What babies can teach us about our BJJ game

babies doing BJJ

Now, I’m no expert on babies, but I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the past couple months observing my newborn daughter. The way she moves, and the strength that her little tiny legs can generate when she wants to is absolutely amazing!

Great, but what the heck does this have to do with my Jiu-Jitsu training? I’m not going to learn any new submissions from a two-month old baby, am I? Well, technically no, but if you observe just exactly how they generate force, then apply it to your own, developed body, you may just find a way to become more proficient at the gentle art.

First; the arms. Watch how infants use their arms. They don’t really know what the hell to do with them, and end up flailing them around, scratching themselves in the face. Sort of like a white belt might do. Sure, your arms are great for framing which is critical in BJJ, but besides that, they really aren’t too useful. Truth be told, your arms in BJJ are more of a liability than they are an asset. It’s all too easy to get caught in an armlock the moment you move your elbows too far away from your body.

One thing that babies do well with their arms, however, is keeping the elbows in tight. They glue them to their ribcage, making it nearly impossible to straighten their arms out. Babies are great at this, and we highly recommend that you follow suit!

Next, observe the legs. Babies love to keep their knees up and tight to their body while on their backs. They learn almost immediately that they can generate a significant amount of force by kicking, and this is exactly what we should be doing! It’s intuitive to a baby, and yet takes most BJJ practitioners until generally around purple belt to really figure this out. BJJ newbies want to push with their arms, like they’re in a bench press competition!

When you’re on your back, your legs should be bent at 90 degrees, just like a baby, and NEVER straight out, except in very rare circumstances. What happens when you’re playing guard and you do straighten your legs out? You get passed, or worse yet, caught in a leglock!

If you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and watch how a newborn moves. Adapt these instinctive principles to your game, and I guarantee that your Jiu-Jitsu game will improve as a result!


Chris Stepchuk

May 13, 2018