The Ultimate Glossary of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Terms

Learn all about BJJ with this exhaustive list of techniques, jargon and other terms.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a complex martial art with many terms and lots of jargon. Some terms have traditional Japanese judo roots, others are taken from wrestling, and others are in Portuguese. 

Below is a list of over 120 terms with references that you’ll see used when learning about BJJ, covering everything from techniques, positions and movements all the way to historical and technical uniform terms. If we’ve missed a term, let us know at the bottom of this page!

Table of contents

# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

#

  • 411. See inside sankaku.
  • 50-50. A leg lock position similar to an outside ashi garami but with your opponent’s leg being controlled with a “cross grip” on the inside of your body rather than on the outside. As the name suggests, the 50-50 position also gives your opponent access to leg locks, so it’s often used as a springboard into other safer positions like 80-20. The Grapple Arts leg lock cheat sheet gives a good introduction into 50-50.

A

  • ADCC. ADCC stands for Abu Dhabi Combat Club. It was started by Sheik Zayed in an effort to grow martial arts in the United Arab Emirates. Another goal of the ADCC was to create the best grappling tournament in the world. Today the ADCC World Submission Fighting Championship is the premier no gi submission grappling championship in the world, with a more relaxed submission ruleset than the IBJJF.
  • Americana. The Americana is a shoulder joint lock performed by bending the elbow and arm while keeping the rest of the opponent’s shoulder and body still. It generally requires the opponent’s back to be on the mat, so is usually performed by the top player in side control or mount. It’s also known as the figure four arm lock because of the arrangement of the top player’s two arms which wrap around and isolate one of the bottom player’s.
  • Ankle lock. A joint lock which targets the ankle ligaments by extending the foot away from the leg. There are a number of different ankle lock variations including straight ankle locks, ankle locks from the back and face down ankle locks. The toe hold, which is a figure four style joint lock involving the foot, can be another type of ankle lock.
  • Arm drag. A technique used to move an opponent’s arm out of the way to open them up for a leg takedown (when standing), or to expose their back (usually when on the ground). An arm drag is performed when the practitioner controls one of their opponent’s arms above the elbow with both of their own arms, using the control to literally pull the opponent’s arm away from their centre of gravity and forcing them to compensate. Marcelo Garcia is an elite BJJ athlete famous for his use of the arm drag.
  • Arm triangle. A chokehold submission using the practitioner’s forearm and the opponent’s own shoulder. This differs from a regular triangle which uses the practitioner’s legs instead of the forearm, but still uses their opponent’s shoulders to complete the submission. There area number of arm triangle variations including the kata gatame, D’arce and anaconda.
  • Armbar. An iconic grappling submission which hyperextends the opponent’s elbow. Arm bars are very versatile and can be initiated from a variety of positions in jiu jitsu including mount and closed guard.
  • Ashi garami. A judo technique which translates to “entangled leg lock”. In modern BJJ, ashi garami is a basic leg lock position often seen as a foundational position for more complex leg locks. Ashi garami can include both “inside” and “outside” variations, which just refers to the position of the practitioner’s own inside leg.

B

  • Back control. A dominant control position where a practitioner sits behind their opponent with their feet and arms controlling their opponent. Back control is a foundational position for high percentage submissions like the rear naked choke and successfully obtaining back control earns 4 points in an IBJJF competition.
  • Back take. This refers to any number of techniques used to transition from a position to the back control position. One such example is the berimbolo, where a practitioner will get back control by inverting, and another is the arm drag, where a practitioner will drag their opponent’s arm away from their body to open up their back.
  • Base. This refers to your base of support when grappling. Instructors will often tell students to make sure they have “a good base” in jiu jitsu, and this is often simplified to mean being stable and difficult to push over. A good base is well defined by Rob Biernacki as “a platform from which to apply and absorb force.”  
  • Belt. BJJ is traditionally performed in a gi or kimono with a belt. Your belt denotes your rank, with the adult BJJ rank system including white, blue, purple, brown and black belt.
  • Berimbolo. A gi sweep used to take an opponent’s back. The berimbolo is an inverted spinning technique usually initiated from de la Riva guard.
  • Bow and arrow choke. A gi lapel choke performed from behind your opponent. The bow and arrow gets its name from the positioning of the practitioner’s arms during the choke, as one pulls on the collar and the other pulls on the opponent’s pants.
  • Brabo choke. A gi-based choke which uses the opponent’s own lapel and the practitioner’s forearm to complete the choke.
  • Breakfall. A technical fall where a grappler uses their arms, legs and/or body positioning to protect their body from impact when falling to the ground. Breakfalls can include rolls or slaps.
  • Bridge and roll. See “upa”.
  • Bridge. Bridging is one of the basic movements of BJJ. Bridging is when a practitioner forcefully lifts their hips off the ground while leaving their weight on the shoulders and back to create space, usually in order to escape.
  • Butterfly guard. Butterfly guard is a style of open guard where the practitioner sits down with their legs in front of them in and between their opponent’s legs. The practitioner then uses their feet as hooks to help with sweeps and submissions.

C

  • Cauliflower ear. Cauliflower ear is an ear deformity caused by blunt force injuries to the ear. These cause hematomas which can block blood and nutrient flow to the ear, causing the cartilage to die. Cauliflower ear can be common among grapplers, but is preventable with ear guards.
  • Clinch. A standing position where both practitioners have grips on each other. The clinch can be used to launch takedowns and other attacks.
  • Closed guard. A fundamental guard type where the practitioner lies on their back with their legs wrapped around their kneeling opponent’s back. The closed guard is often the first guard a new BJJ practitioner will learn, and has a wide variety of sweep and submission possibilities. It’s largely seen as a neutral position for both practitioners.
  • Collar choke. An umbrella term referring to a variety of gi-specific submissions which use the opponent’s own collar against them to complete the choke.
  • Competition gi. A lighter gi made with the purpose of helping a practitioner make a weight class for a BJJ competition.
  • Crank. A joint lock attacking the spine. Cranks can be focused on the neck (a neck crank), or the spine itself (spine crank).
  • Cross face. A pinning technique where the practitioner uses their shoulder to pin the opponent’s head, usually performed by the top player in side control or mount.

