The Application of Torque in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Application of Torque in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Learning to Master Torque (Part 1):

Over the last few weeks, we have been defining and applying ideas such as “Posture,” “Bracing,” and “Anchoring,” among other things. While these ideas are tremendously useful on their own, they create a synergistic effect when we combine them through the application of Torque in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Well, what is Torque?

Here is a technical definition of Torque that I found from the most reliable source available – Wikipedia:
“Torque, …is the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis, fulcrum, or pivot. Just as a force is a push or a pull, a torque can be thought of as a twist to an object. Mathematically, torque is defined as the cross-product of the lever-arm distance and force, which tends to produce rotation.

Loosely speaking, torque is a measure of the turning force on an object such as a bolt or a flywheel. For example, pushing or pulling the handle of a wrench connected to a nut or bolt produces a torque (turning force) that loosens or tightens the nut or bolt.

Instead of assuming that definition made sense, I would like to provide a couple thoughts on torque that will help provide a framework when we DO start discussing it more in-depth.

1. “Torque” as it relates to “Tension”:

Let’s say you’re driving a truck down the street, trying to find some delicious tacos or macaroni salad. But then, you accidentally drive into a ditch. In order to pull your truck out, your friend, John McFriendly, backs his truck up close to yours. You attach a rope to the end of your bumper and the end of his bumper. If the rope has slack in it and Mr. McFriendly hits the gas and tries to pull your truck out, the sudden expression of tension will cause either a) the rope to snap or b) one of the bumpers to be ripped off.

Instead, if Mr. McFriendly drives his truck slowly away from yours until the slack is gone, then continuing to press down on the gas pedal will cause the wheels to generate torque against the floor and he can potentially pull the truck from the ditch. And then, macaroni salad bonanza!! :]

2. “Torque” as it relates to slack

In the previous example, taking the slack out the system was key to allowing the system to utilize force in unison. Torque is the best way to remove all of the slack in a system. System? What do you mean “system”? Is that the new X-Box? No, not quite. Let’s use a second example to understand this idea.

If I hand you a ball and a plastic bag and I ask you to place the bag on the ball so it was completely flush, you would probably start by placing the ball into the bag, and then pulling against the end of the bag so that it becomes taut around the ball. This would take out a great deal of slack. However, it isn’t until you start taking that end of the bag and twisting, twisting, twisting it against the ball that you truly remove the slack from the ball and bag system. This is the application of torque with the intent of removing the slack from a system. Also, this is the same way that you use stabilizer muscles to set your ball-and-socket joints into position (your shoulder and hip are examples of ball-and-socket joints). If you have ever had Coach Orion tell you to “screw your hands into the floor” before you do a push-up or “screw your feet into the floor” before you do a squat or dead lift, then you are familiar with creating torque off of the floor or a barbell in order to remove the slack from your body before your try to generate power.

3. “Torque” as the culmination of Anchoring and Bracing

The examples above are useful for understanding what torque is and how it manifests. For the purposes of improving our grappling, remember that you must create a set of anchors, brace against them and then apply torque. After you apply torque to your opponent and remove ALL of the slack from the position, you create a new set of anchors and then brace against them (covered in the previous weeks), and then apply torque again, rinse and repeat until your opponent is tapping.

Here is an example of the application of Torque:

Your opponent is on his back, not in contact with you, and you are preparing to use the bullfighter pass against him. First, you anchor your feet into the floor and brace, which allows you to create torque off the ground for the simple act of walking towards your opponent. From here, you create a new set of anchors with your hands on the cuff on your opponent’s pants, close your elbows towards your side, and simultaneously engaging your glutes, hips and core to brace your weight onto your grips. Using this anchor and brace, you can apply torque towards the floor to pin your opponent’s feet to the ground. Once they are completely pinned, you create a new set of anchors with your feet by moving to the side, bracing, applying torque and then driving their knee and then hip away from you using your shoulder. Apply this torque until there is no more space as you walk to the leg drag / knee-between position. Then re-anchor and finish the pass (side control, taking the back, etc) applying torque. Continue this until you are anchoring, bracing and torquing against your opponent’s arm / leg / neck / other submission.

Next week, we will continue to discuss torque and how it allows us to understand Jiu Jitsu on a larger scale, instead of just a single guard pass. OSS! :]

-Coach T

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