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BJJ MMA Submission Wrestling… It’s Time To Escape!

Learn how to recognize and escape all the major positions in MMA, Submission Wrestling, No-gi Jiu-jitsu, BJJ, etc.

Top 5 uses of Jiu-jitsu in the Movies

If you were thinking Mel Gibson, triangle choke, Lethal Weapon or Gina Carrano and RNC in Haywire, you’re way off! No, I’m talking deep Jiu-jitsu, real Jiu-jitsu, Meta-jitsu, I’m talking Jiu-jitsu that’s so hard core, it transcends Jiu-jitsu itself. Yeah, I’m talking about the good stuff. So let’s get started.

At number 5 we have Lucifer and his play for John Constantine in the movie “Constantine”. You see, old Lou has been waiting desperately to take Constantine’s soul back to Hell with him, but in a final selfless act of sacrifice, Constantine earns his place in the pearly gates. Just as he is about to ascend to Heaven, the Devil reaches inside Constantine’s lungs and removes his terminal cancer then repairs his opened veins thus bringing Constantine back to life, giving Constantine a second chance to screw things up and giving himself another crack at his coveted prize, John Constantine’s soul.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to give something up, not to win, but to give myself a second chance to have the other guy make a mistake and screw himself up. It’s like being mounted and having a guy go for a V-Lock/Figure 4 Americana Shoulder Lock. Sometimes the only move you’ve got is to turn and give up your back just to stay alive and hopefully allow your opponent to slip up and let you back into the game. It is for this desperate but savvy maneuver that Constantine comes it at number 5 for the best use of Jiu-jitsu in the movies. No Neo, you don’t know Jiu-jitsu but Lucifer surely does.

At number 4 we have “The Hunt for Red October”. WTF you say? Yes, you heard me right, when the captain of the Russian sub hunting fleet fires on Captain Ramius of the Red October, Ramius does the unexpected. Instead of turning away from the oncoming torpedoes, he turns into them and moves to engage them at full speed. By doing so he is able to collide with them before their safeties can disengage and thus arm their explosives. This leads his foe to disable the safeties which eventually leads to his own demise.

There is so much here that merits it’s place on the top 5 list. First is the idea of closing the distance and smothering your opponent to minimize damage to oneself. This is an essential element in Jiu-jitsu. But then there’s the idea of off balancing your opponent, both physically and emotionally and allowing them to kill themselves. It is for demonstrating these key characteristics that The Hunt for Red October gets it’s spot at number 4.

And this leads us to number 3 on our list, the “The Avengers”. Here we see a perfect example of luring, and off balancing used by the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson (insert an Austin Powers purr here…). Oh and we’re not done yet. The fact that she’s a knock out is an integral part of the reason that “The Avengers” is at number 3. You see, many times, misdirection is utilized in Jiu-jitsu to grab a hold and keep a hold of your opponent’s attention. While they’re looking at the shiny, sparkling, glittery thing over here, the real threat is over there and by the time they realize it. It’s already too late.

And it is for the picture perfect execution of this concept and the Black Widow’s ability to feign weakness and vulnerability, coaxing her opponent to over commit, that “The Avengers” gets number 3 on our Top 5 uses of Jiu-jitsu in the movies.

The runner up on our Top 5 List is “Searching for Bobby Fischer”. In it, our Hero, Josh Waitzkin while competing in a highly anticipated and prestigious Chess Match, corners his opponent and offers him a truce. What happens next is not as important as was Josh’s gesture of compassion, understanding, mastery and true gamesmanship. What does any of this have to do with Jiu-jitsu you ask?

