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 125 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Buggy choke. The buggy choke is a choke from bottom side control where the attacker grabs their own leg to trap their opponent’s head and arm. The attacker then tightens the choke by triangling their leg and gripping their other arm.
- Bulldog choke. The bulldog choke is a catch wrestling choke from a headlock position. The attacker squeezes around the opponent’s neck in a configuration similar to a guillotine grip and then steps forward to finish the choke.
- 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.
- 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.
- De la Riva guard. An open guard style where the practitioner hooks their opponent’s front leg using their leg and foot from the outside. The de la Riva guard allows the practitioner to initiate a variety of sweeps, submissions and back takes. De la Riva guard can also be “reversed”, which refers to the practitioner hooking their opponent’s front leg from the inside. De la Riva guard was pioneered by Ricardo de la Riva, a Carlson Gracie black belt.
- Double leg takedown. A basic grappling takedown where you attack both of your opponent’s legs.
- Double weave. A type of gi fabric which is denser and heavier than regular single weave. It’s rarely used in BJJ, but is still regularly used in Judo.
- D’Arce choke. An arm triangle variation popularized by black belt Joe D’Arce. The D’Arce uses the practitioner’s forearm and the opponent’s own arm and shoulder to complete the choke. The D’Arce is a no gi variation of the popular Brabo choke.
- Escape. A technique or movement used to get out of a disadvantageous position.
- Everyday porrada. A viral hashtag and phrase originating from elite BJJ competitor Romulo Barral. It translates roughly to having a spirit of training hard everyday without excuses and never giving up. Barral was asked what the secret behind his success was against AJ Souza in 2018 and said “My secret is train hard everyday, everyday porrada! That’s it, nothing else!” The word porrada is Portuguese for “fight” or “brawl”.
- Ezekiel choke. A sleeve-based choke where the practitioner wraps their arm around the opponent’s head and then grabs their own sleeve to finish. The Ezekiel choke is named after Brazilian Judo Olympian Ezequiel Paraguassú, but is actually a traditional judo technique known as a sode guruma jime.
- Figure four arm lock. See Americana.
- Full guard. See closed guard.
- 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.
- Half guard. A guard variation where the practitioner has their legs wrapped around only one of their opponent’s legs instead of their opponent’s waist, as is the case with closed/full guard. Like the closed guard, the half guard is generally seen as a neutral position for both practitioners, and also has a number of sweeps and submissions available from it.
- Head and arm choke. See arm triangle.
- Heel hook. A leg lock which twists the foot in order to torque both the ankle and knee. The heel hook can cause damage to the ligaments and menisci of the knee, so it’s often banned from BJJ competitions and only taught to advanced students rather than beginners.
- Hip escape. A movement of the hips away from an opponent to escape a disadvantageous position or prevent a guard pass. Hip escapes are a fundamental BJJ movement. Also known as shrimping.
- Honey hole. See inside sankaku.
- Hooks. The use of your feet to help control your opponent.
- IBJJF. The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation. This organization was started by Carlos Gracie Jr. and runs a full calendar of events around the world each year, including the prestigious World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship. It also maintains the most popular BJJ ruleset and offers black belt certification.
- Imanari roll. A roll from standing into the inside sankaku/411 leg lock position. The Imanari roll was popularized by Masakazu Imanari, a Japanese MMA fighter.
- Inside sankaku. A leg entanglement position where the practitioner’s legs are entangled around one of their opponent’s with their legs triangled on the inside of their opponent’s, as opposed to other leg entanglements like 50-50 where the practitioner’s legs are on the outside. Also known as the honey hole or saddle.
- Japanese necktie. An arm triangle variation which is usually used against an opponent in the turtle position.
- Jigoro Kano. The founder of modern Kodokan Judo.
- Judo. A Japanese grappling martial art based on traditional jiu jitsu. Judo is focused around throws, groundwork and submissions. Modern judo was largely seen to have started with Jigoro Kano, who adapted his style from traditional jiu jitsu and founded a martial art called Kodokan Judo in 1882.
- K-guard. An innovative open guard variation known for its ability to initiate leg entanglements, popularized by Australian BJJ competitor Lachlan Giles.
- Kata gatame. See arm triangle.
- Kesa gatame. A side control pin and headlock with various submission options. Kesa gatame is one of the official judo pins.
- Kimono. See gi.
