Principles, Strategy, Tactics, and Techniques
Table of Contents
- Principles, Strategy, Tactics, and Techniques
- Table of Contents
- The What: Techniques
- The How: Tactics
- The Why: Strategy
- Good Use of Strategy
- Bad Use of Strategy
- The Rules: Principles
- A Concrete Example
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Jiu-jitsu coaches teach techniques and occasionally talk about concepts. They rarely discuss how to organize information. We’re going to discuss techniques, tactics, strategy, principles, and how they interrelate to form a cohesive hierarchy of information. This will give you an idea of how to zoom in and out of every situation so you can better understand what’s going on.
With every competition, match, or even exchange in jiu-jitsu you should be able to analyze it using four lenses:
- What are you going to do?
- How are you going to do it?
- Why are you going to do it?
- What are the rules of the exchanges you should abide by to maximize your chance for success?
Let’s start with something every grappler is familiar with - techniques.
The What: Techniques
Techniques are the simplest thing you’ll learn. That doesn’t mean all techniques are simple, it means that techniques are the most fundamental building blocks of every sport.
Helpful definitions of techniques include basic physical movements used, and a method of accomplishing a desired aim. Simply put, techniques are what sport specific movements you do. Techniques should be understood as context dependent movements that get you closer to winning, or move you further away from losing. Techniques out of context are incorrect - they don’t get you closer to winning. Single techniques on their own are useless for anything other than a demonstration.
You’re grappling with someone. They grab a kimura. You defend and get your arm back only to see they’re no longer moving. What would you do? Whatever you want because they stopped moving! That’s a technique in isolation - limited at best.
Techniques strung together into sequences make for exchanges. When enough sequences are linked together you can make game plans, and loosely plan your entire match. To effectively link techniques together we need specific plans for how we’re going to use techniques. To effectively link techniques together we need tactics.
The How: Tactics
Tactics are defined as a system or mode of procedure, and the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat. Related to what we’re talking about, tactics are the plans behind your techniques.
Solid tactics are necessary for all martial artists, let alone competitors. Everyone wants to win and they should ultimately try to get a submission. How you’re going to do it is a different story. How you’re going to do it is where your tactics come into play.
For winning a match, your tactics might include taking someone down and working your knee cut so you can be in position to finish with a kimura.
Without solid tactics you could have a large collection of techniques but they’ll be messy and they probably won’t work together. Imagine if someone said when they grapple they like to jump guard and try to find a calf slicer, or get to side control. You’d probably look at them like they’re crazy - how do these even begin to work together? They probably don’t have solid tactics given their response.
So, while tactics are necessary for planning and putting things together they still miss large important elements. Tactics define the how, but to be a great grappler you still need to answer why you want to do what you want to do. To be a great grappler you need a cohesive strategy for your game.
The Why: Strategy
The line between strategy and tactics is relatively murky. That’s because strategies can be very broad and can affect all layers of this hierarchy of information.
Strategy is defined as the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions, or a careful plan or method. The best way to think about strategy is the why behind what you do.
Why do you want to get on top? Why do you want to finish with a kimura?
The best strategies focus on you (not your opponent) while being action oriented (do versus avoid).
Good Use of Strategy
I’m fighting to get on top and finish with my best submission, kimura. The longer I’m on top, the more mistakes my opponent will make.
Bad Use of Strategy
I don’t want to be under my opponent so I’m trying to get on top. I can’t let myself get tired under their pressure. I think I should work for a kimura for those reasons.
So far this has all been pretty straightforward and simple. We need to know what to do (techniques), how we’re going to implement everything (tactics), and why we’re going to do what we want to do (strategy).
But when and how do principles come into play? Everywhere.
The Rules: Principles
Today, it is a bit of a cliche to say we need to go back to our principles and think from there. It’s a cliche for good reason.
Principles are defined as a rule or code of conduct and the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device. Principles are fundamental basic truths that govern an entire body of information.
Objects in motion stay in motion. Control the head, control the body.
Principles are at their best when they are short, sweet, and to the point.
Principles are wide ranging. Where strategy is the why of what you’ll do, principles are the rules for why the technique works. When you understand principles you can accelerate your learning and generate more creative solutions in real time.
A Concrete Example
One principle in grappling is to always protect your center. You protect your center because if your opponent controls your center they can more easily isolate your limbs. If your opponent can isolate your limbs they can apply a submission hold and win the match.
Understanding the importance of protecting your center, you could figure out on your own that keeping your elbows close to your sides is a good strategy to stay relatively safe. One tactic you could apply is to regularly look for under hooks when passing guard so you don’t give up inside position and lose control of your center line.
You should always seek out a principle based understanding. If you can find broader principles you’ll be better off as a grappler. You should do your best to ask why something works, and not just ask for a solution to a particular problem in grappling.
This is not limited to martial arts.
Front head lock
I’m going to snap my opponent down and work a front head lock.
I’m going to work for front head locks because I can tire my opponent out by hanging on their head and my best submission is the guillotine choke.
Principle of inside control - control the head, control the body.