How NOT to Get Triangle Choked While Passing the Guard

The very first guard pass I learned was the stacking guard pass (also known as the smashing guard pass or sometimes the ‘over under’ pass).

Initially I was doing this pass all wrong, and I can’t even begin to count how many times I got triangle choked trying it. But eventually I learned a few tweaks that made it much harder for my opponents to apply the triangle choke, and now it’s one of my bread and butter guard passes. (more…)

BJJ Self Defense Part 5: Defending the Low Tech (and Deadly) Headlock!

One of single biggest errors you can make when you’re practising a martial art is to assume that everybody else practices that same martial art.

Let me explain that…

Boxers spend 99.9% of their time learning how to fight other boxers. Wrestlers train to attack with, and defend against, wrestling techniques. (more…)

BJJ Self Defense Part 4: The Technical Standup

Today we’re going to look at and learn about one of the most fundamental movements in all of BJJ. It’s the “technical standup,” and make sure that you’re doing it correctly.

The technical standup is used ALL the time in BJJ, submission grappling and MMA.

This exact move can get you out of trouble in scrambles, prevent guard passes, and finish sweeps for you, but first and foremost the technical standup allows you to get back to your feet in a real fight without getting your teeth knocked out… (more…)

BJJ Self Defense Part 3: The Street Guard

If you’ve been reading my emails and training in grappling then, by this point, you’re going to be quite familiar with the guard.

In some ways it’s the iconic BJJ position.

But do you know WHY it’s such an integral part of BJJ? Why do we focus on this position so much? And why would we ever want to be lying on our backs on the pavement in a streetfight? (more…)

BJJ Self Defense Part 2: Escaping the Mount

The first time I ever saw the Mount position was during a schoolyard fight in grade one. One kid pushed the other kid to the ground, climbed on top, sat on his chest in the classic bully position, and then absolutely dominated the fight. He punched and slapped and taunted the other kid who was completely unable to do anything about it until the fight was broken up by the teachers.

The kid on the bottom wasn’t too badly hurt in the end, but only because it’s hard for grade 1 punches to do much actual damage.

The take-home lesson was clear though: he who maintains the Mount wins! (more…)

BJJ Self Defense Part 1: Proximity, Panic and Claustrophobia

This might be a bit controversial but BJJ IS A MARTIAL ART!

That means it’s a fighting method, used for stopping (and possibly hurting) people who are intent on doing you serious harm.

Sure, it’s also a fantastic sport, a fitness method, and a way to challenge yourself. I enjoy it for all those aspects too. But being able to take care of business in the street comes first. (more…)

How to Open a Stubborn Closed Guard

Passing the guard and establishing a stable position is maybe the single hardest thing to do in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

You can know a ton of guard passing techniques, but what if you’re in the Closed Guard and can’t start your pass because your opponent absolutely refuses to open up his legs.  He just keeps you in his guard with his ankles crossed and wears you down with his wickedly strong legs, relentless attacks, and incredible determination to never-ever uncross his ankles. (more…)

Redemption from Kung Fu Foolishness

Anyone in my age group will understand how it came to be that the first martial art I fell in love was ninjutsu.

Ninjas were everywhere those days, and what could be better than sneaking around wearing black, throwing smoke bombs, and building booby traps?

Of course I too was determined to become a ninja, but first I needed the gear.  I asked, begged, pleaded my parents to be given the tools of the trade (black outfit, sword, split toed sandals, all that good stuff), but unfortunately my mind control techniques weren’t up to snuff and I received no help from them.

For some reason my long suffering parents had their doubts that throwing stars and poisoned blow darts were good toys for their rambunctious 8 year old son.  Plus any ninja clans operating in the Greater Toronto Area were too well hidden for me to find them, especially since I was still almost a decade shy of testing for my driver’s license.

So my dreams of living a life in the shadows were crushed at an early age :( (more…)

Why Don't More BJJ Students Ask Questions?

I know I’ve been lucky, but most of my martial arts instructors have encouraged questions.

For example, my BJJ coach, Marcus Soares, is known for his killer conditioning sessions (‘warmups,’ he calls them…).

But right after putting his class through hell he always starts the technical part of class by asking, “Are there any questions.” He then takes time to answer each and every question, regardless of whether it applies to BJJ, MMA or self defense. (more…)

Adam Singer on Modern MMA Training and Competition

Stephan: I’m here today with my friend, Adam Singer, who runs The HardCore Gym in Athens, Georgia.  He is probably best known for being Forrest Griffin’s MMA coach during the formative years of Forrest’s career. He’s also a jiu-jitsu black belt and has trained tons of fighters.

