Inspiration and progress can sometimes come from the most unlikely of places. This was the case when I met Pedro Sauer Black Belt, Mike Diaz. What? How could I say such a thing about such an accomplished and respected expert in the field?
Well, to be honest, the way he plays his game and the way I play mine are so vastly different, I just wasn’t sure of how, what he did would make sense in the environment I generally work in. You see, Professor Diaz, is an absolute expert in playing the Open or Butterfly Guard in Gi based Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I by contrast, only wear a Gi during my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu lessons. My home, is without the Gi, in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. A world where, standing up out of someone’s Open Guard and raining down, stomps, kicks, and punches or backing out entirely is a very real possibility.
And yet, despite this complete contrast in perspectives, the lessons Professor Diaz taught me were some of the most influential and profound ones that I would ever learn. I remember a night in particular when we were rolling and coach Diaz must have swept me at least 15 or so times in under 3 minutes. I was beside myself. I couldn’t understand how he was doing it. I even knew it was coming, how it was coming and yet, I would inevitably find myself belly up.
I asked Professor what I needed to do differently, if there was some sort of counter technique that I was supposed to use but didn’t know. Coach Diaz, thought for a moment, reading the grief and torment written in the wrinkles of my brow. Then he smiled. “All it is, is that you’re letting me get a hold of your arms. Once I do that, I’m going to sweep you. It’s that simple.”
And it was. The moment, I started preventing Coach from gaining wrist or arm control, the moment I began clearing his control over my arms the instant he obtained it, his sweep and submission percentages were cut to a third of their previous numbers.
But that’s not where his lesson ended. His advice followed me into the clinch, into my wrestling into every aspect of my MMA Game. Now, not only was I not allowing someone to control my limbs while in their Butterfly Guard, I was not allowing anyone to control my limbs at any time, at any range under any circumstances and almost over night, my game saw noticeable improvement across the board.
Professor also taught me another incredibly valuable lesson. Once he told me that “Sometimes all you can do is play defense… And sometimes all you should do is play defense, and that’s totally o.k.” This seemingly simple lesson has helped me out of more bad situations that I can possibly remember. It was the inspiration and beginning of my formulations of the Defensive Grappling Ladder, one of my favorite series we’ve shared with the members of this site.
These principals may not hit you with the same weight and meaning that they’ve had for me. But perhaps, I can leave you with one more parting lesson I’ve learned from my experiences with Professor Diaz. Never judge an instructor at face value. Never assume that just because an instructor comes from a different background than your own that they don’t have anything of value to teach you. Because you just never know. To this day, I still very, rarely use my Butterfly Guard. But the principals I learned from Coach Diaz, through his Butterfly Guard, are ones I use almost daily.
In short, keep your mouth shut, your heart, your ears and your eyes open and the world is your Oyster. Now go train! And if you liked what Coach Diaz had to offer in this post, tune in next week for the second half of our shoot at his academy. In the mean time check out his Side Cross Escape Series we posted a few years back.