Variation: A common strand of thinking that I observe in coaches and athletes is the idea that there is a correct way of performing a given move and any deviation from that is a step in the wrong direction. This kind of sentiment works well in a beginners class where you are trying to give students a firm foundation upon which to take their first steps, but as you progress higher in the sport, there comes a realization that there is almost always more than one correct way of performing that move. Much more important than the move itself is the set of MECHANICAL PRINCIPLES that underly the move. BEGINNERS TRY TO STAY TRUE TO THE MOVE AS IT WAS SHOWN TO THEM, BUT EXPERTS TRY TO STAY TRUE TO THE UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE MOVE AND WORK FROM THERE. This allows them considerable leeway in their actual performance of any given move so that fascinating variations and improvisations can occur, but which still work in accordance with the essential mechanical foundations upon which the move is based. This sometimes has amusing consequences - you will see a beginner claiming a world champion is performing a move incorrectly because he is using a variation different from the one he was shown, but in truth, that champion is operating in accordance with the same over arching principles. Here kohai brown belt student, Stanley Rosa, an outstanding young instructor of Bronx Martial Art academy under my good friend Doug Pelinkovic, performs a fascinating variation of kimura into a powerful submission win over outstanding Pedro Sauer black belt David Porter at a recent grappling show. Unorthodox leg and hip positioning does not prevent him staying true to the critical features of a strong kimura attack as you can see from the impressive power he generates in very little time.

Reflections on my sensei

Reflections on my sensei: Innovation in jiu jitsu: My sensei, Renzo Gracie had a very broad repertoire of technique and always sought to add new moves to his arsenal. Like all jiu jitsu players however, he had his tokui-waza (favorite moves) that he would call upon in critical situations. There is no question that the move he is best known for is his arm in guillotine. It allowed him to prevail in two of the most defining moments of his career - against the much larger Sanae Kikuta in a 52 minute battle in Japan, and against the great Pat Militich. When I consider my sensei's version of the versatile guillotine strangle, I am always deeply impressed by its mechanical perfection and the smoothness and subtlety of his set ups. I believe the development of Mr Gracie's arm in guillotine can teach us much about the nature of innovation in an art where almost everything has been done by people before us. When Mr Gracie arrived in the US in 1995, he rarely used any form of guillotine and certainly did not have any arm in guillotine - so clearly it was not something he learned in Brazil with the rest of his jiu jitsu. Nor was he the first person to employ the arm in guillotine - the first time I saw it done was by Oleg Taktarov in UFC 6 in his first match with Steve Beneteau, and I am sure there are probably examples before that which I am not aware of. Nonetheless, in the mid 1990's, the arm in guillotine was rarely seen and certainly not a standard technique in the sport. As his professional career developed and more of his training time was spent in no gi training, Mr Gracie played with many ways to grip opponents in ways that allowed submissions and sweeps from bottom position. One of his favorites became the front headlock position. As he played with it he had some initial success from that position and thus began his investigation into the arm in guillotine. As months became years he built a game around the position, entries, control and finishes, that covered every possible reaction an opponent could make. MOST INNOVATION IN JIU JITSU IS NOT BEING THE FIRST, BUT IN ADVANCING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE IN WAYS THAT IMPROVE PERFORMANCE

Nice work Mr Sonnen

Nice work Mr Sonnen: Chael Sonnen is doing a good job with his fledgling grappling show and tonight put on an entertaining show that featured some very nice grappling action showcasing the area between MMA and grappling using EBI rules format to create fast paced matches with plenty of action. Squad members Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan were there. Mr Ryan took on Kentucky leg locking specialist Joe Baize. He told me prior to the match he would limit himself to guillotines and juji/sankaku (armbar/triangle) finishes. That is a very challenging way to enter a match - but he did it with a nicely applied juji out of sankaku control. Mr Tonon fought a tough match against his much larger opponent, Antonio Carlos Jr. All credit to Mr Carlos Jr. He hit a splendid flying sankaku and finished it in excellent fashion to win a fine victory. Sometimes fighting at the highest levels can be a topsy turvy experience - just last week, Gordon Ryan defeated Mr Carlos Jr via sankaku (a different variation) at Sapeteiro 6. When very talented athletes fight, just one little error or miscalculation can determine the result and so there can be total shifts in victories and losses within a week, as happened here - that's what makes the sport so interesting! Now the squad must go into training for more matches next weekend in California

