Hands and head

Hands and head: When you first make contact with an opponent whether it be standing or from seated guard situations, the first points of contact with your opponent will typically be at the hands and forehead. Learning to place them so as to create defensive barriers and then manipulate them to create offensive opportunities is a big part of your opening gambits in Jiu jitsu. Understand always that your head and hands have both defensive and offensive value - but that in most cases it’s tactically smart to take care of your defensive responsibilities before your offensive ones. Your head and hands are both a barrier and a key to your opponents door that can give you access to everything else. Use them wisely from the start of each engagement and you will stop an opponent in his tracks whilst setting up your own attacks

With regards technique - fashions come and go

With regards technique - fashions come and go - what is popular today can be replaced by tomorrow - but underneath that surface technique lies something permanent, something deep and unchanging whose weight will give your game gravitas - the bedrock of the art - PRINCIPLES. Focus on those and your game will never go out of style

In a game where control is everything

In a game where control is everything - using frames to prevent an opponent from establishing controlling grips and position is a huge part of your development. The centerpiece of your frames will always be the link between your knees and elbows. The closer your opponent gets to you - the closer your knees and elbows need to be together

What opportunities do you see in this moment?

What opportunities do you see in this moment? Could act upon them in the time available? In any neutral situation in Jiu jitsu both athletes have opportunities for advancement or even outright victory. The first step is visual/mental. You have to SEE and IDENTIFY an opportunity before it becomes possible for you to go to the next step which is physical/skill based, that is to ACT upon that vision with sufficient prowess to get the job done. Every physical action begins as a recognition in the mind. It’s no good recognizing the opportunities but being to slow or unwilling to pull the trigger and take the physical action required to make it happen. Developing both aspects is crucial. Skill without vision will never be utilized. Vision without skill will achieve nothing. Train yourself to see opportunities and act on them and you will be on the way to superior performance.

Starting with a skill set - the example of a Nicky Rod

Starting with a skill set - the example of a Nicky Rod: A situation I often see as a coach is that of a talented athlete from another sport such as wrestling, Judo or Sambo coming into Jiu jitsu. It’s natural to want to use and adapt your skills to the new game. This conversion can be done fairly quickly and easily and usually gets good results. My belief however, is that it will rarely get you GREAT results. You have to go further and learn new skills from the bottom up in your new sport if you really want to become exceptional. A good example is that of Nicky Rod. He was a high school wrestler - he also did a year in D3 college - so he had a solid enough background in wrestling without being anything exceptional. Whenever you’re in this situation it’s natural to just train in Jiu jitsu so as to exploit this initial skill set that you have. So wrestlers will often just work submission defense and look to develop a game that lets them win on their primary skill - takedowns. This will win you matches at local level but will never get you to championship level. To do that you have to immerse yourself in the new game you are studying. It’s not easy to give up a strength and work on a weakness. It’s so much easier just to stay within the safety of your strength. Nicky Rod did a fine job of practicing in new skill areas - guard position, submission holds and guard passing. It showed this weekend when he took on the great Yuri Simoes. Yuri is one of only three people who have won two gold medals in two weight classes in ADCC (Gordon Ryan and Jeff Monson are the other two). Most people thought Nicky Rod’s only path to victory was through wrestling takedowns. Even though Yuri is one of the best takedown artists in Jiu jitsu he intelligently sat to guard to deny what most people thought was the only way Nicky Rod could win. What happened next was shocking for many observers. Nicky Rod went immediately on the offense with a pure Jiu jitsu skill - guard passing. In fact there was almost zero wrestling in this match. It was won with Jiu jitsu skills. It was a fine example of immersion in a new sport winning at high levels - an example many others can learn and profit from

When the pressure is on

When the pressure is on: How many moves do you REALLY know? We all think we have a good idea of the size of our skill set. In truth however, the only time you find out is when you play under pressure. ONLY THE MOVES YOU WILL USE WITHOUT HESITATION IN THE BIGGEST MATCH OF YOUR LIFE ARE YOUR TRULY KNOWN BY YOU - everything else can be considered only as moves you are familiar with, but not truly known. Your job is to slowly build upon that small set in two ways. First, refining still further the moves already there. Second, adding a few new ones every year to a level where you would pull the trigger with them without hesitation in a high pressure match against your toughest rivals with everything on the line. In championship training this is the acid test to see how big your skill set really is.

