Check The Technique w/ Brent CUO: “All You Need Is Three Moves”


I only think of three moves during sparring – no more, no less. Every move I make is a step towards one of those three moves. I spend little if any time in positions where I can’t execute one of these moves, and if I am forced into a no man’s land where my moves are ineffective, then I immediately plot a course back towards on of them. At a minimum, I try to keep myself one to two steps away from execution of these moves at all times, and at a maximum, I never get more than three steps away from them. I am like a heat seeking missile that has three targets. So, these statements beg the question, “Why would someone do this?”.

Well, first, after watching years of footage of the greatest bjj players on the planet, I noticed that for the most part they hit the same submissions or sweeps over and over again. One only needs to watch a Marcelo x-guard highlight to understand that. Thus, after noticing such a fact, I hypothesized that a competitor’s ability to win has little to do with the size of his arsenal and more to do with the effectiveness of the few weapons he has. So, why practice with fifty different guns that I won’t use? Why not practice with three guns that I can master? Thus, I chose my sniper rifle, my shot gun, and my sidearm, and I began working on becoming a crack-shot with each, just like all of the top level guys did.

The second reason I chose this way of training was that I noticed that the better the player I rolled with, the more that he had me reacting, and I did not want to do that anymore. When rolling with the top level black belts, I was constantly trying to weather the storms while never getting to execute my game. In short, I was losing in my mind and on the mats. Therefore, I looked to create a methodology whereby I was never reacting and was always imposing so that I could get back to winning. That methodology was picking my three moves and finding entrances to them from every offensive and defensive position. In that way, no matter what horrid position I was in, I still could operate under the impression that I was actually the person on the offensive. Now, I know that this could sound delusional, but this mentalization has actually given me the energy to keep moving when I was in the worst of predicaments.

Finally, the third reason that I chose this method was that I always wanted to stay focused during a match. Sometimes, when I was rolling with a top level grappler, I would find my mind shuffling through moves. Meanwhile, my opponent was moving into different positions where I had to add new movements into the shuffle. This kept me out of focus and away from winning. So, instead of continuing to stay in this cluttered head space, I found a way to get rid of the waste and hold onto only the necessary moves. I threw away everything but the thought of how I could execute on of my three moves. I cleared out the playlist and left only three songs remaining. In this way, I discovered a trick to bring my mind back into focus and back towards winning.

Now, I know that for most people, they do not have the years of experience which has allowed me to find my perfect three moves. However, even for those people this methodology is still practical. The only thing that will change over the weeks or months is that they may want to swap out different weapons until they find their perfect arsenal. At least, this way one will be able to work towards a goal instead of swimming aimlessly through useless malarkey.

words by Brent CUO

26 responses to “Check The Technique w/ Brent CUO: “All You Need Is Three Moves””

  1. Ari Bolden says:

    Now this is a VERY interesting way at looking at grappling. There are 2 schools of thought:

    1) Brent’s basic principle. Basic’s win fights and keep your system simple while rolling. It is a tried and true method as he points out.

    2)More tools in the tool box to attack (or defend). If you find yourself in deep waters (or no man’s land), you may look and see that it is a very long way back. You may want (or need) to use a technique that is closer and not one of the 3 moves he suggested.

    In short-I don’t think there is a wrong way to grapple. It is a solid game plan (and skill set) that will get you through a match. If that is the 3 move method or a large tool box-it doesn’t matter.

    Play to your strengths.

    On a side note: What are everyone’s opinion on just try to stalemate an opponent? Not actively going for anything but rather not getting tapped or giving anything up to a superior grappler (if possible).

  2. Brent has a great view and grappling game plan. I like his thoughts. I was taught many years ago to specialize and have a Plan B.

    I like to have strong points on opposite sides of the grappling table. For example, triangles…its a lower body sub to your opponents upper body. My favorite is chokes, an upper body sub to an upper body and 2nd in command…leg locks, an upper body sub to opponents lower body. That way one can switch easily off of a defense from an opponent and turn it back to a strong weapon. It also helps when arms are gassed to go to a different sub like the triangle….
    ARI…superior grappler or not…attack!!! How can you catch a superior guy if you don’t? One of my students says it best…”im gonna train a couple moves to where i am black belt at those 2 moves even though i am a blue, then maybe I can get a black belt with those 2 moves!”
    or…you can be a GSP grappler and be a very well rounded grappler who is good at all aspects of the game.

  3. Gabriel Shapiro says:

    Great article by Brent. However, as a blue belt I can’t really see myself taking this approach. One of the things that keeps me interested in jits is constantly trying out new shit. It’s true that, as a result, I “know 10,000 moves and suck at everyone one of them,” but, fuck, it’s more interesting for me to just fuck around w/ a few new moves every couple weeks than to repeat a few over and over and over until I’m a crackshot at them. But I’m willing to take Brent’s word for it that to operate on a high level I’ll eventually have to winnow it down and really specialize, so I look forward to getting on Ritalin in a couple years and ceasing to be a dilettante.

  4. ian says:

    “jack of all trades, master of none. master a few, and jack everyone…” – ?

    “I always try to attack. While I’m on the offensive, my opponent can think of nothing but defending, that is, I’m protected.” – marcelo garcia

    “the more you attack, the more your opponent will make mistakes. the more you attack, the more he wil have to defend. you shouldn’t be defending all the time. anytime you defend, you are losing the fight. losing time to attack.” – marcelo garcia

  5. Lo Fucking Pan says:

    1. Vice Grip to D’arce/Peruvian D’arce
    2. X-Guard to kneebar/heel hook
    3. Putting my knee in your taint until you cry

    That’s it. That’s all I have. I’ve just shared my secrets with the world. Now, I dare the world to stop me!!!!!

