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How to Use Frames, Structures and Levers in BJJ

First of all, what are the frames and structures in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ)?

Building frames and structures are referred to, when you create a so-called “frame” or “structure” out of your hands and legs. Frames are a very energy-efficient way to keep distance to your opponent while they drain their energy trying to break it.

Levers, on the other hand, are a more offensive way of fighting, whereas creating frames is more defensive. Levers are referred to when using your opponent’s joints against them. Armbar, for example, is a great usage of leverage.

This is highly related to a post, where we go through how much height matters in BJJ. In short, longer limbs make it easier to apply force via the levers discussed in this post.

Why are frames and structures so effective in BJJ?

The efficiency of frames and structures is that you build a frame, that you can maintain with very little power and energy. This is a very energy-efficient way of fighting, while your opponent is draining their energy trying to fight against your frame.

You use your bones to build structures that will be very difficult for your opponent to break down. They are more of a defense mechanism, rather than an offensive technique. You will go into a structured mode, where your opponent can not break your frame. Wait until they drain their energy, then move into offense and finish the fight.

Using framing against white belts should almost be illegal. They will drain all their energy trying to break your frame, without knowing that is exactly the point of framing.

Framing works well against bigger opponents as well. It works especially well if your opponent doesn’t know about framing and building structures but will drain all their energy trying to break your frame.

This is one reason why it is said that BJJ is effective against bigger opponents. Framing allows you to keep a distance between yourself and your opponent in a very energy-efficient way. You can use most of the parts of your body to create frames and structures. A great video I found on YouTube will go through examples of different frames as well as how they work in video form below.

Why are levers so effective in BJJ?

Levers are one of the main concepts of BJJ. Using levers allows you to defeat larger opponents with minimal energy usage. As I mentioned before, armbars, kneebars, or leglocks are the most common ways you can use leverage in BJJ.

Using leverage, like using frames, requires a minimal amount of energy and force. No matter how exhausted you are, you always have enough strength to use leverage and finish the fight, if you have the chance to.

Levers can be slightly more complicated compared to frames. When building frames, you can kind of see what is working and what is not and learn them that way. Using levers, you need to have some knowledge about different joints in the human body and how to use them to your advantage.

When you learn to use joints in an offensive way, you also know what to avoid on the mats. When you progress and learn new techniques, you will also learn to avoid them and see when your opponent is trying to use them against you.

How to use frames and leverages in a fight

Using frames and leverage in a fight could be put into two steps. First, you use framing and structures to drain some energy from your opponent. This can take some time, depending on how good of a shape they are in.

After you see they are getting exhausted, you can use that to your advantage, since you have barely broken a sweat. They are exhausted and slower, so they will react slower and you can even bait them into positions you wish to end the fight with using leverage, with an armbar or leglock for example.

You don’t always have to wait for your opponent to get tired. Use frames and let them make mistakes. When you see them making a mistake, no matter how early, use that to your advantage.

Building frames is a great way to buy you some time to think about your next move, while also draining your opponent’s energy. More about why BJJ is so effective in this post.

Final thoughts

Learning and mastering the usage of frames and levers is a great way to improve your BJJ while making your fighting more energy efficient. Frames and levers are also the parts of BJJ that make it efficient against bigger opponents.

If at your gym, your instructor does not teach a lot about framing, you can learn them by yourself. Watch the videos from youtube of different uses of leverage and try them out on the mat. In my BJJ gym, frames were barely talked about. They are an essential part of the effectiveness of BJJ, so it is important to learn them one way or another.

Other BJJ-related posts can be found here.

Hopefully this was helpful to you, have a nice day.


What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting. This means it focuses on taking the fight to the ground and finishing the fight with joint locks or chokeholds. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed around 1920’s, and was modified from judo. Nowadays, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an essential martial art for MMA.

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