The BJJ Mental Models database

The world’s most complete database of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu concepts. Over 100 mental models so far and counting!

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Learning Models

Learning models are about hacking your mind. These mental models help you get the most out of your training, learn faster and more consistently, overcome mental roadblocks, identify weaknesses in your game, and develop a champion’s mindset.

  • 80/20 Rule
    80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

  • Abundance Mindset
    Learn to be happy for other people. Their gain does not necessarily mean your loss.

  • Beginner’s Mind
    Approach every learning opportunity as if you are a total beginner.

  • Certainty Heuristic
    We’re biased toward statements that offer certainty, even if those statements are false.

  • Cognitive Load
    Your brain struggles to learn when it runs out of working memory.

  • Compartmentalization
    Segment your thoughts and worries so they don't follow you around all day.

  • Concepts Over Techniques
    Memorize the concepts behind techniques, rather than obsessing over step-by-step details.

  • Confirmation Bias
    The more you want something to be true, the more you need to doubt whether or not it is.

  • Consistency
    Take a step every day to improve your Jiu-Jitsu, even if that step is small.

  • Constraints-Led Approach
    Create games with constraints that force your students to do things the right way.

  • Defensive Thinking
    Focus on succeeding rather than avoiding failure.

  • Deliberate Practice
    Define goals for every training opportunity and plans for achieving them.

  • Differential Learning
    We learn better when practice is unpredictable.

  • Ecological Dynamics
    There’s an evolving body of psychology offering a better way to teach athletes.

  • Effortful Retrieval
    Retrieving knowledge from memory makes it easier to retrieve next time.

  • First Principles
    Break down complex ideas into fundamental concepts that stand alone, then build them back up again.

  • Flow
    Create triggers and routines to help you get into “the zone.”

  • Form to Leave Form
    Drill techniques until they move from your conscious mind to your muscle memory.

  • Growth From Discomfort
    Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

  • Growth Mindset
    Don’t think of attributes like talent and athleticism as unchangeable.

  • Habits Over Results
    The best way to achieve long-term results is to build and maintain short-term habits.

  • Incremental Learning
    You won’t fully learn a technique in one attempt.  Revisit a technique over time to add in the details you weren’t ready for earlier.

  • Intention
    Cultivate a mindset where you fully focus on - and invest all your energy in - the task at hand.

  • Interleaving
    Study related skills or concepts in parallel.

  • Investing in Loss
    If you want to get good at something, you need to spend a lot of time being bad at it. View loss as an investment, rather than something to avoid.

  • Kaizen
    Kaizen is the Japanese concept of continuous improvement.

  • Law of Contrast
    Think in positive “do” statements rather than negative “don’t” statements.

  • Learning Modalities
    When sharing information, the medium makes a difference.

  • Loss Aversion
    We feel losses as more painful than equivalent gains, so we tend to avoid situations where losses could occur.

  • Making Smaller Circles
    Master the core fundamentals of a technique before you branch off into the details. Focus on depth before breadth.

  • Mental Gatekeeping
    Guard your mind against false information and negative thinking.

  • Mindfulness
    Train your attention on the present moment. Observe your mind and body as if from a distance.

  • Mnemonics
    Use memory shortcuts, known as mnemonics, to remember complex concepts.

  • Naming Concepts
    Assigning names to complex concepts makes them more memorable.

  • Perception-Action Coupling
    Practice environments should provide all information that would be present in a game situation.

  • Plus, Minus, Equals
    Train with people better than you, worse than you, and equal to you.

  • Resulting Fallacy
    The quality of your decisions and the quality of your results are not always related.

  • Scientific Method
    Make your decisions objectively, and actively try to break your own ideas.

  • Self-Competition
    The only person you need to compare yourself against is the person you were yesterday.

  • Shuhari
    The steps to mastery: imitate, break from tradition, innovate.

  • Spaced Repetition
    Spaced repetition is a technique that greatly improves your memory.

  • Survivorship Bias
    Don't just study those who were successful; also study those who failed.

  • Systematic Abandonment
    What got you here won’t get you there.

  • Teach to Learn
    Teaching a concept is one of the best ways to learn it.

