Don’t Build Your BJJ Game on White Belt Techniques.

Whitebelt BJJ techniques

Certain BJJ techniques are 'white belt' moves.  Which means they might be effective against white belts (and sometimes blue belts) but then stop working once you move up to opponents of a higher skill level. Basically you can pull off just about anything on a newbie.  They make rookie mistakes because they're, well, rookies.  Whitebelts don't instinctively know how to move to prevent, defend or … [Read more...]

The Two-Month BJJ Survival Blues

Why BJJ beginners have such a hard time for a few months...

It's very common for new grapplers to become discouraged at about the 2 or 3 month mark. In the beginning this person sort of expected to get his ass kicked, but now (after a few months of classes) he is still STILL getting his ass kicked. His grappling game largely consists of lying there pinned while frantically defending submission attempts. This style of purely defensive and purely … [Read more...]

A Big Guard Passing Tip Learned from Boxing

Passing the Guard

Today I'm going to share a tip which - if you actually use it - should make your guard passes twice as effective as they are right now. I learned this a long time ago from my friend and training partner Ritchie Yip. One day we were sparring, and unlike our previous sparring session he was absolutely demolishing my guard.  It was as if I had butter legs and he was wielding a red-hot samurai … [Read more...]

Podcast EP32: BJJ and Self Defense, with Jeff Rockwell and Stephan Kesting

jeff-rockwell-bjj-interview

Direct from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, here's my latest podcast interview.  In it BJJ black belt Jeff Rockwell and I discuss: How certain techniques are 'discovered' again and again What are 'the basics' and why you need one tool for every range Self defense vs competition jiu-jitsu When butt flopping in a self defense situation is the RIGHT thing to do Hair grab defenses for women The … [Read more...]

A de la Riva Guard Submission: the Triangle Choke

de la Riva guard submission - the triangle choke

The de la Riva guard is often thought of as primarily being a sweeping tool.  But you can also land a lot of different submissions from de la Riva guard too!  The main submissions include the triangle choke, omoplata, armbar and a few leglocks. Here's one of my very favorite de la Riva guard submissions demonstrated by Brandon 'Wolverine' Mullins.  But before I go on I have to confess … [Read more...]

What is de la Riva Guard?

what is the de la Riva guard

The de la Riva guard was initially created by and popularised by Ricardo de la Riva, but in the past few years it has exploded in popularity. Many world titles have been won entirely due to the competitor's skill in the de la Riva guard position.  And that's because of a couple of things... First of all, if done correctly it offers an extraordinary level of control over your opponent, … [Read more...]

Non-Stop de la Riva Guard Instructional App Now Available!

Non-Stop de la Riva Guard Gameplan

We've just put out a brand new app that could add an entirely new aspect to your guard game! It's the 'Non-Stop de la Riva Guard' instructional app by Brandon 'Wolverine' Mullins and myself.  And it's available for iOS, Android and Kindle devices. The focus of this app is on giving you a simple and easy-to deploy system for the de la Riva guard.  A gameplan that DOESN'T require you to be … [Read more...]

The BJJ Self Defense Experiment

Other submissions that were used in the BJJ Self Defense Experiment

Have you ever wondered if your BJJ would stand up in a self defense situation against an opponent determined to clean your clock with his fists? By the end of this article I'm hoping you'll have a much better idea of what to focus on to sharpen your BJJ skills for self defense purposes... The self defense implications of grappling are important to me (click here to see my other posts on the … [Read more...]

Five Tricks to Tighten Up Your Sidemount

how to tighten up sidemount

There's nothing worse than weathering the storm in someone's guard, passing their guard by fighting your way past their legs, finally getting to sidemount, making one tiny mistake and then - boom - you're back in their guard. It's tiring, demoralising, and leaves you open to getting swept or tapped out. No!  After doing all that work you want to stay in sidemount, make them pay for giving … [Read more...]

Podcast EP31: BJJ Sports Psychology with Gustavo Dantas

Gustavo Dantas Interview About BJJ Sports Psychology

It's one thing to lose in BJJ competition if your opponent really is better than you.  But it's quite another to be beaten by an opponent that you KNOW you're better than... to underperform... not to live up to your potential. It sucks! The most common reason for losing to someone with lesser jiu-jitsu skills is that you psyched yourself out and lost the match mentally.  You can be in top … [Read more...]

How to Throw Defensive, Stiff-Arming, Bent-Over Opponents

Judo throws vs defensive, bent over opponents

A reader writes... Question: Hi Stephan, I'm looking for a way to incorporate some of judo take-downs into my BJJ game, but I'm having a lot of difficulty finding throws that work with the low center of gravity that is so central to the jiu-jitsu defence against throws. The defensive bent-over posture makes it nearly impossible to get good access to their hips, or even their legs while … [Read more...]

