On the road!

On the road! Gordon Ryan (certifiably most dangerous driver in the United States - even more deadly than Garry Tonon and Renzo), Nathalia and myself on the road to Boston for the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix tournament. Mr Ryan will compete in a fascinating combination of matches against the outstanding United States national freestyle wrestling team member Pat Downey who represented our nation with distinction at the last world championships. The two men will compete in each of their specialized domains. First they will do a no time limit submission only grappling match - which clearly favors Mr Ryan; and then a freestyle wrestling match (both athletes will have to wear wrestling shoes and singlet and follow all current rules of the sport) - which clearly favors Mr Downey. It will be fascinating to see two elite level athletes compete in both their speciality and an unfamiliar sport back to back! Hope you all enjoy the show! See you in Boston!

Your head is a heavy weight at the end of the longest lever of the human body - learn to use it effectively

Your head is a heavy weight at the end of the longest lever of the human body - learn to use it effectively: The average human head weighs just over ten pounds (around 4.5kg) and is positioned at the end of the longest lever in the human body - the spine. As such it can be used to supply a surprising amount of weight in directions you need if used correctly. Look how Gordon Ryan uses head position to nullify what could be a dangerous underhook. Learning to use the PLACEMENT of your own head and the DISPLACEMENT of your opponents head is a big part of what it means to maximize the nature of the human body to advantage. Ten pounds may not seem like much, but when it’s connected to a long lever it can get very heavy indeed as that lever gets lowered over your target. Think about connecting a ten pound dumbbell to a good sized stick and then holding the other end of the stick in your hand. As long as you keep the stick vertical it is quite manageable - but as soon as you lower the weighted end of that stick it quickly becomes a very heavy burden indeed! Learn to use your head in similar ways and you can become a burden to even a very strong opponent in ways that can point you towards victory

Dual threat

Dual threat: Nothing creates a sense of dread in an opponent more than having to deal with multiple serious threats at the same time. Whenever you create one threat, your opponent must respond with a counter. When you present two simultaneous threats it is difficult for him to counter one because that counter to the first threat will often expose him to the second. As a result many opponents will freeze in the face of dual or triple threats and become much more controllable than usual. Here, Garry Tonon creates a dual threat - one at the upper body with Kimura and a lower body threat with inside foot position whilst facing the hips (making for a very easy entrance into ashi garami variations if he should lose the kimura). Now the opponent has to defend both at the same time resulting in a situation where he simply has to hold his arm last and feet together defensively and thus preventing movement that would actually make escape possible. The result? An immobilized opponent. In this way you can see that THREAT is as effective for immobilization purposes as pins

Open guard - off balancing forward and backwards

Open guard - off balancing forward and backwards: A distinguishing characteristic of great guard players is their constant use of KUZUSHI or off balancing skills as a precursor to their big attacks. The main directions of kuzushi from guard are forwards and backwards (there are some good off balancing moves side to side especially when wearing a gi, but most or forwards and backwards). When you go to off balance someone FORWARDS from open guard, the best methods usually involve a PULL WITH YOUR UPPER BODY AND A PUSH WITH YOUR LOWER BODY; whilst off balances in BACKWARD directions usually (though not always) involve a PUSH WITH UPPER BODY AND A PULL WITH LOWER BODY. The idea is to create a simultaneous application of two forces at two locations in opposite directions - THAT’S what knocks an opponent off balance and creates the kuzushi you will need to break through a tough opponents stance and posture and get your moves to work!

The single greatest step you can make in combat sports

The single greatest step you can make in combat sports, and the insight that forms the core of my coaching philosophy, is to see combat as primarily A PUZZLE TO BE SOLVED WITH THE MIND rather than a frightening or exhilarating ORDEAL TO BE ENDURED AND OVERCOME WITH THE BODY AND CHARACTER.

Understanding your legs

Understanding your legs: A distinguishing characteristic of Jiu Jitsu is the tremendous emphasis out upon grappling your opponent primarily with your LEGS. The guard position in all its many variations is stressed more than any other. It is important therefore that you understand the broad principles that enable your legs to be an effective weapon in the fight from bottom position. Understand that the HIPS are the engine room of the guard position. They provide the power and position that underlies guard play. By shifting side to side and slowing you to move between seated and supine positions they can out you in a position to attack and defend effectively. The KNEES are your shield in defense - the closer to your torso the stronger your defense - as long as you present two knees in front or around your opponents waist/hips (open and closed guard) or around one of his legs (half guard ) you are defensively sound and have the possibility of offense from underneath. Your FEET solidify the connection/grip of your legs upon your opponent. They transmit the power of your hips and knees in meaningful ways to your opponents body. Don’t just touch your opponent with your feet - GRIP him with your feet - and you will be able to use your legs as you do your arms. We spend all our lives using our hands and arms for a multitude of difficult tasks without thought - Jiu Jitsu asks you to do the same with your feet and legs - when you do, you will be a very dangerous opponent from underneath.