The power of escape

The power of escape: When we think of powerful moves in Jiu jitsu you typically picture a slamming takedown or a bone crunching submission hold, or perhaps an immovable pin or unstoppable pass. We don’t typically think of escapes as demonstration of power - but they are - in a different way. Those typical power moves, hard takedowns, crushing submissions etc are all demonstrations of power over the opponents BODY. Escapes exert their power on an opponents MIND. Imagine working hard to take an opponent down, pass his hard and get to your favorite finishing position and then have an opponent repeatedly escape. Worse still, every time he escapes he immediately counterattacks and almost catches you as you are forced to flee and start all over again. Hard work is tough, but repeated hard work with no forward progress and no prospect of it finishing is hard for the mind to handle. That’s exactly what unstoppable escapes do to an opponents mind in a match. If you can send a clear message to an opponent that he has no means of controlling and finishing you - the longer that match goes the worse he will begin to feel inside. Every escape brings your confidence up and his down. In a long match where points are not a consideration this is a huge factor. There is no lonelier feeling than being fatigued and disheartened by repeated frustration of being close to victory but never able to secure in a match that goes until one of you quits and you now know you have no means of making the other guy quit because he can escape all your best positions without a problem. Here Garry Tonon launches into a strong kipping escape out of mount, about to be followed by a devastating heel hook follow up. There is a reason why he attacks so fearlessly and without abandon in his matches - because he fully believes in his ability to get out of any hold should his attack misfire in any way. The power of Escapes is thus not over the body but over your mind and your opponents mind - now THAT’S real power

Getting out of trouble - and putting the other guy into trouble

Getting out of trouble - and putting the other guy into trouble: If there is one skill in Jiu jitsu that NEVER goes out of style it would be getting out of bad position. I don’t care how talented an athlete is - we all make mistakes and at some time we all find ourselves fighting for survival out of pins. My approach to pin escapes is a little different from most. I train my students to work in two phases. First the escape itself - then to develop a sensitivity to when the danger is past and then AN IMMEDIATE AND AGGRESSIVE COUNTERATTACK THAT FEEDS OFF YOUR OPPONENTS DESIRE TO REGAIN THE PIN. This takes the humble art of defense into the devastating art of counterattack. Most athletes are satisfied with just getting. I teach to go the extra distance AND FINISH EVERY ESCAPE WITH SUBMISSION COUNTERATTACK WHENEVER POSSIBLE - and in MANY cases it is possible. Take this approach and you’ll soon find that your submission percentages double. Tomorrow I will release my NEW WAVE JIU JITSU escapes into counterattacks instructional video and showcase this attacking philosophy into your defense.

Tension and relaxation

Tension and relaxation: Jiu jitsu is a game that requires from us great variations in states of muscular tension and relaxation. If you’re too tense too long you will quickly exhaust yourself and your movements will be stiff and inefficient. Too relaxed too long and you won’t be able to hold and control a wildly resisting opponent when pinning him or going for submission attempts. Different scenarios require different physical dispositions in terms of muscular effort. The LESS CONTACT with an opponent the LOWER the tension level. The more you engage in MOVEMENT the LOWER the tension levels. The more you engage in STOPPING movement the HIGHER the tension levels. Use these simple rules to guide your degree of muscular tension so that you can exhibit good endurance and good movement quality while at the same able to lock someone in place with sufficient control to pin opponents and finish them.

When the work is done

When the work is done: One of the clearest signs that you have a sustainable training environment is the clarity of the division between work time and playtime in the training. When it’s go time everyone has to be all in. No bullshit, all focus - you’re there to be the best athlete you can. But when it’s done there has to be some clown time to make it an enjoyable part of your day. If it’s all seriousness and suffering even the most disciplined people will eventual tire of it and find another way to live. If it’s all spring break then nothing gets done. Finding the right compromise between beneficial suffering and delayed gratification versus happiness and play is the key to longevity in the sport. We take a stance of hard work time but very relaxed playtime afterwards with lots of poking fun at each other and off limits humor - the best antidote to the biggest problem of long term development - burnout. Everyone has their own correct balance - somewhere you have to find yours