How to Improve Your Jiu-Jitsu with the Chess Game

How to improve your jiu-jitsu with the chess game

One of my hobbies is playing chess. I find that there are many similarities between chess and jiu-jitsu that are extremely helpful in my BJJ game. I’ll go over the most important ones with you.

Chess and Jiu-Jitsu Overview

One day I find that chess and jiu-jitsu have a lot in common. When I was reading a really good chess book when I came across a paragraph that stated that one of the best ways to take control of a chess game is by controlling the center of the board.

I had always thought the best way to win a chess match was by chasing the checkmate. But, according to this book, a good position is a key element to achieving the checkmate.

Why You Should Control the Hip In a Jiu-Jitsu Game?

Every single move we make in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu involves moving our hips. Without moving our hips, we really can’t go anywhere. Most people think that only chasing the submission is the best strategy to win a BJJ match.

This is because we must always keep at least one eye on submission possibilities. I believe that controlling our opponent’s ‘center of the board’ by keeping the board (hips) in a flat, restricted position is the best path to securing a submission. 

If you have good control over your jiu-jitsu opponent’s body, you will have many more chances to get the submission because your opponent isn’t going anywhere but into your ‘trap’.

However, going for submissions only, without thinking about controlling the hips, may lead you to a series of failed attempts, giving your jiu jitsu opponent multiple chances to move and counterattack.

So the best way to control our opponent’s body is by developing ways to control his hips.

How Controlling the Hip Principle Can Change Your BJJ Game?

When I learned this principle, I began shifting my focus to my opponent’s hips, working to flatten him on the mat at all times. This focus improved my BJJ game dramatically! Instead of thinking about my array of techniques.

I began to strategically analyze the position of my opponent’s hips and develop ways to keep them flat.

This new paradigm helped me to neutralize both my opponent’s attacks and counterattacks, opening more opportunities for submission.

Observing my opponent’s hips also helped me to better understand the strengths and weaknesses in my positioning. I did it so you can do it.

Checkmate in BJJ

Winning a chess match requires that you checkmate an opponent. We call checkmate (!) when our opponent has his king trapped in an indefensible position.

In BJJ, our checkmate is the submission. Submission is achieved when your opponent is placed in a situation where he can’t escape from it without being choked or suffering a broken bone or ligament tear.

Ultimately, we want to put our jiu-jitsu opponent in a submission hold. When we combine a variety of submission techniques while controlling our opponent.

We are using the most secure way to reach our final goal (make our opponent quit), but that is not the only way.

You can also be a submission-driven fighter, who is not caring too much about maintaining control positions but is always aware of opportunities to submit to your opponent.

Chess and Jiu-Jitsu Thinking Ahead

As with chess and jiu-jitsu, you must be at least three moves ahead of your partner to win. You must foresee all possible reactions available to your opponent based on his position and his intention in the fight.

How can you be three or more moves ahead of your Opponent?

One way is through a lot of jiu-jitsu practice. And by having a game plan that places you in similar circumstances as often as possible with different partners of varying levels.

This is important because partners react differently to the same set of conditions. You will learn to anticipate and identify a range of possible reactions to the same BJJ position. 

Another way is by using combinations. A combination is having more than one option for each position. Here are couple of examples: You can attack your partner’s neck when you really want your partner to move his head away to expose his arm for an arm-lock. Or pulling him forward and then sweeping him backward.

Value of Positions in Chess and BJJ

chess and jiu-jitsu

In the game of chess and jiu-jitsu, pieces have varying levels of importance. For example, a pawn is worth less than a bishop, and a half guard is worth less than the mount control. Make sense?

In chess, the king is the most important piece because if you lose your king, the game is lost. In BJJ, it is equally important to protect your arms, neck, wrists, legs, and feet.

If they are exposed, you can lose the BJJ fight by getting any one of them caught in a submission hold.

The queen is the second most valuable piece in the chess game. Out of all of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu positions, mount and back control are the most valuable. Otherwise, side control and knee on the belly control are also very valuable positions.

But not as valuable as the mount and back control. The guard (half guard, and guard passing) are all important positions, but not as important as those mentioned above. 

In chess, a good strategy to catch one of your opponent’s valuable pieces is to threaten two valuable pieces at the same time. Your opponent will always prioritize his most valuable pieces. When this happens, he allows you to catch the less valuable piece.

Now let’s bring chess and jiu-jitsu together. By understanding this principle (that every position has a level of importance in BJJ) you can use the same strategy, and guess what? It will work the same way it works in chess.

If you are not currently using this strategy in your game, this idea alone will completely transform your game. 

Let me give you some examples. Let’s review the three most valuable things you can achieve in BJJ: submission techniques (e.g., armbar, chokes, triangles, omoplata, etc.) are the most valuable because they end the fight; or in the case of a street fight, they result in a serious injury to your opponent.

Mount and back control are the second and third most valuable positions because they give you leverage toward the submission and, if well-executed, are very hard to escape.

Following this principle, when I attempt to pass an opponent’s guard, I often set my position to pressure my opponent into defending the mount. While my opponent is desperately focused on defending the mount.

He will often leave an opening for a side control position (better for him than the mount), which helps me achieve my true goal of passing his guard. Remember my chess analogy – positions vary in level of importance. 

Another example: defending our guard. Continually attempting to submit your opponent from the bottom will provide opportunities to sweep him, which will enable you to transition to the top position.

This is because his main focus will be on defending the submission attempts. So, pursuing the submissions throughout a match will consistently distract your opponent’s focus from other positions that you can pursue to gain an advantage in your match.

Once you understand the hierarchy of BJJ positions (and those your opponent fears the most), your game will improve dramatically

Let us know how you can the principles to improve your jiu-jitsu?