We spend a whole heck of a lot of time talking about torque. How to create it, when to create it, where to place it, why it’s important, etc. Generally, the gist is that we have this stuff called slack and it is ruining our Jiu Jitsu, so we need to get rid of it wherever possible! In reality, exactly the opposite is the case: slack plays just as important a role in our game as torque. Let’s start to think about when creating slack is something to strive for.
Why would we want slack?
In short, slack is a necessary component to escape. All escapes begin with slack. Consider this: if an opponent is pulling you in and controlling part of your body, how do you intend to get away? You would need to regain control by creating slack (actually, we’re just getting back to neutral) and move. For instance, if your opponent is passing your guard with a bullfighter pass , your goal is to keep their shoulders off of you and to hip escape away. Pressing their shoulders off of you inhibits their ability to set a fixed point and subsequently create torque. Whoa… Fixed point, create torque… This should all be sounding very familiar. Essentially, creating slack is just undoing the torque. Let’s take a look at how we can create slack using extension and rotation to facilitate escapes.
How do I create slack?
Before we think about creating slack, let’s revisit how to create torque. My favorite example is side control. As the top player in side control we first use rotation (pulling our partner into us) and then extension (driving from our hips through our shoulders) to create torque. If slack is simply the opposite of torque, then it stands to reason that to create slack we should first extend and then rotate! Make sense? Let’s imagine the bottom player in side control (I can see your face cringing from that cross face). When we’re being coached to escape we’re often told “Frame, create space, and re-guard.” That’s great coaching during a competition, clean, clear, and concise. But as always, it’s only worthwhile if we know what all of that means!
Framing is the first part of extension. Essentially, you can think of it as a fixed point or where your force will be applied. Similarly, because our frame usually consists of using larger body parts it may be easier to think of it as a brace. The “create space” part refers to what we are talking about here- creating slack. To do so, we extend through our braces to introduce a small amount of slack into the system and rotate our way into more slack via a hip escape. Having effectively created and moved into slack, we are now free to re-guard and begin to attack our opponent. Remember, Extension-> Rotation.
Escaping from mount illustrates a similar scenario. To escape from mount you must first bridge (extend) and then hip escape (rotate) to create enough slack to re-guard. Alternatively, think about what your opponent is doing when they are mounted on top of you. In order to maintain control, your opponent must rotate their hips into you, and then extend through you. Why does this work? The rotation is allowing them to apply force more efficiently (not to mention take your spine out of alignment!) and the extension through your hips directly opposes your extension!
Jiu Jitsu as a “Zero Sum” game
Now that we have thought about slack for a moment, I want to talk a bit about the philosophy behind the relationship between slack and torque. You may have heard one of us say “Jiu Jitsu is a zero sum game.” On the off chance you didn’t completely understand that saying the first few times you’ve heard it, let’s break it down. I like to think about Jiu Jitsu as a big game of Tug-of-war. You and your opponent are at either end of the rope and the ribbon hanging in the middle is the slack. When one person is effectively creating torque and controlling the slack, they are winning the game of tug-of-war. While the other player is escaping and regaining control of (or creating) slack, the rope is being pulled back into neutral territory- the slack is once again up for grabs. Now it is up to both players to try to recapture the slack (i.e., create more torque) to get the rope onto their side.
You can imagine if both players are evenly matched and they are effectively nullifying their opponent’s advances, the slack remains up for grabs! The players’ tactics are canceling one another out, hence the “zero sum” game. While you roll this month, try to think about not only creating slack, but capturing it once you’ve escaped.