Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Terminology

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  • 50/50: A leg lock position similar to an outside ashi garami but with your opponent’s leg being controlled with a “cross grip” on the inside of your body rather than on the outside. As the name suggests, the 50-50 position also gives your opponent access to leg locks, so it’s often used as a springboard into other safer positions like 80-20.
  • 80/20: a continuation from 50/50 where you slip your knee to the mat while rotating your hip to the inside (between your partner’s legs) so your opponent can’t get his knee out.

A

  • ADCC: ADCC stands for Abu Dhabi Combat Club. It was started by Sheik Zayed in an effort to grow martial arts in the United Arab Emirates. Another goal of the ADCC was to create the best grappling tournament in the world. Today the ADCC World Submission Fighting Championship is the premier no-gi submission grappling championship in the world, with a more relaxed submission ruleset than the IBJJF.
  • Americana: a shoulder joint lock performed by bending the elbow and arm while keeping the rest of the opponent’s shoulder and body still. It generally requires the opponent’s back to be on the mat, so is usually performed by the top player in side control or mount. It’s also known as the figure four arm lock because of the arrangement of the top player’s two arms which wrap around and isolate one of the bottom player’s arms.
  • Ankle lock: A joint lock that targets the ankle ligaments by extending the foot away from the leg. There are a number of different ankle lock variations including straight ankle locks, ankle locks from the back, and face down ankle locks. The toe hold, which is a figure four style joint lock involving the foot, can be another type of ankle lock.
  • Arm drag: A technique used to move an opponent’s arm out of the way to open them up for a leg takedown (when standing), or to expose their back (usually when on the ground). An arm drag is performed when the practitioner controls one of their opponent’s arms above the elbow with both of their own arms, using the control to literally pull the opponent’s arm away from their center of gravity and forcing them to compensate. Marcelo Garcia is an elite BJJ athlete famous for his use of the arm drag.
  • Arm Triangle Choke: A chokehold submission using the practitioner’s forearm and the opponent’s own shoulder. This differs from a regular triangle which uses the practitioner’s legs instead of the forearm, but still uses their opponent’s shoulders to complete the submission. There area number of arm triangle variations including the kata gatame, D’arce and anaconda.
  • Armbar: An iconic grappling submission that hyperextends the opponent’s elbow. Armbars are very versatile and can be initiated from a variety of positions in jiu-jitsu including mount and closed guard.
  • Ashi Garami: A basic leg lock position often seen as a foundational position for more complex leg locks. Ashi garami can include both “inside” and “outside” variations, which just refers to the position of the practitioner’s own inside leg.

B

  • Back control: A dominant control position where a practitioner sits behind their opponent with their feet and arms controlling their opponent. Back control is a foundational position for high percentage submissions like the rear-naked choke and successfully obtaining back control earns 4 points in an IBJJF competition.
  • Back take: This refers to any number of techniques used to transition from a position to the back control position. One such example is the berimbolo, where a practitioner will get back control by inverting, and another is the arm drag, where a practitioner will drag their opponent’s arm away from their body to open up their back.
  • Base: A person’s center of gravity. A strong base means that you have a low center of gravity with your back straight, head up, and wide knees. This stance gives people a good balance.
  • Belt: BJJ is traditionally performed in a gi or kimono with a belt. Your belt denotes your rank, with the adult BJJ rank system including the white, blue, purple, brown, and black belt.
  • Berimbolo: A gi sweep used to take an opponent’s back. The berimbolo is an inverted spinning technique usually initiated from de la Riva guard.
  • Bow and Arrow Choke: A gi lapel choke performed from behind your opponent. The bow and arrow got its name from the positioning of the practitioner’s arms during the choke, as one pulls on the collar, and the other pulls on the opponent’s pants.
  • Brabo choke: A gi-based choke that uses the opponent’s own lapel and the practitioner’s forearm to complete the choke.
  • Breakfall: A technical fall where a grappler uses their arms, legs, and/or body positioning to protect their body from impact when falling to the ground. Breakfalls can include rolls or slaps.
  • Bridge: This move is most often done to “buck off” an opponent in the mount position. In order to perform a bridge, lay on your back with your feet planted on the mat as close to your butt as possible. From there, push off the mat with your legs to elevate your hips and spine. When this move is done correctly, only the toes and tops of the shoulder should be left touching the mat.
  • Bridge and roll: same as “upa”.
  • Butterfly Guard: Butterfly guard is a style of open guard where the practitioner sits down with their legs in front of them in and between their opponent’s legs. The practitioner then uses their feet as hooks to help with sweeps and submissions.