  6. Erik says:

    I mean, I think everyone has to prioritize their game, but have aims for each position.

    You have to have a submission or sweep gameplan for guard and half guard. You’ve also gotta have a gameplan for passing guard. Then you’ve gotta have a position offensive gameplan whether it’s getting the back, twister, mount, or side control.

    As I reached purple belt I realized I needed to whittle down my game to fewer, higher % moves, but I have trouble grappling with the concept that I would narrow the game to 3 moves.

    Also, Ari, a stalemate is frustrating and gives doubt to the person who is active and yields no glory to the person forcing the stalemate.

  7. Ari Bolden says:

    All good points. Master Eddie said:

    “When you roll with weaker opponents, work your attacks. When you roll with guys better than you, work you defense.”

    But like in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained right?

    I could start a huge thread on this topic…actually, I think I will on our forum…nice to see where this goes.

    cheers fellas!

  8. I respect Brent as a coach and I agree that you have to have your A+ game down. You have to master 3(->few->some->all) techniques. Personally I feel I don’t wanna recommend a not so experienced grappler to focus on a few techniques. It may be different when you grappled for 10000 hours. I find it hard to go “back”. During my last stay in Thailand I wrote down my “A Game” as a flow chart. I tried to stick to it all the time I’d been there. Sometimes it’s really hard, because possibilities for a technique from your “B Game” just present themselves so nice. It’s like a dreamlike, gorgeous woman you can have some fun with, but you know that your wife is waiting with dinner at home. You just have to find out if you’re abiding or a butterfly.

  9. Chris Herzog says:

    “On a side note: What are everyone’s opinion on just try to stalemate an opponent? Not actively going for anything but rather not getting tapped or giving anything up to a superior grappler (if possible).”

    I don’t believe in trying to stalemate. My Partner’s boxing coach used to say “You’ll never knockout anyone by not throwing punches”, same applies for Jiu Jitsu, its hard to submit someone by not going for submissions.

    However that doesn’t mean to recklessly continue to attack without plan or method. Economy of motion is huge. Every movement should should be the means to an end.

    Great article Brent.

  10. Ian says:

    I totally agree that it is good to have a small *consistent* repertoire.

    These are moves that you learn to perfect, and you also, over time, can start catching them from far off, and unorthodox positions. You keep working on them so they only get better.

    And in the years to come, they will continue to improve. Soon, you will start catching them from the weirdest angles, and/or alternative set ups. And if you keep well chosen moves in your arsonol, they can only get better.

    But, it is important to know what works for you, rather than working overtime to get down a fancy move you notice from afar. It is better to go with what works for your body type and/or instincts, rather than drilling and straining for techniques that don’t work naturally for your body type.

    For example, while rolling you always find many angles for taking the back. This is how your style naturally responds, and this is what you should put in your ‘priority repertoire’.

    Same goes if when you sweep, you always end up with your opponents legs dangle such a way begging to be leg locked, for example.

    The point is don’t force yourself to learn moves that you like by sight, moves you see others doing, but you yourself have to drill like a biatch to get down — moves that are damn difficult for you to get. If your style naturally ‘gravitates’ to certain subs, sweeps, attacks, make a note of those and find ways to improve those area.

    The funny thing is you see guys working on a whole new game plan, and have moved away from what there where doing last year. The sad thing is a lot of the stuff they were doing last year, they don’t remember that well, or those areas are still semi-sloppy. The sadder part is they will be working on a whole new game next year, while moving away from the game they have this year.

    If you want a good example of a consistent game plan, look to guys like Roger Gracie.
    He makes what are seemingly white belt techniques worked against the highest level black belts.

    Stay consistent, cause if you try to learn everything, some really good things you got 6 months ago will still be sloppy as hell, while other will continue to improve on areas you neglect.

    Techniques are like a wife: Nuture, appreciate, and work on them, and they will be there for you in the most difficult challenges.

  11. Ian says:

    BTW… ummmm, forum?

  12. ian says:

    ^ who is this imposter?

  13. Sky says:

    what i do is i base my style off of submissions that i’m good with (but really, who doesn’t?), and i hope to eventually have more but right now i only have 2 that are money for me since i just started training, which are the omoplata and triangle.

    i drill the triangle and omoplata from a guard pass, from mount, from side control, i drill the move from as many places as possible so that no matter what, i’ve got a choke, sweep and lock that i’ve got from anywhere my opponent could put me in except maybe taking my back.

    i also drill fun moves but i have a seperate time dedicated to drilling my best moves so that they are always sharp, while at the same time i can look for other submissions that work well and if i catch myself using them often, i work with them and try to master them everywhere.

    so that way i can have my cake and eat it too

  14. Ian says:

    Nice to meet you Ian.. 🙂

  15. Noah says:

    I like to use this to help teach my students to relax and just fight theyre fight.

    Too many of them try to get fancy and end up getting caught and losing bc they passed over that armbar in order to try to hit something more flashy.

    Its a good way to start at least. In my humble opinion.

  16. Royler Gracie says:

    So, Brent, what moves are this 3 brodinho…?

  17. Lo Fucking Pan says:

    I can’t stomach the idea of another Ian.

  18. Ian says:

    I can’t stomach the idea of another Royler Gracie… 🙂

    Lo, is that a Chinese name? :O

  19. Ari Bolden says:

    Mr. David Lo Pan…godfather of little china and chairman of the Wing Kong exchange. Ask Jack Burton, he knows all about it 😉

  20. Jason Eisner says:

    Great article Brent.

  21. Eddie Bravo says:

    Three moves only?!?! What a terrible game plan. You are hereby demoted back to Purple Belt.