Author Archives: Stephan Kesting

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…)

How To Do the Cartwheel Guard Pass

The cartwheel guard pass is one of the most spectacular guard passes out there. But it’s not as difficult to do as you might think.

In the video below I show you an easy four step progression, including some drills you can do on your own, to incorporate this exciting move into your repertoire. (more…)

3 Ways to Deal With Injuries in BJJ

I’m not going to pretend that injuries don’t suck.  They do.

There have been many great athletic careers cut short by injury.  Many people who would otherwise have been great have had their dreams derailed when a bone went ‘crack’ or a ligament went ‘snap’ and then never quite recovered.

The typical reaction of the BJJ addict when they get injured is, ‘Oh no, now I can’t train.(more…)

The Two Highest Percentage Leglocks vs. de la Riva Guard

The de la Riva guard has exploded in popularity in recent years. Since it was popularised by Ricardo de la Riva there have always been sweeps and submission available from this position but the ascent of the berimbolo (a spinning-and-upside-down method of taking the back) has made it even more popular among the BJJ competition crowd.

So even if you never ever plan to use this style guard yourself you need to have some answers to it, because you WILL run into it. (more…)

How to Build Self Confidence in BJJ

Today I want to share the single best piece of advice I ever got from sport psychology.

Let’s set this up by supposing that you have an ambitious goal, like getting your BJJ brown belt, or winning a medal in a major competition…

To achieve that goal you’ve obviously got to do lots of drilling, sparring, conditioning, etc. All these things get your body into shape and ready for action. But when we’re talking about elite jiu-jitsu then almost everybody is in shape. And most people are fast and strong and have great timing. (more…)

A Jedi Mind Trick for Passing Butterfly Guard

This butterfly guard pass doesn’t require athleticism, speed or killer grips; instead this guard pass is all about the timing.

To have great timing you either need to have super-fast reflexes to react to your opponent, OR you have to ‘train’ your opponent to give you a certain energy so you can anticipate it and have your response already waiting for him. (more…)

Some Principles and Concepts for an Effective Closed Guard

Too often people forget about the bread-and-butter strategies that have been effective for decades and get seduced by the latest shiny technique.

Maybe there’s not a better example of something that has stood the test of time like the closed guard.

The closed guard has been controlling and submitting opponents with the gi, in no gi submission grappling, in MMA and self defense for a very long time. (more…)

Joao Miyao teaching the Ninja Armlock from Berimbolo

Here’s some seriously advanced stuff for you: renowned black belt competitor Joao Miyao breaking down the Ninja Armlock from Berimbolo.

In the exclusive Grapplearts Field Reports Video Miyao uses his bread and butter move – the Berimbolo sweep – from the leg lasso position to spin into an unexpected and hard to defend armbar. (more…)

How to Train with Beginners so that Nobody Gets Hurt and You Both Get Better

The most dangerous situation in BJJ is training with an absolute novice.

I’m serious!  Someone who has never trained before is often unpredictable, jerky, and just doesn’t know the rules of the game yet.

All that thrashing around, lack of control, as well as potential ego issues means that there’s a pretty high likelihood of something going wrong. Either that dude planting an elbow in your eye, or not him tapping out when he’s in a Kimura, or doing something else stupid. (more…)

Should I Do Extra Conditioning for BJJ?

To condition or not to condition, that is the question…

Whether ’tis smarter for your body to strain under barbells and long distance runs, or ignore all that stuff and just focus on getting more mat time.

This is NOT an article about general fitness, or about achieving a goal in another sport. If you want to run a half-marathon for the challenge, the endorphins, or the sense of achievement then there’s no ambiguity about what you should do: tie up those running shoes and start jogging! (more…)

Five Great Followups to a Failed Triangle Choke

The Triangle Choke is definitely another one of those Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu signature moves. It’s a super-powerful submission and it is responsible for ending a LOT of BJJ, MMA and submission grappling matches.

But the sad fact is that no submission works for everyone, or on every opponent all the time…

For example, sometimes your legs can be too short to apply an effective triangle choke. (more…)

The Evolution of BJJ (Plus Some Crazy Stories) with Scott Nelson

We’ve just released the latest episode of the Grapplearts Radio Podcast!

This time I talk to Scott Nelson from On The Mat.  Scott is a North American jiu-jitsu pioneer who was one of the very first guys to travel to Brazil to train in the motherland of the art. He was also one of the first guys to run a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu website (I remember visiting it back in the dial-up modem days!)

Scott has had some pretty crazy adventures along the way, (more…)

The Easiest Way to Teach (and Learn) the Armbar from Guard

The armbar from guard is one of those bread-and-butter techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A signature move, if you will.

Unfortunately it can also be difficult for some people execute the mechanics of the armbar from the guard correctly. It’s easy to get confused with all that gripping, shifting, adjusting and swivelling, and then completely botch the whole technique.

But I’ve found a way to make the armbar from the bottom a whole lot easier to teach.

(more…)

Inspiring!

I saw something amazing in the pool where I was hanging out after a workout today.

First I noticed that there was a group of about 7 men jumping off the highest part of the diving tower, again and again.

This wasn’t a dinky little diving board 1 meter off the water. They were throwing themselves off the 5 meter board, which is high enough to make anyone’s heart go pitter-pat. (more…)

Techniques Straight From Brazil

Recently I published an article on my blog by one of my very first BJJ training partners, Mark Mullen, talking about the private lessons he, as a black belt, took when he was in Brazil.

Almost as an aside Mark mentioned that he had received permission to film some of his private lessons.

Since then quite a few people have gotten in touch with me to ask what they would have to do to see the video footage of these lessons… (more…)