C

  • Cauliflower ear: Cauliflower ear is an ear deformity caused by blunt force injuries to the ear. These cause hematomas which can block blood and nutrient flow to the ear, causing the cartilage to die. Cauliflower ear can be common among grapplers but is preventable with ear guards.
  • Clinch: A standing position where both practitioners have grips on each other. The clinch can be used to launch takedowns and other attacks.
  • Closed guard: A fundamental guard type where the practitioner lies on their back with their legs wrapped around their kneeling opponent’s back. The closed guard is often the first guard a new BJJ practitioner will learn and has a wide variety of sweep and submission possibilities. It’s largely seen as a neutral position for both practitioners.
  • Collar choke: An umbrella term referring to a variety of gi-specific submissions that use the opponent’s own collar against them to complete the choke.
  • Competition gi: A lighter gi made with the purpose of helping a practitioner make a weight class for a BJJ competition.
  • Crank: A joint lock attacking the spine. Cranks can be focused on the neck (a neck crank), or the spine itself (spine crank).
  • Cross face: A pinning technique where the practitioner uses their shoulder to pin the opponent’s head, usually performed by the top player in side control or mount.

D

  • De la Riva guard: An open guard style where the practitioner hooks their opponent’s front leg using their leg and foot from the outside. The de la Riva guard allows the practitioner to initiate a variety of sweeps, submissions and back takes. De la Riva guard can also be “reversed”, which refers to the practitioner hooking their opponent’s front leg from the inside. De la Riva guard was pioneered by Ricardo de la Riva, a Carlson Gracie black belt.
  • Double leg takedown: A basic grappling takedown where you attack both of your opponent’s legs.
  • Double weave: A type of gi fabric which is denser and heavier than regular single weave. It’s rarely used in BJJ but is still regularly used in Judo.
  • D’Arce choke: An arm triangle variation popularized by black belt Joe D’Arce. The D’Arce uses the practitioner’s forearm and the opponent’s own arm and shoulder to complete the choke. The D’Arce is a no-gi variation of the popular Brabo choke.

E

  • Escape: A technique or movement used to get out of a disadvantageous position.
  • Everyday porrada: A viral hashtag and phrase originating from elite BJJ competitor Romulo Barral. It translates roughly to having a spirit of training hard everyday without excuses and never giving up. Barral was asked what the secret behind his success was against AJ Souza in 2018 and said “My secret is train hard everyday, everyday porrada! That’s it, nothing else!” The word porrada is Portuguese for “fight” or “brawl”.
  • Ezekiel choke: A sleeve-based choke where the practitioner wraps their arm around the opponent’s head and then grabs their own sleeve to finish. The Ezekiel choke is named after Brazilian Judo Olympian Ezequiel Paraguassú, but is actually a traditional judo technique known as a sode guruma jime.

F

  • Figure Four Armlock: see Americana.
  • Full Guard: see Closed Guard.