I’m really looking forward to picking his brain about MMA and jiu-jitsu and the relationship between these things. He’s an outspoken guy, so I’m sure we’ll have a good conversation. (more…)

The Answer is Out There!

Let’s say that you want to add a new technique – any technique – to your game.

With new techniques there’s always a ton of trial and error, struggle and effort, discouragement and tough times before it starts working reliably for you.

But here’s the thing: no matter what area of jiu-jitsu or submission grappling you’re working on, I guarantee you that there’s someone out there who has already spent years working on that exact technique. (more…)

Try This First When You're in X Guard

The X Guard is a hybrid open guard / half guard position, first popularized by Marcelo Garcia.

There are a million sweeps, finishes, and follow-ups from the X Guard. Everything from kneebars and omoplatas, to fancy upside-down backwards flipping sweeps, to techniques that take you directly to rear mount.

But I don’t suggest starting with any of these techniques… (more…)

Countering and Passing Reverse de la Riva Guard

Regardless of whether you want to add this modern BJJ inverted spinning stuff to your own personal repertoire or not, you should still know how to counter this position.

But even if you don’t use the Reverse de la Riva Guard yourself, the chances are still good that you’ll eventually run into someone who does. And when that happens hopefully you have an answer that allows you to counter the most common attacks from the RDLR, and then work directly into a guard pass. (more…)

A Dirty Boxing Breakdown

This is a video from the archives that I shot with my friend and training partner at Infighting MMA in downtown Vancouver.

Infighting has since moved into a much nicer, larger facility, but the information in this video is still 100% valid. It’s all about the ‘dirty boxing’ techniques that are technically illegal in boxing but still end up deciding fights all the time. (more…)

Some Tweaks for Tightening the Armbar from Closed Guard

Chances are that the armbar from guard is one of the first techniques you ever learned in BJJ.

In fact the closed guard armbar is one of those fundamental techniques that results in submissions every day at every BJJ school in the world (in fact it’s the fifth most popular submission in a poll of 533 Grapplearts readers).

But just because you learned it early in your career, and just because you’ve been practising it for a long time, doesn’t mean that you can’t make it better! (more…)

How to Transition from Half to Closed Guard

The half guard is a sophisticated tool in the grappler’s toolbox that can be used to defend, sweep your opponents, or submit them outright.

But just because you’ve got a hammer doesn’t make the whole world a nail. And that means that you can’t rely on any one guard position as the be-all-and-end-all.

Even if you’re a half guard wizard you’ll still end up facing opponents who know all your tricks, or are particularly gifted at shutting down half guard. (more…)

How to Do the Head and Arm Choke (aka 'Kata Gatame')

The Head and Arm choke is a super-powerful submission that works with and without the gi, with and without strikes, in BJJ, Judo, Submission Grappling and Judo.

It’s ended a lot of matches and even put a few people to sleep.

The Head and Arm choke comes from Judo (where it’s known as Kata Gatame) and if you grapple then it’s a technique that you need to know! (more…)

Why Talent is Way Overrated

So I’m touring Casa Loma recently, the famous castle in downtown Toronto and the largest private residence ever constructed in Canada.

Just the usual touristic wandering of the halls, climbing the turrets, and exploring the never-ending parade of lavishly decorated rooms.

All of a sudden I heard something beautiful drifting through the marble and hardwood hallways. (more…)

How to Pass 'Worm Guard'

One of the big trends in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recently has been the increasing sophistication of lapel-based guard control and sweeps. In this style of game the lapel gets fed around arms, behind the torso, and between the legs to make it difficult for your opponent to pass your guard and also much easier to sweep him.

The most recent variation in this evolutionary trend is a position called ‘the Worm Guard,’ used by Keenan Cornelius in the 2014 World championships against some very legitimate opponents.

Even if you think that this type of guardplay is the devil’s work and never, ever intend to use it in your own game you will probably still run into someone at your academy (or in competition) who will try it on you.

And in order too counter it you first need to understand it! (more…)

Takedowns for People Who Don't Do Takedowns...

At it’s core BJJ is an incredibly effective way of fighting on the ground.

But the sad truth is that grapplerts who haven’t trained in Judo or wrestling can often have a lot of problems getting the fight to the ground.

In fact the only plan many BJJ practitioners have for getting a match to the ground is to pull guard, end of story. (more…)