The Triangle Concept: The Three Principals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The triangle is omnipresent in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Many canonical gyms in the Gracie lineage and others use the triangle in their logo, one of the most well known chokes employs a triangular shape to strangle one’s opponent, or the structural strength of the triangular shape… The list goes on.

Recently, I have been percolating on another possible interpretation of the ever-present Triangle in Jiu-jitsu. In my mind I imagined a triangle; where the three points reflected Three Core Principals in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and indeed grappling as a whole. Those three principals were: Movement, Breathing and Technique. In this post, I will meditate on why I saw this trio of principals as the three main points of the triangle that is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

Renzo Gracie demonstrates the iconic Triangle Choke. Arguably one of the most technical submissions to apply, the Triangle requires the practitioner to arrange their limbs into a triangular shape to strangle an opponent, cutting off their flow of blood to the brain.

At the core of any martial art there are governing, or core, principals. Grappling arts, and consequentially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, make no allowance for impractical or irrelevant principals. The arts that fall under the umbrella of Grappling (wrestling, judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo and the like) have no time to foster inefficiency. This lead me to think in depth about this Trio of Principals and why they might be (arguably) the most crucial when learning or discussing the Grappling Arts.


This may seem obvious, however the principal of Movement is more than just moving our limbs.

Movement is key to staying alive. All living things, in some way or another, move; generating or responding to force. In the Grappling arts, we have to move and become efficient in specific movements and sequences. Repetition and drilling leads a practitioner to move with better timing and understand how to move more effectively to preserve energy.

Simply put; whether we train for sport or self defense, movement (and the mastery of movement) is tantamount to survival. Whether we do yoga, weight lifting, or any other exercise that supplements or helps to improve how we move, we are putting this principal into practice.


Everything living also breathes in some way. Not only is breathing important for our obvious survival, but it also runs deeper than that when it comes to martial arts or physical pursuits of any kind.

Our access to oxygen, or indeed our opponents’ ability to prevent our access to this resource, can dictate our ability to move, think and survive. Essentially, we can boil survival down to this simple sequence of fact; if you can breathe, you can think. If you can think, you can move. If you can move, you can apply technique. If you can apply technique, you can survive.

We see many high level practitioners in many different spheres of physical performance practicing this principal either explicitly or implicitly. Wim Hoff, sometimes better known as “The Ice-man” has been a hugely influential figure in the breathing movement. Martial Artists such as Rickson Gracie and his son, Kron Gracie, are well known for their focus on breathing techniques. High level Yogis all expound the benefits of controlled breathing techniques. The list goes on.

Across the highest pinnacles of physical achievement, almost all practitioners focus consciously on Breathing and understand the value of it as we pursue ever higher levels of physical mastery.


Last, but certainly not least in our Grappling Triumvirate, is technique. In Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, we commit endless hours to practicing and understanding technique.

For us to complete this interpretation, we need Technique. Without technique in grappling, we are useless. We may even be able to breathe and move, but if we cannot understand or apply technique, we are at the mercy of our opponent or attacker. Like a fish on a line, we can still move and breathe, but if we cannot understand how to remove ourselves from the hook, our efforts are useless to save us. We must understand technique in every aspect, just as we should movement and breathing.

I do not believe that any of these three principals can stand alone; they all rely on one another to create the triangle we need to succeed in the grappling arts.

I don’t believe in any way that I am close to mastering any of these three principals. In fact, I am beginning to think that mastery over these principals cannot in fact be achieved; but is instead a lifelong pursuit that holds as much value as the pursuit of any academic, professional or other sporting achievement.

Anyways, this are purely my interpretations and thoughts on the subject. I feel like I am merely beginning to scratch the surface of what it means to be a Martial Artist, and what the journey of one may entail.

I am only just starting to wonder whether this trio of principals- this Triangle– can help point us in the right direction and guide us down the path on our individual and collective journeys through our disciplines or arts.



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