It has everything to do with Jiu-jitsu. Beginners only see the move in front of them. They are checkers players. Great players see two, three and sometimes many more moves ahead. They are Chess players. And then there are the Josh Waitzkins of the world. Players who not only see the moves that inevitably follow based on the positions of the pieces and the eventual end games they will produce, but also have the ability to see what lies off of the board or the mat as it were. These players understand how certain moves like face cranks, or the manner in which you catch a guy will effect how teammates will view him. How the way he rolls will result in the admiration of his peers, and in being the guy who everybody wants to roll with, or how they may make him the guy who people run from like a raging case of mat Herpes or that ring shaped lesion peeking out from underneath a pair of TapOut shorts. They understand the bigger game that’s at stake. Crank your instructor too many times or in a nasty way and how long do you think he will continue giving you the inside lane. I mean, let’s face it, who wants to go out of their way to make their own life more difficult and miserable to lead. Checkers players play the move in front of them. Chess players play two and three moves ahead, but still they are focused on winning a game. Josh Waitzkins are looking at having people to play games with tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. They are interested in keeping their mentors counsel and in losing battles to win wars.

Josh Waitzkin saw what was at stake off the mat. He could see that losing this match for the boy in front of him would mean earning the disapproval of the boys father. He could see how it would destroy his self esteem and spirit and to Josh it wasn’t worth it. He didn’t need to win the game to have that sense of validation or self worth. He was bigger than the moves he made or the roll he was in with his opponent. And this is why “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is numba two.

This brings us to what you’ve all been waiting for. THE BEST USE of Jiu-jitsu in film… Drum roll please…

“WATCHMEN”

Oh yes! Rorschach! My favorite! I’ll just let the movie clip speak for itself.

You see, many of these clips have personal significance to me and my experience with Jiu-jitsu. And being the size of an prepubescent teen, I am always getting dominated and held down in “bad positions.” For years I learned the escapes and on players at my level and below, they worked alright. But on my seniors, my escapes only seemed to lead into deeper, murkier, more sinister waters and eventually they’d drown me… or better yet, they’d watch sadistically as I drown myself.

And then I realized that these positions, Back Mount, Mount, Across Side, Quarter position and the like were like my prisons. Every time I tried to escape, I was shot or got burned by the electric fences or entangled in the razor wire. So I decided to take a step back. I changed the way I looked at things. My prisons would no longer be what caged me in, but rather what kept the bad guys out. They would be my fortified castle, not my source of imprisonment. As Rorschach would say, “you guys just don’t get it. I’m not locked in here with you… YOU’RE LOCKED IN HERE WITH ME!!!”

You see, if they lock you in a cell, they’ve got to open it up and take you out in order to walk you down to the executioner’s chamber. That’s when I’ll make my break. In the meanwhile, I’m going to sit back in the deepest part of my cell and if anyone sticks their hands inside to tug at me… I’ma break em off.

Don’t like my list? Think you’ve got a better example or question some of my picks? Leave me your thoughts and your picks in the comments boys. The score is 1 to nuthin… come and get me.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Escaping Bottom Across Side

We have shown you a strong series of escapes from the Bottom Side Cross Position. This is because of how often you will find yourself in this difficult situation. Most of our escapes thus far have been from traditional hand placement when you’re on the bottom.

This escape is an excellent one to put into your repertoire to give you options when your arms get trapped outside of the traditional hand positioning. I really enjoy Gustavo Rodrigues approach as he has a similar weight and body type to my own and as a result his techniques are based on leverage and the mindset of being smaller and weaker than his opponents. Which is another way of saying, his stuff works, and works well regardless of how big or strong your opponents are.

Escapes from Scarf Hold, Kesa Gatame with Ben The Badger Jones

Few guests on Damage Control MMA have been as enthusiastic, recurring and interesting as Ben “The Badger” Jones. Nor have they been as dynamic. With The Badger we’ve seen unconventional approaches in attitude and technique. We’ve seen submissions, striking, clinching and throws. But now, we’re getting a look at the softer side of The Badger. We’re looking at his approach to escaping positions.

Personally, I’ve never envisioned Ben Jones being pinned beneath another fighter, or being forced to play the bottom game, but when you consider his training partners (Sensei Erik Paulson, Josh Barnett, and the like), it only makes sense. You’d have to be really adept at self preservation and survival in order to leave the mat in one piece.