Walking the walk

Walking the walk: Our team often talks about taking on bigger, stronger opponents to prove the efficacy of our methods. No one does this better than Garry Tonon. His opponent, IBJJF world champion and UFC standout, Antonio Carlos Jr, a man who has defeated Bernardo Faria, Leandro Lo and Romulo Barral on multiple occasions, including by submission, weighed in for tonight's event in Portland Mat 230 pounds. Garry Tonon weighed in heavier than usual - 170 pounds. This will be the biggest weight difference he has had to contend with since he fought Buchecha in ADCC when he had just been awarded his black belt. Adding to the difficulty is a big height advantage to Mr Carlos Jr. People can say whatever they want about Mr Tonon, but they can never criticize his willingness to back up his words with action and showcase the art against bigger opponents. In this last week he was matched against three men for tonight's event - Hector Lombard, Chael Sonnon and Mr Carlos Jr - each one far bigger and stronger and than him and each one bigger than the one before him. The first two had to pull out, leaving the biggest and best qualified. No one his own size would accept the match, but Mr Tonon as always accepted whoever he was offered. He and Gordon Ryan have trained very well - now it's on to the stage - this time a cage - and under the lights

To the winner go the spoils

To the winner go the spoils: Kohai student Jonathan JC" Calestine put on his best competition display yet today

There's no business like show business

There's no business like show business: Tomorrow night in Portland Oregon, MMA's greatest showman, Chael Sonnen will run the show at Submission Underground - but the squad will look to be the ones putting on the show Garry Tonon takes on Brazilian jiu jitsu and MMA standout, Antonio Carlos Jr - a powerful athlete far bigger and stronger than himself who has beaten some of the biggest names in IBJJf competition and who brings a very exciting set of submission skills. Gordon Ryan takes on Kentucky Leg lock specialist Joe Baize, who had a sterling performance at EBI 8. Rules will be standard EBI, but with a shortened time limit of only eight minutes. It will be interesting to see how this affects the work rate and pacing of the matches. Mr Sonnen is doing a fine job of integrating the area between MMA and grappling in his shows and has a natural sense of how to get people's attention in ways that will grow the sport. Our team is interested to see how the use of a cage will affect the matches. This is the first time the squad has had to grapple in a cage. Both our opponents have extensive MMA experience and thus expertise in cage work - that will definitely makes things interesting. A core element of our style is that great jiu jitsu must have an aesthetic element to it in addition to its effectiveness. Our team loves to put on a show. Of course the result will always be paramount, but we train to create a dynamic game that always pushes towards submission - this makes the squad natural showmen. In amateur sports the only thing of value is the result - this gives it an admirable purity. The idea of a professional sport - a sport that people see as ENTERTAINMENT, a medium of entertainment that people pay to watch, requires that the athlete do more than win - he must win a fashion that MAKES PEOPLE WANT TO WATCH. This is a difficult requirement, but one which every professional athlete must work on. Each must find their own way. Ours will always be based around dynamic movement leading to control and the ruthless pursuit of submission above all.

It appears that Jeff Monson has pulled out of the submission underground event and will no longer be facing Gordon Ryan in what would have been a fascinating battle of experience, size, strength and submission defense vs agility and submission offense. The organizers of Submission Underground have substituted leg locking specialist Joe Baize as substitute. Mr Baize competed at EBI 8 which Mr Ryan won - but they never met as they were on opposite sides of the brackets. I remember Mr Baize putting on a very good performance. He was probably the smallest man in the tournament yet won his first match well by submission (leg lock) and did very well against the much larger and stronger Felipe Fogolin, almost catching his legs on multiple occasions before getting tired and caught in a stranglehold. Nonetheless I was impressed by his skills, calmness under pressure and willingness to mix it up with bigger athletes. The nature of the match now is very different - it will be a match centered around submission skills - where leg submissions are the specialty of both athletes. Both men know what it takes to get to the legs and finish on the legs. It's been a frustrating week for the squad running through multiple opponents pulling out of match ups at the last minute - we are proud of our record of professionalism of showing up come what may. Now it seems we have two dangerous opponents who play the submission game very well and are ready to play ball Sunday night in Portland.

