Grappling Concepts for Controlling Distance

3 min read
Learn how distance impacts your grappling game and how to best utilize it to win on the mats roll after roll


Grappling Concepts for Controlling Distance

Learn how distance impacts your grappling game and how to best utilize it to win on the mats roll after roll

Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Photo by: RVCA

Every technique in BJJ shares some fundamental concepts. Distance is one of them. Take a second and think about it and how it effects your whole grappling game plan. It doesn’t matter whether it’s self-defense, MMA, or sport Jiu-Jitsu. Techniques in each of these areas rely on controlling the distance between you and your opponent in one way or another.

Why control distance in Jiu-Jitsu?

While sometimes the focus in a fighting scenario is on creating distance, in other scenarios, it is about closing distance. It’s not a complicated idea. But it does take time to understand it and even more time to implement effectively. However, once it clicks, you will notice a big difference in your game as takedowns, pressure, and submissions become easier and more effective. 

Royce Gracie

Think back to Royce Gracie showcasing Jiu-Jitsu in the early days of the UFC. This was when the art form was arguably showcased in its purest form. If you are unfamiliar with the clips, here are a few to check out:

A smaller, skinnier Royce successfully defeated multiple (often much larger, physically imposing) opponents on his way to winning the championship. All this without absorbing large amounts of physical damage and controlling the match’s pace. 

How he controlled distance

So how did he do this? He dictated range standing by either increasing or decreasing distance. Effectively defending strikes and takedowns while initiating his own. He dictated range grappling by using movement and pressure. Fluently allowing or limiting movement and positioning himself into Submissions. Obviously, there was more to his success than just controlling the distance. But understanding the concept at a basic level helps you understand how it makes a significant difference, especially for MMA and self-defense. 

Distance and Sport Jiu-Jitsu

Now, how about sport Jiu-Jitsu and more advanced techniques. Techniques where you don’t have to worry about strikes. How do they compare? Well, to start, they all have distance as part of their building blocks.

For example, if you attempt to pass an open guard, it’s better not to give your opponent grips. And vice versa, on bottom, you want those grips to establish connection points for those guards. Thus, engaging and disengaging.

If you are on top half guard and someone is defending with a knee shield, you want to either disengage or get past the knee. While your opponent may make space, then close the distance for an underhook.

If one person inverts for a berimbolo, he is trying to take away distance and stay tight to the hips. If the other person can’t create enough space he will get his back taken.

Think about distance

One person is always trying to create distance and space. The other is trying to take it away, whether offensively or defensively. When you drill and roll, think about distance more next time and how it applies to everything. Although you may be doing an excellent job with managing it, you will always find ways to be more effective at controlling the distance between you and your opponent.

It takes a conscious effort to really work this distance control in a live roll situation. However, it’s a concept worth practicing that will pay immense dividends into the future of your grappling journey on the mats, in competition, and even just flow rolling…. Master distance.



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