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The 77 Most Common Mistakes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Part 1


MISTAKE 12- Top Position Armbar: Executing the Armbar When He’s Flat on his Back.

When going for a top position Armbar, regardless if it is from Top Cross Side or from Top Mount, you need to first have your training partner turn away from you slightly.

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If he is square to the mat and has both shoulder blades pinned to the floor, when you go for an Armbar he’ll escape easily by simply turning into you and driving his elbow to the mat.

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By turning into you as you do an Armbar he can pull his elbow to the mat and thus bring his elbow past your hip. No elbow, no Armbar.

For a higher degree of success with the Armbar, try to force your training partner to turn away from you.

MISTAKE 13- Americana: No Head Control

When you go for an Americana from top cross side, you need to clamp your training partner’s head in between your elbow and your knee.

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The most basic defense for the Americana is to simply straighten your arm.

Virtually everyone will do this, even if they’ve never done BJJ before and this is their first class rolling. They will simply resist the force that you’re applying by keeping their arm bent and they will try to straighten their arm.

If their head can move, instead of moving their hand out, they’ll move their head back; this will straighten out their arm just the same.

Control your training partner’s head when you’re executing the Americana and they will have far greater trouble straightening out their arm.

MISTAKE 14- Rear Naked Choke: Showing the Hand

When you have your training parnter’s back in NoGi Jiu Jitsu, your primary attack is a Rear Naked Choke.

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Right away, he’ll want to protect his neck and start looking for one of your hands. If he can grab one of your hands, the chances of you submitting him with a choke are greatly reduced.

When executing the Rear Naked Choke, you need to keep your arms short. Never extend your arms so that your training partner can grab your hand and thus defend the choke.

MISTAKE 15- Back Position: Crossing the Ankles

When you are controlling your opponent from the Back position and you have your hooks in, simply press your ankles between his knees and press against the inside of his thighs.22

A common mistake is to cross your ankles.

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If you cross your ankles you can fall victim to an easy ankle lock. You will also lose the adaptability that comes from having your hooks open and loose.

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Think of the back position as basically Guard. You can use your feet to push, hook, or pull. You can have an open guard, a half guard, or a closed guard variation of the back position.

MISTAKE 16- Closed Guard Guillotine: Not Creating Space

When you are fighting from the Closed Guard and you are looking to attack with a Guillotine, you need to sit up and create space from your hip to his hip, and sit almost like you would from Butterfly Guard.

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This is important since you need to create space to place both your hands over his shoulders to secure the Guillotine.

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If you are lying down in the Closed Guard, it is almost impossible to wrap your arm around his neck for the Guillotine without sitting up, and in order to sit up you must untie your Closed Guard, put your feet on the ground and bring your hips back far from your opponent’s hips.

Even if your training partner has his posture down and for whatever reason he has his head to one side of your torso and his forehead to the mat, you might think you can attack with a Guillotine from here since it is easy for you to reach over his neck and secure the first hand for the choke; but, it is nearly impossible to secure the second hand because his shoulder is buried tight to your chest.

MISTAKE 17- Closed Guard Guillotine- Not Securing Both Hands

Many people will see the opportunity to attack with the Guillotine from many different positions: Butterfly Guard, Top 4 Point, or while defending a Double Leg Takedown.

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Many people, however, fail to lock their hands together before they fall down into Guard.

The flaw that we are addressing comes when you see the neck open for a Guillotine, you wrap his neck up with one arm and then you fall back into Full Guard or Half Guard without first securing the second hand.

Almost always, this causes your training partner’s head to pop out and you’ve lost the submission. Secure the neck with both hands and then fall back into guard.

MISTAKE 18- Half Guard Guillotine: Wrong Leg Position

Half Guard is a fantastic way to finish the Guillotine. If you have the correct leg, I believe it is the strongest bottom position to finish the Guillotine with.

If you have the wrong leg; however, then it is an easy escape for your training partner.

