What do you know about human frames and levers, and their use in BJJ? Well, outside of the “Most Important Thing in Jiu-Jitsu” that we discussed in the last blog, this one is a very close second. Because without an understanding of frames and levers, you just wouldn’t have much Jiu-Jitsu. Let’s get into this topic.
According to BJJ Black Belt Rob Biernacki, the two main functions that our limbs can perform are the action of being a frame, or being a lever. A frame is any configuration our limb(s) can get into that will support weight. This principle can be utilized to support our own weight, or to support the weight of our opponent. If your frame is a good one, it helps to minimize the use of your muscular strength. When you find yourself having to use strength to get out of bad positions it’s because your use of any worthwhile frame is awful.
Two other areas regarding proper frame use are just as important. First, proper skeletal alignment helps improve the correct use of frames. Exactly where you place that arm or leg, and how you utilize the frame itself, has a direct impact on its effectiveness. Plus, using multiple frames are obviously better than trying to only use a singular frame. This is very important.
Next are the utilization of levers. They multiply the amount of force that you can transfer into the opponent’s body. So what is an example of a successful use of a lever? Ever use a stiff-arm escape (aka The Heismann Escape) to get out of bottom Side Control? Have you ever lifted an opponent’s leg by their ankle only to have them fall onto their own back? These are some examples of using levers in BJJ.
Typically, successful lever usage will increase the farther down the limb you go, away from the torso. Think about this for a moment. Let’s look at that stiff-arm escape again from the bottom of Side Control. If you’re bracing your hand against the opponent’s shoulder or behind the armpit, you are not even accessing the natural lever of the arm. You are simply supporting their weight with a frame, which is your arm. However, simply sliding your hand down just above their elbow, at the triceps, allows you to manipulate their arm (aka the lever), thus causing a displacement of the opponent’s overall alignment.
These are the principles that separate good Jiu-Jitsukas from great ones. It takes time to discover these for yourself, and a lot more time trying to apply them to obtain desirable results. But, with time, practice and understanding, these tools will make anyone’s game tough to deal with.
Learn. Drill. Roll. TRANSFORM!