top of page

Techniques vs. principles

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Jiu jitsu principles are the ideas which lie behind the techniques on which these are built. We can compare the principles with sheet music, and the techniques with melodies. We only have seven notes (fourteen if we include the half-notes. With these quite limited number of notes, we can compose an infinite number of melodies.

Similarly, it is with jiu jitsu principles. We have a few principles, but with these we can put together a whole bunch of techniques. It is only our creativity that limits how many techniques we can create from a small set of principles.

Also, techniques that are apparently very different from each other, for example because they are used in completely different positions or situations, can be based on the same principle. Conversely, a single technique can be based on several principles – not just one. The latter is probably the most common.


True ju jitsu principles are universal. That is, they apply to all types of situations. The same principles apply whether we are standing on our feet or lying on the ground, whether it is self-defense or competition, whether it is an attack with or without weapons, whether there are one or more attackers, etc.


How many ju jitsu principles we have is certainly debatable. It depends on how we analyze them and how detailed we are going to be. It must not be too detailed. After all, the point of discussing principles is to point out basic commonalities. If we get too detailed, at some point we move from general principles to individual techniques.


In my view, we have 10 universal ju jitsu principles. These are:

1. Balance

2. Protection

3. Positioning (angles)

4. Distance

5. Movement

6. Leverage

7. Kuzushi

8. Atemi

9. Reinforcement

10. Yielding


Principles are, as we understand, more important than the techniques. Is there any point in teaching techniques? Can't we just go straight to the principles? Iam afraid not. It wouldn't work. Not with with new students, anyway. To begin with, it's important to learn techniques. Beginner doesn't have enough basic skills to deal with it. They have to learn specific techniques to begin with. At this stage details are very important. Quantity training is also crucial to get the techniques to "sit" properly.

However, the principles are important for students to understand why they have to do the techniques in a certain way. Accordingly, an instructor must explain to the students the principles underlying the techniques he or she teaches. An instructor who says, "Don't ask, just do as I show you", is certainly not an pedagogical genius.

As students gain more experience, they should be encouraged to improvise, and they will then more or less automatically begin to adapt the techniques in line with the principles they know as well as their own physical circumstances. There is no room to review the individual principles in this article. But I will get into some selected principles in separate articles, so stay tuned to the page here. The principles are otherwise discussed in the book " Self-defense by Jiu Jitsu" (click on the link).

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page