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When you are attacking with the Guillotine and you have his head on your left side, a common mistake is to control his right leg with your Half Guard. This is dangerous because it allows your training partner to pass to Top Cross Side.

When you are controlling his head on your left side, try tying up his left leg with your Half Guard. From here, it’s very difficult for him to establish a strong, stable position to pass your Guard with.

And if he tries to pass your half guard, if you have a strong control of his neck with the Guillotine, you can sweep him just by applying pressure with the Guillotine. Typically, he’ll fall from his top position to alleviate the pressure and prevent getting tapped out.

MISTAKE 19- Bump Sweep: Poor Hand Position

When they sit up to execute the Bump sweep, many people have their hand too close to their hip to post up against the mat. You need to bring your hand back as far as possible in order to help you sit up and then drive your hip into your opponent’s chest.

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MISTAKE 20- Bump Sweep-:Not Going for the Kimura First

When you go for the Bump Sweep, often your training partner will simply throw his hand out and post on the mat in order to stop you from sweeping him.

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What you need to do is first is go for a Kimura and tie up his arm.

When he defends the Kimura by burying his hand, now is the perfect time to go for the Bump Sweep.

MISTAKE 21- Triangle: Not Hiding the Shoulder with your Knee

When people go for a triangle choke from the Guard, a common mistake is to stay square with their opponent, their spine parallel with their opponent’s spine.

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You need to bring your spine perpendicular to his spine to finish the Triangle Choke. You’ll get much more compression on his neck this way.

A clear indicator of whether or not you are perpendicular with your training partner is if you can hide his shoulder with your knee.

MISTAKE 22- Spider Guard Triangle: Not Lifting Your Hips.

When people go for the Triangle Choke from the Spider Guard, often they’ll leave their hips on the mat so that when they tie up the Triangle, their training partner can still posture up, create space between his neck and your hips and start to drive one of his hands back inside your Guard in order to stay safe.

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When you go for the Triangle, you need to lift your hips off the mat and drive your hips up to the sky so that when you slap on the triangle, your knee is behind your opponent’s neck. This way your hip is as close to your opponent’s head as possible and there is a higher probability of finishing the Triangle.

MISTAKE 23- Spider Guard: Not Stretching Him Out

When my students are playing Spider Guard – having their feet on their training partner’s hips or biceps – a common mistake is allowing their training partner to keep their elbows in close to their body.

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When you are playing a Spider Guard game, you need to stretch your training partner out, get his hands and elbows out far away from his body. He will easily lose his balance and it will be very difficult for him to pass your Guard.

MISTAKE 24- Passing Spider Guard: Not Keeping Your Elbows In

You always want to keep your elbows in when you are defending the Spider Guard and you are trying to pass.

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A common mistake is to be too relaxed and allow your training partner full control of your arms and legs and thus forcing you to extend your arms which in turn enables him to sweep or submit you.

The proper thing to do when Passing Spider Guard is to keep a “T-Rex” stance that is to have your arms in as short as possible.

MISTAKE 25- Triangle: Knot on Wrong Side

Often when people attack with the Triangle Choke from Guard, they put the “knot” on the wrong side.

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First off, let’s talk about what the knot is.

The knot is what I refer to as the ankle behind your knee to secure the Triangle. For instance, your right ankle behind your left knee.

The knot needs to go next to the shoulder that you can see. When you have your opponent’s neck and his one arm trapped inside your Guard you can only see one shoulder. The other shoulder is blocked from view by your leg.

The mistake comes when the knot is tied over the shoulder that is hidden.

If the knot is tied properly next to the shoulder that you can see, then you can easily transition to a perpendicular position – your spine perpendicular to his spine – to finish the Triangle. As well, you can easily transition to an Armbar.

The main problem is that many people will put the knot on the wrong shoulder and while the triangle will still work it takes more effort and it’s tough to transition to secondary attacks.