  • Training Handicaps
    Train without using your strengths to improve your weaknesses.

  • Transfer of Learning
    You can get better at something by learning seemingly unrelated disciplines.

  • Visualization
    Technique visualization transfers new techniques into muscle memory, even when you aren’t on the mats.

Mechanical Models

Mechanical models are about hacking your body. These mental models help you use physics and human biomechanics to control your own body and manipulate your opponent’s body with maximal force and efficiency.

  • 3 Joint Rule
    Limb control requires you to dominate 2/3 of the joints; submissions require 3/3.

  • Anatomic Hierarchy
    The human body has six weapons, and the core is the strongest.

  • Body Tethering
    Be wary of any technique requiring you to tether your body to your opponent’s core.

  • Breaking Mechanics
    There are four types of breaks: linear, rotational, compression, and hybrid.

  • Center of Gravity
    It’s easier to sweep your opponent in the direction where they’re already leaning.

  • Choking Mechanics
    There are five types of chokes: air, blood, crank, compression, and hybrid.

  • Controlled Breathing
    Be mindful of your breathing at all times.  Maintain a deliberate, relaxed cadence of breath.

  • Core Mechanics
    All techniques in Jiu-Jitsu are combinations of frames, levers, wedges, clamps, hooks, and posts.

  • Critical Control Points
    For every technique, there are only a handful of control points that really matter.

  • Direct vs. Proxy Control
    Control can be either direct (eg. a limb) or proxy (eg. the gi).

  • Elbow-Knee Connection
    Keep your elbows close to your knees.

  • Force Compression
    Apply force in rapid, intense bursts.

  • Force Vectors
    Identify the exact angle of incoming force, and meet it or redirect it.

  • Head Position
    Proper positioning of your head controls the distance, improves posture, and minimizes attack vectors.

  • Inertia
    Objects are resistant to changes in velocity.

  • Inside Channel Control
    Control the “inside channel,” or the space between your opponent’s arms and legs.

  • Kinetic Chains
    Joints affect each other when in motion, and creating “closed circuits” with your limbs makes them stronger.

  • Leading Edges
    Focus your defense where your opponent is generating the most force.

  • Limb Coiling
    Keep your limbs coiled close to your core, ready to strike.

  • Mirrored Stances
    Only square your stance if your opponent squares their stance as well.

  • Momentum
    If something heavy and fast hits you, it’s really gonna suck.

  • Overwhelming Force
    Use overwhelming force when attacking a limb or joint.  The limbs you’re attacking with should be stronger than the limb being attacked.

  • Priit's 45° Rule
    Whenever your legs have been neutralized, ensure your body is at a 45° angle relative to the floor.

  • Ratchet Control
    Add rotation when controlling a limb to increase effectiveness.

  • Redundancies
    Techniques shouldn't have a single point of failure.

  • Seated vs. Supine Guards
    Guards can be either supine (on your back) or seated.

  • Single vs. Double Lever Control
    Attacking a single lever affords more damage, whereas attacking two levers affords more control.

  • Solid Frames
    The strongest frames use bone structure and contain few joints that can be collapsed.

  • Staying Loose
    Keep your muscles relaxed, and only tense them to finish an already successful attack.

  • Stress and Recovery
    Alternate between periods of stress and recovery for maximal growth.

  • Surface Area
    Apply force using the smallest possible surface area of your body.

  • Theory of Alignment
    Jiu-Jitsu is a game of preserving your posture, structure, and base, while attempting to break your opponent’s.

  • Types of Guard
    All guards can be classified as hook-based, clamp-based, frame-based, or hybrid.

Social Models

Social models are about hacking your environment. These mental models help you improve relationships with our training partners and build effective teams.

Strategic Models

Strategic models are about hacking your decision-making. These models help you make quicker decisions in battle, set the table to make victory more likely, and find and exploit weaknesses in your opponent’s game.

  • Alignment Over Position
    Managing alignment is more important than managing position.

  • Asymmetric Warfare
    Prefer strategies that attack your opponent where they are weakest.

  • Committed Techniques
    When you have multiple options available, favor techniques with a higher chance of retaining position.

  • Compounding
    Invest in things that grow in value over time.

