Friday, April 30, 2021

Broken Toes and Closed Guard

So I broke my toe a couple of weeks ago.  We were in the 50/50 position going for leg locks, and my toe got caught in my buddie's gi.  


"Dude, I'm sorry.  Are you okay?"

"Yeah.  I'm fine."

"I thought I broke it."

"Nah.  It'll be fine."

"I'm pretty sure I heard it snap."

"No, I think that was just the snap of the gi.  It'll be sore tomorrow.  But it's not broken.  It'll be fine."

It wasn't fine.  The next day it swelled up... swelled?  swole?  The next day it was swollen pretty bad.  Black and blue.  Puffed up and painful.  The whole nine yards.  

I've been walking with a limp for the last two weeks.  My plan of only going for leg locks for the next two months is pretty much kaput thanks to this little injury, but that hasn't stopped me from making it to class.

Figuring out what to teach with a broken toe was somewhat challenging.  We had been working through our tournament strategy, but it turns out I use my toes a fair bit for those techniques.  

I figured I could teach some techniques off my back.  Maybe some escapes.  But it turns out I use my toes a lot when working escapes as well.  I like to bring my toes to my butt when I bridge, Marcello Garcia style.  It usually works really well for me... but not so much with broken toes.

So I settled on going old school with little closed guard.  My broken toe stays pretty safe locked behind my training partner's back for the most part.  Depending on what submissions or sweeps I go for, I can keep myself out of trouble pretty well.

Closed guard is one of those things I feel like everyone needs to know.  But I also feel like I have to be sneaky about teaching it.  Everyone wants to learn the flashy new guards out there.  And there are so many of them now.  I worry sometimes that people will find the good ol fashioned closed guard... well... too old fashioned.  

Thing is it still works.  I was reading the other day how Gordon Ryan was using it after his leg injury to dominate everyone in the blue basement.  I figure if it's good enough for the King, it's worth teaching every now and then.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's I played a lot of closed guard.  Back then I had trouble hitting submissions from closed guard and mostly went for sweeps instead.  But my understanding of the position has improved since then.  

Instead of just going for random techniques from there, I start by attacking my opponent's posture.  Basically, I grab their head and pull it down.  Once I've broken their posture, I'll go to work on their structure, isolating one of their arms from their body.  I'll trap their other arm as well if possible.

It turns out that once you've broken your opponent's posture, isolated one arm, and trapped the other one, it's relatively easy to sweep or get a submission from there.   

So far the response has been pretty good to what I've been putting out.  Everyone is having success with breaking posture and structure from closed guard.  And from there even our white belts are able to improvise techniques once they achieve these goals.  I love it when white belts are able to apply what I teach while sparring.

Lock up closed guard.  Break posture.  Break structure.  Then everything's easier.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

- Big Mike

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Here's what BJJ will NOT do for you


It's always been my dream to open up my own gym.  I'm not in a position to do it just yet, but that doesn't stop me from researching, planning, dreaming, etc.  Every once in awhile I look at BJJ school websites to get an Idea what I want mine to look like someday.

Number one, some of the best gyms I've trained at have had the worst websites.  Barely more than some contact info and a little about the instructor.  The schedule pages were often outdated or broken.  Some websites don't even give you enough info to be able to find the gym.

Some of these guys are top notch instructors, but a lot of people out there will never know it because they take one look of the website and figure that a second rate website equals second rate instruction.

There are also plenty of professional looking websites out there put up by less than professional instructors.  You obviously can't judge an instructor by his website any more than you can judge  a book by it's cover.  That's why I always like to try out all the BJJ schools when I move to a new area before I decide where I want to train long term.

One of the things I've noticed with the snazzier looking websites out there is that they all tend to make similar claims as to the benefits of their particular school and/or martial art.  These claims include but are not limited to:

  • Self Defense
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Strength
  • Cardio
  • Flexibility
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Respect
  • Concentration
  • Self Control
  • Better Grades In School

In short, you will not only learn BJJ.  Their program will turn you into a Zen Buddhist master with a 4.0 GPA, and 6-pack abs while curing everything from baldness to cancer!

Unfortunately it's just not true.  I'm here to tell you that while I've met folks who've made incredible transformations after taking up Jiu Jitsu, I've also met some overweight, and/or out of shape BJJ black belts along the way as well.

