Back up buddy

Back up buddy: There are many ways to get hurt in combat sports but one of the most unnecessary comes in situations where two athletes are sparring in a crowded room and crash into another couple of athletes sparring next to them. This kind of incident is usually dismissed as part of the game and laughed off. I never took this approach. In the heyday of the blue basement when Georges St Pierre was getting ready for a big MMA show or the squad was getting ready for ADCC we would often have well over a hundred people working out in a class. In this type of situation it is absolutely crucial that everyone in the room have a good sense of where they are on the mat relative to the people around them. Nothing is more frustrating than an athlete getting ready for a show and getting injured with a cut from a elbow or a joint injury from someone rolling into their arm or leg at an inopportune time - I have myself been knocked out cold twice from heel kicks to the back of the head while sparring next to athletes whose enthusiasm exceeded their sense of distancing. When you start getting close to other people - make a point of quickly and fluidly rolling away from them and start where you left off. Keep a sense of your surroundings. I teach this in terms of self defense training - just as tunnel vision can be a very dangerous thing in self defense scenarios, so too it can be dangerous in a crowded training room. Train yourself to pay attention as you grapple in training and it will help you pay attention to your surroundings if you have to defend yourself outside the dojo. There are more than enough ways in Jiu jitsu to get injured without adding this easily avoided method to the list. Students - be the one who keeps awareness of your surroundings and does not injure or annoy those around you. Teachers - run a tight ship. Make students aware of the potential danger of collision and build a culture in your dojo that takes pride in being professional and courteous and I promise you your injury rate will drop and class camaraderie will increase.


Two ways of studying Jiu jitsu

Two ways of studying Jiu jitsu: One of the beauties of Jiu jitsu is that you can approach it in two very different ways - both of which are very profitable to your development. The first is to study Jiu jitsu as a martial art/combat sport in itself. If you study Jiu jitsu as a stand alone art by itself you can make fast progress and really focus on pure grappling. I still believe after all these years that just Jiu jitsu by itself makes for an extremely effective fighting style. Even a very highly ranked fighter would have to be very wary of a very good Jiu jitsu player who had no MMA training and stay away from certain positions and play a smart tactical game to win. The other approach is to see Jiu Jitsu as a component of a complete fighting style that borrowed from various combat sports to produce a well rounded MMA style that covered everything. This is generally the best approach for fighting but is often not suitable to part timers or older athletes or professionals who simply can’t risk daily injuries while working a full time job. Here is a nice photo of two great athletes training with the squad who represent well this split. Keenan Cornelius is of course, the specialist who dedicates his time to single discipline Jiu jitsu grappling. Georges St Pierre is the all rounder who uses Jiu jitsu training as a vital component of an overall program as a professional MMA athlete. Both are wonderful ways to approach the art. I’ve always loved the fact that Jiu Jitsu can adapt to the needs of its followers like this and it has created some amazing memories for me as a coach to see different athletes with different goals working together in their own directions.


For many Jiu jitsu students the strongest motivation to learn takedowns has nothing to do with the recreational sport they play

For many Jiu jitsu students the strongest motivation to learn takedowns has nothing to do with the recreational sport they play - after all, you can just sit to guard every time you play if you wish - it’s the realization that in a self defense situation that’s not an option. Accordingly, this is not a subject matter that can be completely overlooked by Jiu jitsu students - at some point it has to be addressed.


Takedowns for self defense - thoughts on amplitude

Takedowns for self defense - thoughts on amplitude: A common sentiment you will hear is that one of the chief virtues of takedowns for self defense training is that a hard powerful takedown on concrete is a fight ender and means you don’t even need to go the ground. There is definitely some truth to this. I have personally seen some fights ended immediately by a hard slam into the ground. The old cliche is that a boxer can only hit with the weight of his hands, but a grappler (with high amplitude takedowns) can hit with the weight of the earth. My experience was that there were mixed results with big slams in street fights. For every time I saw someone incapacitated by a heavy slam, I saw many others get right back and immediately resume fighting. I have also seen situations where a hard throw was performed and the person thrown tightly grabbed the thrower in panic and BOTH protagonists went hard into the cement with the thrower getting hurt as badly as the person thrown. The truth is, the harder the throw, the more difficult it is to control the landing for both of you. Thus hard throws on cement can be something of a double edge sword. If you are going to throw someone hard and use takedowns as a weapon in itself rather than as merely a means to take someone to the ground, then you will want to use techniques that put the OTHER fellow into a hard fall - not BOTH of you. This means you generally ought to favor throwing techniques where you keep both feet on the floor and can retain balance after the throw (for example, Tai otoshi rather than say, uchi mata) Interestingly in the sport of SAMBO they award the highest score to takedowns that do exactly this - throw someone with amplitude but where you remain standing over them. You don’t see it too often in competition as it’s difficult to achieve, but it does happen and is a good reflection of the self defense ideal for takedowns. Be realistic however - understand that a hard throw certainly CAN end a fight immediately, but is not guaranteed - as I said earlier, I’ve seen plenty of people get slammed hard and come right back up swinging - be ready to follow up appropriately based on the circumstances.


Fighting bigger opponents

Fighting bigger opponents: Jiu jitsu is one of the few combat sports that still allows open weight competition where smaller athletes can be matched against much larger opponents. In addition, in daily training at the dojo we are routinely matched with larger training partners. Whenever faced against someone bigger and stronger than yourself I always advise - GET BEHIND THEM TO STRANGLE OR ATTACK THEIR LEGS. These two approaches to victory have proven more successful in my experience watching my students over quarter of a century than all others. There are other good methods - I think the guillotine works well against bigger opponents, but nothing has had the level of success of back strangles and ashi garami based leg attacks. The back makes good sense. A big opponent can’t crush you with his weight when you’re behind him and strangles can be applied even on very big people. An opponent can use simple strength to push or pull someone behind him. In the case of leg locks, most people are inherently less coordinated with their feet and often more careless and forgetful of foot/leg placement than they are of hand/arm placement. The most incredible athlete I ever worked with regards competition against bigger opponents was Garry Tonon - he took on some absolute monsters and emerged victorious almost every time by emphasizing this strategy of constantly attacking back and legs. Here he is on the way to winning another EBI title at 205 pounds - incredible given that he was the 155 pound champion ( as well as every other weight division between!). When it’s time to take on the big fellas, think about BACK and LEGS as your path to victory!