Jan 09

What Are Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Gyms Really Selling

What Are Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Gyms Really Selling

One thing that I really enjoy is taking ideas from diverse sources and applying them to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  If you read enough posts here, you probably already noticed that trend.

This post will be another example of that because I was recently exposed to a very interesting concept about business. It’s all about a simple five word question that every business should ask themselves.

The question is:

What are we really selling?

The goal of that question is to shift the focus from the product to how customers perceive the value of the product. For example, if you sold trash bags, are you really selling trash bags?  No, because no one buys a trash bag just to have them.

You’re selling a cleaner house. You’re selling a cleaner car. You’re selling a cleaner environment.  You’re selling the desired result, and the trash bag is just a tool used to achieve it.

Now it doesn’t end there. There’s also the reason why a certain result is desired, and you can go deeper and deeper there until the reason is very specific.

Here’s a quick example.

Product: Trash bag

Basic desired result: Clean house

Possible reason why: To attain peace of mind.

Possible reason why: To avoid criticism of visiting relatives or friends.

Possible reason why: To find lost possessions.

The closer you get to articulating a customer’s specific reason why and proving that your product can help them achieve the result they desire, the more likely they will be to see the value in your product.

It’s a simple concept, and we’re going to look at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu through those lens.

What’s Really Being Highlighted

This will be a comparison of the homepages of three different gym websites.

I chose them by just going on Google and typing in BJJ. Then I picked three from the local results.

Also this analysis will not be about which gym has the best program. It’s just about the messages they present to their potential customers at  that first level of contact.

If I were to compare the programs, it wouldn’t be fair. I’ve trained at two of  the gyms, and I’m biased.

Team Maryland BJJ

This gym has a explicit list of benefits with a clear association to new years resolutions. So it can be assumed that it is a seasonal message, but let’s look at it.

  1. Lose weight
  2. Bullyproof your child
  3. Learn Self Defense
  4. Increase my self confidence
  5. Increase my mental and physical health

Then there’s a offer to assist with all those resolutions.

These are all basic desired results. In this list, I couldn’t see any reasons why any of these results would be desired.

Check out the page yourself.

Crazy 88 BJJ

Every month, 60+ people sign up at Crazy 88 to learn how to protect themselves, get the physique they always wanted, and master Mixed Martial Arts.

Let’s break that down.

To learn how to protect themselves: This is a reason why someone would want to learn self-defense.

Get the physique they always wanted: This is another reason why. This time the focus is on weight loss and fitness.

Master Mixed Martial Arts: This is a desired result with niche appeal.

Every month, 60+ people sign up: This is a proof element. The intent is to say that many people have already found value in the program.

After that a training highlight video is shown, and that’s another proof element. It’s a visual demonstration of what you can learn if you sign up.

Check out the page yourself.

Baltimore Martial Arts Academy

At the Baltimore Martial Arts Academy™ we want to give you the confidence and inner strength that only a dedicated martial artist can earn. This confidence will guide you through tough times and support virtually every aspect of your life outside the gym. At the same time your martial arts training will forge new friendships and a new physique — all in a safe, friendly, fun atmosphere.

On that whole first page, this is the most compelling paragraph. It’s a shame that it’s hidden in the middle of the page.

Let’s break it down.

Give you the confidence and inner strength: This is a desired result.

That only a dedicated martial artist can earn: This is a general proof element.

Guide you through tough times and support every aspect of your life: Here’s a reason why gaining confidence will help you.

Forge new friendships and a new physique: Here’s both a desired result and a basic reason why.

There’s a video on this page too, and it includes training footage as well.

Check out the page yourself.

 The Reason Why

Ultimately, when you focus on the reason why certain results are desired, you are in fact focusing on relevancy.  So when you look at these websites, the question is how relevant are they making their product right away.

Which one would compel you to look deeper for more information if you had no idea what Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was?