Yes, BJJ can help you lose weight.  But it can't do it for you.  If beginning your Jiu Jitsu journey motivates you to make some tweaks to your dietary regimen, then you may find the numbers on your bathroom scale moving in the right direction.  But if you keep on eating Twinkies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and second dinner, and second lunch, etc.) then you're probably going to be disappointed.  They say you just can't out exercise a bad diet.  Turns out you can't out Jiu-Jitsu a bad diet either.

Same thing goes for just about every other benefit on that list.  There are folks out there that embody everything on that list, and they're awesome at Jiu Jitsu.  But correlation does not prove causation.  Again, consider the fat, out of shape black belt who will still mop the floor with you come sparring time.

BJJ training will not magically make you lose weight, gain muscle, develop six-pack abs.  It won't make you smarter, or focus or concentrate better per-se.

A BJJ school is a wonderful laboratory for working on those traits.  But you have to make a conscious effort.  It doesn't magically just happen because you come to class.  And any website or marketing that advertises otherwise is... well... quite frankly it's false advertising in my opinion.

If you're thinking about starting BJJ, don't do it for all of the supposed benefits you see on all of those websites out there.  Do it because BJJ is fun!  It's physical chess.  It's a way to test yourself against another human being.  It's a real life video game where brains really can defeat brawn.  Where leverage beats strength, timing beats speed, precision beats power, and hard work beats talent.  The more you play, the better you get.  You get good enough, and you can defeat giants!

If that sounds good to you, then play Jiu Jitsu for Jiu Jitsu's sake.  Maybe it'll motivate you to pick up some of those other benefits along the way.  Maybe it won't.  But I for one think it'll be worth it either way.  

Happy training!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review: New Wave Jiu Jitsu: A New Philosophy Of Positional Escapes by John Danaher


I love my wife...  Let me say that again...  I LOVE my wife!

We just celebrated our anniversary.  16 years baby!  I still remember the first time I saw her.  It feels like it was just yesterday.  I lived on the second floor of an apartment building.  I happened to be looking out the window as she pulled up in her car.  She had one of those white lab coats on.  (She was going through the nursing program at the time.)  Her blonde hair reflecting the Florida sun made sort of a halo effect.  She literally looked like an angel... and then she smiled.  It was love at first sight.

But I digress.  The point is, my beautiful wife who must truly love me seeing as she's put up with my jiu jitsu obsession over the years, gave me John Danaher's new instructional as an anniversary present!  (Thank you Sweetheart!)  So I thought I'd review it here.

The new series is called New Wave Jiu Jitsu: A New Philosophy Of Positional Escapes.  The overall concept behind it is this.  Traditionally when we're trapped on the bottom of a pin, we're content to escape to a neutral position.  Think shrimp and recover guard.  

Danaher believes we can do better.  Instead of escaping to a neutral position, what if we could escape to a dominant position?  Or better yet, a position where we are threatening our opponent with a submission?

What if your opponent has worked hard to sweep you, get on top, pass your guard and mount you, only to end up on the receiving end of a leg entanglement with you threatening a leg lock?  Imagine doing all that work, winding up in what jiu jitsu law says is a dominant position, and getting not just bumped off, but submitted!

That is what Danaher aims to do with this set.  He lays out a game-plan to go from being pinned to being on the attack.  Then he gives you the specific techniques required to accomplish this from your usual pinning positions: mount, rear mount, side control, knee on belly, etc.

Like the rest of his instructionals, he starts out with theory.  He goes into his new philosophy of escapes, what the new game plan is and why.  I suppose you could skip it if you wanted to dive right into the actual techniques, but I've always found his thought process fascinating so I didn't.  There's some good info in there, and he demonstrates a fair bit of the system.  I feel like it primes your brain for what is to come.

The volumes that follow cover escapes from mount, rear mount, knee on belly, side control, turtle, and more.  As advertised, most of the escapes wind up with you in fine attacking position, usually attacking the legs Danaher Death Squad style! .  Others end attacking the arms or neck... but end attacking the legs when your opponent backs out in an attempt to defend their arms and/or neck.

If you already have his leg lock set, I feel like there's enough new material here to justify the purchase.  It is a bit pricey, but there always seems to be another BJJ Fanatics sale right around the corner.

I would say get this one if:
  • You want to take your escapes to the next level
  • You've been wanting to delve into leg locks, but hesitate to give up position to do so, or
  • You're just a huge John Danaher fan.