Jiu Jitsu University: Book Summary & Notes (Level Up Your BJJ)

By Tsavo NealLearning BJJLeave a Comment

Jiu-Jitsu University is a book that every grappler should have on their shelf.

As a four-stripe blue belt, it’s been fundamental to my progression over my 4 years of training.

From teaching basic positions to specific submissions like the rear-naked choke, the book is like having your own private, world-class BJJ coach. 

In this article, I’ll share my summary and key takeaways from the book.

In less than 10 minutes, you’ll grasp the most important points it teaches — and level up your game.

Jiu Jitsu University By Saulo Ribeiro 

High-Level Thoughts

Jiu-Jitsu University is an excellent primer on what you should focus on at each belt. It helps you focus on the right aspects of BJJ at the right time. However, while the format is great for teaching BJJ principles, I find it difficult to learn techniques from a book format. Video is the superior format for learning individual techniques. That said, this is still a must-read for any serious grappler.

Jiu Jitsu University: Summary

Introduction To Jiu-Jitsu

  • For jiu-jitsu to work effectively, it must be based on the concept of leverage: positions where you can multiply your strength, and minimize your opponent’s strengths.
  • “If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die.”
  • To become proficient at BJJ, you must commit techniques to muscle memory. While you roll, you want to feel and act without thinking.
  • White belts should be exposed to all submissions and positions. Knowledge of jiu-jitsu enables progress to happen, and it will help them with their primary goal: survival.
  • Blue belt is the belt of experimentation: you start to develop your own way of doing things after you’ve learned the fundamentals.
  • At purple belt, you refine your technique and begin to mentor the lower belts. This is where you start to inch towards black belt levels of knowledge.
  • The only thing holding back a brown belt from black belt is time spent polishing edges to tighten up their game.
  • Before you achieve the next belt level, you want to feel like you are that belt.
  • You should not be promoted to the next belt based on attendance. Your progress should depend on your knowledge and skills.
  • The belt system used in this book is a frame of reference for the skills you should focus on at each belt level. For example…
    • White belts should focus on survival because they will be in bottom positions for much of their journey.
    • Once you learn how to survive and become a blue belt, you focus on escaping (blue belt).
    • Once you learn how to escape from the bottom, you focus on your guard (purple belt).
    • Once you learn how to play the guard and get on top, you focus on guard passing (brown belt).
    • And once you learn how to pass the guard, you focus on submitting your opponent (black belt).
  • Train jiu-jitsu with a child-like mind: you’ll learn faster when you’re focused on enjoyment, not ego.
  • What’s good for the body is good for jiu-jitsu: meditation, strength training, stretching, etc.
  • While you should listen to your instructor, also seek out other experts to expand your knowledge (using instructionals, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc).
  • Competition can be an excellent way to hone your skills, learn to deal with pressure, and get an inside look at the professional world of jiu-jitsu. However, it’s not necessary for every student. Hobbyists do BJJ because they enjoy gaining knowledge.
  • The most important factor in developing your skills isn’t doing competitions, it’s the quality of your training partners.
  • Becoming a skilled BJJ practitioner — or even a champion — isn’t about your opponent. It’s about you. You’re fighting against yourself: your feelings, your choices, and your ego.

The Goal Of The White Belt: Survival

  • Learning the skill of survival is firstly about becoming comfortable being under attack.
  • By learning survival, you’ll develop confidence, fortitude, and peace during stress.
  • Survival is fundamental to the inception of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Helio Gracie, the founder of the art, was a small man. He was forced to learn to survive against larger opponent’s. His goal wasn’t always to win — it was to survive. Helio used leverage to survive, thus establishing BJJ as a sport where the smaller person can defend themselves against a larger opponent.
  • Survival is not about escapes, but being in a position where you don’t need to use muscle to protect yourself. It’s about using your body in a way that eliminates your opponent’s chance of submitting you.
  • The best survival method is prevention: preventing submissions before your opponent has a chance to execute them.
  • Principles of Survival
    • Always keep your elbows tucked close to your body.
    • Always prevent your opponent from controlling your head.
    • Never lay flat on the ground.
    • Don’t push against your opponent.
    • Use your hips to generate power, not your upper body.
  • There’s nothing wrong with tapping. Tapping simply means “let’s start again.”
  • The longer a white belt can survive against a higher belt, the more pressure they put on them. This provides a good challenge for both the white belt and the upper belt.
  • Before you learn any other aspect of Jiu-Jitsu (sweeps, guard passing, submissions, etc), your defense must be tight. It’s the most important area of BJJ.
  • The older you get, the more emphasis you must place on defense. Learn to “seal off your holes” and you’ll be able to defend against younger, more athletic, and stronger opponents.
  • Learning survival begins at white belt, but it’s imperative at all belt levels.