G

  • Gable grip: A closed palm-to-palm hand grip named after the famous American wrestler Dan Gable. The gable grip is favored because of its strength versus other grips and is also known as a Greco grip.
  • Gassing out/gassed: Being gassed out refers to being exhausted, often in the context of a BJJ sparring round. In BJJ you may be gassing out because of inferior cardiovascular fitness, or because you’re being inefficient with your energy usage or breathing.
  • Gi: The heavy cotton jacket, pants, and belt used in traditional BJJ training. The gi has been used in traditional Japanese martial arts like judo since the 1920s. There is also BJJ training without the gi, known as “no gi” jiu jitsu.
  • Gold weave: A type of gi fabric weave known as being a hybrid of single and double weaves. Gold weave gis were more popular in the past, but some high-quality BJJ gis are still made from gold weave fabrics.
  • Gracies: The pioneer family behind the origin of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos Gracie and his younger brother Hélio are generally credited with the adaptation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from its judo roots. Other members of the family like Royce and Rickson Gracie have had huge positive impacts on getting BJJ recognized in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). The Gracie family is undoubtedly responsible for the huge growth of BJJ in Brazil and subsequently the world.
  • Grappling Industries: An organization that runs gi and no-gi BJJ competitions around the world. Grappling Industries differs from IBJJF competitions in its use of round-robin tournaments instead of elimination tournaments and also has a different ruleset.
  • Guard: This is a position where you can either attack or defend. “Playing guard” refers to any position where you attempt to control your opponent using your ankles, knees, or hips so they do not advance. This is typically paired with a grip to hold them in place.
  • Guard pass: A technique or movement where one practitioner neutralizes and overcomes their opponent’s guard, usually by getting past their hips and legs.
  • Guillotine: A basic but effective chokehold submission of the neck using a practitioner’s arms and armpit. The guillotine is also known as the front naked choke.

H

  • Half Guard: A guard variation where the practitioner has their legs wrapped around only one of their opponent’s legs instead of their opponent’s waist, as is the case with closed/full guard. Like the closed guard, the half guard is generally seen as a neutral position for both practitioners, and also has a number of sweeps and submissions available from it.
  • Head and Arm Choke: See arm triangle.
  • Heel Book: A leg lock that twists the foot in order to torque both the ankle and knee. The heel hook can cause damage to the ligaments and menisci of the knee, so it’s often banned from BJJ competitions and only taught to advanced students rather than beginners.
  • Hip escape: A movement of the hips away from an opponent to escape a disadvantageous position or prevent a guard pass. Hip escapes are a fundamental BJJ movement. Also known as shrimping.
  • Honey Hole (also known as 411 or inside sankaku): A leg entanglement position where the practitioner’s legs are entangled around one of their opponent’s with their legs triangled on the inside of their opponent’s, as opposed to other leg entanglements like 50-50 where the practitioner’s legs are on the outside. Also known as the honey hole or saddle.
  • Hooks: (Not to be confused with Overhook or Underhook) The use of your feet to help control your opponent. Most often used as another word for feet. When a coach says “Get your hooks in!”, this usually means to make sure your feet are hooked around an opponent’s legs or hips for control.

I

  • IBJJF: The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. This organization was started by Carlos Gracie Jr. and runs a full calendar of events around the world each year, including the prestigious World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship. It also maintains the most popular BJJ ruleset and offers black belt certification.
  • Imanari roll: A roll from standing into the inside sankaku/411 leg lock position. The Imanari roll was popularized by Masakazu Imanari, a Japanese MMA fighter.

J

  • Japanese Necktie: An arm triangle variation which is usually used against an opponent in the turtle position.
  • Jigoro Kano: The founder of modern Kodokan Judo.
  • Judo: A Japanese grappling martial art based on traditional jiu-jitsu. Judo is focused on throws, groundwork, and submissions. Modern judo was largely seen to have started with Jigoro Kano, who adapted his style from traditional jiu-jitsu and founded a martial art called Kodokan Judo in 1882.

K

  • Kata Gatame: See arm triangle.
  • Kesa Gatame: A side control pin and headlock with various submission options. Kesa Gatame is one of the official judo pins.
  • Kimono: See gi.
  • Kimura: A shoulder joint lock that uses both of the practitioner’s arms to rotate the opponent’s arm towards their back, also known as a double wrist lock. The kimura is named after Masahiko Kimura, a judoka who defeated Hélio Gracie with this technique.
  • Knee on Belly: A position where the top practitioner has their knee and weight on the mid-section of their opponent. The knee on belly position is often used to open the opponent up to submissions and other more advantageous positions like mount and is worth two points in most BJJ competitions.
  • Knee Shield: A style of half guard where the guard player’s knee is used as a frame to help keep the opponent’s weight off of them.
  • Kneebar: A knee lock that hyperextends the knee and can damage the various ligaments and menisci of the knee.
  • Kodokan: The official Judo headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan.

