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No Gi Shoulder Lock From The Guard

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.

Part 1 and Part 2

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Escape Systems: Part 2

Some time ago, we posted the first half of this series in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Escape Systems: Part 1. Here we present the second half of the series which provides a solid foundation upon which to base your Side Cross Escape Game.

Not All Side Cross Hold Downs Are Created Equal

One thing I’ve learned while studying submission grappling is that terms like Mount, Side Cross, Guard, Etc. are used in a very general sense. Within each position lies a number of sub-positions which can be recognized or classified (if you want to get really technical) by relative arm placement, weight distribution and attack orientation.

Each sub-position is like a prison cell to which only a few specific methods will create opportunities for escape. There is no skeleton key which magically unlocks all prison cell doors. Paying heed to which escapes and methods work for each sub-position will give you a better insight into how to become a better escape artist in general.

If The Boat Is A Rockin, Don’t Come A Knockin


Another key to an over all better escape game is a continued stream of escape attempts. That is, everyone is better at handling a singular disruption of balance than they are at handling a boat that continues to rock. And a boat that continues to rock is not unlike a swing that with each successive pump, generates more swing, more momentum, and in this case, more potential for escape.

I know I’ve beaten this dead horse to the grave, then stomped on it, kicked more dirt on top, and hammered that gravesite with a shovel, but I simply can’t say it enough times. Chain your escapes, and tie all of these escapes together and you will increase your chances of getting out in one piece.

It’s quite simple really, if your opponent takes pressure off of you to prevent your sweep, he’s generally going to give you enough space to recapture guard, or some semblance of it. If he pressures you to prevent your re-guard attempt, he gives you the energy necessary to effect your sweep.

Timing Is Critical!

Give anyone enough time, and they will dig in, fortify their position and give you headaches for days. Never let your opponent gain a foothold, and again, you increase your ability to effect an exit strategy and leverage your knowledge of escape routes and techniques.

Above is an excellent drill for developing this mentality. Shown here, it demonstrates the second sweep shown to me by my friend and one of my coaches, Pedro Sauer Black Belt, Mike Diaz. However, any of the escapes or sweeps can be substituted for the one shown here and trained in the transition drill to sharpen your timing.

Let us know how these escapes are working out for you in the comments and post your favorite videos of Side Cross Escapes so we can all learn from this discussion.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Escape Systems: Part 1

Being A Master Escape Artist

I once read Kid Peligro explain how his game revolved around being a master escape artist. That sentiment really hit home with me as I’m generally the smaller, weaker, less experienced guy when it comes to the training partners I get to work with, and as such, am most often, on the run, working one type of escape or another.

As mentioned in the 4 Principles That Changed My Grappling Game post, the idea of a chained, or progressive escape strategy rather than a simple, single and isolated escape technique has done much to get me out of the endless escape cycle and into some positions where I can get off some offense.

Working with Pedro Sauer Black Belts Khuen Khru Will Bernales and Mike Diaz has done much to shape my way of thinking on that subject.

My Eureka Moment

In fact, the series of techniques I’m going to share with you is as a direct road map to my own eureka moment as I can portray through video and description.

It was while working on this series that I saw the first glimmer of what my instructors were talking about. Escape game (or system) vs. escape technique.

I’ve already posted the first piece of this game. And I’ll share it below. Like many of our youtube releases, it was shown, out of context, which although still useful, loses some of it’s meaning and utility when seen on it’s own as opposed to seeing it as part of something bigger.

It’s like looking at a sprocket on a table top as opposed to seeing it beside the 10 speed bike it goes into. This is what we try to bring you here at DamageControlMMA.com vs. our casual viewers on the youtube channel.

Over there you get the sprocket, over here you get the bike and in the Members Area we show you how the bike fits into our entire household as a mode of transport.  But to take the analogy further, there are other important parts of a household, e.g. security, shelter, etc.

Historically, our long series presented in a single post have tanked. Just look at our Leg Kick Defense post. We put weeks of work into that one and it hardly got any play. So again, at the behest of my much wiser and internet savvy advisors, I am going to break this series up into multiple small segments.

We’ll return to the subject later on to show the various other pieces that complete the Side Cross Escape Game, a fundamental component of a sound Jiu-jitsu base.

Until then, work these two and remember that they work together, as pieces of a larger system.

If you have any questions or comments on chaining these 2 escape techniques, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.