MMA: Coming To Grips

Hand Fighting or Grip Control has taken an increasingly important role in the development of my MMA and Submission Grappling Game. One of my Jiu-jitsu coaches, Mike Diaz impressed upon me the fact that

he who controls the grips, dictates the subsequent, incremental battles for control in general, e.g. Posture, Balance (Kuzushi), and Relative Body Position

(Belly To Belly, T-Position, Back Mount or Back From Standing).

Grip fighting or limb control, usually precedes any major engagement in a grappling contest. Footwork, Level Change and Bridging the Striking Gap are all equally important factors that must also be taken into account as they precede grip fighting in MMA style competitions. But when it comes to contests restricted to grappling, grapplers can elect to concede these ranges and begin from the clinch (elbow and collar tie up, Over – Under, etc.).

Often the grip is the means by which one breaks his opponent’s posture, off balances him and prevents his opponent from doing the same in return.

Last week we discussed training and the injuries that come along with it. Since that time, I’ve managed to add a severely sprained big toe to the line up of injuries.

I just can’t seem to catch a break. In the last three weeks I’ve managed 3 fairly serious injuries.

A sprained ankle, a subluxed rib, and a sprained big toe respectively. It’s times like this that I have to dig deep to find something that I can work on as I allow my injuries time to heal. Grip fighting is an area of study well deserving of some attention.

I learned another novel idea from working with Sean Weaver, another one of Professor Pedro Sauer’s wonderful Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belts. We were working in the gi, and I asked Coach Weaver how to deal with an opponent who gets a grip on your sleeve that you cannot break. He responded by telling me to look at the situation differently.

If you can’t break his grip, grab his sleeve back. Now you have him as much as he has you. I suppose this same strategy would work without the gi as well.

Fighting for grips is essential. This skill applies both in the standing clinch as well as once the fight goes to the ground. For either the top or bottom player, he who controls the other’s arms, generally controls the other elements of the game.

So until next time… Get a grip!

A special thanks to Coach Billy Robinson and Jake Shannon of who have been so kind to share their tricks of the trade with us.

Timeless Techniques

Some techniques are timeless. Last week we took a look at the frontiers of Submission. The very bleeding edge of what can be done. This week we take a look at an old classic; the first counter to a kick catch that I ever learned. It’s like leather, seeing someone take one to the nads, The olde One-Two Combination or the Triangle Choke. These things never get old and I don’t think they ever will.

A special thanks to Khuen Khru Will for sharing these and for being our wonderful instructor for all these years.

Arm In Guillotine From Sit Up Sweep

This is an awesome technique taught by our friend, a Pedro Sauer BJJ Black Belt and MMA fighter, Paul Sizemore.

The Arm In Guillotine can be more effective than the regular Guillotine, especially against seasoned opponent’s because the escape and counter measures are different since the arm that would usually go over the back is now trapped.


The Half Guard and Guardless Guillotine Chokes

For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the Guillotine Choke. I’ve had more changes of opinion concerning this technique than perhaps any other. I’ve gone from simply noting it as a possible option/threat, to considering it a total asset, back to being casually aware of it and then back to thinking that it’s the cat’s meow. No other move has had the ability to reinvent itself to me as the Guillotine.

It’s such a simple move but just when you think you’ve got it pegged you come across a different variation, a small tweak, a different way of using it. It’s like the duct tape of submission holds. And here is a real beauty demonstrated by my good friend and CSW coach, Brandon Kiser.

I’d like to note a couple things here. You will often find us demonstrating or sharing unconventional techniques on this site and our youtube profile ( This is not because we value the unconventional approach more than the conventional. It is not because we think these techniques are any better or higher percentage than the basics. Our position is that our viewers should be training under qualified instructors who should be more than capable of presenting and teaching the basics and traditional methods. And there are plenty of resources where more information can be found concerning these.

Our hope is that we can share some ideas that may not be so readily available and or give our viewers food for thought concerning possibilities they may not have otherwise considered.

Erik Paulson’s Short Shots

I’m the nerd’s nerd when it comes to MMA and Martial Arts Techniques in general. They are like comic books or fine wines to me. There are mass produced beauties that everyone has access to and can enjoy and then there’s those very rare and hard to find gems. Sometimes they are even more effective and brutal than the average technique (like the shin locks which are completely game changing, they have the ability to take butterfly and open guard away from your oppoent… WOW).

It might be argued that their rarity contributes to their effectiveness. But either way, I collect them. And this, in my opinion, is one of those rare, though perhaps more esoteric ones, Erik Paulson’s “Short Shots”. It’s a personal favorite of mine. It’s so out of the ordinary as far as MMA techniques go. And the way I first learned about them (through Erik Paulson’s gym tour vid) makes them even more endearing to me.

That being said, I heard Ajarn Greg Nelson comment how useful it is to have one more option here, one more little tweak there that can allow you to capitalize from an otherwise neutral position (I think it was on his MMA Workshop DVDs). And the “Short Shots” have done exactly that from the MMA Clinch. When other people are just locking up and establishing neck ties and underhooks, I am jarring their systems with “Short Shots” en route to my neck tie/Prumb etc.

