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the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex

Rob Biernacki Definition

Structure is defined as “The most efficient way to use your limbs.”

What is the concept of structure for BJJ?

For me, the concept of structure in BJJ has always been locking your joints in such a way that you rely on your skeletal structure for strength compared to your muscles. 

How does this work?

Well, we can use it from guard like you saw in the last lesson about posture. Posture refers more to your spine and neck being in proper alignment. When we use our arm to create a frame this is actually more of an example of structure. 

From the top, it actually takes on a cool new area in BJJ where you can easily control a person if you have good structure. My favorite example of this is in side control. You can choose to hold traditional side control which is great, but if you put your top hand in between your opponent’s elbow and armpit on the mat and straighten your arm. This control is much more efficient and is rarely broken. 

Do you have more examples of how we could use this from the top?

Yes! Saw someone has their hands in tight from top mount and you want to get that free. You can straighten your arms and use both of your arms to push on of them down. You will feel that if you try to push it down with your elbows broken it is much more difficult. 

For me, this has always been the “Grappler Strength” that people talk about. Where people feel super strong but really they are just being efficient with their structure and a small amount of muscle. 

How do we use the concept of structure with a wedge?

Great question! A wedge is “a having one thick end and tapering to a thin edge, that is driven between two objects or parts of an object to secure or separate them”. In the context of BJJ, you see this when people try to take the back. They put their leg behind the back to create a block and wedge to take the back from the mount. However, you can also use it when on top. For this, I call it “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, think of the same scenario as before the person is in the bottom mount with their arms tight to their chest. You can straighten one of your arms and “wedge” you hand underneath one of the elbows. From there you would reach with your hand to the mat and keep walking it up with your fingers touching the mat like the old kids’ story of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

Can I use structure on their legs?

Yes! You can use structure in every position in BJJ. For the legs you twist their legs toward you or away from you then post with your hand on the mat with the same hand and lock out your elbow. If you don’t post your hand and lock out your elbow you are using muscle. This will tire you out quick and make the person feel like they have a chance of escaping. If you lock out and post on the mat you will feel much stronger, use less muscle and often make the person you are holding feel defeated mentally and resort to a poor technique in order to escape. You can capitalize on this and get a better position or just hold them.