How To Keep Improving Your BJJ

I have noticed over several years of teaching that some students progress faster than others.  This can be a blessing or a curse… some of the students that progress very fast get used to the exhilaration of learning fast and inevitable, the learning curve slows down.  When this happens, they often lose interest and stop training.

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Two Wolves

I find BJJ to be lacking in deeper philosophy that you will find in other martial arts.  Many refer to BJJ as a sport rather than an art.

Here is one of my favorite stories.

There is a story of a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson. He explained that we all have two wolves within us.  One of the wolves is selfish, controlling, greedy, impatient, restless, cruel, unfocused, undisciplined, and only thinks about immediate gratification.  The other is kind, unselfish, compassionate, calm, understanding, patient, focused, confident, disciplined, and thinks long term.

The grandson asks, “Which one wins?”

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What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank

What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank

First of all, do not do any of the following:

  • tell the person who just tapped you that you’re injured.
  • explain that you weren’t going 100%.
  • roll again and start coaching them to let them know that you weren’t going 100% the whole time.
  • curse, yell, or angrily tell them “let’s go again!”

No matter who you are, almost without exception, you are going to get tapped by lower rank partners.  Relson Gracie Continue reading What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank →

How to Roll Fluidly

This video is of Marcelo Garcia and Ryan Hall demonstrating a different type of rolling.  They are mainly going for positions, not submissions.

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Roger Gracie Gomes

Roger Gracie Gomez is a great Jiu-Jitsu practitioner,  and is a calm and humble person.  This compilation video is nicely done.

Notice Roger consistently uses basic techniques for success.  Many of his submission victories are cross chokes from the mount!

Are Leg Locks Part of Jiu-Jitsu? Part 2

continued from part 1…

4) Higher level practitioners do them and not lower level because most BJJ practitioners are not good at leg locks.  If they are a brown belt, their leg locks are normally at blue belt level.  Beginners may be told that they will learn them when they are higher rank, but in most schools, they won’t learn much about them.  Because many BJJ practitioners do not know them.

I believe that lower level practitioners can do ankle locks and kneebars, and they should be taught to do them with the same respect and control that they are taught to do all other submissions.

Dirty Submissions

To be fair, I have to define what I am talking about.  Leg locks include so many different types of attacks, that you can’t generalize.

What is a dirty submission?  In my opinion, when your arm is straight when you’re put in an armbar, you should tap.  If you wait, your arm will get popped.  If your ankle is straight when you’re caught in a kneebar, you know you should tap.  If your leg is straight when in a kneebar, you should tap.

In a heel hook, there is no point that you know you have to tap.  It is a twisting motion.  I know that shoulder locks are the same, that there is not an exact point that you should tap, but shoulders are built different than knees.  When the lower part of your leg twists, and the upper part is not rotating, it is the knee that is being attacked.  The knee does not have a lot of nerves in it to tell you that you are in trouble.  When you are in a kimura or americana, you feel a lot of stretching and pain before the joint is damaged.  In a heelhook, you don’t feel much.  You just hear the popping sound!

I was training years ago with a Jiu-Jitsu guy and he went for a heel hook.  At that particular school, the rule was no heel hooks.  He went for it anyways, and I didn’t feel any pain.  My knee started to feel strange, and I tapped immediately.   If I were in a competition, I may not have, because it wouldn’t have seemed like I have to.  My knee probably would have been destroyed.

My point is that ankle locks and kneebars are clean submissions.  The leg is straight, you should tap.  You didn’t prevent the attack, and you didn’t escape.

Any other leg lock then is not as clean: heel hooks, toe holds, muscle locks, and other cranks and twists.

In general, leg locks have a greater negative consequence than other submissions.  The Russian military used Sambo leg locks so much because if you break someones arm, they can still walk and fire a gun.  If you break their leg, they can’t walk, and it takes another soldier to help them walk.

But all submissions are dangerous.  If you get caught in a submission and you don’t tap- recognizing that you are finished, you could get hurt.  Now if someone throws on a submission really fast and doesn’t give you an opportunity to tap, then that is their fault.  That lack of control is really irresponsible and students that cannot control themselves shouldn’t know the art of Jiu-Jitsu!

One type of leg lock may have given leg locks a bad name: the cranks and twists.  I have trained leg locks with several people: Erik Paulson, Gokor Chivichyan, Igor Yakimov, John Donahue, and others, and there are some leg submissions that are nasty.  Visualize this: someone has you in an armbar.  You are flat on your back, facing the ceiling, and they are sitting on their butt, perpendicular to your body, and they grab your ankle and start pulling it toward your head!  You will feel pain in your knee, your hip, and even your back!


There was an army commander that had a sign on his desk: “Assumptions are the mother of all f*** ups.”  If you accepted the assumption that you shouldn’t do leg locks, guess what?  You have missed an awesome component of grappling.

To be honest, if someone wants to slow you down from submitting them, all they have to do is keep their arms close to their body while protecting their neck, and then move their hips.  But if you attack their legs, it will not slow you down at all.

It is similar to striking.  If you throw a roundhouse kick to their thigh and a jab to the head, and a cross to the body, you are attacking the low area, the high area, and the middle area.   Protecting the neck and arms is the high area.  Leg locks attack the low area.  You are way more effective when your partner has to think about defending every area of the body!

Besides attacking all areas of the body, one of the great thing about leg locks is they make your attack combinations longer, and you have more counter options.  When I lose an armlock, a leg lock if often right there.

If you don’t utilize leg locks, you are missing a large part of the art.

Are Leg Locks Part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

There is a bit of controversy on this topic.  When I started training and I was originally under the Gracies, I was told that leg locks are:

1)  dangerous

2) on kneebars you turn your back, and turning your back is really bad

3) if you train them your guard passes will suffer

4) that only higher level guys do them and should do them

Continue reading Are Leg Locks Part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? →

History of Jiu-Jitsu (Part 2), Maeda and the Gracies

continue from part 1

Information in this article was taken mostly from a book that I recommend, mostly for it’s history section,  “Mastering JuJitsu” by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has it’s roots in the Gracie family, but the Gracies learned from Mitsuyo Meada (1878-1941), “Count Coma.”  He was doing mixed martial arts matches around the world before the Gracies had been taught Jiu-Jitsu, and what BJJ practitioners do today came directly from what he taught the Gracies.  The challenge match, the strategies of taking a striker down to the ground to submit them, and the training methods emphasizing live sparring was passed to the Gracies via Maeda.


Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941)

Maeda was a classically trained Jiu-Jitsu student that had switched over to Kodokan Judo.  He was present when Mataemon Tanabe had defeated many members of the Kodokan (details in part 1), and was part of the movement to incorporate more groundwork (called newaza in Judo) into Judo.

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History of Jiu-Jitsu Part 1 (Before the Gracies)

For years I had only heard about the history of Jiu-Jitsu from the Gracies. Rorion Gracie said that his father Helio was the driving force behind most of the evolution of Jiu-Jitsu from what they learned from Count Koma.

In the Machado’s  schools (my teachers) and in other circles, there is talk about the older brother Carlos’s influence on the art. I had heard that Rickson  Gracie said Jiu-Jitsu originally came from India. And I have heard rumors from several reputable black belts that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t actually anything new- that it was derived from Kosen Judo. Continue reading History of Jiu-Jitsu Part 1 (Before the Gracies) →

How A Black Belt Can Hurt You

Having a belt system in any martial art has several purposes.  One is that students know who to trust as far as who to learn from.  Belt color will let you know to trust the darker colored belts and to take advice from white belts with a grain of salt.  There are white belts in most schools who feel they are ready to teach!

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