Author Archives: Stephan Kesting

Brandon 'Wolverine' Mullins on BJJ Training, Competition, Transitions and Evolution

I’ve got a super cool, super informative interview for you today!

This is the first time in Grapplearts history that I’ve interviewed a person for a second time.  But boy, did my friend, BJJ black belt, and fierce competitor Brandon ‘Wolverine’ Mullins ever deliver! (click here for the first interview).

(Brandon and I originally worked together to create the highly acclaimed instructional How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent Volume 2.)

In today’s interview Brandon and I discuss a TON of stuff, including,

  • Life and death on the seminar circuit,
  • What changes you need to make to your guard to transition from gi to no-gi,
  • How to connect moves together to make a smooth and fluid game,
  • The evolution of jiu-jitsu, including the new positions and strategies that are continuously changing the sport,
  • Why you always need to pushing to improve your position even when you’re ahead on points. (more…)

How to Not Get Slammed in Your Closed Guard or Triangle Choke

Getting picked up and slammed when you’ve got your opponent in the closed guard is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to you in grappling.

It’s definitely a legitimate technique for big and strong guys to use. And in MMA and self defense slamming an opponent is one of the best ways to open the guard, or to escape a tight triangle choke.

Getting power-bombed and then and having your opponent’s weight land on you always hurts. Especially if your opponent is bigger than you are, which is usually the case if he can lift you up. (more…)

The Danger of All-Or-Nothing Thinking...

In life it’s funny what ends up making a lasting impression on you. An offhand comment can stick with you for years and years, and have an effect way beyond anything the original person intended.

There’s a phrase like that that pops up in my mind often when I’m thinking about BJJ.  But it originated in a very different place.

In fact this comment got stuck in my brain more than 20 years ago when I was taking a biochemistry class at McGill University of all places… (more…)

Rodolfo Vieira Pressure Guard Passing

When it comes to passing the guard you basically have two options: pass with speed, or pass with pressure.

Speed-based guard passes typically rely on creating some distance between you and your opponent, getting some kind of control on his feet or legs, and then blasting your way past your legs with some quickly manoeuvring. The ‘Toreando’ pass and its variations would be classic examples of speed-based passing.

In pressure-based passing you incrementally gain control over more and more of your opponent’s body until you slowly edge your way past his guard. (more…)

Judo for BJJ

An article by Mark Mullen

Most students of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are aware that the origins of modern day BJJ came from Japanese judoka Mitsuyo Maeda who was one of the earliest of Jigoro Kano’s members at the Kodokan.

Since those early days, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has evolved significantly and now Olympic style judo and sport BJJ have diverged into their own sports.

The rules governing IBJJF competition differ from those of Olympic judo requiring different strategies by the competitors and consequently a different emphasis on techniques. (more…)

The FREE Roadmap for BJJ App!

Here’s something brand new that I’ve been working on for a whole year.  It’s available right now and I think you’re really going to like it!!

How would you like a top-to-bottom game plan for the closed guard position?

What about a complete roadmap for the Open Guard?

And while we’re at it, would a game plan for the modern Half Guard help you out? (more…)

BJJ Seminar Disaster!

I once attended a seminar taught by a big name in BJJ (don’t ask me who – my lips are sealed!).

It was in a medium-sized town, but for whatever reason, attendance was terrible.  There were only about 8 people there, myself included.

And it didn’t take very long to figure out that that at least six of the eight attendees were brand new beginners.  We’re talking about never-been-taught-the-armbar-from-the-guard beginners….

(more…)

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…)