Start strong to finish strong

Start strong to finish strong: In any session of Jiu Jitsu, whether in the gym or on the big stage, there are constant cycles of contact. Athletes will engage with each other, make physical contact and exchange various moves and tactics. In the vast majority of cases, neither athlete will be able to get a decisive finish and they will eventually break contact and then the whole cycle will begin anew, with CONTACT, EXCHANGE and BREAKING CONTACT. These cycles continue until either a decisive finish is achieved or time runs out. It is important to understand that this cycle always begins with contact - grip fighting and tactical positioning are keys here. YOU MUST ENTER AND MAKE CONTACT IN A WAY THAT CONFERS ADVANTAGE FOR YOURSELF AND NEGATES ANY ATTEMPT BY YOUR OPPONENT TO DO THE SAME. Don’t be naive and just walk forward into an ambush of grips, tactics and moves. The battle begins before you even grip up with your opponent. Your stance, motion and tactical positioning must correlate with what you want to. Then you must fight for grips, first DENYING THE GRIPS YOUR OPPONENT WANTS AND THEN ASSERTING THE GRIPS YOU WANT. Look as Garry Tonon approaches his opponent from top position how carefully he positions his feet and how he denies his opponent a working grip with his legs whilst holding a stance that maximize his options and minimizes those of his opponent. START THE BATTLE EARLY AND THE VICTORIES COME EASIER - START LATE AND THE DEFEATS COME QUICKER AND HARDER.

Sometimes you are just 100% f**ked

Sometimes you are just 100% f**ked: One of our favorite training methods is to begin in poor position and work our way out to develop a good sense of submission resistance. It’s not easy to do this in a room of killers - so there is usually a lot tapping most days! Over the years I have seen some incredible escapes from seemingly hopeless situations - Garry Tonon earns his nickname “the slippery salmon” every day - he and Gordon Ryan pull off semi miraculous escapes on a daily basis. When you play this game however, there are going to be many times when you bite off more than you can chew and it’s wise to tap early and tap often. Here, lightweight Ethan Crelinsten heroically gets himself into a nightmare scenario with back system master Gordon Ryan. Mr Ryan rewards him by pinning not just one arm helplessly behind his back - but TWO! This creates the horrid result of complete defenselessness and at this point there is nothing to do but laugh and tap. Keeping a playful demeanor is important in this kind of training as there is potential for injury and dejection if you take it too seriously. Just do what Mr Crelinsten does - laugh and try again with a better plan next time. Remember - there will be days where you are the hammer but just as many when you are the nail. Those nail days will be much more manageable if you regularly practice being under severe pressure and have to work your way out of a minefield of submissions.

Looking back

Looking back: Getting nostalgic in the NYC subway - heading home from the Bronx where i taught a local seminar at my buddy Tito’s school. It’s fun coming home from 238th Street Station - I have not been up here since my early days working as a bouncer in the early 1990’s. So much change in both the environment and myself - it’s good to reflect at times like this and see where you came from and where you are headed. One of my earliest NYC memories is from here on these tracks. In 1991, a desperate man blocking the subway at the above-ground section of the tracks between 125th and 137th street on a freezing cold night - the few passengers on the train at that late hour screaming and cursing at him to move or jump so the train could continue. Eventually he walked to the side of the tracks and silently jumped over the rails to his death on the street below. The passengers went quiet - death has a way of shaming the rambunctious into silence. I remember thinking “this ain’t New Zealand” as I peered through the window and he fell into the freezing darkness. It was an early lesson on our need for creating a positive infrastructure of friends and comrades around us - when those leave, so often hope soon follows. Now it’s a different world and a chance to reflect on what was and where I’m going. Always grateful for the lessons of the past, both the dark and the light, and hopeful for the future.


Vampires: A crucial lesson in Jiu Jitsu and in life is this - You cannot TAKE an opportunity until you SEE an opportunity. All day every day we all have incredible opportunities on and off the mat go right past us and we simply don’t see them for what they are. In a moment the opportunity is gone and lost forever. Only when your MIND identifies an opportunity can your physical body step up and act upon it. In this sense a BIG part of getting submissions in Jiu Jitsu is mental - it begins with the mental action of recognition of opportunity. Every day I coach I see fleeting openings for submission that pass most people by. We all need to train our minds in VIGILANCE TO OPPORTUNITY and the CONFIDENCE TO ACT UPON IT. Increasing your finishing rates is NOT just a matter of developing physical skills. You can have all the arm lock skills in the world, but if you don’t recognize an opportunity for an arm lock when it’s in front of you, you won’t even ATTEMPT it, let alone succeed with it. You all know that i put an extraordinarily heavy emphasis on strangulation. A big part of success is a CONSTANT FOCUS ON THE NECK AS A TARGET. I train my students to see the world like vampires. When a vampire walks into a crowded room he does not see a hundred PEOPLE, he see a hundred NECKS. So too on the mat - WHEN YOU WANT TO WORK YOUR STRANGLES - train yourself to see NOTHING BUT NECKS. You will be amazed to see how your success rate will improve with only a change in mentality...