Squad rampage

Squad rampage: The squad went hunting for medals last night in Florida at Sub Stars grappling event. Ethan Crelinsten fought above his weight class against Enrico Cocco and came out victorious. Nicky Ryan took on MMA champion JZ Calvacante and winter with a devastating heel hook. Nicky Rod took on black belt Roosevelt Sousa and won via strangle. In the main event Gordon Ryan took on Tex Johnson and won easily with a stranglehold kata gatame. Victory over high level opponents is not the only goal of Jiu Jitsu, not the deepest goal - but it certainly is a good sign that your training program is going in the right directions. Hope you all enjoyed the show - thanks also to Garry Tonon doing a fine job cornering fellow athletes to victory when he could not compete himself due to suffering a cut in training a few days before the event.

Make sure you know the antidote to your own poisons

Make sure you know the antidote to your own poisons...We all have our favorite submissions. As you get better at them you will inevitably run into opponents who see their effectiveness and want to use them against you as you have against them. It’s very important you know as much about DEFENDING your favorite submissions as you do attacking. There is an added benefit to this training. Learning to defend a submission is like learning it backwards - it offers fresh perspectives on a move you already know and makes you look at the move from different angles and points of view that often boosts your knowledge for offense as well as defense. Know your moves from the perspective of both attacker AND defender and you will gain deeper knowledge and avoid falling victim to your own poison!

What scenarios must you be effective from in open guard?

What scenarios must you be effective from in open guard? The vast majority of guard play in Jiu Jitsu is from open guard. There are many variations of open guard and the sheer amount of material you need to learn can seem overwhelming at times. Rest assured however that when you look at open guard in terms of the NUMBER OF POSSIBLE SCENARIOS FROM WHICH YOU MUST BE EFFECTIVE (a rather small number) rather than the NUMBER OF POSSIBLE MOVES (an extremely large number) then things seem much more manageable. Your opponent has three options - kneeling, one knee on floor and standing (within the standing category there is a particularly important option - the split squat, often referred to as “headquarters” position (I’m not sure why). You have two options, you can be seated or you can be supine. So the number of possible general scenarios is not so big. You will need at least a couple of trusted and effective moves in each of those scenario combinations. Seen in this light you can see it’s a very manageable project. My favorite move when I’m seated and my opponent is on his knees has always been the hook sweep (essentially a ground version of the sumi gaeshi standing sacrifice throw). It works equally well gi and no gi and combines extremely well with many other moves - particularly leg locks. Make sure your training program covers all the scenarios of open guard and soon you will be able to attack regardless of which scenario you may find yourself in

The easiest way to expand your repertoire of moves

The easiest way to expand your repertoire of moves: As we make progress we are constantly looking to add new weapons to our arsenal. As a general rule, the more weapons were are skilled in using, the more dangerous we will be to our opponents. However, developing new skills is time consuming and as we devote lots of time to new skills, inevitably we have to dedicate less time to maintaining old skills which can be detrimental to our game. Probably the easiest way to develop new skills is to LEARN NEW VARIATIONS OF MOVES YOU ARE ALREADY GOOD AT. This requires relatively little training time, since the new skills are closely related to existing skills and complements, rather than harms existing skills. Think about the triangle. Most Jiu Jitsu athletes know it well and can perform it solidly. Yet when we say THE triangle, usually we mean the FRONT triangle - the most common variation in Jiu Jitsu. There are FIVE major variations of the triangle - front, side, rear, reverse and “back to front” (hantai sankaku). You can greatly expand your submission Arsenal just by adding the other four variations at little cost in training time. For almost any move you favor you can do similar things. Jiu Jitsu moves usually have several important variations, which are related to each other, yet different in important ways so that in practice they perform almost like different moves. Do this with all your favorite moves and in a short time you can triple your offensive arsenal! Here, Georges St Pierre works on variations of the triangle to expand his repertoire