Pressure vs Tension

In Jiu-Jitsu and/or grappling, there is phrase known as “Pressure Passing”. Pressure passing is the process of applying pressure at the appropriate angle at the right time on your opponent while passing their guard. Arguably, this specific type of passing can be executed on an opponent that is playing closed guard, open guard, butterfly guard, half guard and quarter guard. In Jiu-Jitsu; Tension would be akin to the pulling force of the lapel.As an example of varying pressures, a finger can be pressed against a wall without making any lasting impression; however, the same finger pushing a thumbtack can easily damage the wall. Although the force applied to the surface is the same, the thumbtack applies more pressure because the point concentrates that force into a smaller area. Thus, this example would be analogous to the shoulder “pressure” concentrated during a pressure pass. Another example of varying pressure would be the use of a knife. If we try to cut a fruit with the flat side, the force is distributed over a large area, and it will not cut. But if we use the edge, it will cut smoothly. The reason is that the flat side has a greater surface area (less pressure), and so it does not cut the fruit. When we take the thin side, the surface area is reduced, and so it cuts the fruit easily and quickly (concentrated pressure). These are examples of the practical application of pressure.

In physics, tension may be described as the pulling force transmitted axially by the means of a string, cable, chain, or similar one-dimensional continuous object, or by each end of a rod, truss member, or similar. Tension might also be described as the action-reaction pair of forces acting at each end of said elements. By Newton's Third Law, these are the same forces exerted on the ends of the string by the objects to which the ends are attached. A vibrating string vibrates with a set of frequencies that depend on the string's tension. These frequencies can be derived from Newton's laws of motion. Thus, think about the use of the lapel when it is being wrapped around the neck or arm as it creates the axle (pully) to easily manipulate that tension.

As nouns the difference between tension and pressure is that tension is the condition of being held in a state between two or more forces, which are acting in opposition to each other (i.e., lapel moves in Jiu-Jitsu) while pressure is a pressing force applied to a surface (i.e., pressure passing). As verbs the difference between tension and pressure is that tension is to place an object through tension, to pull or place strain on while pressure is to encourage or heavily exert force or influence.

With pressure (i.e., pressure passing) you are utilizing force directed into one specific area to cut through the defense of your opponent and pass their barrier or bubble. With tension (i.e., lapel control), you are utilizing an axle or a pulley type action where the motion is controlled through vibration and allows for the tension to be manipulated by the one in control, hence there could be slack. The vibration which initiates the motion is created by the snapping down motion of the lapel – just like snapping a towel when it is wet. Pressure passing is often linear and Lapel manipulation (tension) can be linear but works best when the motion is spiral.

Try this when you are practicing with the GI – see where you can create a pulley action with your opponent’s lapel to offset their range of motion? If you are reading this article and enjoyed it, then please extend me the honors of knowing you tested this technique while training. I also enjoy comparing notes and research.


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