Establishing the back survival posture on my Grappling SMARTY

The Blue Belt’s Secret Weapon: Escapes

  • White and blue belt is the best time to develop your escape skills. Upper belts put you in poor positions, so it’s natural that you’ll have to learn to escape.
  • There are four positions you must learn to survive and escape: the mount, the back, side control, and knee on belly.
  • Learn how escaping the armbar works, and you’ll be able to apply those principles to all of the armbar variations.
  • When you are able to survive and escape inferior positions, it will benefit your offense. You’ll take more risks because you know if you get put in a bad position, you’ll be able to escape.
  • Survival is the “stepping stone” to escaping. Before you escape, you must establish survival posture. When you are good at survival, the top player will make mistakes. When they make a mistake, you escape. Escaping is about patience and timing.
  • Learn to rely on technique to escape, not strength. With proper technique, most escapes require little strength.
  • The best way to deal with stallers is to avoid getting into positions where they are able to hold you in a stalling position.
  • If you get caught in a submission, learn to do the submission. Learning the attack will help you understand how to defend the attack.
top turtle attack on grappling SMARTY

Practicing my top and bottom turtle on my Grappling SMARTY

Perfecting The Purple Belt: The Guard

  • Although you will learn various guards at white belt and blue belt, purple belt is where you’ll start to get a true feel for the guard. A good guard is built upon a foundation of survival and escape skills.
  • The guard is your safety net for when things go wrong. It combines survival, escapes, and submissions all in one.
  • The key purpose of the guard is controlling distance. Your guard should make it difficult for your opponent to pass or submit you.
  • Hip movement (shrimping) is what makes the guard work.
  • You attack from the guard using sweeps and submissions.
  • From the guard, using your hips to create an angle puts you in control. For this reason, play the guard on your side. If you are on your side, your opponent can only pass from one direction.
  • If your opponent is about to open your guard, you should open it first. That way you can create an angle and give yourself an advantage, instead of allowing him to gain the advantage.
  • When in the guard, don’t use your arms to push and create space. Instead, move your body by pushing through your hips.
  • Focus on developing your open guard before your closed guard. Closed guard is great at preventing guard passes, but it slows your progression. With open guard, you expose yourself more, but you also have many more options.
  • Everyone should have at least one go-to guard. The guard you prefer will depend on your flexibility, athleticism, and body type.
  • You should feel comfortable in your favorite guard.
  • Rafael Lovato Jr is a great case study for effective use of the guard. His guard is hard to pass, and he has deadly sweeps and submissions from the guard.
  • Your legs have no power if you can’t move your hips. And if you can’t move your hips, you cannot create angles. Pushing with your arms disables the use of your hips. So, to develop a good guard, limit yourself to focus on using your hip.
  • Try training with both hands on your belt. This will train you to flow between different guards and develop fluid motions without the use of your hands. Hands are primarily for attacking, not defending.
  • From the guard, control distance. Keep your opponent at range so you can off-balance, sweep, or attack them.
  • Your legs are the barriers in keeping your guard, so don’t let your opponent pass them.
triangle choke on grappling smarty XL

Working on my close guard and triangle on the Grappling SMARTY

The Brown Belt’s Mission: Passing The Guard

  • After learning the guard, the brown belt has the tools to understand the guard — and therefore begins to master guard passing. When you know a position, you are able to deconstruct and attack that position.
  • As the guard passer, you want to leverage gravity and your weight onto the bottom player, disallowing them to hold you. This will help you pass their guard.
  • Survival, escaping, and submissions also play into guard passing.
    • Survival in the context of guard passing is about using posture and angle to thwart submissions.
    • Escaping in the context of passing means escaping sweeps and submissions so you can get back to survival.
    • Submitting in the context of passing is about passing with complete control, and setting you up for the kill.
  • Guard passing is first preventative — you must prevent the bottom player from establishing the guard they want.
  • Tournaments and competition reward the more aggressive, sharp, and fast player. There is less time to relax and get comfortable in your guard.
  • As the top player, focus on dictating the pace, opening the guard, and controlling them. This will enable you to pass.
  • To develop your guard passing skills, ask the bottom player to limit their options from the guard. It will be difficult for you to develop your guard if you’re worried about all types of sweeps and submissions from bottom.
guard passing on grappling smarty 2 XL

Practicing guard passing on my Grappling SMARTY XL

The Black Belt’s Focus: Submissions

  • As a black belt who’s skilled in all other aspects of jiu-jitsu, your final area to master is submissions. At black belt, you’ll learn to flow between submissions and direct your opponent into your submission of choice.
  • In the academy, you are not there to abuse the lower belts. You are there to pass your knowledge to them, and to bring them along the journey.
  • Tapping is a great way to prevent injuries. It’s better to tap and continue to train than to not tap, get injured, and be forced to stay off the mats.
  • When building your submission game, don’t hold the position, feel it. This will enable you to flow and dance from submission to submission.
  • Submissions are where strength becomes important because you must use your ability to squeeze and contract your muscles.
  • To get better at submissions, don’t hold down your training partners. Instead, use their movement to set up submissions.
  • Mastering submissions is all about the small details. Some require speed, some require aggression. Study the minute details of the finishing mechanics for each submission.
  • Submissions are often what people like to learn the most, however, they are a relatively small portion of jiu-jitsu.

Trapping the leg to complete the rear naked choke on my Grappling SMARTY

Takeaway Thoughts & Discussion

So there you have it — my Jiu-Jitsu University summary.

What’s YOUR most important takeaway from the book? How did it impact your game?

Leave your comments or questions in the comment selection below.

Happy rolling. 🤙


tsavo neal bjjequipment.com

Tsavo Neal

Tsavo is the founder of BJJ Equipment, an assistant BJJ instructor at InFighting, and a BJJ purple belt. He's a passionate hobbyist and BJJ gear/equipment aficionado. He launched BJJ Equipment in 2022 to make it easy for grapplers to find the best BJJ gear so they look, feel, and perform at their best on the mats.

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