Mental Toughness is Transferrable

baden powell trail sign

A few days ago I checked off one of the items on my lifelist by completing a 30 mile mountain ultramarathon (BC's 'Kneeknacker') with 8,000 feet of elevation gain and 8,000 feet of elevation loss. But instead of doing it in the summer we decided to do it on the shortest day of the year. Without support. In the snow. We started with headlamps in the rain before dawn, and finished with … [Read more...]

How to Take the Back from X Guard

How to take the back from X Guard

It's almost impossible to use the Butterfly Guard without also using the X Guard... When you attack with the Butterfly Guard your opponent is going to be doing his absolute best to shut you down. For example, that means that he'll be posting hands and feet all over the place to stop you from sweeping him. When he posts his hands or otherwise gets them out of position it opens up … [Read more...]

Hitting the Omoplata from the Butterfly Guard

butterfly guard to omoplata

Many people use the butterfly guard only as a sweeping position. But that's a mistake because you can also hit powerful submissions from the butterfly guard. In fact attacking with sweeps sets up submissions, and attacking with submissions sets up sweeps.  Attacking with both from any guard position makes your game so much more effective; why would you want to limit yourself to only one or the … [Read more...]

Don’t Overthink Jiu-Jitsu

armbar in progress

Back when I was a brown belt I rolled with a large, strong, aggressive and completely unskilled white belt. This white belt was absolutely determined to illustrate the size difference between us by using all his weight and all his strength at all times. You know the type... At one point he was in my guard with his forearm across my throat. Essentially he was giving me the classic trigger … [Read more...]

How to Stop the Double Underhooks Guard Pass

How to stop the double underhooks guard pass

The double underhooks guard pass is one of the low passes you see most in high level competition. It's favored by big, strong dudes who love to smash people. Once they get your hips hoisted up and your body bent in half you feel pretty vulnerable. At that point they can pass your guard, take your back, move to the crucifix, or any number of horrible, nasty finishes. So you've GOT to have an … [Read more...]

A Mean Option When Your Opponent is Stalling in BJJ Sidemount

people on the bottom can often stall in sidemount

Have you ever trained BJJ with anyone who’s so desperate not to tap out that all they do is stall? Someone who’s whole ego is wrapped up in the idea that such-and-such brown belt hasn’t managed to submit them out recently? It’s one of the biggest traps the ego can lead someone into on the mats… Back in the day I trained with one of these guys who’s entire sense of jiu-jitsu self-worth was … [Read more...]

When Should an MMA Fighter Retire?

When should a fighter retire from MMA?

Quitting MMA One of the hardest decisions a fighter ever has to make is when to hang up the gloves and retire from the MMA game. In many sports professional athletes are usually forced into retirement by orthopaedic issues. A knee just can’t take the pounding anymore… A problem shoulder just keeps on getting worse… As the the mileage takes its toll and the injuries add up, athletic … [Read more...]

How to Defend Strikes on the Ground

strike-defense-cover-and-technique-394x1024

You're walking down the street, someone bumps you, words are exchanged, you get pushed to the ground, and now some big gorilla is trying to knock your teeth down your throat.  No matter how focused you are on the sportive aspects of grappling you've still GOTTA know how to defend strikes on the ground!!! It doesn't matter if your goal is casual recreation or if you wanna be the next UFC … [Read more...]

New T-Shirts: Keep Calm and Grapple On

Keep Calm and Armbar On shirts

We just released these brand new shirts.  I had fun looking into the history of the classic 'Keep Calm and Carry On' meme - turns out it comes from just before World War 2 where the British government was trying to bolster the public morale in the face of imminent war. They might boost your morale too, but hopefully your situation is a little bit less dire than Europe in 1939... There are … [Read more...]

The 16 Most Important Techniques for the BJJ Beginner

16 BJJ Beginner Techniques

What's the most common problem (aside from getting caught under side control) facing the BJJ beginner? It's probably feeling overwhelmed by the staggering number of techniques that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu contains! There are a thousand variations of sweeps and locks and chokes and pins and escapes and guard passes.  It's enough to make your head spin! So where then do you start?  Which … [Read more...]

A Better Armbar?

Another armbar using both hands, this time in MMA

The armbar, as it is usually taught, involves using BOTH of your hands or arms to control ONE of your opponent's arms. This two-on-one control can be used when trying to break through your opponent's defenses, as in the photo below: The two-on-one arm control is usually retained right until your opponent taps out to the finalized armbar, as in the following photo: Now this regular … [Read more...]

How To Use Moves You Already Know to Do Advanced Techniques

From Advanced BJJ Fundamentals mobile app

We've just launched the latest Grapplearts BJJ instructional mobile app with my friend Brandon 'Wolverine' Mullins. It's called Advanced BJJ Fundamentals. The name of this app isn't accidental, because it's all about using the fundamental building blocks of jiu-jitsu to make learning easier, to amplify the effectiveness and reliability of your techniques, and to build an advanced … [Read more...]