If you’re passionate about expanding and spreading the art of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, these are the type of questions that should be thought about. BJJ isn’t an easy sell, but that’s not because it doesn’t have value.

It has a lot of value.

We just have to make it absolutely clear.

Jan 03

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Teaching Experiment III

After I finished that last post on training acceleration, I couldn’t wait to apply the idea. The first opportunity I had to do so was a No-Gi Advanced class I taught at Crazy 88.

Beforehand, I decided that I was going to give them one of the most developed tools in my arsenal. It was a basic attack from half guard, but it has so many layers of complexity.  My goal was to demonstrate that by focusing on the entries and the execution.

I even took some time to write out a conceptual blueprint for the class, and I’ll share that with you.

Class Structure

  • Warmup – 10 minutes
  • Technical Instruction and Practice – 45 minutes
  • Situational Rolling – 35 Minutes

Conceptual Blueprints

I’m going to share two blueprints with you. One I wrote real quick shortly before class, and the other I wrote afterward for a future class down the road. Let’s see if you can tell the which one was written first.

Who is listening?

  • Advanced Students at Crazy 88 (Mostly blue belts)

Step I – Outcome: By the end of this class, they will….

  • Understand that basic attacks can be made more effective by improving entries and developing set reactions for your opponent’s counters.

In order to achieve this they need to know:

  • How it can be done by seeing a clear example of entries, initiation, and execution

In order to achieve this they need to feel:

  • Excited about looking at their own skill set in the same framework.

Step II – Relevance: Why should they care?

  • Because if you make your basic attacks more effective, it will create more opportunities to use more advanced techniques as well.
  • Because thinking about your technique in this way may inspire innovation.
  • Because figuring out how to make basic attacks work will increase your conceptual understanding of why they work.

Step III – Point: What’s your message in one sentence?

  • Even the most basic of attacks can have layers of complexity.



Who is listening?

  • Advanced Students at Crazy 88 (Mostly blue belts)

Step I – Outcome: By the end of this class, they will….

  • Use underhook half guard because it’s effective.

In order to achieve this they need to know:

  • Entries into the positions from bad situations
  • The concepts and movements that define the technique
  • Common reactions and how to counter them.

In order to achieve this they need to feel:

  • Excited about trying out the technique during rolling.

Step II – Relevance: Why should they care?

  • Because half guard is the bridge between many positions
  • Because  focusing on the entries and execution will give them a far more effective technique
  • Because the technique I’m teaching has been battle tested.

Step III – Point: What’s your message in one sentence?

  • Even the most basic of attacks can have layers of complexity.

Technical Instruction and Practice

The first thing I taught was the technique itself. After drilling that, I started adding entries from similar situations. Kept it simple though and only showed three.

After that, we moved on to dealing with common reactions. Again, I kept it to only three, but I included a bonus trick.

Now the advantage to using this format is that they got many reps in on the basic technique. So even if they only pick up one or two of the entries or tricks, the basic form is still being reinforced.

Situational Rolling

The rest of the class was all situational.

The position was set to a neutral half guard position. The goal on top was to pass or submit, while the person on bottom had to focus on sweep or submit. There was no time limit, and they went until a person “won.”

After that another person would come in, and it was back to it.


It’s simple. I like this class structure, and I’m going to improve on it.

Jan 02

Use This Method to Innovate Any Technique

Training Acceleration: A Different Way to think about the Learning Process

Let’s start off with a question. What are the components of an effective technique?

As you think about that question, focus on one word.  It’s the one that makes all the difference. If we took it out, the number of possible techniques would increase by leaps and bounds. Including it though, allows us to focus all our attention on what works.

When it comes to evaluating techniques, all that matters is if it works or not. Is it effective? To answer that question, we must first bridge the gap between theory and application.

Training Acceleration Theory

We’ll start off with outlining the components of effective techniques:

  • Entries – Moving the match into a situation where it’s possible to perform a technique.
  • Initiation – Moving through the bulk of the steps required to increase the possibility of performing a technique.
  • Execution – Smashing through resistance in order to successfully perform a technique.

