The principle of localized force

The principle of localized force: The central feature of jiu jitsu is to use mechanical advantage to control greater strength and aggression with less. How is this possible? It is done largely through the principle of localized force. Let's say we have an opponent who can apply an average of one hundred units of strength in standard strength tests while we can only generate 50 units of strength. As a whole, he is roughly twice as strong as us overall. How is victory through grappling possible in such a case? The key is to understand that it is possible to use a very high percentage of our overall strength to attack a small percentage of my opponents overall strength at a point of his body which, if attacked successfully, will end his ability to continue the fight. If I can use the various movements of jiu jitsu to maneuver into a position where I can create a temporary LOCAL strength advantage at a critical point of my opponents body (neck or joints), I can overcome an OVERALL strength disadvantage. The whole basis of our sport is precisely to develop the skill of maneuvering into these local advantages as efficiently as possible and using that to create a threat to a critical but vulnerable body part in a way that leads to submission. A good example would be ashi garami, where a very high percentage of our overall strength - both legs, both hips, back and both arms are used to restrain an opponent's single leg and hip in a way that allows us to threaten severe damage. If a good ashi garami allows us to use 90% of our 50 units of strength against an opponent's single leg, 33% of his 100 units of strength, then we shall have a considerable local strength advantage on an opponent twice as strong as ourselves overall. This is one of the core principles of our sport and one which we must constantly keep in mind as we train and develop. Here, Gordon Ryan uses a high percentage of his total strength on the isolated leg of his opponent through a variation of ashi garami, creating a local advantage long enough to threaten a break and get a submission on his way to victory at EBI 8

Banning moves

Banning moves: Jiu jitsu is a contact sport based around the skills of breaking joints and strangulation - as such injury is inevitable at some point. Nonetheless I believe there are certain movements in our sport that are unacceptably dangerous and which do very little to enhance the desired skills of the sport. In my experience, the most hazardous movements in jiu jitsu are not the joint locks and strangles, these usually cause no injury among responsible athletes and even when used recklessly, rarely do catastrophic damage. Far more dangerous is UNCONTROLLED FALLING BODYWEIGHT. This is often the result of throws from standing position where people try to resist the throw and land poorly. Sometimes it is the result of a poor throwing attempt that results in one athlete sitting on the outstretched leg of his opponent and crushing the knee or ankle. The worst offender however, is the most common and the most preventable - the common practice of people jumping to closed guard and landing on the opponents hips, knees or ankles with their entire weight and momentum. Thankfully this dreadful practice has been banned at white belt belt level after years of unnecessary injury. It is time to extend the ban to all belt levels and training. I banned the practice entirely in all my classes many years ago after witnessing many terrible injuries. It is a worthless practice that teaches no worthwhile combat skills and has only (very) bad consequences with no redeeming features (unlike flying submissions which do teach valuable skills). We should enforce a rule that if an athlete wishes to pull guard they must make contact with their buttocks or back on the mat rather than their opponent. It is comical to see a sport where knee reaping is illegal, but the act of jumping guard, which has ruined more careers than all the joint locks and knee reaps put together, is perfectly legal for upper belts. A good closed guard should be feared as Roger Gracie's was - for its fine tactics and technique - not the injurious clumsiness of it jumping entry. The sport needs to ban this dangerous movement that does nothing to promote the skills of the sport and does much to reduce its safety

The indirect path

The indirect path: We work in a sport where we are actively trying to defeat someone who is actively trying to defeat us. This almost always creates a mindset in both athletes to go as fast and directly as possible to their respective goals. The problem is that both athletes usually have a good idea of what the goals of the other are. As a result, we run into a wall of defense and get shut out. Often you will get much better results if you employ an indirect path to your objectives - here is a general rule which I work hard to instill in all my students, the law of direction - the more sophisticated and knowledgeable your opponent, the more you will be required to choose the indirect route to your real objectives - The less sophisticated and knowledgeable your opponent, the simpler and more direct your attacks should be. Only when your real intent is masked behind fakery and deception will you pass through the defenses of an astute opponent. Now reading and saying this is easy; but performing in this manner whilst being vigorously attacked by a dangerous opponent is quite another. Very few people ever achieve the nerve, subtlety and patience to carry it out in a combative situation. If you can however, the rewards can be tremendous, as creating confusion and misdirection will make it far easier to execute your favorite moves in the heat of competition. Of all my students, none surpassed the subtlety, patience and indirectness of Georges St-Pierre in the set ups to his favorite move - the double leg takedown. People usually remember and admire his strong driving finish to the double leg. Very few ever comprehended the subtle indirect set ups that enabled him to get to that move on all comers for over over a decade. Here, Mr St-Pierre gives one of his strongest rivals, Josh Koscheck, multi time NCAA wrestling champion, some serious air time in the second match in Montreal.

