Nov 02

What Alexandre Paiva can teach us about brazilian jiu-jitsu

When we started Jiu-jitsu, many of us knew nothing. The only arts that are similar are wrestling and judo, but everyone doesn’t have that background. Without that, we’re left with watching MMA or Army Combatives as common conduits of grappling knowledge.

What about the person who has none of that? What if they just happened to stumble into a gym one day and decide to give it a try. What then?

That first class and intro is not enough to give them a full sense of the breadth and wonder of the art. It’s not enough to set them on a firm foundation for growth. And it’s not enough to demonstrate the relevance of it all.

In time, all those issues can disappear, but if we can shorten that barrier to entry, it will increase the growth of the art.

There is a tool that can help in that area, and it’s Alexandre Paiva’s book on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. The book is a technical reference manual filled with over 1000 high quality images, demonstrating techniques in all the common positions. So you can refer to it whenever and wherever you want.


You would benefit from the book if:
  • You desire to speed up your process of learning at the lower belt levels.
  • You want to get a better sense of how the complex web of jiu-jitsu is interconnected.
  • You want to study different variations of basic technique to inspire your own creativity.

With that said, we’re not going to focus on what’s in the book. Instead, the rest of this post will be about:

  1. Why it’s a great resource for white belts.
  2. How you can use it to expand your foundation of knowledge.
  3. What upper belts can take from it.

Resource For White Belts

We begun with the idea that white belt face a barrier to entry when they first start training. It stems from the fact that many of you, who are at that level, don’t have a strong foundation of knowledge that you can use to make sense of new technique.

That’s why, in general, white belts have a harder time retaining information.

It’s not just a function of time. Previous knowledge gives you an advantage when it comes to learning related topics, and as the base grows, the advantage grows as well. That’s why analogies and metaphors can be great teaching tools. They allow you to do the same learning hack with unrelated topics, by creating connections between diverse knowledge.

The book will help you to build that foundation of knowledge, and it’s unique benefit over video is that you can reference it anywhere and anytime. So consider it a way to shorten the distance between floundering in the ocean and finding an upstream current.

Here’s some ideas for how you can accomplish that best:

  • Choose one technique in each category and study it.
  • Practice those techniques before and after class for least one rep each.
  • Ask upper belts for advice on the techniques that you don’t understand.

As a white belt, the first few months should be focused on generalization. You want to gain a broad base of knowledge so that you start to understand how all pieces fit within the puzzle. By choosing one diverse technique, you will speed that process up.

As far as practice goes, it’s important that you space your drilling out. It makes it easy for knowledge to transfer to long term memory. That’s why cramming is less effective than studying over the course of weeks. Your brain needs time to forget and each reminder reinforces the knowledge.

So don’t worry about how many reps you drill in a day, just try to do it at least once every day you train over a period of time, and you’ll see results.

There’s an idea in the field of learning processes that more difficult knowledge is to gain the easier it is to maintain. For that reason, trying to figure out technique on your own has benefit, but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Ask for advice. It has the intangible benefit of helping you build relationships within your gym.

None of this advice applies only to the techniques in [easyazon_link asin=”0804842752″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”bjjcanvas-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Alexandre Paiva’s book[/easyazon_link]. You can use it with or without the book, but if you have it, you have a catalog of techniques that you can refer to at the drop of a hat.

Expand Awareness Of The Web

Page after page is filled with technique, and those pages cover a broad spectrum of jiu-jitsu. It’s possible to look at one page and then turn to another and see a potential counter.

If you study it, not only will it reinforce your knowledge of technique but also you’ll start to see the connection between positions.

In a sense, it depends on how deep you go down the rabbit hole. If you just look at each technique in isolation and then try to practice them, your benefit will be limited. However, if you compare similar techniques against each other and take note of the details, you’ll start to see possibilities that extend beyond the page.

Here’s an example.

Alexandre Paiva does something radical with the cross choke. He reverses the order of the grips, by feeding the palm down grip first. Then he uses that to create space for the second grip to slide in easily. That’s a small variation but if you expand it out to other situation, you can see possibilities.

Also pay attention to how the details change between the gi and no-gi versions of the same technique. That is an area where the book really shines because it shows you both sides of the equation. You can see the modifications that are made, and you can apply those modifications to other techniques.

The Intricacies Of Knowledge

If you’re like me, you’ll recognize at least 80% of the techniques. So shift your focus to how he does things differently from the way you do, and why.

Personally, I wrote down several notes on that topic, and most of them were all about the grips.

One that was fascinating was the inside belt grip he used for some of the butterfly sweeps. The palm was up, and it was in front of the hip. That’s something to experiment with. In addition to that, there was a spider guard grip combination where he went foot in the bicep and collar grip on the opposite shoulder.

It’s those little variations that offer a rich field of study.