Half guard and connection

Half guard and connection: One of the distinguishing characteristics of a tight half guard with an under hook wrapped tight around your opponent’s waist is the tremendous degree of CONNECTION it gives you to your opponent. Interestingly, this connection is easy even when your opponent is significantly taller and bigger than yourself. Contrast this with other guards - day closed guard - if you have short legs and your opponent has a thick midsection, it can be tough just to maintain a closed guard. In half guard you only have to get your legs around one leg, rather than his waist or shoulders, so making that tight connection is easy, even when there is a big height or overall size difference. Moreover, the very nature of the connection places you DIRECTLY UNDER YOUR OPPONENT’S CENTER OF GRAVITY so even time you turn left or fight it have a big effect on an opponent’s balance, making it a superb sweeping position. Because there is so much physical connection your body weight functions like an anchor upon your opponent’s body and dramatically SLOWS THE PACE OF THE MATCH DOWN as long as you maintain the position. This can be a real advantage when matched against a younger, faster, athletically gifted opponent, so half guard perfect for older or slower athletes who do better when the pace is taken down a notch or two. So if you are looking for a means of increasing your effectiveness from bottom position but feel that your mobility, age or body type may be a hinderance, look into half Guard as a possible solution to your problems. Many fine athletes have built a career around this great position - perhaps you can be one of them


Nicky...tell me that’s not the wors

“Nicky...tell me that’s not the worst f**king excuse for an arm bar you ever saw in your f**king life...I could train a homeless crackhead with a missing foot and no fingers to do a better f**king arm bar than that...”


Give a little to gain a lot

Give a little to gain a lot: Sometimes when beginners get a good position on an opponent they hold on so tight that the opponent cannot move at all. That’s not wrong - it’s a good thing to be able to immobilize an opponent. However, very often it is a good thing to allow your pinned opponent a little movement in a direction that can take you from a GOOD pin to a GREAT pin. Your opponent must move in order to escape. Oftentimes you can funnel their movement in directions that benefit you rather than him and make big positional gains as a result. Here, Nicky Ryan has released a little pressure to allow an opponent to begin moving into an elbow escape, but of course it’s a trap. The movement has created back exposure and a quick change of grips from Mr Ryan now creates a situation where he goes from good to great and gets a free ride to his favorite attacking position on the back. Next time you get a good position, experiment with releasing pressure in beneficial ways. You may well find that you too, can gain a lot by giving a little


The curious case of half guard

The curious case of half guard: Here’s an odd thing - many of the most respected Jiu Jitsu authorities claim that getting to top half guard is one of the very best guard passing strategies in the sport and so advocate forcing your way to half guard as a superior passing strategy. Just as many respected Jiu Jitsu authorities claim that bottom half guard is one of the premier sweeping positions in the sport and so advocate actively getting to half guard whenever playing bottom position so that you can sweep an opponent. How can this be? How can the same position be seen as both the most desirable top position and at the same time the most desirable bottom position for the respective athletes? I am part of this seeming contradiction myself. I always encourage my students to actively work to get to half guard whenever they can and exploit its strengths as a passing position. Yet I also claim that bottom half guard is a great position to play for sweeps and submissions. How can you have it both ways? Much of the answer is bound up with THE CONTROL (or lack of) OF THE BOTTOM PLAYERS HEAD AND SHOULDERS. If the top player can pin the bottom players head and shoulders (usually through some variation of under hooks and crossfaces) then yes, it’s a superior passing position. If not, and the bottom player can move his head and shoulders as he pleases (usually by getting his own under hook to deny head and shoulder control to his opponent), then it becomes a very fine sweeping position for the bottom athlete. This fundamental element of control or denial of control of the bottom athletes head and shoulders determines much of the action in half guard. All the other battles you will face in this position, distance control, Kuzushi/balance, grip etc are most fought over either getting control of the bottom athletes head and shoulders or actively seeking to deny that control - depending on whether you are on top or bottom. Here, Georges St-Pierre looks to bolt down the head and shoulders of Gordon Ryan from top half guard. See in this light you can see how one position can be both the path to heaven and hell depending upon the outcome of the crucial battle for head and shoulders


Leg locks in MMA

Leg locks in MMA: So often I hear people say leg locks are ineffective in MMA. The very same criticisms (that you can lose position or get struck while attempting them or that the opponent could simply not submit and take a break and keep going) all apply to many other moves, but for some reason leg locks get singled out. Leg locks are no different from any other move. Done well, they can win you many fights, done poorly they get get you in trouble. As with any other technique it’s success or failure will come down to the precision and the context in which you apply it. Here is a very nice application of an inverted entry into the legs that culminates in a classic squad style outside ashi garami heel hook finish by @king_gozali son of @haimgozali This father and son MMA duo often come to NYC and train with myself and Gordon Ryan in leg kicking skills. It shows here as young Avi gets the fastest submission in Bellator Fighting Championship history with a spectacular heel hook! Focus on your technical prowess and develop wisdom in your tactical decisions and you will be delighted to learn that many moves that some disparage can be made a very effective part of your arsenal