Now we are the lucky beneficiaries of The Badger’s many hours paying his dues in the currency of blood, sweat and tears.

If you enjoy these videos as much as we do, make sure you visit Ben Jones facebook page and let him know. Leave a comment for him. He does actually have a heart after all and expressed to us how hurtful it’s been to hear how many people think he’s dirty and cheap. Let’s let him know that there are those of us out there that actually enjoy seeing a different perspective.

What is your Stance? MMA and the significance of foundation

Recently, we watched UFC Champion Ronda Rousey defend her title against Challenger Sara McMann. Finishing her with a Left Knee to the Liver. (For more information on how the Liver Shot works, please visit our article “The Anatomy of the Liver Shot“).

I was struck by Ronda’s post fight comment “When we were going over Sara’s footage and how she fights, we saw that no one had really gone to the body with her,” Rousey said. “Being that she’s a wrestling style, she’s more likely to be bent over more and I just thought it would be really unexpected.” This quote from the article at the Las Vegas Sun.

Step foot into any reputable gym, and the first thing you should learn is the foundation, the Stance. Be it a Boxing Stance, Thai Boxing Stance, Wrestling Stance, etc. the basic stance has been optimized for the specific art it was developed from. But what does an MMA stance look like?

Many of the top level athletes in MMA today are converts from other disciplines. Sara McMann was and Olympic Wrestler, Ronda a Judo practitioner. As converts, these fighters bring with them baggage in the form of a ready stance. Something practiced so many times, it’s hard to unlearn, something that was studied and capitalized on by Rousey and her camp.

My interest in this topic was peaked before when I first began studying Thai Boxing with Ajarn Surachai Sirisute and he explained the difference between the American Pugilism, Basic Western Boxing Stance (in contrast to the John L. Sullivan Stance, the cross guard or the Archie More style) and then again when I spoke with Catch Legend Billy Robinson and he discussed the differences between the Amateur Wrestling Stance and the Catch As Catch Can Stance.

So what are these differences, why have these stances evolved as such, and what does any of this have to do with MMA? Lets start by examining the stances from a few of the arts found more prevalently in MMA. Mind you, each art, has multiple forms and variations of their basic ready stance. We will attempt to demonstrate the most generalized form that is representative of it’s respective art.

Boxing Stance

The American Pugilism Boxing Stance.  Click here to see it from various angles

The American Pugilism Boxing Stance. Click here to see it from various angles

Notice both feet are turned at a 45 degree angle. This blades the body and brings the liver further back protecting it with distance and the elbows from the opponent. Since there are no attacks to the legs allowed in boxing there is no penalty for turning in the front foot and exposing the sciatic nerve. There is a slight crouch which also protects the body and shrinks the target zones.

Thai Boxing Stance

Basic Thai Boxing Stance.  Click to see it from various angles.

Basic Thai Boxing Stance. Click to see it from various angles.

Here you see more of an upright stance. This guards against knees and kicks which may be directed at the head. Only the rear foot is turned at a 45 degree angle, this makes the hips square up to the opponent, exposing the liver, but also bringing 4 of the more powerful, rear side weapons (shin, knee, elbow, fist) closer to the opponent and therefore easier to bring to bear. Having the front foot pointing straight forward also aids in protecting against leg attacks to the sciatic nerve. The hands are held further outward which helps to prevent the opponent from grabbing and pulling the head downward. The hand positioning also assists in defending against the heavy force of a shin in the event of a head kick, but the stance does so at the cost of exposing the body.

Amateur Wrestling Stance

The Amateur Wrestling Stance.  Click to see from various angles.

The Amateur Wrestling Stance. Click to see from various angles.

This stance is optimized for defense against takedowns. The hips are square much like in Thai Boxing, but the crouch is similar to that found in a Boxing stance. The hands are held close, to guard against attacks such as arm drags etc. and also to be able to defend the legs in the event of a shot. As there are no chokes or neck cranks allowed in Amateur Wrestling, there is no penalty for exposing the head or neck.

