Adding New Techniques to Your BJJ Game

I once posted a cool new technique by a famous jiu-jitsu fighter on the Grapplearts Facebook Page.

Within the hour I got a text from a purple belt friend of mine who wanted me to show him how to do this technique and start using it.

I said sure, but I also advocated caution…

I told him that it was going to take a LOT more time to incorporate this particular BJJ technique in to his game. Not because it was extraordinarily difficult, but because it didn’t fit his pre-existing game!

This concept of congruence of new techniques with your existing game is an important topic, and I discussed it in more detail on episode 42 of my podcast which  you can listen to on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.  Give it a listen there, and if you enjoy it then please subscribe to the podcast itself!

You can also watch a detailed discussion of this topic in the video below…

The post Adding New Techniques to Your BJJ Game appeared first on Grapplearts.

How to do the Back Roll

The back roll (or the backwards shoulder roll) is one of the most important movements in BJJ.

Honestly, it’s right up there with shrimping and bridging!

Most fundamentally, the back roll allows you to fall backwards and roll over your shoulders rather than rocketing into the mat and taking the full impact on your back and/or head.

But you can also use it to counter guard passes.  Set up submissions.  Escape bad positions.

If you don’t have a smooth back roll you’re not going to be a complete grappler, simple as that!

However just like the forward roll (which we broke down in this article here) the back rolling movement is often sadly deficient in BJJ and submission grappling students.

There are lots of grapplers flailing like turtles flipped over onto their shells when they’re trying to do this roll.

But it’s actually quite a simple movement – you just have to be shown how to do it properly and then put in a bit of time practising it.

In the video below I break it down for you and also cover the 3 most common mistakes people make when they’re trying to do the backwards shoulder roll on the mat…

I mentioned earlier that the backwards roll is the fundamental movement underlying many advanced techniques, including submissions, escapes, sweeps and defensive manoeuvres.

The very best breakdown of the fundamental movements in BJJ and their applications in different areas of the sport that I’ve seen is Brandon Mullins’ Non-Stop Jiu-Jitsu instructional set.  You might want to check that out if you’re interested in this topic!

The post How to do the Back Roll appeared first on Grapplearts.

How to do the Forward Roll

The forward roll is one of the core movements in BJJ, Judo, and all grappling arts.

The most important use of the forward roll is to avoid injury; if your opponent sweeps you over his head you use this movement to avoid spiking your head down onto the mat and destroying your neck.

But you can also use the exact same movement in other contexts, including in scrambles and while applying submissions (like the rolling Judo choke).

In Judo the forward shoulder roll is usually taught on day one as part of the beginner curriculum.

But in BJJ it’s often neglected.  Maybe the instructor assumes, incorrectly, that just because he himself can do this movement in his sleep that everyone else should be able to do it as well.

Unfortunately that’s not the case, and I’ve seen more than one otherwise athletic person faceplant hard on the mat because they’d never been taught this fundamental movement.

In the video below I take you through the forward shoulder roll.

Check it out if you do any form of grappling but still find this movement strange, unfamiliar or uncomfortable…

The post How to do the Forward Roll appeared first on Grapplearts.

Pressing Armbar from Guard

The pressing armbar, also known as the ‘cutting armbar’ or the ‘reverse armbar’, is one of the big attacks from guard.

It works in both gi and no gi competition.


The post Pressing Armbar from Guard appeared first on Grapplearts.

Podcast: 8th Degree BJJ Coral Belt Carlos Machado!

I loved talking to jiu-jitsu pioneer Carlos Machado about all things BJJ in episode 115 of The Strenuous Life Podcast.  

He shares stories about growing up training with Rickson and Rolls, the importance of universal principles in Jiu-jitsu, pushing the tables aside to train with his brothers Roger, Rigan, Jean Jacques and John, competing in ADCC with a broken foot and more.

I hope you get as much out of this interview as I did! His love for the art and experience in the sport comes through at every second.

