What Goldilocks Can Teach Us About Applying Pressure in BJJ

Now that I have a few years of training under my belt I find myself in the position of answering a lot of questions from new white belts. What’s funny is that a lot of the questions I hear are the same ones I had when I started, including how tight you want to be for different techniques.

The problem is that we all know that there is a sweet spot. You don’t want to be a limp pressure 2noodle but you also don’t want to be as tight as a vice grip all the time either.

Usually it takes a lot of time and practice to get a real feel for it but to help explain this concept to people I came up with something I call Goldilocks Pressure.

Now, you remember Goldilocks, right? She went on a rampage through some poor bears’ house and ended up causing a mess for them.

But in the process she had to find what was just right for her.

Some stuff was too much, some stuff wasn’t enough and some stuff was just right.

And the same thing applies to the pressure you use on the mats.

Too loose and your opponent can easily make space and use it to their advantage.

Too tight and your opponent can use it against you, easily manipulating you through your own tension. Plus, you gas out a lot faster.

But when you get it somewhere in the middle you end up “just right”. Your opponent can’t make space but you can still react to their movement and not end up being controlled somehow.

This concept works in almost every position but for most people starting out it is especially helpful for Bottom Closed Guard and Top Side Control. Knowing how to apply the Goldilocks Pressure concept to these two position will really help speed up your understanding of how to properly control people in them, which is the first step towards being able to finish them off.

And remember too that while rolling and drilling are the best ways to learn this concept, strength and mobility training can speed things up a lot as well.

For example, using Rep Ladders – where you go from a light to medium to heavy weight with an exercise while keeping the reps the same – forces you to learn how to apply different amounts of force to different movement patterns.

The reason is that while you want to move the same way, you can’t apply the same force to lift 100 pounds that you would to lift 200 pounds. You have to find the force that is “just right” to lift the weight and getting a feel for this when lifting can help with your feel for it on the mats.

Mobility work helps by allowing you to get into better, more balanced positions on the mat and helps with your general body awareness. If you are stiff and don’t really know where your body is in space you’ll have a lot harder time figuring out the right way to apply Goldilocks Pressure your opponent.

So next time your rolling ask yourself WWGD – What would Goldilocks do? Well, maybe you don’t want to break into someone’s house and then run away.

But at least think about finding the pressure and tension that is “just right” at that moment for that technique. Once you start doing that you’ll find your techniques can flow and you can control your opponent a lot easier, which is when BJJ starts to get really fun.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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