Jan 17

No underhook, no problem

Jan 16

When the snake strykes, you only hear the hyss

I used to be quite the fisherman.

Yes, it’s true.

As a young buck, me and my rowdy crew used to near the water almost every day. There were two spots that we used to hit the most.

One was behind our neighborhood. You had to weave through a hidden trail through the forest, and it led to a nice little area where we would just hang out for hours, digging fire pits and casting rods.

The other was off a railroad track that also doubled as a bridge. And sometimes, we would go for a swim there.

In fact, one summer, during a break from fishing, we went pretty far out, and I even had a little flotation tube.

I was having so much fun that I stayed out there long after everyone else started going back.

That’s when it happened.

I started hearing a hissing sound.

I’ll admit it. I got scared. Really really scared. It was an unseen threat. I had no idea where it was at, and I was in the water alone.

Suddenly though, as I was shouting for help, I noticed that the tube was losing air. And THAT was the source of the hissing sound.



If you wondering why my little run-in with an imaginary snake in the water matters, it’s because fear is often an illusion. Someone great once said that fear is false evidence appearing real.

And in our art fear can hold you back.

Every time you refuse to attempt technique that you haven’t already mastered during a roll, it’s because of fear.

Every time you run away from the tougher guys in your academy instead of training with them whenever you can, it’s because of fear.

And every time stall out your partners like you’re up by an advantage in the finals of Worlds, it’s because of fear.

Reject fear and grow your game.

It’s only an illusion anyway.

But here’s something that isn’t one.

Today is generally the day when I spend hours on end in the academy, brainstorming and taping more lessons for my course. A lot was done on the half guard course. And these are few things that you have to look forward to once editing is done:

  • A stupid simple way to reset the position when your opponent start attempting a knee cut on you. (It will frustrate the HELL out of them)
  • A whole offensive system for dealing with those wily guys who backstep immediately when you beat them on the underhook. And there is even a simple counter to those pesky backstep leg attacks.
  • All kinds of tricks and recounters for dealing with opponents who try to stop you from sweeping them with the kneetap. And one is just outright nasty. (I like it a lot)
  • A way to deal with one of the most horrible position you can be put in, the dreaded double underhooks hulk smash. (You want to get out with all due haste, and this is one of the simplest ways I know)

Just wait. They’ll be loaded up soon enough.

And you can start learning my sneaky ways right away, if you so wish:

Jan 15

Psh, I don’t need no arms for this armbar

Somewhere in some far flung corner of the interwebz, this was written:

“As a blue belt I’m horrified at my own armbar ability. Horrified. I know how to execute from all relevant positions, but I must have hit about 10 from guard ever. I see people locking up beautiful armbars from the back and catching them mid scramble and I just get disgusted with my own inability. I always get stuck underneath, or miss the elbow, or just generally hate myself.”

Let’s break that down just a wee bit.

Two technical issues were identified:

  • Stuck underneath (stacked on your neck so hard that you might want to see a chiropractor tomorrow)
  • Lost the elbow (bah, all that effort for nothing)

Those are common issues, and even if you don’t get stacked, you can also get stuck because of immobile hips. Usually that’s because you’re not using your legs in the right way. And the legs play a very crucial role in the attack.

Nowadays, it’s what I emphasize the most.

Example from the instructor’s logbook:

Several moons ago, I taught a small yet hyper focused class. We drilled one technique over and over again. And coincidentally enough, it was a specific variation of the armbar from closed guard.

That wasn’t the initial plan at all though.

I adapted the class because as we drilled, I noticed specific small adjustments that could be better emphasized to improved their execution (and sometimes you’re just blessed with a group of savages that get excited about incremental improvement).

Here’s the short list of things I noticed:

  • Not bridging the hip towards the arm to create connection.
  • Not getting the top leg (the one closest to the hips) high enough in the armpit to control posture and create an ideal finish angle.
  • Not clamping the bottom leg (the one closest to the head) down on the crown of the head to prevent the stack.
  • Not pinching the knees tightly together to entrap the arm.