L

M

  • Mata Leão: same as Rear Naked Choke.
  • Mitsuyo Maeda: A Japanese judo expert who traveled to Brazil in 1914 and showcased his martial arts knowledge around the country in circuses, often challenging opponents from other martial arts. Maeda allegedly met and taught Carlos Gracie, giving birth to modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Maeda was also known as Conde Koma.
  • MMA: MMA is the abbreviation for “mixed martial arts” and refers to fighting with a combination of striking and grappling. It has been popularized around the world in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and other promotions like Bellator. Most MMA fighters will learn BJJ, as the groundwork is an often crucial part of an MMA fight.
  • Mount: Mounting an opponent involves sitting on their torso with your knees (or one foot and one knee) on the ground facing the opponent’s head. The mount is worth four points in most BJJ competitions and has a wide variety of submission options.
  • MRSA: MRSA is an abbreviation for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staph is a bacterium that causes infections, and MRSA refers to strains of staph that are resistant to normal antibiotics. MRSA is spread by contact, so can sometimes infect practitioners of contact sports like BJJ.

N

  • Neck crank: A joint lock of the spine and neck.
  • No-gi: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practiced without the gi. Practitioners usually wear board shorts and a polyester or spandex top called a rashguard.
  • North-South: A variation of side control where the top player pins the bottom player’s head and chest with his own head and chest, and both players’ legs face in opposite directions. The north-south position gives the top player a number of submission options including the kimura and also the north-south choke.
  • Nutella jiu-jitsu: Fake or watered down jiu-jitsu. This saying was popularized after an interaction between Vagner Rocha and Renzo Gracie.

O

  • Omoplata: A shoulder lock that uses the practitioner’s legs and hips to complete the submission.
  • Oss: An abbreviation of the Japanese phrase “Onegai Shimassu” which translates to a polite invitation or request. In modern BJJ, “oss” is used in various contexts such as a greeting in the gym, an acknowledgment of having understood an instruction, or to show respect.
  • Overhook: When a practitioner uses their arm to lock around their opponent’s upper arm to give them greater control. This differs from an underhook, where the practitioner’s arm locks under the person’s arm and around their upper body.

P

  • Pearl weave: A popular gi fabric weave used in some gis which has the appearance of lines of round bumps or “pearls”. Used for its balance of strength, durability, and low weight.
  • Peruvian necktie: An arm triangle variation from the front headlock position.
  • Porrada: Literally translated as “beating” or “brawling”, this word is most often used to mean training as hard as you can. This style of training requires you to go hard for every single roll.
  • Position: The key to BJJ is controlling the opponent, and control starts with the relative position of both opponents. Mastery of these positions should be the highest priority for any student.
  • Post: Using your hands or feet to help prevent sweeps.
  • Posture: Posture refers to having a stable spinal alignment when grappling to allow for maximum generation of force.
  • Pull guard: A transition that moves a practitioner from standing to the guard position. Pulling guard is generally used in situations where a practitioner wants to move to the ground but avoid takedowns, and is popular in BJJ competitions.
  • Pummel: Fighting for inside control of your opponent’s arms or legs. This is often used in stand-up grappling, where a practitioner will fight their opponent’s arms to get underhook controls to better launch takedowns. In leg entanglements, practitioners will pummel to get their legs in between their opponent’s to have an advantage for leg locks.

Q

  • Quarter guard: A last-ditch defensive guard when someone passes your half guard. Quarter guard differs from half guard in that the practitioner’s legs are only wrapped around the top player’s ankle rather than the leg.

