse of Best Case…. check this out:

BEST CASE Positions Having:
Back Mount with Hooks
Top Mount
Top Knee on Belly
Top Side Control
Top 1/2 Guard

Neutral: Guard Position top and bottom
Top can pass the guard and land heavy punches
Bottom can sweep, choke arm bar, bent arm locks etc.

Worst Case:
Bottom 1/2 Guard
Bottom Side Control
Bottom Knee on Belly
Top Mount
Back Mount with Hooks in (opponent on your back)

I teach North-South along with Side Control modules
I also look at Turtle and kind of an outlier; I don’t encourage Turtle, but teach top and bottom as needed in my curriculum, typically while teaching or after teaching bottom mount.

We’ve found that showing the various positions and how to use a fight within the fight strategy (position by position) helps the newer students understand  what they need to know early in the game, as it’s organized and easy to follow and implement, over time:  
The goal is:
Improve the position, moving up in the hierarchy
Control your position
Looking for submissions as they present themselves

The picture I used in this article is similar to one I’ve used to teach my students for many years.  Take what works for you, enjoy the ride and have a plan in your offensive attacks and your defenses to get to a better position.  

BJJ is a very complex sport, but going in to it have somewhat of a knowledge of the process is a good head start.

Train Hard, Train Smart…. Train for LIFE!

About the Author

Training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu since 1994. 4th-Degree Rigan Machado Black Belt Instructor. Christian, Husband, Father, Grateful Small Business Owner.

Larry Shealy