Victory in Austen!!

Victory in Austen!! Craig Jones had a fantastic back and forth match tonight with the exceptionally talented Tye Ruotolo at WNO Grappling event tonight here in Austin. Mr Jones was able to show a whole new side to his game that he has been developing with a very fine display of takedowns, takedowns into leg locks, guard passing, submission defense and top pressure to take a unanimous decision over a very game Mr Ruotolo who never gave up and fought well until the end. It was great to see Craig Jones use the aspects of his game that he uses daily in the gym but has not used in matches. Oliver Taza also competed tonight against the young phenom Mica Galvao. It was a tough physical match and Mr Galvao showed his developing brilliance to win a strong decision - he will be a great force in Jiu jitsu in the future. Hope you all enjoyed the show! Now it’s back to Puerto Rico to get ready for the next big challenge! Wishing you all the best from Austin!!


Craig Jones and Oliver Taza getting ready...

Craig Jones and Oliver Taza getting ready for their big matches tomorrow night in Austin Texas: Another big show in Austin tomorrow for Who’s Number One and @flograppling Craig Jones will take on the extraordinarily talented Tye Ruotolo one of the very best from the outstanding ATOS team. This will be a classic match up of ATOS athletic movement and physical conditioning against the slower more control based squad style. Oliver Taza will take on the brilliant Brazilian prodigy Mica Galvao. Mr Galvao shares a common factor with Mr Ruotolo - he was literally born into Jiu jitsu. Both have practiced at extremely high level since childhood and so bring a level of knowledge and skill to the game far beyond their years. Amazing work again by the promotion to bring such talented athletes out the stage! Craig and Oliver have trained hard as always but they will be very severely tested by such tough and talented opponents! Keep your eyes on this show tomorrow night!


It all begins with push and pull

It all begins with push and pull: Open guard is perhaps the most most quintessential modern Jiu jitsu position. It probably offers a wider array of potential attacks than any other position in the sport - but they all begin the same way - get a grip and engage in push and pull to break an opponents stance/balance and create a reaction. If you can reliably initiate the push/pull sequence at the onset of most engagements you will have the foundation of a great open guard. Next time you practice open guard focus first on the preliminary push and pull and your will find that as you improve in this regard, all the other moves you wanted to perform come easier


Position AND submission?

Position AND submission? Usually we think of positional skills as distinct from submission skills in Jiu jitsu - position comes BEFORE submission after all. However, many of the main submissions blend positional pins with submission. The Japanese are often very wise in the naming of their moves. Their term for the most common form of arm bar is juji gatame. “Juji” means “cross” since the two athletes are generally perpendicular to each other; and importantly “gatame” has a dual meaning of “pin” and “lock.” The idea is that the arm bar has the properties of both a pin AND a submission - that the two cannot be separated. You can immobilize someone with an arm bar as you do with a side of mounted pin; only you use biomechanics like advantage through your legs pinning his head rather than body weight. When you practice your submissions, especially the juji gatame arm bar, really focus on the idea of restraining and pinning an opponent first rather than rushing to the joint lock - you will find that emphasizing the dual nature of submission holds makes them far more effective against tough opponents


If you’ve got a mat - you’ve got a dojo

If you’ve got a mat - you’ve got a dojo: I’ve travelled the world and seen every kind of gym from the most plush to the most primitive, in the wealthiest countries and the poorest. I’ve seen that the gym doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is you and the people around you. If you have passion, knowledge and a plan to transform that knowledge into skill, along with the discipline to stay with that plan and the wisdom to modify it when necessary - you can achieve remarkable things. People count - places don’t. Your path to your potential is in you and the people around you, not the building you’re in. Here, Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan work out in a dusty old VA warehouse with some mats on the floor in a small town - the next night Gordon Ryan won his third EBI title. You can get a victory building workout anywhere


The value of position

The value of position: In the context of GRAPPLING, the value of position is fourfold. First, it enables you to attack the upper body with submission holds. If you couldn’t pass guard, you would be limited to lower body submissions, so it enables you to access one hundred percent of the human body. Second, it creates an imbalance between your ability to attack with submission versus your opponents ability. From neutral positions you can both attack each other with equal efficacy, but from dominant position you will be able to attack via submission far more readily than your opponent can. Third, position allows you to attack and re-attack at will until the breakthrough is achieved. If a first attack fails, you still have the position to launch a second, third or fourth attack until you get it done. Fourth, position creates pressure over time that breaks an opponent with fatigue and loss of hope, in extreme cases even outright panic. Once broken mentally, the physical breakthrough comes soon after. Now these are all valuable, the but in FIGHTING, position has a whole new value - striking. You can strike with great power and effect from neutral positions if you have the right skills, but striking from dominant positions is truly devastating. As such, you can never neglect your positional skill development if you think of your Jiu jitsu as part of a program to develop fighting skill. The damage you can inflict with strikes from dominant position can be meted out far faster and easier than any submission technique and the the terrible pressure it can create to an opponent will usually make subsequent submissions much easier.