D

E

F

  • Figure four arm lock. See Americana. 
  • Full guard. See closed guard.

G

  • Gable grip. A closed palm-to-palm hand grip named after the famous American wrestler Dan Gable. The gable grip is favored because of its strength versus other grips, and is also known as a Greco grip.
  • Gassing out / gassed. Being gassed out refers to being exhausted, often in the context of a BJJ sparring round. In BJJ you may be gassing out because of inferior cardiovascular fitness, or because you’re being inefficient with your energy usage or breathing. 
  • Gi. The heavy cotton jacket, pants and belt used in traditional BJJ training. The gi has been used in traditional Japanese martial arts like judo since the 1920s. There is also BJJ training without the gi, known as “no gi” jiu jitsu.
  • Gold weave. A type of gi fabric weave known as being a hybrid of single and double weaves. Gold weave gis were more popular in the past, but some high quality BJJ gis are still made from gold weave fabrics.
  • The Gracies. The pioneer family behind the origin of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Carlos Gracie and his younger brother Hélio are generally credited with the adaptation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from its judo roots. Other members of the family like Royce and Rickson Gracie have had huge positive impacts on getting BJJ recognised in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). The Gracie family are undoubtedly responsible for the huge growth of BJJ in Brazil and subsequently the world.
  • Grappling Industries. An organization which runs gi and no gi BJJ competitions around the world. Grappling Industries differs from IBJJF competitions in its use of round robin tournaments instead of elimination tournaments and also has a different ruleset.
  • Guard. Any position where the practitioner has their buttocks on the ground with their legs in front or wrapped around their opponent. There are many guard variations including closed/full guard, half guard, open guard and more. The guard is generally seen as a neutral position for both players.
  • Guard pass. A technique or movement where one practitioner neutralizes and overcomes their opponent’s guard, usually by getting past their hips and legs.
  • Guillotine. A basic but effective chokehold submission of the neck using a practitioner’s arms and armpit. The guillotine is also known as the front naked choke.

H

I

J

K

L

M

  • MMA. MMA is the abbreviation for “mixed martial arts” and refers to fighting with a combination of striking and grappling. It has been popularized around the world in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and other promotions like Bellator. Most MMA fighters will learn BJJ, as groundwork is an often crucial part of an MMA fight.
  • MRSA. MRSA is an abbreviation for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staph is a bacterium which causes infections, and MRSA refers to strains of staph which are resistant to normal antibiotics. MRSA is spread by contact, so can sometimes infect practitioners of contact sports like BJJ.
  • Mata Leão. See rear naked choke.
  • Mitsuyo Maeda. A Japanese judo expert who travelled to Brazil in 1914 and showcased his martial arts knowledge around the country in circuses, often challenging opponents from other martial arts. Maeda allegedly met and taught Carlos Gracie, giving birth to modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Maeda was also known as Conde Koma.
  • Mount. A dominant position where the top player straddles the bottom player and kneels over them. The mount is worth four points in most BJJ competitions, and has a wide variety of submission options from it.

N

  • Neck crank. A joint lock of the spine and neck. See crank.
  • No gi. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practiced without the gi. Practitioner’s usually wear board shorts and a polyester/spandex top called a rashguard.
  • North South. A variation of side control where the top player pins the bottom player’s head and chest with his own head and chest, and both players’ legs face in opposite directions. North south position gives the top player a number of submission options including the kimura and also the north south choke.
  • Nutella jiu jitsu. Fake or watered down jiu jitsu. This saying was popularized after an interaction between Vagner Rocha and Renzo Gracie.

O

P

Q

R

  • Rear mount. See back control.
  • Rear naked choke. An iconic choke which a practitioner completes from back control when behind their opponent. The practitioner sinks one of their forearms under their opponent’s chin and grabs their other arm to complete the choke. Also known as the rear naked strangle or mata leão (lion killer in Portuguese).
  • Red belt. The highest belt level in BJJ. The red belt denotes the 9th and 10th degree black belt levels, with the 10th degree being reserved for pioneers of the art.
  • Reversal. A sweep which doesn’t start from the guard. Reversals do not earn any points in IBJJF competitions.
  • Reverse de la Riva. A variation of de la Riva guard where the practitioner hooks their opponent’s leg from the inside rather than the outside as with a regular de la Riva guard.
  • Ringworm. A skin infection caused by fungi. Ringworm is also known as athlete’s foot when it’s on the toes, or jock itch if it’s on the groin. Ringworm can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or touching a surface which has ringworm fungus on it. It’s therefore a common skin infection when practicing BJJ.
  • Rolling. Rolling in BJJ refers to sparring. Sparring in BJJ usually involves two practitioners starting from the knees or standing and then trying to submit each other, with submissions signalling a reset. Sparring rounds generally last five minutes for adults, although they can be longer.
  • Rubber guard. An innovative guard style popularized by no gi BJJ pioneer Eddie Bravo. The rubber guard is designed to keep an opponent locked into a clinch while also giving the practitioner a free arm for submissions, escapes and transitions. Rubber guard is characterised by breaking an opponent down in your guard, bringing one of your legs over your opponent’s shoulder, and hooking your opposite wrist around it. This position is also known as mission control. Rubber guard has several “levels” to it to give the practitioner additional control or options.

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z


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