All or nothing

All or nothing: An interesting element of jiu jitsu and of submission holds in particular, is their all or nothing character. They either work 100% and end the match, or they don't work at all. If you show me a man who knows 95% of what is required to complete a juji gatame arm lock, I will show you a man who has never submitted anyone with that move. As such, there is, perhaps to a greater degree than any other aspect of our sport, a need for exactitude and precision. There is nothing more heartbreaking than getting very close to a submission and then losing it in the last stage. Not only is it psychologically damaging, it is usually physically exhausting, as most submission holds require considerable amounts of isometric strength in execution. Students have to learn through experience to walk a fine line between working hard to successfully finish a submission versus abandoning one to save energy and switch to another option. We are engaged in a sport where a failed submission has no more worth than a punch that missed. As such our execution must be perfect down to the smallest details or, if not, it must be followed by another movement that justifies the energy expenditure of the first submission attempt. Nowhere else in our sport is greater knowledge and precision required in the placement of fulcrum and lever - small mistakes can have deep consequences here. At the ADCC world champions, Garry Tonon took the attack to his much larger rival, Vinny Margalhaes, an extremely talented ADCC champion, in the open weight division. The expression on Mr Magalhaes face shows that he is close, but despite several determined attempts, was ultimately unsuccessful. It takes great self belief to choose the path of submission - failure almost guarantees losing in points based tournaments - but success brings the deepest feelings of satisfaction our sport offers. Photo by Tiago Molinos

The basis of confidence

The basis of confidence: Often I am asked how it is that my students play such a confident attacking game. They appear to attack without regard for the risks of failure. Many people voice to me a commonly felt fear that if they attempt submissions and fail, they will lose positional control and be defeated. This is a sensible fear. All offense, especially submission offense, carries inherent risk within it. If it should fail, there is often a price to be paid, as it can lead to positional loss or even being strongly countered by submissions. This is why I always teach escape as the foundation of a strong offense. If a student truly believes in the effectiveness of his escapes, both from pins and submissions, he will have no fear of failure in his offense. On the other hand, if a student knows his escape skills are weak, he will always hold back on his offense in a high pressure situation, no matter how technically proficient his offense may be, his inner doubts will stop him from pulling the trigger, even when he has all the physical tools and tactical opportunity in his favor. Escape work is thus a huge part of our training - ironic for a squad known primarily for submission offense. Let this be one of your training principles: confidence in your offense rests upon an unshakeable belief in your defense. The skills of jiu jitsu are evenly divided into offense and defense. They are not opposite ends of the game, but rather work in unison, as yin and yang, to create a confident proactive game that is a pleasure to behold and a terror to face. Here I put Gordon Ryan through his defensive drills with Garry Tonon shortly before his superfight with the great Keenan Cornelius - where his defensive skills would be strongly tested before his eventual victory.

Everything begins with grip

Everything begins with grip: In all the grappling arts, every engagement, whether in training or competition, begins with grip. When I first grapple a stranger I can tell in the first few seconds all I need to know about his skill level by the manner in which he grips me. Sadly, gripping is usually taught as an attribute rather than a skill. It is usually understood in terms of strength and so usually trained in the same way. Most people think that increasing the strength of their grip will improve their gripping. Whilst this may have some small benefit, it will be insignificant compared with the gains possible by training it as a skill. Precise placement allied with a tactical sense of what you wish to achieve with the grip you are fighting for is the backbone of gripping skill. Often visitors to the academy are shocked at the gripping skills of my best students and claim they are extraordinarily strong, then when they see those same students do strength training they are shocked to see they have very modest strength. They failed to see the technical precision which creates the illusion of great strength. Here Gordon Ryan and Garry Tonon go over gripping drills in standing position just prior to EBI 8

Getting the squad back together

Getting the squad back together: I have been running away from crocodiles and snakes in Australia, Mr Cummings has been living grappling samurai fantasy in Japan, Gordon And Nicky Ryan have been California cruising and Mr Tonon has been trying to push people in some grappling matches with crazy rules in Florida. Now it's time to get serious about training again in good old NYC! Can't wait to get back to Old Glory! Does our great country have problems? Yep. Are we perfect? Hell no. But still would not live anywhere else The greatest" does not imply perfection. America is a work in progress. Our founding fathers gave us a tremendous starting vision

Teaching the teachers

Teaching the teachers: One of the more interesting facets of my job is the division between my usual task - improving sports performance of students; versus another, very different task - teaching coaches to improve the performance of their own students. The central concern of an athlete/student is his or her own skill enhancement. The central concern of a coach is the skill enhancement of others. As such, they are very different enterprises. Often I see people who are very strong in one area, struggle in the the other. Once the distinction is made we can begin to explain the often seen phenomenon of people who never excelled as athletes do well as coaches and vice versa. Some of the most admirable people in sports are those who conquered both realms. My own teacher, Renzo Gracie, had an outstanding career both as athlete and coach. In Judo, Jimmy Pedro is doing an outstanding job of transitioning from stellar athlete to coach. In wrestling Dan Gable, John Smith and Cael Sanderson are obvious examples of men who made the transition with enormous success. Here I work with the teaching staff of VT1 gym in Sydney Australia as they work hard to create a strong instructional program in the rapidly growing Australian jiu jitsu scene.

Elvis sighting

Elvis sighting: Teaching leg locks at the Sydney Australia school of early MMA era standout, Elvis Sinosic. So much fun to teach at the school of an athlete I used to watch in UFC shows when the game was young and wild! It was an interesting chance to reflect upon the many changes in our beloved sport and the different directions it has taken since those early days. It was also fascinating to watch how easy it is for someone well trained in classic BJJ to learn and incorporate our leg lock system into their game when its main structure is explained to them.

Working against skilled resistance

Working against skilled resistance: The true measure of competence in the application of any given jiu jitsu move is not whether you know how to perform it per se; but whether you can perform it against skilled and knowledgeable resistance and counters. At this stage, everyone knows my students have strong leg locks. When they go out to compete, their opponents have done much research and deeply practiced countering the expected leg attacks. Yet in the vast majority of cases, my students break through the resistance and get to their submission hold. So many times I meet people who think it is enough to know how to perform the move in basic drill form, and from this erroneously believe they have a working knowledge of the move. The rubric we work with cannot be I can perform the move