Triangles - Making two good choices into one great choice

Triangles - Making two good choices into one great choice: Among the submission holds in Jiu jitsu there is a basic choice between strangles and joint locks - both are great options. In the vast majority of cases it’s an either/or choice; the triangle however, is one of the few options that allows you to attack both at the same time. It is a superb strangle in its own right, match the impressive power of your legs against an opponents neck. However, it also traps, isolates and immobilizes the opponents arm in ways that allow for easy juji gatame armbar attacks, ude gatame arm bar attacks (reverse arm bar), kimura attacks and wrist locks. Defending one of these is not easy. Defending two at the same time of far harder. Defending two at the same used in combination with the others is damn near impossible. Take advantage of the unique properties of the triangle to improve your submission percentages next time you’re on the mats!


When on top, your first responsibility is balance

When on top, your first responsibility is balance: It seems there is always a thousand things going on second by second in Jiu jitsu. It’s natural to focus on one or two things and get caught out by ignoring a third or fourth. Sometimes it’s good to ignore all the clutter and just focus on most important thing in that position. When it comes to passing guard from top there are a vast number of things that could occupy your attention. You have to avoid getting swept. You have to stay out of submissions. You have to employ some form of guard passing method to improve your position. As your opponent works hard to impose his game from bottom, you can get overwhelmed with all the moment to moment demands of the situation. Understand however that there is one demand that needs to satisfied before all the others - you have to STAY OF TOP. The moment you lose top position you’re down on points and you can forget all the passes you were considering a moment ago - you will have to swap over entire now to bottom game. Whenever you feel you have too many competing demands while playing top passing - just focus on retaining top position as your opponent goes for his best sweeps and submissions. The longer you hold top against his attacks the more tired he will become and the easier the secondary task of passing will become.


Ideal vs reality

Ideal vs reality: When it comes to practicing submission holds we usually practice them in the ideal finishing positions. That certainly makes the practice easier. However, the reality is that against a tough opponent who is trying to escape you will often have to finish in positions that are far from ideal - upside down, next to the perimeter, turning through three hundred sixty degrees, stacked up on head and shoulders. Your training should address this reality. You have to get a feeling for finishing in awkward, unanticipated situations or at least maneuvering from there to a more conventional finishing position. The ability to follow evasive defensive movement through all manner of twists and turns and get to your finish distinguishes the athlete who dabbles in submissions from one who truly specializes in them


Submission holds and failure

Submission holds and failure: Submission requires total focus of bodily energy for a long enough time to make an opponent submit (or if he chooses not submit, to experience the consequences of his choice). That can be a very considerable energy expenditure in a short time. If it works - it was definitely worth it. In many cases however, you will see an athlete try as hard as he can, even for extended periods of time, and fail. This can have devastating effects. Physically it can be exhausting to apply maximum isometric tension for too long. It’s tough to recover from physical exhaustion at the best of time - in the midst of a highly competitive match is even harder. Psychologically it can severely dent your confidence to try submissions again later in the match and make you second guess yourself every time an opportunity arises. As such, it is extremely important that you develop an internal feeling of what a well applied submission feels like so that you know ahead of time whether it will be worth committing all your reserves into the attempt. With all your favorite submissions try to build this self knowledge so that next time you are in the position you will know with great confidence that you can give it your all for the time required and make it all worthwhile


It’s good to chase after perfection with all your moves

It’s good to chase after perfection with all your moves - that will greatly benefit your long term progress - but don’t let your current lack of perfection hold you back. Remember that with the execution of any move you don’t need perfection to succeed - you only need to execute it better than the athlete in front of you can defend it.


New talent

New talent: Most people measure the worth of a training program on the basis of the best people in the room. I prefer to assess it on the time it takes new people in the room to make progress towards the level expressed by the best people in the room. Nick Ortiz is a very talented Puerto Rican grappler who has been working with us in NYC and now in Puerto Rico. Last weekend he competed in a local show in Boston after helping me film a new instructional video there. Look at the relaxed poise of his leg lock game as he expresses the fundamental squad leg lock themes of targeting both legs, switching from form of ashi garami leg control to another to compensate for an opponents defensive movement (switching from one leg to another, from front side to backside back to front side finish and from inside foot position to outside to counter an opponents defensive turn), culminating in a fine 50/50 finish on the inside shoulder. Well done Nick Ortiz!


"Listen up you little freak..."

Listen up you little freak - you better let me pass your fucking guard this time or you're banned from Fortnite for a month.


Many of the ancient masters...

Many of the ancient masters would describe their style in terms of an animal that expressed the essence of their art. Which animal do you think best expresses the art of Jiu jitsu? Which animal best expresses your personal expression of Jiu jitsu? Are they the same? If not - why?


