When Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro started talking about the drills he uses I paid attention!
Shaolin has won the World BJJ Championships 4 times, held the 140 to 155 lb belt in Shooto, and has a long list of other titles. He is an outstanding competitor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submission grappling and mixed martial arts, so he knows how to train effectively and efficiently!
Shaolin uses a variety of drills to help him and his students put a fine edge onto their grappling blades. Some are done fast to develop speed, coordination and endurance. Other drills are done slowly to develop isometric strength in particular positions. All of them use sport-specific movements that have direct grappling applications.
In this article we show you four of his favorite drills: all are of the light and fast variety. Attempt to do as many repetitions as possible in the time allotted: go all out for 40 seconds, and then alternate with you partner so you get 40 seconds of rest before you go again. You and your partner each do the drill 2 or 3 times each. Try to stay light on your feet and don’t thud heavily into the ground or your training partner.
The more you do these drills the better your coordination will become, and you’ll also receive some killer anaerobic workouts along the way!
SWINGING ARMBAR DRILL
This drill helps develop the hip mobility required to apply armbars from the guard swiftly and smoothly. Use the momentum of your leg to help you spin.
Shaolin has Stephan in his closed guard and both hands behind his head…
To start the drill Shaolin puts his right foot on Stephan’s left hip…
…and pivots 90 degrees, bringing his other leg up under Stephan’s armpit…
Shaolin steps over the head to the armbar position.
He now swings his right leg, then left leg in a semi-circle…
…and goes directly to the armbar position on Stephan’s right arm.Keep on swinging from side to side.
KNEEMOUNT MOBILITY DRILL
This drill teaches you how to move quickly using the kneemount. Keep the movements light and fast, and be sure not to land heavily on your partner with your knees!
Shaolin is in the kneemount and has his hands on the mat beside Stephan’s head…
Putting his weight on his arms he leaps over Stephan…
…and ends up in a kneemount on the other side.
Shaolin doesn’t stay in the kneemount: he immediately rebounds back into the air…
…and continues to jump from side to side.
TOP ARMBAR DRILL
This drill teaches you how to pivot your body to apply armbars from the mount position. Emphasize transferring your weight onto your feet and hand during the pivot.
Shaolin starts off in an armbar position holding both of Stephan’s arms.
Shaolin posts his left hand on the floor, maintaining control of Stephan’s arms with his other hand…
With his weight on his feet and left hand Shaolin pivots 180 degrees…
He now swings his leg over the head to assume the armbar position on the other side.
Holding the far arm, Shaolin places his right hand on the ground…
…and pivots around to the other side again…
…and passes his leg over the face into the armbar position. Repeat from side to side.
GUARD PASSING DRILL
Here you drill the footwork for the very popular and effective Matador or Toreando pass. Go as fast as you can while keeping good form.
Shaolin starts out with both his hands on Stephan’s knees.
He steps forward with his right leg in a slight semi-circle…
…and then steps his left leg, passing the guard and dropping into a kneemount.
Shaolin now steps backwards with his left leg…
…and then his right leg, returning to the starting position.
He now steps his left leg forward, close to Stephan’s body…
…and ends up in a kneemount on the other side.Continue from side to side, going light and fast.
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Fancy Yet Effective: The ‘Shaolin’ Half Guard Sweep
Normally I advise against flashy techniques. Generally speaking it’s rock solid basics and non-fancy fundamentals that win sparring sessions, tournament matches and MMA fights.
But I have to make an exception for this technique…
If you’re already semi-competent from the half guard position then the Shaolin Sweep might be something you want to add to your game.
Click here to learn the Shaolin Sweep.
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The Toreando guard pass (aka the Matador pass) is a very powerful way to pass the guard in gi jiu-jitsu and no gi submission grappling.
But it can be a confusing pass to learn, in part because there are so many different ways of doing it. Here’s my video breaking down the 5 major variations of the Toreando guard pass along with a bit of the historical context of each variation.
Check out my video and article about the Toreando right here.
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Historical fun fact: this article was originally published in the August 2005 issue of the long-defunct Grappling Magazine.