If you notice, there’s a beginning, medium and end there. Often though, instruction focuses on the middle. To help you visualize that, I’m just going to make up some numbers. We’ll say that it generally rolls out to be about a 25/50/25 distribution. It’s almost like a wave that starts low rises high and then drops back down.

If you don’t see it that way right now, I’ll explain. Take a moment to think about a technique that you do. After that, ask yourself a question. How many different paths exist to get you to the situation where that technique can be performed? It’s countless, isn’t it?

It’s because it depends on when you decide to create that situation or when you recognize the possibility. So the start point can vary a lot and the path isn’t always a straight line.

On the other end of the scale is the execution, and that’s where your opponent’s reactions matter a great deal. No one is going to let you choke them unless you’re drilling. They’re going to focus on taking away the things you need to do what you want to do.

We can focus on all those reactions and prepare responses for dealing with them. Focusing in this area is the true dividing line between basic and advanced technique. It’s why Roger Gracie’s cross choke is so much more effective than anyone else’s..

The lesson here is that there exists three different areas of innovation for technique. You can improve the entries, the initiation and the execution.


The theory of training acceleration is really simple. It’s about making a decision to focus on depth over breadth.  An example would be if you took one technique that you want to develop to a high level. You start off by drilling it how you learned it, and then you focus on the entries.

Find multiple paths into situations where the technique can be performed.  Work them and streamline the process, and then focus on the execution. Figure out the common defenses. Figure out how they work and then work on obliterating them.

It’s not a complex idea at all. It’s just another way to think about learning technique.

The Genesis

The inspiration behind this thought process is based on some unrelated research I was doing. I once saw tape from a series of seminars that Nick Delpopolo did at Crazy 88. I studied them and I noticed a disconnect between the focus on grip fighting and the focus on throws.

When he taught grip fighting, he would really focus on it and briefly mention throw possibilities. Then when he taught throws, he would really focus on that and briefly mention grip fighting entries. I think that’s very common in technique instruction, but I wondered. What if it wasn’t?

For example, in the framework of judo instruction, what if this training acceleration theory was applied? Let’s say that one throw was taught, then the focus shifted to multiple entries to that throw, and after that recounters to your opponent’s common reactions were worked on.

Time would be a factor, but the lesson could be stretched out over time or it could be done in a long seminar.

One benefit is that  that one technique would be reinforced over and over again, so there would be a high probability that the lesson would sink in. Also there would less chance of it becoming boring since small variables would be changing and relevancy would increase with the addition of multiple entries.

Let me know if you see the possibilities that could come from applying this theory. Also if you have a different idea, feel free to share it. It might help someone.


Dec 22

How You Can Counter Half Guard Sprawl Passes

Given a very specific situation, this is a series of counter options based on the progression of a technique. Before you watch it, you should check out the original half guard pass. After that, look at the counters and study them. Do you perceive any issues or vulnerabilities? If you do, highlight them. It’s not going to hurt my ego. Everything can be re-evaluated and improved upon.

Half Guard Sprawl Pass

Half Guard Sprawl Pass Counters

Hip Switch Counter


  • Once your opponent weaves their hand between your knees, they have given your their base on one side. All you have to do is prevent them from correcting that by controlling that hand. Without that control, you’ll only be able to off balance them unless their reaction is slow.
  • With the arm controlled, all you have to do now is generate enough leverage to tilt them towards the side where they have no base. That’s where the hip switch comes into play. The movement is basically a small bridge and hard hip switch from left to right or right to left. Posting on your free elbow will also help with the initial bridge.
  • From there, it’s just matter of transitioning into your preferred side control position. There’s also an opportunity to do a bicep crusher in the transition, if you actually use that submission.