Check it out, Erik Paulson’s “Short Shots”!

Also from CSW Instructors Greg Nelson and Erik Paulson:

Erik Paulson’s Michael Jackson Kick

I can’t remember exactly where or when Sensei Paulson shared this little beauty with us. I was at least 3 or 4 years ago. Either way, it’s been one of my favorites ever since. It is especially useful against MMA Cavemen who don’t study much in the way of striking.

You know the type. The guys who spend hours in front of a heavy bag, slugging away as hard as they can, and proclaim that their boxing or kickboxing skills are pretty solid. They’ve never seen anything like a “Michael Jackson Kick”. And they’d be damned if they ever spent any time working on a traditional Karate kick like the Front Snap Kick.

This is the answer my friends. The patented Erik Paulson STX (Savate Thai Boxing Cross Training) Kickboxing “Michael Jackson Kick”.


Michael Jackson executes the kick at 2:38. I taught him that move.

Young Women’s Self Defense Workshops

A Young Womens Group shortly after our "Womens Self Defense" workshop

Recently, we had the privilage of working with young women’s groups from Bountiful, Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas.  I always feel deeply honored to have an opportunity to apply my knowledge of the Martial Arts and Self Defense (which I feel is a separate, though related entity) towards keeping people safe and confident in themselves.

It’s a very difficult task however.  I know that many of these groups expect to be taught a magical karate chop and Spock Neck Pinch that will instantly, easily and humanely disable and immobilize thier would be attacker.  And although I do believe in the effectiveness of Martial Arts techniques (heh, I teach them for a living), I am experienced enough to know, one or two moves taught to a group of 20 or so teens in the course of an hour will probably only be good for entertainment purposes.

So I feel that is more ethical to expose these myths (the existence of magical, stop them  in their tracks, Martial Arts techniques) and to educate young women about the realities and profiles of the types of predators most likely to attack them.  The focus of my 1 hour workshops tend to stay centered on prevention and education rather than fisticuffs.

Many predators and attackers will be known and familiar with their victems.  Much more uncommon is the boogey man in a ski mask that jumps out of the bushes.  It is this statistic that makes it even more difficult to gouge out an eye ball to defend one’s honor.

So the essential lesson is on what we call the 5 stages of attack prevention:

1. Be A Hard Target – “Be The One With The Knife Mentality”

Predators, whether animal or human will try to seek out weak or weak appearing targets.  This is why women, children and the elderly are more often targets than young males.  Keep in good shape, walk with confidence (head held high, shoulders back, good posture), speak with confidence and be assertive.

2. Be Aware

Be cognizent of your surroundings and who has entered your general area.  Listen for ques of potential danger (gunfire, raised voices, running).  Look for things that are out of place (heavy coats in summer time, someone who seems agitated or aggressive)  Don’t let people come up from behind you.

3. Establish A Verbal Perimeter

If your “Spidey Sense” tells you that something isn’t right, trust it.  If someone approaches (gets past your first two lines of defense, i.e. being a Hard Target and Being Aware) stop them with a firm, calm and assertive greeting.  “That’s close enough. Is there something I can help you with.” Make sure that the Verbal Perimeter is beyond your arms length.

4. Establish A Physical Perimeter

If the person ignores your Verbal Perimeter, your hands should come up.  Think traffic cop.  Open palms arms extended.  This space is essential for giving you the reaction time you need to physically defend yourself.  If somone trys to enter your personal space, the area inside arms lenght, I think it safe to assume they don’t have your best interests in mind.

5. Throw Down

Something has gone seriously wrong.  Either you’ve completely failed at the 4 previous layers of defense or this person is Hell bent on your destruction.  It’s time to pull out all the stops.  It’s difficult enough to defend yourself, don’t be so concerned about protecting the bad guy too (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “but I don’t want to hurt him”).  There are many techniques that can be used.  And these are beyond the scope of the workshop but this is where the last line of defense is drawn.

Hear what people have said about our “Women’s Self Defense” workshops:


Thank you for your self-defense class.  The things you taught will help us to defend ourselves in real-life.  Your focus on awareness and prevention is especially helpful.  Hopefully being aware and confident I will prevent me from being a victim, but should I ever be attacked I feel empowered knowing how to stop a killer in his tracks.  I also like how you taught us to stay more than an arms distance from any stranger who might approach us, and that when our personal space is violated it’s time to take action.  These are valuable things for all young women to know. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Connie Salgado”

“Hi Brian!

The girls really enjoyed the workshop! They still ‘practice’ some of the moves we learned on each other. I think that the points of self defense that do not require actual physical defense (i.e. noticing your surroundings, etc) were VERY beneficial, especially since the girls are at such a young age and will remember that for the rest of their lives. I also liked how you focused not just so much on the moves, but on the ‘real’ aspects of self-defense, and the useful tips you gave us, like where to safely sit while in a restaurant, and how to realistically prevent someone from invading your ‘bubble’. I asked for their input on the workshop and they all loved it. I would highly recommend the workshop, as well as your business, to anyone, and I know the girls would as well. It was a very good activity and it’s amazing how learning just a few simple moves and tips can save a life!

Thanks again, Brian!

Rachel Birkel”