Catch Wrestling Stance

The Catch As Catch Can Wrestling Stance

The Catch As Catch Can Wrestling Stance. Click on the image to see from various angles.

In contrast to the Amateur Wrestling Stance, the Catch Wrestling Stance is upright, this exposes the legs for shot style attacks but maximizes the defense of the head and neck as Neck Cranks and Chokes are 100% legal in Catch. Often times an opponent who shoots in on the legs and is unable to immediately effect a takedown, looses the match to a technique such as the Grovit.

The arms and elbows are held close to the body to defend against Underhooks, Body Locks and Arm Drags, and as with Amateur Wrestling, there is no striking allowed thus there is no penalty for exposing the face and head to these types of attacks.

So the next question is, what is the best way to approach fighting in MMA? Would it be best to develop a new, hybridized stance, specifically designed for the complexities of the cage? Or would it be best to transition from one purpose built stance to another based on your intentions?

Like anything, there are pros and cons to each approach. I don’t believe that a generalized stance would be as effective at any one specific task as a specialized stance. However, specialized stances can be exploited and can sometimes be a “tell” to your opponent.

Be sure to leave a comment and share with us your stance on MMA and the best approach to the foundation, the stance.

Guard Pass Quick Kills

In the past, we’ve seen a number of “Quick Kills” from Sensei Erik Paulson. But these were in the context of a takedown sequence.

Now he applies the same concept to passing the guard and he shares his expertise with us at the 2013 Combat Submission Wrestling Camp.

Escape Bottom Across the Side by Using Your Head

Gustavo Rodrigues is back, and this time he is showing a very ingenious way to escape from bottom Side Cross when your arm is trapped between your opponent’s arms and endangered. There is a lot to learn here if know what to look at.

Notice the precision and attention to details when Gustavo explains the finer points of how to position your legs to prevent the mount while also accounting for your opponent’s potential to turn your hips away and take your back.

He says it’s a basic move for beginners but I think it’s the experts who will really appreciate the beauty of this technique he’s shared.

Arm Pin Attack From 50 States of BJJ

Recently, Charles Haymon from www.50StatesOfBJJ.com visited our home gym, Mushin Self Defense in North Salt Lake, Utah. Traveling from his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana, Charles has set out to train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in every state of the US. An ambitious, nobel and courageous goal indeed.

It takes a lot of courage to step into a new gym. Even more so sometimes when you have previous experience in the arts. It’s intimidating to walk into a place, being a beginner and not knowing what to expect. It can be even worse when you know exactly what to expect. You see, in the combative arts, there’s almost always a feeling out process.

Think of it like a pack of wolves. When a pup joins the pack, the elders and warriors of the clan see it as little threat. But when a grown wolf seeks acceptance, there’s always have one eye and ear turned up to see what the new guy’s intentions are. They’re always sniffing for anything that smells fishy. Is this guy a friend? Is he a foe? Is he here to test his mettle and the strength of this new pack? Where will he fit into the hierarchy?

I have experienced both sides of the coin. I’ve had to roll over and show my belly, and I’ve had to defend home turf. So I really appreciate Charles sense of adventure in trusting that everything will turn out and that in the end, he will be the beneficiary of a great wealth of knowledge and experience after all is said and done.

We got to train together, and it was like a scene from an old Kung-Fu Classic. He started working on a few techniques that I immediately recognized from another friend of the Damage Control MMA project, Reilly Bodycomb. In fact, the techniques were practically identical to those shown, Reilly three years ago in our article Sambo and MMA Tie the Knot: A Marriage of Skill. I wanted to say “Huh, the White Lotus Kick?… You must be a student of Master Bodycomb, from the Southern Province.”

Turns out that Charlie actually does work out with Reilly at his home gym, NolaBJJ. Rolling with him was a very interesting experience. Charlie is a big, and deceptively strong man. That coupled with his technical expertise and the validity of the Sambo Leg Knot resulted in me getting caught in the very move I recognized and then spending the next few nights lying awake in bed, contemplating the meaning of what happened.