- Kimura. A shoulder joint lock which uses both of the practitioner’s arms to rotate the opponent’s arm towards their back, also known as a double wrist lock. The kimura is named after Masahiko Kimura, a judoka who defeated Hélio Gracie with this technique.
- Knee on belly. A position where the top practitioner has their knee and weight on the mid-section of their opponent. The knee on belly position is often used to open the opponent up to submissions and other more advantageous positions like mount, and is worth two points in most BJJ competitions.
- Knee shield. A style of half guard where the guard player’s knee is used as a frame to help keep the opponent’s weight off of them.
- Kneebar. A knee lock which hyperextends the knee and can damage the various ligaments and menisci of the knee.
- The Kodokan. The official Judo headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan.
- Lasso guard. A gi-specific open guard variation which uses the feet and sleeves to give great control over an opponent. More information.
- Leg drag. A guard pass where a standing player controls and moves the opponent’s defending leg out of the way, opening them up for a pass. More information.
- Lockdown. A half guard technique where the bottom player locks both of their legs together to extend and trap one of the top player’s legs. The lockdown was popularized by Eddie Bravo, the founder of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.
- 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.
- 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.
- Omoplata. A shoulder lock which uses the practitioner’s legs and hips to complete the submission.
- Oss. An abbreviation of the Japanese phrase “Onegai Shimassu” which translates to a polite invitation or request. In modern BJJ, “oss” is used in various contexts such as a greeting in the gym, an acknowledgement of having understood an instruction or to show respect.
- Overhook. When a practitioner uses their arm to lock around their opponent’s upper arm to give them greater control. This differs from an underhook, where the practitioner’s arm locks under the person’s arm and around their upper body.
- Pearl weave. A popular gi fabric weave used in some gis which has the appearance of lines of round bumps or “pearls”. Used for its balance of strength, durability and low weight.
- Peruvian necktie. An arm triangle variation from the front headlock position.
- Porrada. To brawl or fight in Portuguese. See “Everyday Porrada”.
- Post. Using your hands or feet to help prevent sweeps.
- Posture. Posture refers to having a stable spinal alignment when grappling to allow for maximum generation of force.
- Pull guard. A transition which moves a practitioner from standing to the guard position. Pulling guard is generally used in situations where a practitioner wants to move to the ground but avoid takedowns, and is popular in BJJ competitions.
- Pummel. Fighting for inside control of your opponent’s arms or legs. This is often used in stand-up grappling, where a practitioner will fight their opponent’s arms to get underhook controls to better launch takedowns. In leg entanglements, practitioners will pummel to get their legs in between their opponent’s to have an advantage for leg locks.
- Quarter guard. A last ditch defensive guard when someone passes your half guard. Quarter guard differs from half guard in that the practitioner’s legs are only wrapped around the top player’s ankle rather than leg.
- 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.
- Sambo. A martial art originating from the Soviet Union which incorporates elements of judo, wrestling and jiu jitsu. Sambo has both sports and combat styles, with the sports style focusing on throws and submissions, and the combat style including striking.
- Sandbagging. A common sports term meaning to compete at a skill bracket beneath your true skill level. In BJJ competitions, brackets are organised according to age, weight and belt level, but belt promotions are only granted by a competitor’s instructor. This means sandbagging in BJJ can be influenced by an unscrupulous instructor wanting to keep a student at a certain belt level to ensure more victories against less skilled opponents.
- Scarf hold. See kesa gatame.
- Scissor sweep. A basic gi sweep technique which uses the opponent’s sleeve and collar, and both of the practitioner’s legs to roll an opponent over into a disadvantageous position.
- Seatbelt. An upper body arm control grip from back control. The seatbelt is formed when the practitioner has one arm over their opponent’s shoulder and connects it with their other arm which is underneath the opponent’s opposite armpit.
- Shark tank. An endurance sparring exercise where one practitioner continuously rolls with fresh opponents. Usually reserved for competition training or belt gradings.
- Shoyoroll. A popular BJJ gi brand known for its expensive and exclusive gis.
- Shrimp. See hip escape.
- Side control. A pinning position where the top practitioner is chest-to-chest with the bottom practitioner, with their legs out to the side. Side control is a common position in BJJ, although it’s not worth any points on its own.
- Single leg takedown. An iconic fundamental grappling takedown where one of the opponent’s legs is grabbed and pulled in one direction, and the practitioner’s head is used to push the opponent’s body in the other direction.