Scissor Sweep Counter


  • The goal this time is to cut off your opponent’s ability to base on the other side. This time, the task is a little harder because you have to control both the far arm and the far knee.
  • Getting that far knee grip can be difficult sometimes depending how tight your opponent’s gi is. One little trick you can use to adapt for that possibility is to use your top leg to elevate your opponent’s hips. It will increase the amount of slack in their gi which will make the grip easier.
  • After that, just pull the knee in and pull the arm then it’s a standard scissor motion. One thing is that the focus should be on the top leg first. You want to partially move your opponent’s hip away from you, which will shift their weight off of their trapped leg.  With less weight on the leg, it will easier to straighten that leg.
  • As you sweep, you should try to push their far knee between your legs. That small thing is what makes the mount transition possible.


Since these counters are broken down by when they’re possible in the progression of a specific technique, it should be easy to get a sense of the timing involved.


I picked up the half guard hip switch counter from Cyborg’s Guard Instructional. The first time, I saw it, it clicked for me right away. It was just so simple that it almost seemed silly. I’ve been using it for a few years now, and it’s proven itself to be highly effective as well.

For the half guard scissor sweep counter, I think I saw on Caio Terra’s Half Guard Set. I’m not sure. It may have also just been something that I picked up at Crazy 88. I’m leaning toward the first possibility though.

Dec 17

A Quick and Simple Mount Escape Counter

There was a question on Sherdog about what to do when your opponent turns tries to elbow escape mount. In that situation, I have a little simple thing that I do, and I’ve had a lot of success with it. So I tried to explain it there, but I felt that it wouldn’t be easy to understand it with words alone.

The solution was to just put it on video, and I’m going to share it with you as well.

Mount Escape Counter


  • Conceptually, the goal is to prevent the escape by halting the movement in process. Once the leg straightens, it has to be bent again in order for the mount escape to progress. The hook you weave through stops that transition in its tracks.
  • Once you have the leg, now you have to move your leg, on the side he wants to escape to, out of the risk area. You have a variety of options for doing that. You can underhook their arm on that side. You can crossface them. Or you can just drive the knee up like a battering ram. All that matters is the goal, not the method.
  • After that, just reset into the type of mount that you prefer.


This mount escape counter has to be done before they actually free their legs. It’s a race. It’s one that favors you though. The movement that is required is far simple than the movement that they will have to do in order to escape the position.


This was something that I started to see intuitively just from understanding the mount escape and what was required for it to be successful. I took what I learned then I flipped it and looked at it from different perspective in order to come up with the mount escape counter.

Consider it reverse engineering.

Dec 16

Alternative Triangle Finish from Mount

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m in the process of analyzing the way I teach, and I’m making an effort to improve the process and delivery. So I give you these unedited videos because I like to kill two birds with one stone. I have some good knowledge to share, and I might as well do that while I’m in this process of improvement. All of the techniques I show are ones that I have had for some time, and I’ve tested them against many people.

Triangle Escape Counter


  • You should control the head when you triangle. You should control the head when you triangle. You should control the head when you triangle. Oh, did I repeat that enough? Let’s say so, but it can never be reinforced too much.
  • It’s very important to pull your free elbow back so it doesn’t interfere with your movement.
  • If you’re having trouble hitting the sweep to mount, you can insist on it by putting both hands on the mat after you belly out then use your hands to walk your hips back towards your opponent. Play with it.

Mount Triangle Finish


  • It’s simple. Just keep the lock and rotate towards the hips. Range of motion definitely won’t be a problem.


Timing is very important with the first part of the technique. When your opponent drives your knee to the ground, there’s only one step left before he generally escapes. So the best time to hit the counter is in the transition to that angle switch. Once you’re in mount though, timing isn’t a factor.


I guess I could attribute most of this to Ryan Hall. I learned the counter to the angle switch and the whole concept of perpendicular angle from him. What I did with it was an simple application. I combined the counter with the application of a concept to a unique situation.

In fact, the triangle finish from mount was my first “innovation”, I pieced the puzzle together when I was a white belt. Since then, I’ve had lots of success with it.

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