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:

Jan 02

Side control micro battles 101

Following up:

I still see people struggle with escaping from side control. It’s understandable. You’re at a disadvantage. The position is inferior, and you have to deal with weight and a limited range of movement.

That’s why you have to give yourself every advantage.

Easy to say, but how do you do it?

Ahh, that’s the eternal question. How about we put it into the framework of micro battles. That might make a little more sense.

The big objective is obviously to escape. But you can’t get to that outcome unless you do a few things first. There’s no way to just magically transport yourself to a different position.

Setup is important.

And the first micro battle is the fight for head control. If I control your head, I control your body. Usually in the transition to the pass, there will be opportunities to prevent head control with frames. It just depends on the pass that’s used. So I encourage you to study passing. When you understand how a specific pass works, it’s easier to win the micro battle for head control in the transition.

And if you never let them control your head, you’ll be able to stop them from stabilizing the pass. And if you do that, guess what?

Your escape will be easy.

The second micro battle is the fight for a frame against the hip. Without that frame, not only will it be harder to move but it will also be easier for your opponent to take back any space you create.

Losing that battle is the easiest way to get completely stuck in the position.

The third micro battle is the fight for space. This is where you bridge comes in. And most people do it gloriously wrong. They DON’T bridge. They bump. They lift their hips for just a wee moment and hope that their opponent will levitate in the air instead of falling right back down like a ton of bricks.

When you bridge, you must bridge towards your opponent (onto your shoulder). And it must be done with a wide base so that you’re stable in the position. That will allow you to easily move at the highest point of the elevation when you have the most space.

Winning that first battle will absolutely make escaping easier. If you lose it though, you must win the other two.

Tactics and strategy. That’s what the game is all about.

And this week, I’ll be heading down to North Carolina to share as much knowledge as I can.

If you’re in that area, the details can be found here:


And for the first time ever, I’m creating a resource for everyone who plans to attend or wishes that they could. In a little hidden dimension, I’ll be adding supplemental lessons and a full recap of everything that is covered.

It’s going to be fun.

Dec 13

You don’t know what you are truly capable of

There’s an incredible scene in the movie, Facing the Giants.

It takes place on a football field, after practice. The coach catches his star athlete, the leader of his team, talking pessimistically about their upcoming match against one of the better teams in the league.

This was the STAR athlete. His words, his feelings and his beliefs were being transmitted to the rest of the team, and it could not be allowed to stand if they were to have any hope of victory.

So the coach did something about it.

He called the kid out and challenged him to the death crawl. One of his teammates strapped himself to his back, his eyes were blindfolded, and he started to crawl up the field.

Now this drill wasn’t new to practice. They had all done it before, many times. And the athlete had a sense of what he was capable of. But without sight, he had no idea where that point was.

He started moving forward. And his coach was in his ear.

“Let’s go, Brock. Show me good effort.”

He kept moving forward. His coach was in his ear.

“You gotta keep moving. You gotta keep moving. Let’s go. Don’t quit.”

His legs started to hurt. The spotlight was on him. The whole team was watching. But his coach was in his ear. And he kept moving forward.

“Keep driving! Don’t quit until you got nothing left!”

Fatigue was coursing through his body but his coach was still in his ear. And he kept moving forward.


The whole team stood up in amazement but he kept moving. One hand forward, one foot forward over and over again. And his coach was in his ear, driving him the whole way, until he finally had no more to give.

He collapsed, and when he took off the blindfold, he was shocked. He made it all the way to the in-zone, much further than he had ever gone before.

And in that moment, he truly knew that he was capable of far more than he once believed.

I thought about that scene last night because I saw someone quit in class.

We were finishing up the night with a little plank work. Pretty light work, but about 40 seconds in, I saw someone completely quit. He abandoned the position and sat down on his butt.

I tried to bring him back and after a long moment he got back in position.

It didn’t last though.

Not long after, he quit again, but this time he did something even worst. He got up, walked off the mat and started getting changed.


I came up in an environment where such behavior was unacceptable. And what’s worst is that he was in better shape than several people who stuck with it to the end.

I have no sympathy because quitting easily becomes a habit. If you do it on the mat, you’ll do it elsewhere.

But if you build up a resistance by smashing through obstacles over and over again on the mat, you will also reap benefits when it matters outside.

Don’t quit.