One Jiu Jitsu - two paths

One Jiu Jitsu - two paths: Two great combat athletes who took two very different paths with their Jiu Jitsu training work out next to each other. Keenan Cornelius works out next to Georges St-Pierre on a crowded mat in class today. One of the great features of Jiu Jitsu is the way the same techniques can be used in very different ways in very different arenas to get you to your own unique goals. Mr Cornelius took his Jiu Jitsu training towards grappling, Mr St-Pierre took it towards MMA - both became great champions in their respective domains. It fascinating to see such different athletes learning and performing the same moves but knowing each will have to find ways to apply them in very different contexts. Jiu Jitsu is a very malleable art that gives us a lot a choice in how we apply it. The foundations of the sport are broad enough that two entirely different careers can be lived while learning similarly next to each other just through adaption and the addition of other skills.


Hand control

Hand control: The vast majority of moves in Jiu Jitsu require the use of the hands to form effective connection to an opponent so that the various moves can be performed. As primates, humans are hand-centric animals in all things - Jiu Jitsu included. As such, if we can control our opponent’s hands we can do a lot to shut down his offense. When you take on a dangerous gripper, make sure you pay attention to the possibility of shutting down his game by controlling his hands whenever possible. Just be sure that you do not do it in a way that makes you a negative player whose only concern is stopping the other fellow doing what he wants to do. Always take the action back in the positive direction of offense. So once you establish hand control - go into your attacks rather than just aim to frustrate an opponent’s offense at the hands. Here, Craig Jones does a fine job of thwarting a potential bodylock and is now switching to possible counter attacks - I am sure you can see some offensive possibilities starting to emerge out of the initial hand fight - Mr Jones certainly does!


Untying a knot

Untying a knot: Have you ever had the experience of trying to untie a big and complicated knot? Sometimes there can come a point where you just get so frustrated that you just pull aimlessly on the two ends of rope knowing that it will only serve to make the knot tighter. Many of the situations you will face in Jiu Jitsu have a similar nature. Sometimes it’s so tempting just to yank and pull and push, even when the better part of us knows that it will have no effect. Learning to overcome our impulses and have the discipline to exercise the PROBLEM SOLVING side of our mind rather than the impulsive emotional side is a big step towards maturity in Jiu Jitsu. Next time you feel that urge to just apply force without a plan, stop yourself ask yourself the two critical questions you must address in these situations. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM I AM CONFRONTED BY? And WHAT WOULD CONSTITUTE A SOLUTION TO IT. Remember - it’s training - you can always stop and puzzle it out. Then the next time that knot ties up your game you will have the satisfaction of picking it apart and taking a straight line to victory.


Working for an angle

Working for an angle: A foundational principle of Jiu Jitsu is to always seek some form of preliminary advantage prior to attacking. One of the best forms of advantage is ANGLE. If you can get away from being directly in front of opponents and instead get to the flanks, you will find a lot more success with many of your attacks. Here, Gordon Ryan works for angle from bottom closed guard. Constantly look to get your head off line and hips out to the side - often it will help to use an arm to grip inside your opponent’s leg and manually pull yourself around to an angle. Now it will be difficult for an opponent to use his weight and top position to control you - Indeed, if he tries to use weight this may even make things worse for him. Don’t settle for being held directly in front of opponents - work immediately for angle. Your opponent will have react to this threat - if he doesn’t you will have an immediate advantage - as he reacts you will find your attacking opportunities. Experiment tomorrow with making your first move every time from bottom closed guard just a simple shift to an angle and be prepared to work from there towards victory.


If you can extend a limb - you can break a limb

If you can extend a limb - you can break a limb: Good Jiu Jitsu players are always very wary of keeping their elbows and knees close to their torso. This makes it very difficult to apply joint locks to them. If you could get those elbows and knees moving out and away from the torso - the submissions would come a lot easier. One of the very best ways to do this from bottom position is Kuzushi (off balancing). We humans are hard wired to prioritize balance - so when we lose balance we get distracted from all other concerns as we try to right ourselves. That’s all the opportunity you need to enter into your joint locks. When working from bottom position - ATTACK HIS BALANCE FIRST AND HIS LIMBS SECOND and watch your success rate increase.