Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro's Perspective on the "Jiu-Jitsu as Chess" Analogy

My old instructor, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, posted on the school's blog that he felt that jiu jitsu was more like paintball than a chess match. To summarize the post, which can be found here, Shaolin says that chess is more like "you move, then I move, then you move", while paintball is much more about pushing the pace, taking initiative, and attacking.

The chess analogy is so common in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that I'd never honestly thought about alternative ones. The chess one isn't really one that stuck in my mind either, but I never thought of any other analogy. While I don't think there is ever a truly complete analogy for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I think the paintball one is very accurate. Paintball requires strategy and there is rarely a time where you're just waiting; you're either hiding or attacking (at least from my one experience with paintball). You can't really defend in paintball like you do in jiu-jitsu, as your main defense is to avoid being shot, but in paintball I suppose avoidance should be your first line of defense in jiu jitsu anyway. Additionally, you shouldn't really wait for the other person to move in jiu jitsu before you attack; the idea is that you are constantly attacking for a submission, fighting for a better position, or defending so you can do one of the two former things.

It also reminded me of the atmosphere in Shaolin's academy. Shaolin has a great energy about him; his enthusiasm for learning and competition are infectious and he always encourages his students to push the pace appropriately. I definitely learned a lot about that aspect of jiu-jitsu while I trained there and it helped me "grow in" to my blue belt for sure!

I'd love to hear feedback on this one to whoever stumbles across this! And visit Shaolin's academy when you're in New York City, you won't regret it!


  1. I'm not a fan of pushing the pace: I much prefer my rolls to be like chess rather than paintball. That's also why I don't enjoy nogi very much, as it is much harder to slow things down than in gi.

    But yeah, the chess analogy does break down for various reasons, most obviously the one Shaolin pointed out at the top: in BJJ you're both moving at the same time, not taking it in turns. Playing several games of chess simultaneously, perhaps? ;)

    1. Thanks for responding. Haha I could see it as several games of chess in the sense that each person is trying to execute their own strategy, but the person needs to adjust as the other person attacks. But I do really like the paintball one!