Can You Cross Your Ankles in Back Mount?

When is it OK to cross your ankles in back mount?

"Never cross your ankles when you're in back mount!" This rule is often taught as gospel to BJJ beginners. Truly, it's not a bad rule of thumb to start with.  But there are exceptions to every rule, and that's what this article is all about... The back mount is one of the very best positions in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  From the back you can submit your opponent with some very powerful … [Read more...]

47 Favourite Martial Arts and Inspiration Quotes

Martial Arts Quotes

I love pithy quotes: in just a few short words they can encapsulate an entire strategy, philosophy, or approach to life.  That's why more than 10 years ago I published a short article with some of my favourite grappling and martial arts quotes. Well, I've come across a lot more great quotes in the last decade! I typically share the new quotations I discover on my Twitter and/or Instagram … [Read more...]

Podcast EP 34: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Principles with Rob Biernacki (plus Ninjas, Insane Martial Arts Instructors and Martial Arts Cults)

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu principles with Rob Biernacki

The latest episode of the Grapplearts Radio Podcast is out.  In it I talk with Rob Biernacki, a friend, BJJ black belt, and contributor to Grapplearts (see the videos and articles he's been involved with here). Rob is known for his analytical style of teaching BJJ.  He doesn't focus on being a 'technique collector, but rather specialises in sharing the underlying principles and concepts that … [Read more...]

Pre-Workout Supplements for BJJ

Pre-workout Supplements for BJJ Image

Pre-workout supplements used to be mostly for weightlifters and bodybuilders.  But now more and more jiu-jitsu practitioners are taking them before BJJ class in order to train longer and harder. Do they work?  Sorta, kinda... Are they safe?  Not at all. Is there a better alternative?  Definitely! Let's look into pre-workout supplements, especially with regards to students of BJJ. In … [Read more...]

How to do the Reverse Butterfly Sweep

How to do the reverse butterfly sweep

I talk a lot about the butterfly guard around here; it's one of my very favourite guard positions.  It's powerful, it's mobile, and it's fun. There's no doubt that the workhorse of the butterfly guard is the 'basic' butterfly sweep.  It's a tool that newcomers to jiu-jitsu can learn quickly, but is still being used by the top BJJ competitors on the planet. Now there's a move called the … [Read more...]

Finger Pain in BJJ and What to Do About It

Hand and finger pain in BJJ

"My Fingers Hurt..." I get a lot of emails, tweets and messages from BJJ practitioners about fingers hurting all the time. For example, I asked a question about BJJ hand pain on Twitter got a ton of responses (click here to see them on Twitter), including a disconcerting number of white belts who had this problem. So it's a real problem, and not only for people who've been doing the sport a … [Read more...]

A Trick to Set Up the Grips You Need to Pass Your Opponent’s Guard

Guard Passing Grips

One of the keys to passing the guard effectively and efficiently is controlling the grip battle. But a quality opponent always be trying to block your grips.  Not only that: he wants to attack you with sweeps and submissions so at the same time he'll be trying to ensnare you with his own set of grips. As a result, when you're passing the guard you'll often end up in a pseudo-symmetrical … [Read more...]

Top 3 Armbar Mistakes in BJJ

Top 3 Armbar Errors in BJJ

The basic armbar is one of those bread-and-butter submission techniques in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. You just can't do BJJ without it, so it's SUPER important to understand this submission inside out! But I see people make the same silly errors for the armbar all the time. That's why I shot a quick and dirty video showing the three most common mistakes for the armbar (plus how to fix … [Read more...]

The 4 Most Common Errors For The ‘Upa’ Mount Escape

Mistakes made while trying the Upa Mount Escape

The 'Upa' (or 'Bridge and Roll') is probably the very first mount escape that a beginner ever learns. It's taught as part of the basic curriculum for a very simple reason: it works! You see this escape in MMA, submission grappling, and BJJ competition with the gi. I've used it as a white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt. Contrary to what some people will tell you is … [Read more...]