R

  • Rear mount: regular back control.
  • Rear Naked Choke: An iconic choke that a practitioner completes from back control when behind their opponent. The practitioner sinks one of their forearms under their opponent’s chin and grabs their other arm to complete the choke. Also known as the rear naked strangle or mata leão (lion killer in Portuguese).
  • Red belt: The highest belt level in BJJ. The red belt denotes the 9th and 10th-degree black belt levels, with the 10th degree being reserved for pioneers of the art.
  • Reversal: A sweep that doesn’t start from the guard. Reversals do not earn any points in IBJJF competitions.
  • Reverse De La Riva: A variation of de la Riva guard where the practitioner hooks their opponent’s leg from the inside rather than the outside as with a regular de la Riva guard.
  • Ringworm: A skin infection caused by fungi. Ringworm is also known as athlete’s foot when it’s on the toes, or jock itch if it’s on the groin. Ringworm can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or touching a surface that has ringworm fungus on it. It’s therefore a common skin infection when practicing BJJ.
  • Rolling: This refers to the act of sparring, or grappling, with another Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student. This term was coined because of the rolling motion created by experienced BJJ students as they move on the mat.
  • Rubber guard: An innovative guard style popularized by no-giя BJJ pioneer Eddie Bravo. The rubber guard is designed to keep an opponent locked into a clinch while also giving the practitioner a free arm for submissions, escapes, and transitions. Rubber guard is characterized by breaking an opponent down in your guard, bringing one of your legs over your opponent’s shoulder, and hooking your opposite wrist around it. This position is also known as mission control. Rubber guard has several “levels” to it to give the practitioner additional control or options.

S

  • Sambo: A martial art originating from the Soviet Union which incorporates elements of judo, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. Sambo has both sports and combat styles, with the sports style focusing on throws and submissions, and the combat style including striking.
  • Sandbagging: A common sports term meaning to compete at a skill bracket beneath your true skill level. In BJJ competitions, brackets are organized according to age, weight, and belt level, but belt promotions are only granted by a competitor’s instructor. This means sandbagging in BJJ can be influenced by an unscrupulous instructor wanting to keep a student at a certain belt level to ensure more victories against less skilled opponents.
  • Scarf hold: a regular kesa gatame.
  • Scissor sweep: A basic gi sweep technique that uses the opponent’s sleeve and collar, and both of the practitioner’s legs to roll an opponent over into a disadvantageous position.
  • Seatbelt: An upper body arm control grip from back control. The seatbelt is formed when the practitioner has one arm over their opponent’s shoulder and connects it with their other arm which is underneath the opponent’s opposite armpit.
  • Shark tank: An endurance sparring exercise where one practitioner continuously rolls with fresh opponents. Usually reserved for competition training or belt gradings.
  • Shrimp or Hip Escape: Shrimping allows a player to quickly move their hips away from an opponent. In order to successfully complete this move, you must first lay on your side on the mat. In one swift motion, lift your hips off the mat using your foot and shoulder. You can then scoot your hips backward by straightening your legs. This creates space between you and your opponent and could be used to affect your opponent’s balance.
  • Side control or Side Mount: A pinning position where the top practitioner is chest-to-chest with the bottom practitioner, with their legs out to the side. Side control is a common position in BJJ, although it’s not worth any points on its own.
  • Single leg takedown: An iconic fundamental grappling takedown where one of the opponent’s legs is grabbed and pulled in one direction, and the practitioner’s head is used to push the opponent’s body in the other direction.
  • Single leg x-guard: A variation of x-guard where both of the bottom guard player’s legs are wrapped around one of the top player’s legs. Single leg x-guard is known for being a useful guard type for sweeps and leg attacks.
  • Spider Guard: An open guard variation usually used in gi jiu-jitsu. Spider guard is performed by the bottom player grabbing both of their opponent’s wrists or sleeves, and then putting their feet on the opponent’s biceps. Spider guard gives the bottom player good control over the top player’s posture and movement.
  • Squid guard: An open guard variation that uses the practitioner’s foot and a grip on the opponent’s lapel to control the opponent’s posture and movement. It was invented by BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius in response to players trying to shut down his other guard style, the worm guard.
  • Staph: A contagious skin infection caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Staph infections can sometimes be spread in contact sports like BJJ.
  • Straight Ankle Lock: A common submission in BJJ breaking the Achilles of your opponent.
  • Stripes: Stripes are used in BJJ to show a practitioner’s skill level within a belt. Each belt except black belt has four stripes or “degrees” a practitioner earns from their instructor. From black belt there are up to 9 degrees which can be earned by most practitioners, with the 10th degree “red belt” reserved for the pioneers of BJJ.
  • Structure: Structure refers to using your limbs in the most efficient way possible when grappling.
  • Submission: The goal of each match is to get your opponent to submit. In a submission, the attacker has created a painful situation that the defender can not escape and so must tap out in order to prevent injury.
  • Sweep: This is an attack or movement that transitions somebody that is in a weaker position into a more dominant position. For example, if an attacking player has somebody in their Full Guard, and they are able to roll the defending person over into a less neutral or less dominant position such as Full Mount, the attacking person has executed a sweep. In tournament scoring, a player will typically have to hold the new, dominant position for a certain amount of time (usually 3 seconds) before points for the sweep will be awarded.

