Feb 04

Subverting expectations like a true master (or troll)

I have no love for the new Star Wars movie, Last Jedi.

No other movie has ever made me such strong negative emotions. From the opening scene onward, there were so many moments that made me shake my head. In fact, when it was all over, I had to wonder if I really saw what I saw.

And more than a month later, I’ve lost count of all the rant videos I’ve watched about it.

(They’ve all been far more enjoyable to me than the movie was.)

One of the best criticisms though focuses on how the movie is filled with payoffs without setups and setups without payoffs. There’s so many, in fact, that it’s hard to argue that they aren’t all intentional efforts to subvert expectations and deconstruct the mythos of the Star Wars universe.

(Spoiler warning) An example:

In the battle on Crait, the stakes have been set. One wall is all that stands between the Resistance and annihilation. Thus, a final strike team has been sent out using a motley assortment of old land speeders. Their mission? They must stop the cannon before it blows a hole straight through that wall and spells their doom.

That’s the first setup.

As the land speeders rush toward the cannon, they start to get picked off one by one. Hope is dwindling, and finally a retreat is called for. But one fighter chooses to ignore the call.



He’s someone who has shown himself to be cowardly, but now finally, he’s going to overcome fear and sacrifice himself in order to save those he cares about. He takes off his headset. You can see sweat pouring down his face. You can see the anxiety in his eyes. His speeder starts to break apart due to the heat of the charging cannon.

The music becomes epic.

The moment is built up.

And the movie does everything it can to set the expectation that Finn is going to ram into that cannon and destroy it, sacrificing his own life.

And it would have been epic because of the setup of not only the moments leading up to it but also the previous cowardly actions of the character.

But no…

Out of nowhere came a payoff without a setup.

Another character rams her speeder into him, in order to save him, and doom them all (if another savior hadn’t arrived and a previously undiscovered second exit hadn’t been discovered).

There was no setup for it.

In fact, when all the other cruisers broke off, Finn is the only one that continues on. He leaves the others in the dust. You can clearly see him approaching by himself. There’s even a shot when he’s almost to the cannon, and his eyes close.

He’s ready.

And that’s when she comes out of nowhere as if she tapped into her mutant power of teleportation.

Here’s the thing though.

Such subversion is awesome on the mat. If you can make your opponent expect the wrong thing and react accordingly, you will have a leg up on the game.

Case in point:

Earlier though, during the Sunday practice that I run, I caught a triangle from the most unexpected position. It’s an attack that I learned recently from James Booth, and the setup would make you conclude that I was either trying to crush you in knee on belly and step around for the armbar.


It’s because I have the far underhook and I’m pressuring into the position. But what actually happens is something far different, and in that roll, it completely shocked the guy. He’s like whoa, you got to show me how you did that.

Of course, I did.

And in the future, after I’ve had more time to play with it and troubleshoot, it’ll be going up in micro adjustments. What’s on deck for now, though, is a lesson on how to more effectively attack the near arm from the top of side control.

Find more about the course here:

Feb 01

A closed guard armbar for the ridiculously lazy (no-gi edition)

Jan 30

A closed guard armbar for the ridiculously lazy

Jan 30

A deep half micro battle

Years ago, one of my training partners (a fellow player of the deep half gyard), made a catastrophic blunder and paid for it.

Yup, he ended up getting cross choked to the edge of oblivion.


It’s because he lost the crucial micro battle for head position and angle in the position. He allowed his opponent to flatten him out, and that situation is fraught with peril, as he discovered.

The back of his head should have been firmly connected to his opponent’s thigh and he should have been on his side.

But there is a moment in the transition to the position where creating that ideal condition can be taken out of a person’s hand.

That’s where the micro battle truly flares up.

One small hand placement in the middle of the transition can slaughter the structure of the position and create a clear path to the pass.

It’s interesting stuff.

And by tomorrow, a breakdown on the principles behind its execution will be loaded up to micro adjustments.

Grab it here soon:

Jan 26

Snatching the underhook away from bottom side control

This whole week, I’ve been teaching classes exclusively focused on escaping from absolutely horrible positions on the bottom.

And last night, I taught a defensive sequence that starts with stealing the underhook away even when the guy on top gives you almost no space at all.

Most interesting thing about it?

A concept.

And it has a connection to that word that I use oh so often. Yup. It’s a micro thing. In fact, I call them micro advantages.

Little things like grips, angles and limb positions that give you an advantage in a specific position. And when it comes to bottom side control, getting the underhook is definitely a micro advantage if you want to escape the position.


It’s because it magnifies the effect of your bridge by increasing your ability to shift your opponent out of position.

In the absence of any defensive response (and there is a ridiculously easy one), the escape is a foregone conclusion once the underhook has been outright stolen in broad daylight.

But it’s hard to steal it.


You do one small thing.

And it’ll give you the space you need to commit robbery like a pickpocket that bumps into a person and loots their wallet without anyone noticing.

And you know what?

You can learn exactly what that tactic is with ease. I just uploaded to the tube, and it is the exact same lesson that I taught last night.