  • Constant and Variable Tension
    Know when to squeeze and when to explode.

  • Controlling the Distance
    Take away space when attacking and create space when defending.

  • Crossing the Center
    The body is vulnerable when limbs are passed across the center line.

  • Defend With Purpose
    A defense is only a good defense if it gets you out of the bad position.

  • Defense Paradox
    Effective offense is built on effective defense.

  • Dictate the Pace
    Be active, not reactive.

  • Dilemma
    Force your opponent to choose between two equally bad options.

  • Diminishing Returns
    More effort doesn’t always mean more results.

  • Do What Works
    If a technique is working for you, it’s a good technique regardless of what anyone says.

  • Dominant Angles
    Create positions where your opponent is not fully facing you, and exploit those angles.

  • Double Down on Strengths
    There are diminishing returns to patching up your weaknesses. It's better to double down on your strengths.

  • Double Trouble
    To fully control a near side limb, you must also control a far side limb.

  • Economy of Motion
    Favor techniques that require minimal movement and energy.

  • Funneling
    Take away options until your opponent is forced to fight you where you’re strongest.

  • Grip Inversion
    The instant your opponent grips you, find a way to invert the grip so you control your opponent.

  • Grips Dictate Position
    Whoever controls the grips controls the position.

  • Hick's Law
    Speed up your reaction time by reducing the number of decisions available.

  • Inversion
    Find creative solutions by attacking problems backward.

  • Kuzushi
    Break your opponent’s balance before attempting a throw or sweep.

  • Last Mile Problem
    We have a tendency to coast when the end is in sight.

  • Layers of Guard
    Like an onion, the guard has many layers. You pass by peeling the layers back one by one.

  • Layers of Strategy
    Every good plan has two parts: a solid foundation and a flexible perimeter.

  • The Map Is Not the Territory
    Mental models are not always 100% accurate.

  • Marginal Gains
    Big results come from a series of small, incremental improvements.

  • Mask Your Intentions
    Mask your intentions so your opponent doesn’t know what you’re really attacking.

  • Minimize Attack Vectors
    Position your body to reduce the places your opponent can attack you.

  • Myopia
    Don’t get so caught up in what you want that you ignore better opportunities.

  • Opening Salvos
    Ensure you have low-commitment strategies for the engagement phase.

  • Path of Least Resistance
    Go around obstacles rather than through them.

  • Pattern Interrupts
    Break your opponent out of their pre-programmed responses and behaviors.

  • Phases of Guard
    Guard has three distinct phases: engagement, maintenance, and retention. Know the right strategy for each.

  • Phases of Passing
    Pass the guard in three steps: disentangle, control, pass.

  • Placeholders
    Don’t abandon one point of control until you’ve replaced it with another.

  • Position Over Submission
    Prefer positional advancement and security over submission attempts. Do not attempt submissions unless you are fully secure in your position.

  • Predictable Responses
    Each technique has a series of common and predictable reactions.

  • Prevention Over Cure
    Preventing a problem is better than fixing it after the fact.

  • Prioritize Longevity
    Be wary of techniques and scenarios that have a high chance of self-injury.

  • Probabilistic Thinking
    Create scenarios where success is a high probability.

  • Return on Investment
    Calculate the risk and possible reward before taking any action.

  • Shifting Platforms
    Continuously move and switch angles to prevent your opponent from applying pressure against you.

  • Static vs. Dynamic Control
    There are two types of control in Jiu-Jitsu: static, and dynamic.

  • Table Selection
    Find or create environments where you’re likely to get the best result.

  • Technique Chaining
    A series of attacks works better than a single attack by itself.

  • Timeframe Paradox
    Your short-term and long-term goals might require contradictory behavior.

  • Tipping Points
    Once you have sufficient leverage or momentum, your desired outcome can no longer be denied.

  • Tokui Waza
    Know your best techniques, and funnel your opponent into them.

  • Waypoints
    Prioritize getting to positions where you have lots of good options.

  • Win Conditions
    By knowing and exploiting the rules, you can defeat an otherwise superior opponent who doesn’t.

  • Windows of Opportunity
    Timing is just as important as execution.