Seminal moments

Seminal moments: I am a huge believer in the notion of SEMINAL MOMENTS in the development of athletes and even recreational jiu jitsu players. These are critical episodes where a student has built up physical skills over time and then in one opportunity, SUDDENLY AND DRAMATICALLY MANIFESTS THOSE SKILLS IN A MEMORABLE AND DYNAMIC FASHION. These moments are huge for your development. They represent the interface between physical skills and mental attributes such as confidence. Once such an episode occurs, you will believe in your ability to replicate this skill and jump to a new level of performance - but UNTIL such a moment, something inside you will always hold you back a little when the opportunity comes. These moments need not be public - in fact they most often occur in the gym, seen by no one except you and your training partner - but their effect can be dramatic. These seminal moments cannot be forced. You must work to create the base level of skill that makes them possible - but only some subliminal flash inside of you can make them happen. Where in the past you hesitated, one day something inside clicks and you let all your guns fire - and then you will never look back. As a coach I can help build up the skills to make it possible, but only you can snatch that moment and make it yours. This is why these seminal moments are so important to your development. They represent your independence from a teacher. They are a coming of age in some aspect of the sport. At the recent Sapeteiro 6 event, kohai student Matthew Tesla had such a moment. Taking on 10th Planet icon black belt Boogyman Martinez, the recent brown belt, who has always shown immense promise in the gym, but who always held back in competition, suddenly had his moment. No second guessing, no hesitation, no doubts - just the mindless realization that he could do this on his terms in his way - fire! Look for these seminal moments in your training - you can't force them, but you can put yourself in a position where if the opportunity is there, you can take it when ready - treasure and relish those moments - they are yours and yours alone.

Smaller man vs bigger man part 2

Smaller man vs bigger man part 2: This weekend squad Senpai (senior students) Gordon Ryan and Garry Tonon will take on much bigger opponents. Mr Ryan will take on the hulking two time world champion and five time world medalist Jeff Monson. Initially Mr Tonon was to face off against the very powerful Hector Lombard, but Mr Lombard had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict. Then Mr Chael Sonnen showed his usual fearlessness and stepped in on short notice - but had to pull out when Bellator fight company expressed disapproval of the bout. Mr Sonnen did a fine job of finding a new opponent. UFC standout Antonio Carlos Jr. will face Mr Tonon. Mr Carlos Jr has a very impressive background in jiu jitsu - he was a double world champion at brown belt and since then has recorded multiple victories over jiu jitsu icons such as Leandro Lo, Romulo Barral, and Bernardo Faria. He represented great teams in both jiu jitsu and MMA- Checkmat and ATT. Clearly his skills are of the highest level to defeat such great opponents. He is a real physical specimen - well over two hundred very athletic pounds and tall. This should afford him a big physical advantage in both regulation time and overtime. As always, the squad will have to rely on skill and tactics to prevail. Unfortunately the matches are very short - just eight minutes - so there is no way to use time as a weapon to tire the bigger opponents in this tournament. However, both Mr Tonon and Mr Ryan have trained extremely well in preparation despite some physical problems and they are eager to put on a show against these very talented strongmen they face in this new competition venue. Submission underground is doing a fine job of working the interface between grappling and MMA and brings the showmanship of Mr Chael Sonnen along with the rule system of Mr Eddie Bravo to create an exciting venue for athletes from both sports to showcase their skills.

Smaller man vs bigger man part 1

Smaller man vs bigger man part 1: This weekend at Submission underground grappling event run by former UFC superstar Chael Sonnen, Gordon Ryan will take on one of the most decorated ADDC world championship veterans of all time in an EBI style format. Jeff Monson is a two time ADCC gold medalist, two time silver medalist and one time bronze medalist. He has defeated many jiu jitsu icons in ADCC competition with a unique blend of wrestling, counter jiu jitsu and raw physical strength that is extremely difficult to overcome. Mr Ryan is coming off a fine victory this weekend in Florida at Sapeteiro 6 and is already back in the gym preparing for this titanic match up. He will have only eight minutes of regulation time to try to break though against his much larger and stronger rival who has survived the submission arsenals of past jiu jitsu greats for much longer periods and emerged victorious. This will be a fascinating match of a young master of submission offense and a vastly bigger and more experienced master of submission defense under very tight time constraint. Mr Ryan has been battling through a mysterious lower abdominal and hip pain for months now, but has shown real dedication and truly admiral fortitude in training and continuing to grow and develop throughout this adversity. This fascinating match up will provide a truly stern test of his contest preparation.