- Single leg x-guard. A variation of x-guard where both of the bottom guard player’s legs are wrapped around one of the top player’s legs. Single leg x-guard is known for being a useful guard type for sweeps and leg attacks.
- Spider guard. An open guard variation usually used in gi jiu jitsu. Spider guard is performed by the bottom player grabbing both of their opponent’s wrists or sleeves, and then putting their feet on the opponent’s biceps. Spider guard gives the bottom player good control over the top player’s posture and movement.
- Sprawl. A sprawl is a takedown defense where the defender moves their hips down to the mat and their legs away from their opponent. It’s usually used to defend against takedowns involving the legs, like a double leg takedown. An effective sprawl also finishes with the defender controlling the attacker’s head using their weight, hips and/or arms.
- Squid guard. An open guard variation which uses the practitioner’s foot and a grip on the opponent’s lapel to control the opponent’s posture and movement. It was invented by BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius in response to players trying to shut down his other guard style, the worm guard.
- Staph. A contagious skin infection caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Staph infections can sometimes be spread in contact sports like BJJ.
- Stripe. Stripes are used in BJJ to show a practitioner’s skill level within a belt. Each belt except black belt has four stripes or “degrees” a practitioner earns from their instructor. From black belt there are up to 9 degrees which can be earned by most practitioners, with the 10th degree “red belt” reserved for the pioneers of BJJ.
- Structure. Structure refers to using your limbs in the most efficient way possible when grappling.
- Submission. An attacking technique designed to choke or strangle an opponent, or damage their joints, requiring the opponent to submit or tap out to signify defeat. In BJJ, a successful submission is the ultimate way to win a match, and it signals an instant victory for the attacker. Iconic submissions include the triangle, armbar and kimura.
- Sweep. A reversal technique which moves the bottom player to a more advantageous top position. Sweeps generally involve the practitioner off-balancing their opponent to move them. Successful sweeps are worth two points in competitive BJJ if they move the bottom player from a guard or half guard position.
- Takedown. A standing technique designed to move an opponent to the ground. Common examples include the single leg and double leg takedown.
- Tapping out. The most common way to signal defeat or withdrawal in a match due to a successful choke, strangle or joint attack. A practitioner can tap their opponent, hit the mat with their feet or verbally tap out.
- Toreando pass. A fundamental open guard pass where the top player controls the bottom player’s legs enough to push them out of the way, giving them a clear path to side control.
- Triangle. An iconic submission which uses the practitioner’s legs and the opponent’s own arm to choke the opponent. The triangle is a very common submission in BJJ due to the variety of positions and guards it can be launched from.
- Turtle. A defensive position where one player is on their hands and knees, with the other player usually attacking from the front or sides.
- UAEJJF. An abbreviation for the United Arab Emirates Jiu Jitsu Federation. The UAEJJF overseas jiu jitsu in the UAE, and also runs a calendar of events each year.
- Uke. A Japanese martial arts term which means to be the person “receiving” a technique.
- Underhook. A hold in the clinch position where the practitioner puts their arm underneath their opponent’s arm and holds their opponent’s midsection.
- Upa. A fundamental mount escape technique also known as the bridge and roll. The upa involves the practitioner in bottom mount bridging their opponent forward so they post on their arms, and then trapping their leg and arm on the same side before rolling them.
- Worm guard. An open guard variation originating from elite BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius. Worm guard uses the practitioner’s legs in conjunction with wrapping the opponent’s lapel around their shin to break down posture and restrict movement.
- Wristlock. Submissions targeting the wrist joints. Wrist locks can be used to submit opponents or maneuver them into disadvantageous positions. Wrist locks are rare in BJJ but used extensively in other martial arts such as aikido.
- X-guard. An open guard variation popularized by BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia. X-guard also includes the popular single leg x-guard variation. The basic x-guard is characterized by the bottom player being underneath a standing opponent and having both legs framing against the opponent’s leg and hip from the inside, in addition to the practitioner’s arm being used to trap the opponent’s other leg. X-guard is known for being a guard type with many sweeps available.
- Z-guard. A variation of the knee shield half guard. Z-guard uses the guard player’s knee, in addition to their other foot acting as a hook on the opponent’s leg to control their opponent and launch various sweeps and submissions. Well known z-guard players include Craig Jones and Bernardo Faria.
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