The river or the rock.


A basic armbar: You have your partner ALMOST there, one leg over his chest, the other sorta over his face. You’re grabbing his arm (most likely with your hands buried in his elbow pit) and ripping rearward with everything you got, this fool better learn not to reach up at you when mounted! Not the most technical setup but it feels promising.

He’s got his hands clasped, or folded upon each other, attempting to bury his arm through his chest in defense, grunting and writhing from the bottom.

For a solid minute this goes on, you’re jerking, ripping back and forth, testing the limits of your mouthguard. They’re hoping their arm holds up until the timer saves them.

Nearby newbs are silently (or not) cheering you or them on in a titanic clash of wills. Experienced players nearby wince, waiting for the inevitable.

The grip breaks, a hurried tap, a celebration either externally or within. Both players lie on their backs panting, like a cheesy sex scene from the 80’s, and sit the next round out.

For them, the mistake was made long ago, they should’ve tapped earlier, without exhaustion, and without increased chance of injury. If it’s that much work to defend, they’re caught! They should pay their ticket before there’s interest!

And for you, MOVE ON to something else, something more fruitful, meeting less resistance. Staying where you are, slamming your head against the wall in the same static state, is like a river meeting a rock and insisting on going through it.

Water would go around, and so should you.

Constant pounding of the river on the rock will wear away the rock, but it’ll take much longer that flowing around, and your progress in BJJ will too. BJJ is more about adapting than insisting.

Let the rock be the rock, they can have their arm…for now 🙂 Let the river be the river, maintain your flow. Your growth will be much faster, and you’ll see more of the BJJ landscape along the way.

Are you the river or the rock?

Published by: JonFriedland

Jon Friedland here, finally putting some of my thoughts to type. I've been training well over 23 years, receiving my black belt in 2007. I’m a 16-year dojo owner and head instructor of Brazilian Jiujitsu. Started training Jiujitsu casually in early 1995, formally in 1997. Teaching BJJ since 2000, i received my black belt in 2007, opened my academy, Neutral Ground, in 2005, am the head instructor, and am currently a 3rd degree black belt under Master Pedro Sauer. i can be reached at

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