T

  • Takedown: A standing technique designed to move an opponent to the ground. Common examples include the single leg and double leg takedown.
  • Tapping Out: Refers to the act of submitting to an opponent. Tapping out can be done by tapping the mat three times, tapping your opponent three times, or by yelling, “tap!” Tapping out with a foot or your hand is both acceptable. Be sure you tap out in a way that is noticeable by your opponent – and stop immediately if an opponent taps out in response to your attack. In training, tapping out simply means you can begin a new roll. In competition, tapping out would end the match.
  • Toreando pass: A fundamental open guard pass where the top player controls the bottom player’s legs enough to push them out of the way, giving them a clear path to side control.
  • Triangle Choke: An iconic submission that uses the practitioner’s legs and the opponent’s own arm to choke the opponent. The triangle is a very common submission in BJJ due to the variety of positions and guards it can be launched from.
  • Turtle: This is a defensive position that involves tucking in your arms, legs, and head to resemble a turtle hiding in its shell. The other player is usually attacking from the front or sides.

U

  • UAEJJF: An abbreviation for the United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation. The UAEJJF oversees jiu-jitsu in the UAE, and also runs a calendar of events each year.
  • Uke: A Japanese martial arts term which means to be the person “receiving” a technique. If your coach is demonstrating a move on somebody in class, then that person is the Uke.
  • Underhook: A hold in the clinch position where the practitioner puts their arm underneath their opponent’s arm and holds their opponent’s midsection.
  • Upa: A fundamental mount escape technique also known as the bridge and roll. The upa involves the practitioner in bottom mount bridging their opponent forward so they post on their arms, and then trapping their leg and arm on the same side before rolling them.

W

  • Worm guard: An open guard variation originating from elite BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius. Worm guard uses the practitioner’s legs in conjunction with wrapping the opponent’s lapel around their shin to break down posture and restrict movement.
  • Wristlock: A common submission in Jiu-Jitsu where the wrist of your opponent is bent or twisted to the point of submission. Many gyms avoid teaching this submission, and it is often seen as a “dirty” technique. In most rulesets, white belts cannot attack the wrist due to risks of injury to their opponent. When attacking the wrist, you’ll often hear the term “prison rules” which means that dirty or mean submissions are open.

X

  • X-Guard: An open guard variation popularized by BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia. X-guard also includes the popular single leg x-guard variation. The basic x-guard is characterized by the bottom player being underneath a standing opponent and having both legs framing against the opponent’s leg and hip from the inside, in addition to the practitioner’s arm being used to trap the opponent’s other leg. X-guard is known for being a guard type with many sweeps available.

Z

  • Z-guard: A variation of the knee shield half guard. Z-guard uses the guard player’s knee, in addition to their other foot acting as a hook on the opponent’s leg to control their opponent and launch various sweeps and submissions. Well known Z-guard players include Craig Jones and Bernardo Faria.

Source: Gracie Barra/ Student of BJJ/ BJJSuccess

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