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Podcast Episode 113 – A Close Call, and Avoiding Injuries!

The other day I almost tore a partner’s ACL off the bone, which would have required him to have surgery and many months of rehabilitation.

What happened exactly?

I was more experienced and a bit bigger than my training partner that day and we were doing some no gi sparring.

Because of the experience discrepancy I was hyper-focusing on a couple of very specific positions, namely Ashi Garami and the 411.

(This is a form of Targeted Sparring which is a great tool to use when you’re going against less experienced training partners – by limiting myself to only a couple positions and one submission it makes the match more even and better training for both of us.)

So we’re rolling, carefully and respectfully… I’ve tapped my training partner out a few times with heel hooks, all applied in slow motion…  He’s beginning to defend the leglocks more intelligently and I’m having to work a little harder to get them…

Everything is going the way it’s supposed to.

Then it almost ended very badly.

I had the Ashi Garami firmly in place, and was just finishing the dig part of the heel hook (where you get your wrist under his heel in preparation for finishing the lock).

And 99% of the time when I’m sparring that’s as far as I’ll go – no need to actually apply the heel hook.  At that point my partner typically knows he’s caught and will tap out.

But this new training partner didn’t know when to quit.  He tried to escape by spinning.

And, to make matters MUCH worse, he spun the wrong way!

Spinning or rotating can be part of an effective heel hook defense, BUT NOT WHEN YOU GO IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!!

Instead of relieving the pressure, spinning into the dig amplifies the power of the submission exponentially!

If I had remained still, not moving, his wrong-way-spin would have slammed his heel into my forearm.

He would have full power heel hooked himself, which can tear all sorts of ligaments in the knee, the foot and the ankle.

Fortunately I saw what was about to happen and completely released my grips without a second to spare.

The submission evaporated, he spun safely and ‘escaped.’

Then I sat him down and we had a good little chat about the dangers of spinning out of leglock if you don’t know which way to spin.

Now I’m » Continue Reading.

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Escaping the Reverse Mount the Proper Way

The reverse mount is a tricky position…

If you’re opponent has you caught in it then he’s placing a tremendous amount of pressure on your diaphragm, which makes it hard to breath.  He also has lots of entries to kneebars, heel hooks, leg laces, and other submissions available to him.

Compounding the problem is the fact that it’s not a very common position, meaning that most people don’t have a lot of experience defending and escaping it.

Escaping the reverse mount is essentially a two step process…

Freeing your legs and getting them to the floor, and Getting ready to move your hips the instant your opponent decides to shift his weight to attack or go to another position

In the video below I give you a quick breakdown of how to do both steps.  Thanks to my coach and friend Erik Paulson for showing me this counter in the early 2000’s!

P.S.  The reverse mount is integrally connected to leglock attacks.  If you want to improve your leglock attacks check out the Modern Leglock Formula that I did with Rob Biernacki – it’s a very comprehensive study of the highest percentage leglocks working in a no-gi competition environment.

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2 Favorite Knee on Belly Escapes

Being on the bottom of knee on belly (aka ‘knee mount’) is a terrible thing!

You can’t move… Your arms and neck are vulnerable to submissions… And the pressure that an opponent puts on your belly makes it hard to breath.

So you have to have a good knee on belly escape you can rely on!

To get you started with that, in my 6:06 Youtube video called ‘2 Favorite Escapes from Knee Mount you’re going to get not just one but two good escapes that work all the time!

First I’ll show you the major dangers of being caught on the bottom of knee on belly plus what NOT to do (unless you want to be instantly submitted)…

Next, you’ll get one of my simple, bread and butter knee on belly escapes that I use all the time…

And then my friend and training partner Ritchie Yip shares a fancier-looking escape that not only gets you out of knee on belly, but puts you on top as well. I can vouch for this second technique because despite being lighter than me Ritchie has caught me in it a few times and it sucked!

And finally, if you liked this video then please also check out my Youtube channel.  There’s TON of jiu-jitsu related material on that channel (almost 500 videos the last time I counted) and I’m putting out new stuff all the time.  Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the new material!

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Napoleon and How To Be Ready for Anything in BJJ

Napoleon Bonaparte may have been a megalomaniac who left millions dead in his wake, but if you read about his battles and military campaigns there is no doubt that he was a strategic and tactical genius.

(Well, maybe he wasn’t a genius when he invaded Russia in 1812, but before that he was damn near unstoppable…)

He fought over sixty battles in his lifetime, during which he was usually outnumbered by his foes. However Napoleon’s leadership skills on the battlefield allowed the French army to steal victory from the jaws of defeat many, many times.

Defeating larger, better armed opponents – this sounds pretty directly relevant to jiu-jitsu, doesn’t it? So it’s worth considering how he did it and whether any of it applies to us grapplers…

Part of Napoleon’s uncanny skill at winning battles came from his ability to adapt and quickly respond to the inevitable chaos found in the arena of war. Even if things didn’t go according to his initial plan he would still find a way to mass his troops at a decisive point, create a local temporary superiority in force and numbers, and then use that advantage to smash the enemy.

How could he know what his opponent was going to do?  How could he respond so quickly?  Was he psychic or incredibly lucky?

No, not at all.

Let’s let Napoleon tell us exactly how he had such uncanny battlefield reflexes…

“If I appear to be always ready to respond to anything, prepared to face anything, it is because before undertaking anything, I have meditated a long time – I have foreseen all that could happen. It is not a spirit which suddenly reveals to me what I have to say or do in a circumstance unexpected by other: it is reflection, meditation.” Napoleon Bonaparte

In this quote above he tells us that his ability to quickly respond to an unusual situation in the moment is actually all about the preparation beforehand.

Have you heard of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst?  That is exactly what Napoleon was doing.

Long before the first cannonball flew across the battlefield he had already gamed out every eventuality and prepared a response for it.

(250 years later Muhammad Ali said much the same thing; see below!)

» Continue Reading.

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A Triangle Choke Escape that Requires Almost No Training…

Years ago I came back from an Indonesian Silat training camp led by Dan Inosanto.

I showed up at BJJ class the next day and was telling a few guys about how much I had enjoyed the training.

One guy with a slightly smartass tone asked me, “How would a Silat guy escape from my triangle choke then?”

It turns out that there IS a very effective, super high percentage Silat escape to the triangle.  And I show it in this video below.

I don’t care if you’re going up against a 250 lb killer black belt with the world’s best triangle choke: if you do this one technique for real you’ll get out 99% of the time.  (The bad news is that you’ll probably also go to prison, but that’s a whole other story.)

Aside from the humour value, the real reason I made this video is because it’s super relevant to self-defense.

We’ve always got to remember that at its core, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a MARTIAL ART.  Despite whatever fitness benefits, camraderie, or challenge BJJ provides you’ve always got to keep at least one eye focused using your skills to protect yourself or your loved ones in a bad situation.

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The 4 Most Common Errors For The ‘Upa’ Mount Escape

The ‘Upa’ (or ‘Bridge and Roll’) is probably the very first mount escape that a beginner ever learns. It’s taught as part of the basic curriculum for a very simple reason: it works!

You see this escape in MMA, submission grappling, and BJJ competition with the gi.

I’ve used it as a white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt.

Contrary to what some people will tell you is possible, I’ve also used it against skilled grapplers who were a LOT heavier than me (although in this cases it typically took some time and gentle misdirection to get him to give me the right energy and weight distribution that I needed to pull it off).

Lots of people can do the Upa mount escape perfectly in perfectly when they’re banging out uncontested repetitions: step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on…

But as soon as you add the element of stress (i.e. sparring or live training) their technique begins to fall apart. In the heat of the moment they start skipping steps, which leads to an ineffective escape and a giant waste of energy…

…Plus staying stuck in the bottom of mount, which really, really sucks!

Here are the four most common errors I’ve seen beginners make while trying to upa their way out of mount for real…

Mistake 1: Trying to do this escape before getting at least one of your opponent’s hands to the floor Mistake 2: Staying in the bridged (upa) position for the entire escape Mistake 3: Not trapping their opponent’s leg and arm on the same side (or trying to trap BOTH legs at the same time) Mistake 4: Rolling without your hips being fully bridged first

Below is a quick video I shot that’ll take you through each of these four errors (and their solutions) in much more detail.

Check it out:

If you liked this article and video you may also enjoy the article The 16 Most Important Techniques for the BJJ Beginner on Grapplearts.com

Also click here to download Stephan’s book of BJJ tips for FREE

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How to Escape Kesa Gatame and the Headlock

Kesa Gatame is one of the most under-utilized positions in BJJ. People in jiu-jitsu tend to ignore this position but generations of judo players and wrestlers have proved that Kesa Gatame IS a powerful and effective way to pin someone.

And – even worse for someone caught in it – Kesa Gatame is also a great entry into some very effective armlocks, leglocks, neck cranks and diaphragm chokes.

But let’s start our discussion with the inferior cousin of Kesa Gatame – the common side headlock…

Headlocks and Why They Matter in BJJ

If you’re training with big strong beginners who have little technique but lots of fighting spirit then the odds are pretty good that you’re going to get your noggin squished in a desperate, last-ditch headlock at some point.

When a strong untrained person ends up on the ground, then nine out of ten times he’ll wrap his arm around your head and hold on for dear life. They’ll grab your head and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, determined not to let go and let you do that ‘BJJ stuff’ to them.

And because this is that untrained fighter’s ONLY strategy he’ll be ferociously single-minded about hanging onto the headlock. This determination in itself can make escaping the headlock quite difficult.

Now the headlock isn’t particularly high tech or effective, but if you don’t have an answer then it can be a very disconcerting situation (not to mention cauliflower-ear inducing). You’ll feel pretty silly if you don’t have an answer to the common headlock, so make sure you have a good strategy or two to escape from here if you happen to get caught by it.

Since you hardly ever encounter headlocks in BJJ class dealing with them can be awkward. You might not know what to do and won’t be used to dealing with that particular energy.  And that’s why not training your specific headlock escapes is a HUGE mistake!

Now let’s inject the side headlock with steroids and tweak the arm position to make it much more effective, which will bring us to the full-fledged Kesa Gatame…

Kesa Gatame – a Legit BJJ Technique

If you’re training with wrestlers or judo players then they probably won’t use the side headlock on you, but they might well slap an immobilizing Kesa Gatame on you. This is one of their bread and butter pinning positions, and they’ll hang onto it for » Continue Reading.

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