As a guest instructor at one of my favorite gyms, Indiana Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, I was asked about my philosophy on submissions by a good friend and great competitor Joel Blanton. This was my response…
Win by submission. It limits rationalization and excuses.
In talking about skill as an assassin in the movie The Professional, Leon states, “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.” Similarly, I believe there is a hierarchy of submissions that reflects the skill and dominance of the BJJ practitioner
Wristlocks and Footlocks:
These are the rifle of the assassin. These are the first available targets and are often overlooked options. It’s a great way to finish the fight quickly with the least amount of effort which saves your energy for future matches. It’s also a great way to surprise your opponent and get them thinking about their grips and guard which can open up other opportunities for positional superiority.
Armbars, Leglocks, Loop/Lapel Chokes:
These are the close quarters firearms of the assassin. Catching these means that you’ve exerted some effort to get past your enemy’s defenses and can dictate how you’ll submit them. At this point it is difficult for people to say you were “lucky” or “cheap.”
Chokes from the Back or Mount:
These are the knives of the assassin. You slipped past the enemies defenses and got so close to the enemy that they feel powerless and completely dominated. The most notable example of this type of performance is Roger Gracie’s ADCC campaign in 2005, or his Worlds run in 2009, or pretty much 99% of his fights.
In summary, checkmate is checkmate. Take it how you can get it. And if you want to truly be great, aspire to achieve complete domination of your opponent. Lastly, keep your ego in check. Remember that finishing someone means you got the better of that fight at that moment. It doesn’t necessarily mean your Jiu Jitsu is better than theirs or that they won’t catch you in the future… unless you’re Roger Gracie. Then you’re the best!