How Monopoly Can Teach Us About "Value" in BJJ
Hello everyone. I am hard at work compiling data for a large new study, but it’s time consuming work. In the interim, I’m doing some writing about concepts in game theory, starting with this one.
What is value and who cares?
“Value” is a concept from game theory dealing with the idea of getting more than what you pay for. If you buy a stock for pennies on the dollar, and it becomes a billion dollar company, you extracted high value.
Value can be set by the game, the players, or both. In the stock market, value is set by the players. In the game of Jeopardy, the value of a question is static and never changes. It’s set by the game. In sports betting, the values are set by the bookies (the game), but the lines shift based on the other players.
In many games, a core objective is to find things that are undervalued and purchase them. If you read the book or saw the film “Moneyball” you learned that a group of talented baseball managers found a superior way to judge the value of players. They purchased suspected undervalued players and went on to a historic win streak. Until the other managers adopted the same methods.
The Monopoly Example
The game of Monopoly is more like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training than you think. In Monopoly, players spend a resource (Monopoly money) to acquire properties. The price of these properties is initially set by the game itself. Boardwalk, for example, is always $400. The most expensive property.
You extract value from properties when players land on them and pay you money. The more players land on them, the more money you make. If you make your initial investment back, the purchase is considered valuable.
People eventually figured out that players are most likely to land on orange and red properties. Ironically, Boardwalk was the least landed on according to one study.
So orange and red properties should be the most expensive in the game, but they are not. They were undervalued by the game makers.
The BJJ Monopoly board
Now think of your BJJ training as a monopoly board. Imagine that a week of training is a trip around the board. Like in Monopoly, you have a finite set of resources to spend. Instead of Monopoly money, it’s your time energy. Every property you land on is an aspect of training you could devote resources to. One property is the half guard, another is a single leg takedown, whatever, make it up.
Are you spending your money wisely? Are you simply buying every property you land on, aka learning whatever happens to be being taught in class that night? Most importantly, are you focusing on the positions that other players will land on most often?
Finding the mis-values
Ten years ago, there was more or less a consensus in BJJ that leglocks were not especially high percentage. They were thought of in the same category as wrist locks: useful under the right circumstances but not enough to base an whole game plan on.
This was wrong. Leglocks were actually undervalued, and the first group of competitors to understand this experienced fantastic success. What are some of the other undervalued areas of BJJ? We’re working compiling some specific numbers for blue belts, but here’s some of the things we’ve learned from our white belt series:
Sweeps are far more successful than submissions from the bottom. Bottom submissions succeed only 16% of the time and in 47% of failures the player loses their position.
Sacrifice throws are high percentage, 56% of them where successful, 25% more than the average
Double leg takedowns and collar chokes from the bottom are very low percentage and may be overvalued (if they are over-emphsized in training) at the white belt level.
Focus your training by identifying techniques and areas that may be undervalued. If you become an expert in something overlooked by others, you will perform far better than your peers.
Stop sinking time into areas that are overvalued, especially if they are overvalued by everyone else.