So often our natural inclination is to turn and run from danger

So often our natural inclination is to turn and run from danger - but in Jiu Jitsu it is very often the case that you do better by moving in towards danger and seek to nullify it rather than fleeing into an even worse predicament.


Athlete safety in training

Athlete safety in training: As a coach one thing I take very seriously is athlete safety in training. The single most common reason for derailed training programs is serious injury. We are all mature enough to realize that a combat sport that focuses primarily upon breaking limbs and strangling people carries a risk of injury. We also accept that as long as the risk is inside acceptable parameters the benefits of Jiu jitsu skills are absolutely worth whatever the risks of injury are. My question as a coach is always to ask how to keep those parameters acceptable. This week I filmed in conjunction with BJJ Fanatics a video on training safety and how to reduce the risk of severe or catastrophic injury in Jiu jitsu. Periodic minor injuries are all part of the fun of the game - we all accept that - but no one wants to go to hospital or worse, send a friend to the hospital with an injury that was entirely avoidable. I am going to release this video for free as a guide to avoiding unnecessary injury that I have observed over the years and which made a concrete difference in my training room. A few simple training protocols can really make a difference. Pareto’s principle applies in so many aspects of life - including Jiu jitsu injuries. A few moves cause the overwhelming majority of severe/catastrophic injuries and removing them and replacing them with safer and more effective alternatives makes a real difference in gym safety. I will announce when editing is done and it is released. We all love training and we all accept that accidents happen - BUT UNNECESSARY ACCIDENTS DON’T HAVE TO HAPPEN - to keep your progress strong you need to be in the gym - and severe injuries will keep you out of the gym - so let’s train hard but also train SAFE to maximize your progress!!


Breaking rules

Breaking rules: There are many general rules that we usually observe in Jiu jitsu “don’t turn away from an opponent,” is a common one you hear. Understand always that general rules are usually ABBREVIATIONS of important information - it has to be this way because they are designed to hold as much information in the fewest words. As such, they have exceptions built into them once a little more wordage and information is added. In the case of “don’t turn away from an opponent” what is really being expressed here is “don’t turn away from from an opponent in ways that expose your back.” Once you realize there are ways to turn away from an opponent that DON’T expose your back, then you will immediately see it’s ok to turn away provided you take some precautions. Here, Garry Tonon has turned away, but he has used a posting stiff arm to prevent an opponent getting chest to back contact and lifted his shoulders off the mat so that the back exposure will be momentary rather than prolonged. As such, there is very little danger of dangerous back exposure and thus it is fine to turn away in this case. The general heuristic rules are of immense value because they pack a lot of information into short, easily remembered packages - but realize that every simplification has its limits and exceptions - sometimes those exceptions can be of great value to your performance!


Bottom game is more difficult for most students to learn than top game

Bottom game is more difficult for most students to learn than top game: When I teach people beginning Jiu jitsu I almost always start them with bottom game first. The first skill they must master is pin escapes, since in their early days they will be fighting out of bad positions for most of their training time. Once they learn to escape to guard from a bad pin, they will need to learn to hold on to their guard so that they don’t get out but then immediately put right back into the pin they just escaped from - so guard retention is the next skill they need to learn. Then they need to learn to fight effectively from their back as they can now get to and hold a guard - now it’s time to attack from there. You can see all these first skills involve fighting from your back. Part of the reason this should be taught first is practical - because as a beginner with no takedown or pinning skills you will almost certainly find yourself underneath opponents. In addition it recognizes that if you are matched against bigger opponents you must be able to survive and fight from underneath. The other big reason is that most people find the act of learning to fight from their back more difficult than from on top. Nothing in life prepares you for the movements and techniques of bottom game. I’ve seen plenty of athletic beginners come in and do pretty well in top position on day one - but never seen that from bottom position. Instinct and natural talent doesn’t help much from bottom - you have to learn everything. As such the learning process is usually longer in bottom position than top for most people - SO START WITH A HEAVIER EMPHASIS ON BOTTOM GAME FIRST - it will give you more development time. You can always play catch up with top skills later.


That one time I cornered a match with Rex Kwon Do...fuggedaboutit!!

That one time I cornered a match with Rex Kwon Do...fuggedaboutit!!


Kuzushi

Kuzushi: Most Jiu jitsu student know that the act of off balancing an opponent is referred to as “kuzushi” in Japanese. Most also realize the importance of this to set up techniques on the feet and also from bottom position on the ground. That’s all fine as a theory - but what about practice? How do you know you’ve done a good job of off balancing an opponent in the heat of sparring or competition to a degree that it will be useful for your move? When working from bottom guard position the single clearest sign is simple - DID YOU MAKE YOUR OPPONENTS HAND TOUCH THE MAT? If the answer is yes - well done - he is definitely out of balance and you are ready to attack. When working your kuzushi on your opponent just try to involuntarily touch his hand to the mat and then immediately attack. Learn to do it and learn to recognize it as an important sign and your effectiveness from guard will greatly increase