I was frustrated that I saw the move coming and was unable to stop it from progressing. I was standing up and attempting to pass Charles’ guard. As he threw his leg under mine to initiate the knee reap, I took ahold of his foot to remove it from my hip and even with both hands was physically unable to lift the heft of his leg and thus preemptively stop the knot from being tied in the first place. I simply could not lift it. He was too strong.

Getting caught was not what troubled me. It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last (I hope). Being caught is a learning opportunity. A chance to grow and discover. No, I was troubled with the fact that I saw it coming and could not prevent it with a method that had worked many times before with partners smaller than Charlie. I don’t like relying on stuff that I can’t pull off on opponents of all shapes and sizes. Especially since I am almost always the smaller man.

My conclusion was, and it remains in the initial testing phase, that rather than removing the pieces of a progressively tightening knot, preventing the knot from starting in the first place, was my best bet, in terms of defending against larger, stronger opponents. No duh! right? But here’s where my personal revelation came in. Most of my partners don’t attack the legs aggressively as did Charlie. And thus, using a standing Guard pass is a pretty solid choice as it keeps my neck and upper limbs safer from harms way. But what I hadn’t realized is that these same standing passes, expose your legs (Hell, they’re already extended and isolated from the body, just from the nature of standing) to those with a strong leg locking game.

So how do you prevent the leg lock from starting? Again, my theory is in its infancy and it remains to be further tested, but my approach is 2 fold. I can either go for a leg lock myself instead of attempting a pass. I can use a kneeling, or sitting pass as opposed to a standing one, or I can combine the two, attempting a kneeling pass that may set up a leg lock or vise versa.

Either way, the experience was awesome and as you can see has given me plenty of food for thought. I’d like to hear what you think about the situation. And I’d love to hear about your learning experiences. Tell me about how getting caught has upped your experience points and changed your game for the better in the comments below.

Sweep Counter to Guard Pass

This year at the Damage Control MMA World Conference we brought in 4 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belts. Even going outside our foundations in Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and taking a look at BJJ through the Rolls Gracie Lineage with an instructor we’ve never worked with before, Gustavo Rodrigues.

Kiser and I have crossed paths with Gustavo many times while cornering fighters, in the back rooms, waiting, wrapping hands, warming up, etc. And what immediately stuck out about Gustavo was that he was the only man who would smile back at us and say hello, rather than mad dogging which is so commonplace in situations like that.

It made a huge impression on me. It was an indicator of his confidence, of his professionalism and his mutual respect which is exactly how Kiser and I felt towards him and everyone else back there. When we got an opportunity to work with him first hand, I was very excited.

Gustavo has a very soft, and technical style. One I can very much relate to as we are similar in size and stature. Which is to say, nothing he teaches is forced or relies on strength. Everything works, but works with subtle set ups and cunning use of leverage and redirection of force.

This technique stuck out in my mind because it looked so similar to one I learned from Ajarn Greg Nelson as a counter to a Triangle Choke Counter/Guard Pass. This is an excellent way to defend a non-technical Guard Pass. One, commonly encountered by ballistic and powerful opponents. It has basic elements that players such as myself can grasp and use, but contains follow ups for more advanced fighters.

Check back often as I will be updating this page with additional videos from Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belt, Gustavo Rodrigues.

Brad Pickett’s Peruvian Necktie

Sometimes MMA is a formal affair. Better put on a suit and a Peruvian Necktie.

To be honest, the Peruvian Necktie has never been a strong move for me. I think it has to do with my extremely short arms. I’m like Rex in the Toy Story Movies, just look at my little arms. I can’t press the fire button and jump at the same time.

But each time I see it, I pick up a new nuance and find more ways to cinch up an inch or two of space, making it that much easier to catch the hold. A special thanks go out to Damage Control MMA member Robert Carlin of Antonine MMA in Glasgow Scotland and Brad Pickett for sharing this little beauty with us.

Because of you two, I am that much closer to being able to tie my own Peruvian.