Sep 04

Severing the gordian knot with one broad stroke

According to legend, Alexander the Great was once faced with a problem that seemed intractable.

In the year 333 B.C. he marched into the Phrygian capital of Gordium in modern Turkey. And within the city, there was a prophecy. It foretold the conquest of all of Asia by any man who could succeed in unraveling an extremely complicated knot known as the Gordian knot.

It was a challenge that just couldn’t be resisted.

And he didn’t hesitate. He strode forth and spent long moments to unravel the knot, but all his efforts were unsuccessful. The problem was too complex. But then, he did something unexpected. He pulled his sword from his sheath, raised it high, and then severed the knot straight down the middle.

A simple solution to a complex problem.

And there’s lesson there for those of us who play this Jiu-jitsu game.

This art is filled with complexity, but there is also simplicity.

One of the areas where things can easily get complicated is open guard. Every time you look around, there’s a newfangled guard. Worm guard, donkey guard, octopus guard, and so on (hooray for biology inclusion into the art).

I’m not a fundamentalist. I love all the innovation. But you’re faced with a problem when you’re hit with a guard that you’ve never seen before and you have to pass.

That’s where concept comes into play.

No matter what control in guard is determined by the quantity of contact points. Guard is strong when someone has both hands and both legs on you. And if you did nothing else but destroy those points of contact, you would weaken their control.

The application of that principle is very linear too.

Every grip you break, exponentially weakens your opponent’s control. What that means for you is that you don’t need to know a specific pass for every guard that someone uses on you.

You just need to understand how to neutralize and break points of contact.

Even if you did nothing else, you would increase your ability to pass all these complicated guards.

Sep 01

Hope still exists even when the underhook has been lost

Just another day playing half guard, and it happens.

You lose the underhook.

And then the guy proceeds to smash you without any mercy at all. Where is the consideration? It’s supposed to be the gentle art. But noooo. There’s nothing gentle about the pressure that’s raining on your chin.

It sucks.

I know. I’ve been there many times.

But it’s not the end of the road. You still have options. You can still strike, even in that situation. And guess what??

I’m going to show you some tricks of the craft. First though, let’s talk about concept.

You Lost the Underhook. Oh Noes!

Hearken to this.

Your most severe issue isn’t the underhook; it’s the fact that you’ve been flattened out. Once both your shoulders hit the mat, it spells trouble. You lose mobility and your ability to leverage is damaged. Keep that in mind at all times. It may just save you.

Anyway, we’re going to assume that you’re flat.

Because otherwise, you would still have the ability to move as you wish for the most part.

And in that case, you must damage the structure of your opponent’s position. And your tools for that will be hip movement and bridges. Ahh. It’s basics 101. Just goes to show that there is a reason behind all the movement drills.

They actually have a purpose.

And their applications are countless.

Well, well, that’s enough with the abstract principles, take a gander at how they can be used to either sweep or take the underhook back.

For more tips and tricks for the underhook half guard game, mosey over to my course on the topic. I’m sharing all of my experience playing the position over the duration of seven weeks jammed packed with little lessons. Jump in, and improve your game.

Aug 09

Stacked on your head in the armbar no more

For me, the closed guard armbar is the submission that I love most. Not because it’s easy though (there are a lot of submissions that are easier for me). It’s actually the complete opposite.

I love it because it’s so difficult.

Almost everyone recognizes the threat early and defends powerfully.

And many times, I’ve lost it before the threat truly began. That forced me to start developing little tricks to disguise the threat but that is a topic for another day.

Let me tell you a story instead:

About two years ago, I had an opportunity to attend a Pedro Sauer seminar. And he ran it a little differently than I’m used to. It was entirely Q&A. Everyone asked questions, and we covered a wide range of topics. When it was my turn though, I only had one little simple question.

How do you finish the armbar from closed guard?

That’s all I wanted to know.

And he gave me a detail that blew my mind. No joke. I cannot overstate how powerful that little detail was. It revolutionized the mechanics of my finish. I’ve never forgotten it, and I never will.

And guess what?

I’ll share it with you today.

Be warned though. It absolutely slaughters the stack in its infantry. May it rest in peace. And I’m going to show you some other small adjustments that will help you make your attack more lethal.

Aug 08

I have a preference for stupid simple solutions

On top of half guard, you have the underhook, and your position is dominant.

All should be right with the world. The pass should be inevitable, and your opponent should be sweating bullets, worrying about how they’re going to reverse the situation.


It’s not always the case.

Sometimes they do something annoying. They lock you down.

Let me tell you a story about that:

Back in 2003, at the most prestigious no-gi in the world, Eddie Bravo steps on the stage against Royler Gracie. And at that time, no one knew who Eddie was, and he was expected to lose in spectacular fashion.

Royler was not just a Gracie. He was the man. When it comes to competition jiu-jitsu, he was out there smashing people left and right. And his accolades were massive. So there was no doubt that he was the favorite.

But in that match, something unexpected happened. He got caught. He got submitted. And it was by some unknown American.

That event was the claim to Eddie Bravo’s fame.

Fun story, right? But that’s just the background. Gather around for the true tale.

Many years passed after that, Eddie vowed that he would only compete again if it was against Royler. He wanted a rematch because many considered his victory to be a fluke. And he wanted to prove the naysayers.

And then there was an opportunity.

At Metamoris, they met again, and both came in with something to prove. Eddie wanted to show that his first victory was legit, and Royler wanted to show the world who the true top dog was.

They stepped on the stage, slapped hands, and right off the bat, Eddie pulled half and immediately went to lockdown.

Royler got the underhook right away, and his head position was good. He aligned it right with the jaw and drove in to apply pressure from hell. Then he started to trying to blow past the position with a knee cut pass.

Only…. It didn’t work.

There was one attempt, then a second, a third, and more. All failed, and you can see the frustration in Royler’s eyes as he increased the intensity. But he didn’t even come close.

I don’t want you to have that experience.

Lockdown is specifically geared towards killing the knee cut, but it has flaws. There’s an easy way to pass it. And now you can learn it:

Jul 30

Technique has no respect, regardless of your belt

I’m doing a little mental review from a seminar  I just attended.

There were some SERIOUS gems of knowledge dropped on that mat, and I can say without a doubt that it was more than worth the investment. And if there was an opportunity to learn from David Onuma again, I would jump on it in an instant.

But beyond the technique (secret squirrel stuff OH BOY), one small bit of philosophy shined bright.
First though, imagine this:

Suddenly, out of nowhere, you had to urge to do something that must people will never do. You decide to focus on mastering just one technique and devote weeks to that project.

At first, you struggle. You fail. Over and over again. But you soldier on, and it starts to click.

And then after all that work, you reached a high level of proficiency. And then you have an opportunity. By chance, you find yourself in that position against a higher belt.

What do you think is going to happen?

You just might succeed.

Whoa. You’ve been practicing, and in that specific situation, you are the expert, even against higher belts. They only have a chance if they’ve spent as much time as you have practicing their defense.

If not, shock and awe them.

No mercy.

When technique is precise, it works. And it has no respect at all (if only I could do Rodney Dangerfield’s voice justice).

Skill is absolutely situational. Anyone can be beat if you put them in a situation where they are a novice and you are a master.