Fitness On One Hour of Working Out Per Week…

Working out when time is limited

A reader recently asked an interesting question... Hi Stephan, I'm super-busy with my job and my kids.  In a good week I only get to go to BJJ class once, maybe twice, so I want to add some conditioning to the mix.  If I only have one additional hour per week to devote to physical fitness what would you suggest? Thanks, Jim  I feel his pain!  Everybody's busy these days, and … [Read more...]

BJJ – Born in Japan, Evolved in Brazil!

BJJ: Born in japan, evolved in brazil shirt

This new BJJ shirt was designed by Mark Mullen, one of my very first jiu-jitsu training partners and occasional contributor to the Grapplearts blog. Obviously being a BJJ black belt he's a skilled grappler and instructor, but what a lot of people don't know is that he also does a lot of graphic design.  So when he came up with this image of a charging Japanese dragon I thought it would make a … [Read more...]

How to Escape Kesa Gatame and the Headlock

How to escape Kesa gatame and the headlock

Kesa Gatame is one of the most under-utilized positions in BJJ. People in jiu-jitsu tend to ignore this position but generations of judo players and wrestlers have proved that Kesa Gatame IS a powerful and effective way to pin someone. And - even worse for someone caught in it - Kesa Gatame is also a great entry into some very effective armlocks, leglocks, neck cranks and diaphragm … [Read more...]

Blocking Headbutts in the Guard

Blocking headbutts from the bjj guard

As I've said many times before, BJJ is a fantastic sport and fitness activity but at it's core IT'S A MARTIAL ART. And that means you have to keep an eye on how this stuff would work in a real fight. Someone recently asked me what you can do to prevent getting knocked out if someone on top of you is trying to headbutt you into oblivion. Good question.  It's an important topic: before they … [Read more...]

Podcast EP33: Leglocks with Eddie ‘Wolverine’ Cummings

Leglocks with Eddie Cummings

In this episode of Grapplearts Radio I quiz Eddie Cummings - one of the very best leglock artists active on the competition scene today - about every detail of his leglock game, including : Why the heel hook is one of the most efficient submissions for self defense How to train leglocks safely How a world class grappling competitor spends his days Dead ends and rabbit holes that … [Read more...]

Leg Action in Rear Mount – How to Put the Squeeze on Your Opponent

Full rear mount with harness on upper body and proper leg action

The rear mount is one of the very best positions you can get in BJJ. In rear mount you're behind your opponent and can attack him with chokes and armlocks (not to mention strikes in an MMA or self defense context).  And there's pretty much bugger all that he can do to you... But it can be a lot of work to get here.  You have to pass his guard, induce him to turn, secure your grips, get your … [Read more...]

BJJ Instructional Apps for Amazon Kindle and Fire Tablets

Grapplearts BJJ Apps

Wow, that was a LOT of work: we just updated our entire fleet of BJJ instructional apps for Amazon Kindles and Fire Tablets. I shouldn't complain: if you're going to play in the instructional app space then you just have to accept that you're going to be spending a lot of time and money updating apps on a regular basis so they keep on working as the various platforms evolve. Click here if … [Read more...]

Dealing with Big, Strong Wrestlers in Your Guard

Teaching a class

I got the following question on Twitter where I hang out as @stephankesting. I think it's a question worth exploring because a lot of people find dealing with strong, large and aggressive wrestlers very difficult. Question: Hi Stephan, I’ve been training BJJ for a few years now, but I get frustrated when I roll with one particular bigger, stronger whitebelt coming from a wrestling … [Read more...]

How To Do The Lapel-Based Brabo Choke in the Gi

Brabo choke inside the half guard with the lapel of your opponent

From our very first day on the mat we're taught to pass the guard before attacking with a submission. Pass... Establish position... And only then try to submit! So when a technique like the gi-based Brabo choke comes along it seems very counterinintuitive. Because in it you stay in his half guard, you don't try to pass, and you still attack with a choke. Every rule - including the primacy … [Read more...]

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...]