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I've been looking for a semantic ontology defining the structure and varieties of attacks and defenses. Initially I'm looking for a very simple tree, something like:

    Lateral Evasion

etc. etc.

Does anyone know of any attempt to systematize information about a Martial art or generically about combat in this way?


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I wonder if other language-related Stack Exchange sites (maybe Linguistics or English) would be a better place to answer this. – Matt Chan Jan 22 '13 at 22:06
Why is taekwondo tagged in this question? – rjstreet Jan 23 '13 at 3:51
Because I know a little TKD, so most of the techniques I listed will be familiar to TKD practicioners (though I suspect most Martial Arts have their own versions of the named techniques). – AABoyles Jan 23 '13 at 18:51
I was looking for something similar a while back, but haven't found any. Good question! – rcheuk Feb 21 '13 at 20:52
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Mind Maps

The BJJ community is big on mind maps, which are close but not an exact match in your search for ontologies. For instance, Aesopian has this one:

enter image description here

This is not surprising, since the entire concept that set BJJ apart from judo was the idea of an inexorable flowchart:

  1. Takedown
  2. Pass guard
  3. Mount (using a broad definition of the term--not necessarily top mount, but also encompassing back mount, knee-on-belly, side control and so on)
  4. Choke, armbar, or strike without danger of counterstrikes


  1. Pull guard because we can't stop our opponent from taking us down
  2. Sweep to top
  3. Pass guard
  4. Mount
  5. Choke, armbar, or strike without danger of counterstrikes

The original vision now has many new spin-offs, but the underlying philosophy of having a gameplan has had a tremendous impact on jiu-jitsu mentality, as well as mixed martial arts strategies. Very few dispute the truth of the positional hierarchy, which when boiled down simply says it's better to be on top than on bottom.

Rickson was arguably the best in known history at implementing this plan. Here are his flowcharts:

enter image description here enter image description here

Mapping my BJJ journey has more (including Rickson's), but most are not very "complete", preferring instead to just explain the contents of a particular DVD. For example:

enter image description here

Other arts

In my opinion, striking arts do not lend themselves particularly to mind maps or ontologies. There are way too many options--essentially it would just be a catalogue of techniques repeated several times over. The style of judo I'm familiar with doesn't use that kind of approach either, though I've heard that Russian and other Eastern bloc judo and wrestling coaches emphasize "chained" strategies that are similar. For instance, they'll attack with a particular technique, knowing that the opponent can only reasonably counter with A, B, or C, and for each of those they will have a fully fleshed out response, all the way down the chain to victory.

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I was totally unaware of this (not a BJJ practitioner) - this is simply brilliant. – rjstreet Jan 22 '13 at 23:30
I don't know if this answers the question, but it's certainly valuable information. – Anon Jan 22 '13 at 23:34
@Trevoke Since I don't think there are ontologies in the sense that the OP is looking for, I decided that the closest relative would be a fine answer. But no, it definitely doesn't answer the question as stated. – Dave Liepmann Jan 22 '13 at 23:48
@DaveLiepmann do you think we could start one here as a community wiki? – Anon Jan 23 '13 at 19:06
@DaveLiepmann I am very impressed by your blog and all the mind maps you have created. A definite treasure. Thanks for sharing. – Akos Cz Oct 8 '13 at 7:39

I don't know of an existing ontology, but we can create one. Everyone should feel free to edit this to make it more complete. I have organized it with the headings (big and small) as well as lists as end nodes. I expect it will become cumbersome very quickly. Feel free to rearrange. (Perhaps the lists would be better off paragraphed instead of bulleted, for instance.)

I've used the OP's ontology as a starting point, and have added judo's throwing syllabus (in English) as a basis for additional techniques.



  • Jab
  • Cross
  • Hook
  • Uppercut
  • Hammerfist
  • Backfist

Open Handed Strikes

  • Ridge Hand
  • Spear Hand
  • Knife Hand
  • Palm Strike


  • Downward
  • Forward and upward
  • To the rear
  • Across the body


  • Front
  • Roundhouse
  • Side
  • Stomp
  • Straight knee
  • Side knee
  • Reverse Side/Back kick
  • Reverse Hook/Spin hook Kick
  • Hook kick
  • Crescent kick (in-out/out-in)

Defend strikes


  • Lead hand parry
  • Rear hand parry
  • Force-on-force block
  • Roll the shoulder
  • Cover up / shell


  • Retreat
  • Step laterally
  • Step in and crowd
  • Duck
  • Weave


Hip throws

  • Big hip throw
  • Shifting hip throw
  • Sweeping hip throw


  • Double leg
  • Single leg
  • High crotch

Leg throws

  • Big outside trip
  • Little outside trip
  • Big inside trip
  • Little inside trip
  • Turning inner-thigh reap (also a hip throw)

Hand throws

  • Shoulder throw
  • Drop shoulder throw
  • Body drop

Sacrifice throws

  • Captain Kirk
  • Lateral drop
  • Suplesse (belly-to-belly, belly-to-back)


  • Arm Lock
  • Wrist Lock
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Regarding the BJJ Ontology. I started putting one together a few months back. You can check it out through the WebProtoge project named BJJ - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at

It's very similar to what Dave Liepmann has put together in his mindmap. The BJJ Ontology I started is described in the OWL (Web Ontology Language). I pulled most of the terms off the web by google searches. I am hoping to expand the ontology in the coming months.

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