MISTAKE 26- Buck and Roll Mount Escape: Grabbing an Arm

When attempting the Buck and Roll Escape from Bottom Mount, a common mistake that a lot of my students make is that they will grab an arm.

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Grabbing an arm only telegraphs the escape and the person on top will just lean away from the arm that is being controlled to prevent the turnover.

There is no other reason to grab the arm when you are in Bottom Mount other than to do the Buck and Roll Escape; so, the person on top will immediately know what you are up to and then defend it.

The proper way to execute the Buck and Roll Escape is to let the person on top control your neck by cross facing you.

Once he does this, his arm is committed to securing the top position and he can not use it to post out as you bridge him over.

MISTAKE 27- Bridging: Feet Out

When executing a Bridge, you need to have you feet as close to your hips as possible when you are executing a Bridge.

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This way, you will get as much height as possible; that is, your hips will be as far off the ground as possible and it will be more powerful and explosive.

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If your feet are far from your hips, your bridge will be shallow, your hips will not elevate very far off the ground and you will not achieve a very powerful bridge.

MISTAKE 28- Guard Passing: Not Heavy Enough

Many people are too light when they are trying to Pass Guard.

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By light, I am referring to placing too much weight into your knees, feet, elbows or hands and not enough weight through your chest, shoulders, or head to drive into your training partner.

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Remember, Guard Passing is a form of attack; it needs to be uncomfortable for the person on the bottom for it to work.

MISTAKE 29- Guard Replacement: Not Hooking the Leg

When they are attempting to replace their Guard from bottom cross side, many people will get one knee in between them and their training partner; but, will forget to bring their heel up and over their training partners leg to prevent another Guard Pass attempt.

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If you are in Bottom Cross Side and you are able to get your right knee inside, you now need to use your left heel to throw over his right calf so that he can not pass immediately to Cross Side once again.

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Without your left heel hooking over his right calf, it is easy for him to push down on your right knee and spin away to maintain Top Cross Side.

MISTAKE 30- Guard Passing: Forgetting About Your Trailing Leg

As you are passing someone’s Full Guard, a common mistake is to forget about your trailing leg and then wind up in Half Guard.

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There are basically 3 types of Guard Passes:

  1. Through the legs- his knees are apart and you pass his Guard by going in between his knees
  2. Under the legs- you pass his Guard going underneath one or both of his knees
  3. Over the legs- his knees are pinned down to the mat and you pass his Guard going over one or both of his knees.

When you are going through the legs, it’s almost always one leg first and then the second leg. It’s important to have the second leg travel directly behind the first leg so that you do not wind up in Half Guard.

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MISTAKE 31- Lapel Choke from Closed Guard: Hand Not Deep Enough

When executing the Lapel Choke from the Closed Guard, a common mistake is to have the first hand too shallow on the lapel.

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The first hand to control the lapel when going for a Choke holds the most critical grip and it must be in as deep as possible.

On many Gis there is a tag on the inside of the lapel near the top like in most shirts and jackets. This is where you hand ought to be in order to successfully tap your training partner out with the Lapel Choke.

The second hand can be placed in many different locations to finish the choke and typically does not have to be in as deep.

MISTAKE 32- Scissor Sweep: Just Scissoring Your Legs

A common mistake with the Scissor Sweep from the Guard is to use only your shins to apply the sweep.

The true way to sweep your training partner is to execute the sweep from your abs.

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Think of this sweep like a Muay Thai Hook Kick in that you are pivoting and rotating your hips and extending your legs.

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This movement will not only serve to sweep your opponent, but will also allow you to follow the sweep by taking Mount easily.

MISTAKE 33- Scissor Sweep: Knee Far Away From Your Nose

Many people stay parallel to their training partner when trying to sweep them from the Guard with a Scissor Sweep. This is a mistake.

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The true way to do the Scissor Sweep is to get on your side and use your abs to bring your nose as close to your knee as possible. Doing so will “load” up your body to explode through with the sweep.

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