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Intro Series: BJJ Terminology is another language...A Guide for Beginners

Updated: Aug 13, 2022

Everyone knows that each sport, hobby, and profession have its own jargon. Learning BJJ jargon can be as cumbersome as the sport itself. I know that when I was first starting, and evening slightly before, my husband would describe his training sessions and leave my brain spinning. So, with that I bring you my primer on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lingo! I hope that at the end of this definition list you will be able to follow your professor and classmates, along with any excitable BJJ family members, more easily.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu usually starts with competitors standing and ends with a ground fight. Stand-up (the standing portion) is similar to how a wrestling match begins, which is more familiar to many people. Take-downs or throws are the transition from stand-up to ground fighting. These takedowns are similar to wrestling or Judo. The ground fight is the bread and butter of BJJ. As in a BJJ match, we will start standing and work our way onto the floor.

Stand-up: The beginning of a BJJ match where balance, timing and strength gained from the practices of wrestling and judo allow practitioners to safely and effectively take their opponent to the ground.

Take-down: transition from stand-up to ground fighting by first forcing your opponent to be off balance and following them to the floor (photo below is a foot sweep)

Double leg take down: A basic grappling takedown where you attack both of your opponent's legs, forcing your opponent backwards

Single leg take down: A basic grappling takedown where you attack one of your opponent's legs. This usually begins with shooting in and controlling a single leg and then wrapping up your opponent's waist for the final step.

Ankle pick: is a type of single leg takedown that is commonly used in wrestling, BJJ, and Judo to get an opponent to the ground. It is accomplished by the attacker dropping one knee to the ground. The same hand as the grounded knee grasps the opponent's ankle and the opposite hand drives the opponent's upper body towards the ankle being attacked, as the ankle is brought across the attackers body (like turning a steering wheel).

Break fall: 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. These are directed backward or to the side. Forward break falls are sprawls (slightly different).

Ok, you and your opponent are on the ground. What comes next? The answer is one of you will end up in the other's guard. Whoever is able to maintain some sort of guard has the advantage for the time being. The guard position is where you are able to attack your opponent with submissions such as chokes and extremity attacks.

Let's go through some common guards.

Guard: A control technique where one grappler has their back on the ground and their legs wrapped around their opponents waist with their ankles crossed. This allows the grappler to break their opponent's balance by doing a reverse crunch.