The Consequences Of Overextension (A Jiu-Jitsu Lesson)

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, we learn over time that overextending ourselves has very real, even painful, consequences.

One of the greatest benefits of jiu-jitsu training is the near-immediate feedback we receive from rolling (grappling for submissions). When we make mistakes, if we are rolling with someone of equal or greater skill, there are consequences in the form of a a guard pass, a pin escape, a reversal of positions, or a submission.

Submissions are meant to represent the final outcome of an engagement wherein one person has no physical options left and must, therefore, submit to defeat under threat of a joint break or strangulation. Over time, jiu-jitsu practitioners learn that one of the easiest ways to secure a submission or to get submitted is through the overextension, and therefore, overexposure of a limb, whether an arm, leg, or even the neck.

If we expose our elbows or stick our arms out, we are likely to get arm-barred, shoulder-locked, or head-and-arm strangled, exposing our legs or feet will result in leg or foot locks, and sticking our necks out with no protection will get us strangled. In short, an extended limb is a vulnerable limb. When we are on the offensive, we are looking to force or exploit overextension and when we are on the defensive, we are looking to limit it.

The truth of this hard won lesson goes well beyond grappling, however. As is often the case, that which is true in the microcosm of jiu-jitsu also tends to be true in the macrocosm of our lives. Simply put, overextending ourselves sacrifices our integrity and makes us vulnerable in budo and in life.

Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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