Learning from my videos

Learning from my videos: Often I am asked what is the best way to watch and learn from my instructional videos. Instructional videos have been around from the earliest days of the arrival of Jiu Jitsu in North America. They all followed a similar pattern. They were a collection of an outstanding athletes favorite moves, usually within a given general topic domain, say, guard passing. Despite being present for decades, they had only a sporadic effect on the development of most students - a kind of “flavor of the month” effect where a popular current move was offered in an introductory and rather random fashion and you tried to copy it as best you could. When I went to create instructional videos I wanted to completely split away from this traditional model and instead, capture what is doubtless one of the major themes of my teaching; that DEEP AND COMPLETE EXPLORATION OF A FEW TECHNIQUES WILL GARNER FAR GREATER RESULTS FOR A STUDENT THAN SHALLOW TINKERING WITH MANY RANDOM TECHNIQUES. I teach in terms of sub systems where A GIVEN TECHNIQUE IS EMBEDDED WITHIN A COMPLETE FRAMEWORK OF SUPPORTING SKILLS THAT MASSIVELY INCREASE THE CHANCE OF THAT TECHNIQUE BEING SUCCESSFULLY APPLIED AGAINST SKILLED RESISTANCE. As such, my videos were radically different from the norm. Instead of being a forty five minute sampling of moves they were up to ten hours of highly detailed analysis of every skill required to get a few winning moves to work against the best athletes in the world. The idea was to move away from sampling videos and offer genuine coaching videos that could have a real impact not only on your game, BUT EVEN HOW YOU THOUGHT THE GAME. Because the videos are so different in format and style - I recommend watching them differently. Watch them sections at a time. Only the most zealous students can watch for hours and stay focused. I generally recommend watching a section or two and trying to work those lessons into your next session on the mats. Use it as you would a series of private lessons that you can repeat at will over months and years to get to the level you want. Just as you never learn by reading a book, but only by RE-READING IT, so too with these videos.

Setting a strangle

Setting a strangle: A big part of our approach to strangulation is TO GET AT LEAST FIFTY PERCENT OF THE STRANGLE SET BEFORE YOU EVEN CONNECT YOUR HANDS/ARMS. Whenever you go to employ a rear strangle without the gi your two arms work in unison. One is the actual STRANGLE ARM that encircles your opponent’s neck. The other is a SUPPORT ARM which solidifies and supports the strangle arm usually via figure four grip or palm to palm grip. Our contention is that your opponent should already be feeling the effects of a strangle from just the one strangle arm encircling the neck - quite often the one handed strangle proves to be enough by itself and there is no need to lock hands/arms - we just finish one handed in the position of this photograph. At championship level however, it is usually necessary to bring the support arm into play to create stronger pressure. Make sure that before you do there is sufficient initial pressure from the strangle arm that the addition of the support arm FINISHES the strangle rather than INITIATES it. Failure to set the strangle hand properly is rarely atoned for by the addition of the support arm. Develop the skill of sinking the strangle arm first and then applying the support hand as A MEANS OF FINISHING A JOB ALREADY STARTED BY THE STRANGLE ARM rather than as the cause of the strangle. Here you can see my partner is already under pressure of strangulation before I have even released the other hand - finishing from here will be easy. There are other approaches to rear strangles (strangling over the mandible for example), but this is always the preferred method.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!! Giving Thanks to you all for your support and interest in our approach to the game! Wishing you all a great day of feasting and overall decadence in preparation for hard day of training tomorrow!

Pleasant surprises

Pleasant surprises: Most days at in the basement are pretty much the same - they have to be - all human greatness is predicated on the idea of routines that build skills over time. Without regularity and routine none of those attention getting skills would ever be developed. Every so often however, the gods of fate throw us a pleasant surprise. Today it was the arrival of one of my favorite people in all of MMA - Demian Maia. He came by to say hello and get a quick strength and conditioning workout. This incredible fellow carried the flag for Jiu Jitsu in MMA so brilliantly for so long - he will always have a special place in the heart of Jiu Jitsu players around the world. He arrived just as Gordon Ryan was beginning his MMA workout hence the nature of the photo. Exciting news from Mr Maia! He has plans to begin a podcast in Brazil starting early next year! A little known fact about Mr Maia is that he was a journalism major in University. He is thus well prepared to start a really outstanding podcast interviewing friends and figures from MMA - I would listen just hear him talk about his career and training stories! Anything else would just be bonus! Keep up to date with this great man @demianmaia and follow his fights and media work. The podcast will be in Portuguese but the YouTube version will feature subtitles So it was was not just a pleasant surprise for us - but with this news - a pleasant surprise for all of you too! Best of luck to this great man who did such a fine job of representing our sport in the cage - he hopes to fight again in the next UFC in Brazil - that’s a fight I would never miss!

Homeward bound

Homeward bound: At the airport in San Francisco waiting for connecting flight back to NYC! Can’t wait to get back on the mat with the squad and all my students in the blue basement Wednesday morning we are back in the saddle - lots of big projects coming up and lots of dreams to be realized! See you there!

Last day in Australia

Last day in Australia: It’s been a fantastic journey that began in Singapore cornering Garry Tonon and seeing third win in MMA for @onechampionship while coaching the super seminar for @evolvemma gym. Then on to Australia to see my dear Mom and family along with seminars for @johndonehuejj @acsamelbourne @vt1martialarts and @kmamartialarts - here i am teaching the last seminar - a night seminar at VT1 gym in Sydney. I was greatly impressed by the progress of Australian grappling. Far from the usual centers of grappling they are growing in skill and numbers. They carry a great enthusiasm and optimism into the game which is already beginning to create champions with many more in the future I am sure. I am sad to leave - so many good people and good memories down here; but I am thrilled to get back home and get the basement fired up with action again. Tomorrow the long flight home and the mixed feelings of sadness and excitement at the airport. Thank you to everyone who came to the seminars - I hope you enjoyed a look at our approach to the sport and that it can help you get closer to your own goals and dreams.