We improved all of those aspects of the attack one by one, and the improvement in their execution was like night and day. I can’t give you that kind of direct feedback right now, but I have updated the deathlock course.

There are now three new drills that focus on improving your effectiveness with the armbar from closed guard.

The first one, especially, is absolutely critical. It will teach you exactly how to use your legs to entrap your opponent and give them little hope of escape.

When it comes to finishing the attack with confidence, there is NO better drill than this one.

Learning is yours for the taking, you just have to kick through the door:

Jan 14

When the abominable snowman roams, no bunny is safe

One of the things that I harp about all the time (and I have no problem being obnoxious about it too) is that you don’t need to know all the moves in the world.

Quantity just doesn’t matter as much as quality, and quality stems first from a firm understanding of principles.

Hell, sometimes just making one small positional adjustment based on principle can prevent a whole host of issues.

In fact, check this out:

There are some people who get a little twinkle in their eyes and a surge of excitement in their hearts when you shoot for the underhook. They get almost giddy. And they frame and stall just waiting for that opportunity to strike.

Yeah, they’re rotten bastards through and through but what can ya do.

Within that transition, there’s a micro battle for position, and when its lost, all kinds of risks rear their ugly widdle heads.

Here’s a few:

  • Robberies in broad daylight (You got the underhook and you’re feeling on top of the world, then boom, it’s gone and you’re getting smashed)
  • Dangerous neck hugs (As you shoot for the underhook, their far arm goes around the back of your neck, then that hug starts to feel a little too snug… fast)
  • Sneaky overhooks (Haha, it’s no threat. Everything’s fine. Then that arm slides in deeper and deeper until the figure four grips locks in and everything changes)
  • Vicious clotheslines (otherwise known as the crossface that people all over the world love so so very much, as long as it’s being done to other people)
  • Acrobatic shenanigans (As you get the underhook, they immediately backstep on you, forcing a different and dangerous position)

(Of that bunch, avoid those chokes like the plague. You don’t want to feel like a bunny rabbit around the abominable snowman. He might say that he just wants to love you, and hug you, and squeeze you, but only death awaits ya.)


For a technical and conceptual exploration of setting the underhook the right way, there’s a good place to go. It’s hidden behind layers of security with armed guards at every corner. But I just might know a way that you can slip in.

All the deets can be found right here:

Jan 13

The slugger changes his grip and the crowd roars

It happened in 2013.

Some young, unknown black belt from Gracie Barra pulled one of the member of the illustrious Gracie clan in the San Diego Abu Dhabi Pro Trials. And not long after the start, the young slugger pulled guard, but the favored son was on him like lice, straight pressure passing out the gate.

Then something unexpected happened.

Somehow, the young slugger established a certain kind of grip in half guard, bridged and rotated belly down. It was almost like he was giving his back, but not quite…

1, 2, 3…

It was over!

But there was no tap.


The favored son was out.

That was the match that put Magid Hage on the map. No one expected him to choke Clark Gracie out like that.

Not long ago, I watched that match again, and I noticed something that made an instant improvement to my understanding of baseball chokes (which are all just funky setups to the cross choke anyway).

First, a little background:

When I originally learned the baseball choke from half guard. The grips were far hand palm up and near hand palm down. The issue with that is the transition to the choke has a submission risk. If your opponent is faster than you, they can armbar the hell out of you and add one more poor limb to their arm collection (those bastards).

But I noticed that Magid’s grip was different.

His near hand was palm up and his far hand was palm down.

I tested it right away, and it was straight bananas. It made the choke so much more lethal and there was no armbar risk. Hell, the only problem was just setting up the grip.

That palm up grip on the near side was harder to set up but that just means that more exploration is called for.

And that’s what yours truly is all about.

And if you didn’t know (how could you not), the best place to start straight up stealing the fruits of my research is: