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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Which Leglocks Are Allowed in IBJJF Competition?

I’m old enough to remember a time when almost all leglocks (except heel hooks) and leg locking positions were legal in BJJ competition.

But in the last 20 years the IBJJF – the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation – has really clamped down on what’s legal in their BJJ competitions, and since it’s the biggest organising body in the sport these rule changes have really changed the leglock game.

Essentially they have banned the most effective leglock (the heel hook) and one of the most effective leg control positions (the reap), and you can now get DQ’d from an IBJJF tournament if what you’re doing even begins to resemble one of these banned moves.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t leglock.  There still are effective leglocks available to you; you just have to understand what’s legal and what’s not.

In this new video Rob Biernacki and I show you what’s illegal in IBJJF competition, and then break down the 5 big leglocks that you can still use, which are the Ankle Lock, Kneebar, Toehold, Calf Slicer and Estima Lock.

Plus we also cover a lot of the gray areas in the rules, inadvertent transitions that could get you DQ’d, and our thoughts on when you should start training leglocks in your BJJ career.

This is an important video: check it out!

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Should You Train When You’re Really Tired?

I recently came back from Europe and just got clobbered by the 9 hour time difference. But I was really missing jiu-jitsu, so I made sure to get in a training session on my first full day back.

Was it an epic roll with 110% intensity?  Not so much…  It was a very controlled roll, focussing on just a few positions, with lots of discussion and analysis breaks.

Something is better than nothing.

After that workout I shot a video to help you decide whether you should train on days when you’re so tired you can’t see straight. I also covered some concrete examples of how to modify your training if you do decide to go to the gym exhausted.  And finally I shared a trick I often use to get me motivated on days when I just don’t feel like training.

The funny thing is that after getting up at 2 am, training at about noon, and editing the video that I was so tired I accidentally split the video up into two separate videos.

Oh well, if uploading two shorter videos instead of one longer video is the worst that happens to me today then I figure it’s still a pretty good day.

If you often find yourself  not getting enough sleep but still wanting to train then I think these two videos (part 1 and part 2) might be useful!

(By the way – I’m fully aware that some of my advice contradicts what I said a long time ago in my Dojo of the Rising Sun article –  that approach led to a pinched nerve in my neck because of overtraining. Today’s advice is informed by trying to learn from those mistakes once in a while and then passing that information on to you.)


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“If I don’t know, I will not allow.”

“If I don’t know, I will not allow.”

That’s a quote and a guiding principle from Roberto Leitao, a high ranking Luta Livre and Judo practitioner, that was shared with me by my friend Ed Beneville who trained with him.

Regardless of whether it’s a grip, a setup, a guard position, or an angle, if you don’t fully understand what’s going on then do everything you can to prevent it. Once you allow a match to go into an unknown area then you’re in trouble.

A smart opponent will try steer the fight to an area in which he feels comfortable and you do not. Don’t let that happen.

Even if you don’t know exactly what technique he’s trying to use, don’t let him take the next step.

Block, thwart and deny his every attempt to move the fight into unknown territory.

So that’s the general idea, and depending on the situation it’s either the best or worst advice I’ve ever heard.

Now when is this good advice?

It really depends on the context…

If you’re in an important tournament match, or in a sparring match with someone way above your level, or a real fight (knock on wood that you won’t need to go there) then this is the perfect time to apply “If I don’t know, I will not allow.”

Let’s say he’s in your closed guard and going for some weird grip that you don’t recognise: fight, fight, fight to prevent that grip. Maybe it leads to a guard pass that you’ve never seen before, or maybe it leads to a crazy submission – the point is you don’t know where it’s going and now is NOT the time to find out.

If you don’t know you don’t allow.

This principle can be expanded a little bit to include overall strategies…

It’s the old saying, “fight a boxer, box a fighter” applied to jiu-jitsu. Don’t let him to fight in his comfort zone, and instead take him into your world if you can.

Lets say that your opponent is awesome at the spider guard, so DON’T just blithely let him get his grips and then try to fight him. Don’t even go there; change the game instead.  Maybe pull guard on him. Or sit back and play the leglock game so he panics, abandons the spider guard, and gives you the guard pass.

Conversely, maybe your opponent » Continue Reading.

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McGregor vs Mayweather: Don’t Waste Your Money

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Conor McGregor, the reigning light-heavyweight UFC champion, is going to be fighting one of the all time best boxers Floyd Mayweather on August 26th.\

I know people are excited about this, because I get asked about it every single day…

McGregor is younger, bigger, cockier, is a southpaw and has proven knockout power.

But is he going to win a boxing match with 10 oz gloves?

Almost certainly not!

In the video below I talk about why this is the case…

McGregor is an amazing salesman for this fight, trash talking like nobody’s business.  He has 100,000,000 good reasons to do so after all…

But it comes down to this: football and soccer are different sports, just like MMA and Boxing.  Even the most gifted athletes in the world can’t switch from one sport to another and expect to do well at a high level on their first outing.

McGregor murders Mayweather in MMA.  Mayweather beats McGregor in boxing.  The end.

Let’s say that the best team in soccer (Real Madrid, say) plays a FOOTBALL GAME against the worst team in football (the Cleveland Browns). Even  competing against the worst football team in the game Real Madrid would get slaughtered.

A friend of mine summed it up like this, “McGregor has about the same chance against Roger Gracie in a gi IBJJF match as he does against Mayweather in boxing.

But what about an upset?

Well, it is a fight, there’s a one in a hundred chance that he gets super lucky, lands a crushing left hand and KO’s Mayweather.  And if that happens it’s the end of boxing and the immediate ascendency of MMA to the premiere sport in the world.

But it’s so unlikely that it completely baffles me that people are putting money on McGregor.

Last I looked the odds of McGregor winning were +375.  That means that if you put $100 down on him and he actually wins then you’re $375 richer than you were before you made the bet.

For the layman, that’s roughly 4 to 1 odds of him winning, which is ridiculous.

The odds are so against McGregor that you should get a 50:1 payout if he wins.

Don’t waste your money betting on the underdog in this match!

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Are You Willing to Go Back to White Belt?

Most people training in the martial arts have a goal to achieve the mythical black belt.

“When I finally wrap that black belt around my waist”, the narrative goes, “THEN life will be good, my wife, kids and dog will all love me, and I’ll never look stupid on the mats again.”

Ummmm, back up just a second…

A good black belt frequently has to go back to being a white belt, and deliberately put himself into situations where he’s going to look stupid for sure.

What do I mean by this?

In order to keep growing in the art at any level you need to learn new things.

And almost every time you add something big to your game then things are going to get worse before they get better.

Let’s say there’s this cool guard pass that your instructor has been telling you to do. You’re agree and think it would be a great fit with your game.

So you drill the move a few times and then try it out in sparring.

Things don’t go so well… You don’t pass the guard of your training partners… And you get swept and submitted multiple times.

Is it a stupid guard pass?  No, it’s just much more likely that you weren’t doing it 100% correctly.

Or let’s say that you start using a new submission from mount that you saw a world champion win the Mundials with. But when you try it out at the open mat suddenly you can’t finish even the brand new beginners with it.

These failures are happening because you haven’t yet learned the timing, the adjustments, and the fine details that make the technique work against any kind of resistance.

You might have a blue belt around your waist because you are blue belt level at doing a certain set of techniques. Those are your most reliable techniques, the core of your game.

By definition, a new technique is not one of your core techniques. So even though you’re an official blue belt you’re still a white belt when it comes to your new guard pass or submission.

And that’s OK. This is exactly how Jiu-jitsu is supposed to work.

In fact it’s an absolutely necessary part of getting as good as you can get.

There is a saying they get printed on coffee mugs that I completely agree with: » Continue Reading.

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How to Choose a BJJ School to Train At

I often get emails from people trying to decide where to learn BJJ.

They’re usually trying to choose between 2 or 3 different schools…

Should they train with the purple belt down the street, or the black belt across town?

Should they study at the Gracie Barra school, the Atos affiliate, or the 10th planet representative?

Should they choose the small school that’s friendly, or the big school that’s less personal?

Should they stay at the school where they started, or go to a new one?

Sometimes the answer is pretty simple…

If you want to start BJJ at age 60 then a hardcore MMA gym full of steroid douchebags probably isn’t for you.

If you’re hell bent on medalling at the Mundials then you’d probably better pick the school with the widest and deepest talent pool to spar with.

And if you specifically want to work on a certain aspect of your game then you might pick an instructor who is well known for that position.

However, the vast majority of the time, it all comes down to personalities. 

The better you get along with your instructor then the longer you’ll probably train at the school.

And the more aligned your goals are with those of your fellow students then the more fun you’ll have training.

Go and visit all the different schools in your area.  Pay the drop-in fee, get on the mat with the people, and experience the class first hand.

The bottom line is that if you sign up with a school then you’re going to spend a lot of time there.

Training, recovering from training, and interacting with the other students all adds up to a BIG time investment.  So it makes sense to spend a few evenings researching all the options available to you before you make that sort of commitment.

When you go to the school try to assess the head instructor.

It’s better train with someone you like and respect, than with a highly skilled  competitor with tons of medals who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your well being or progress…

Your training partners are just as important (sometimes MORE important) than your instructor.  So don’t underestimate the effect that the head teacher has on the rest of the students.

Like attracts like, so most of the time the personality of the instructor sets the tone for the whole rest of the school.

An asshole instructor is inevitably surrounded by a cadre of asshole acolytes.

» Continue Reading.

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Old School Closed Guard Pressure Pass

In the era of the inverted inside-out de la worm guard it’s sometimes easy to forget how brutally effective the closed guard is.

Until someone puts you in it, shuts down your guard passes, chokes you silly and armlocks you until you want to rip your belt off and throw it across the mat.

The closed guard is old school but it still works. And for self defense and MMA it’s still an incredibly important position to master because of the level of protection it provides against strikes.

So how do you pass the closed guard?

As with any task in jiu-jitsu there are many different ways to skin the cat.  But here is one of my very favourite ways to pass closed guard using an old school pressure-based pass.

It consists of 4 stages…

Denying, preventing and removing his grips Standing up to break open his closed guard Stopping him from establishing a strong open guard, and Smashing him with an old-school guard pass

Let’s look at each of those four stages in turn.  Conveniently I also have videos relating to each of those stages that may be useful to you…

Stage 1: Denying, preventing and removing his closed guard grips

If a skilled opponent gets a deep cross grip on your lapel from his closed guard then you’re really in trouble.

Of course the best cure is prevention: grip fight like crazy to stop him from sneaking that hand up your collar.

But if he does sink his grip then he can use it to break your posture, prevent your guard passes, attack you with chokes, move you around to set up sweeps, and much more.

At this point it’s a “Do not pass go, do not collect $200” situation.  Stop what you’re doing and before you even think about passing his closed guard free yourself from his lapel grip.

The video above covers 4 ways to break or nullify that cross collar grip.

Once you’re grip free then it’s time to move on to the next stage: opening his closed guard that’s currently clamped onto your waist or torso!

Stage 2: Standing up to break open his closed guard

There are many different ways to open someone’s closed guard (for example, standing vs kneeling), but against a skilled opponent I almost always stand up.

Kneeling in your opponent’s guard makes you a little harder to sweep » Continue Reading.

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Keep It Simple Stupid When Learning New Techniques

Have you heard of the acronym K.I.S.S?

It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid.”  (It was later made politically correct by changing it to “Keep It Short and Simple” but that never really caught on, especially me.)

Anyway, K.I.S.S. is a good rule to live by when fighting, sparring and training.  You want to simplify as much as possible and not try to keep track of too many things at once.

There’s good science behind this: the more factors you have to consider the slower you make your decisions.  So keeping things simple actually makes you move faster.

But lets focus on how the K.I.S.S. principle applies when it comes to learning new moves.

Here’s my opinion: if you’re a teacher then you don’t want to load a student down with every last detail all at once.

And if you’re the student then you want to just focus on the next few things that’ll give you the best results fastest.

For example, if I’m teaching a complete beginner to throw a right cross I might tell them: “start with your fist glued to your jaw, then throw your fist in a straight line towards the target while you twist your body to generate the power.”

That’s it!  The subtleties of weight shifts, hand twists, foot pushes, non-telegraphic movement and so on will all come later, because first they’ve got to get in some experiental learning – learning by doing – before anything else makes sense.

Sometimes it’s more important for the student to get a quick result with a technique than it is to get it absolutely perfect on the first go.

If you have some initial success then it’ll boost your confidence in that technique and make you eager to learn the additional details to make it work even better.

Similarly if I’m teaching a triangle choke to someone for the first time I might tell them “triangle your legs around your opponent’s head and arm, then squeeze your knees, pull his head down and lift your hips.”

Now is that the most effective way of doing the triangle choke?


Are there many adjustments and tweaks that you can make to the triangle choke that make it much more effective?


For example, in the Youtube clip below Elliott Bayev does an absolutely brilliant job of breaking down some of these finer triangle choke adjustments.

So why not show » Continue Reading.

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July 4th Sale on All Apps!

July 4th Long Weekend Sale: All Apps on All Platforms Currently 50% Off the Listed Price!

I’m not often confused with Tom Cruise.

First of all I’m a lot taller than he is…

I’m also NOT a Scientologist, and have never jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch…

And finally I’m much better looking (at least that’s what my mom used to tell me)!

But Tom and I do have at least one similarity…

In 1989 he starred in a movie called ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’   Coincidentally I star in that very same movie every year.  Because I too am born on the Fourth of July.

So in the next few days, amidst all the fireworks and celebrations I’m going to be celebrating my birthday.  But there’s a twist: YOU’RE going to get the present.

Here’s what’s happening between now and July 4th…

We’re having a giant sale.

First all Grapplearts Apple, Android and Kindle apps, and all Grapplearts instructional DVDs and programs are 50% off.

(The DVDs and on-demand training is also going to go on sale, but I still need to set it up at my end, so I’ll likely send you another email with that info tomorrow).

This is a great time to grab all the BJJ apps you need to turbocharge your training for the next year.  And if your phone or tablet is too full to hold them  all then I’ve got a solution for you!

Remember that you can purchase the app now to take advantage of the great price, but leave it ‘in the cloud’ until you need it.

That way you get the discount, but only actually download the app to your phone from the iTunes or the Google Play store whenever you’ve cleared some space on your device.

As long as you’re still using that same account that app will always be there for you!

Click here to see all the BJJ instructional apps that I’ve got, or select from the links below…

Roadmap for BJJ Apple | Android | Kindle FREE

Grapplearts Submissions Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

Grapplearts Guard Sweeps Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

Grapplearts Submission Defense Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

7 Days to Better Guard » Continue Reading.

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On Starting Sparring from the Knees…

A reader writes: Hi Stephan, I’ve been doing BJJ for about 6 months and am wondering if you have any advice about what to do when you’re starting on the knees?

I find that most wrestling-style takedowns are very difficult to do from the knees, especially because my opponents are really good at sprawling.

And if I get my grips then inevitably my opponent also gets his grips and the whole thing turns into a big pushing and pulling match, which doesn’t seem very technical to me.

Anyway, I currently feel really lost and have no idea how to initiate the action from the knees – can you help?

Sincerely Bohdan


Hi Bohdan,

Most BJJ classes start their sparring from the knees. This is because staying on the knees reduces the amount of space you need for each sparring pair, and that allows more people to be on the mat at the same time.

Starting on the knees also reduces the risk of injury associated with throws and takedowns.   Less throws and takedowns equals less injuries (I love Judo as a sport but don’t fool yourself – it has an incredibly high injury rate).

However starting with both people on their knees isn’t the most realistic position from which to initiate sparring.

First of all, starting on the knees has no application to modern self defense.

This might not always have been true.  In medieval Japan, after all, people spent a lot of time on their knees, and I’m sure that people did get attacked while kneeling.  That’s why many traditional Japanese jujutsu systems include armed and empty handed techniques for when both people are kneeling. But this kind of scenario – two people kneeling in front of each other – in today’s day and age is exceedingly rare!

Furthermore starting on the knees has very limited application in tournament competition.

I’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of BJJ matches, and I can only think of one or two cases where both contestants both ended up on their knees facing each other for more than a brief moment (inevitably one person either pulls guard or stands up).

So spending most of the match on the knees, pushing and pulling against your sparring partner, is a waste of sparring time.

But what are your alternatives?

Well, often you can ask your opponent to start in a specific position. Tell him something » Continue Reading.

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