Some of the highlights include

01:07 – Carlos on growing up in Jiu-Jitsu family

05:52 – BJJ comes into the mainstream

08:41 – Training with Rolls Gracie

11:07 – Style of the Machado game

13:03 – The continuing evolution of Jiu Jitsu

17:54 – Who are the most athletic Jiu Jitsu practitioners?

20:44 – Who has the deepest BJJ technical knowledge?

27:41 – What he thinks about the introduction of new techniques into Jiu-Jitsu

30:46 – Submission only competition formats ` 33:32 – Carlos’s reflections on competing in Abu Dhabi

It’s episode 115 of my podcast  and you can listen to it below, or go iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself (a rating and a review is always super appreciated!

Find out more about Carlos Machado at carlosmachado.net

The post Podcast: 8th Degree BJJ Coral Belt Carlos Machado! appeared first on Grapplearts.

Should You Stretch Before Jiu-Jitsu Training?

Some experts tell you that you should only stretch after a workout when your muscles are tired and your body warmed up.  Static stretching before a workout, they insist, can actually lead to more injuries not less.  And there is some evidence from the running world to prove this…

This is the exact opposite approach used in most traditional martial arts classes, where the instructor makes everyone stretch before a workout so that your muscles are loose.

Who’s right?

Well, it depends on the sport.

Are you going for a 5 km run, which probably won’t take you to the limits of your flexibility, or are you doing a sport like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where getting completely pretzeled up against your will is just a normal part of the sport?

In combat sports it’s better to go to the limits of your range of motion under control and on your own terms in the warmup, before your opponent brings you to the edge of your flexibility suddenly in training or sparring.

But there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, and long, static stretches are probably NOT what you want to do right before class.

I go into this topic more in a video from second Youtube channel (Self Defense Tutorials) which I’ll embed below…

Or, if you prefer, you can also listen to the same information on my podcast called The Strenuous Life

It’s episode 114  and you can listen to it below, or go iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself (a rating and a review is always super appreciated!



The post Should You Stretch Before Jiu-Jitsu Training? appeared first on Grapplearts.

Protect Yourself And Your Training Partner At All Times

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).  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 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 completely still his wrong-way-spin would have slammed his heel into my forearm.  This would have been a highly dynamic, full force application of the heel hook 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.

The post Protect Yourself And Your Training Partner At All Times appeared first on Grapplearts.

How to Safely Practice Dangerous Leglocks

Q: Given that leglocks are dangerous, how do you train them safely and still have confidence that they will work in a ‘live’ setting.

A: Although ANY submission is potentially dangerous, cranking someone with a heel hook or toehold can not only end the match, it can end your opponent’s athletic career.

Go here if you don’t know what a heel hook is. . If you don’t know what a toehold is, check out the second-last photo in this article about the kneebar.

These two leglocks are dangerous because they are twisting submissions and can severely damage ligaments in the knee and foot. Furthermore, for most submissions the pain starts well before there is any damage to the joint.

With twisting leglocks, however, you often don’t feel much initial pain: as someone is applying it to you might not feel anything at all, then you might feel a bit of discomfort, and then BANG, you feel a lot of pain because something has popped or torn.

So how do you train these dangerous locks so that you can trust in their effectiveness? My answer has 4 parts:

1 – Learn and fight for the leglock positions, not the submissions

One of the beautiful things about the modern leglock game is that leg locking has, to a large degree, become a positional game rather than a sprint for the finish.

That means that you can spend an entire sparring session working on getting into specific positions and maintaining them against a training partner who is pretty much doing everything he can to get out of those positions and catch you in them.

There are about 12 major positions in leg locking.  Some positions are easy to get to but not super-powerful to finish from, and others take more work to get into but are crazy powerful finishing platforms.

To lay this out for you in more detail I have an entire book just about leglock positions that you can download for free here on Grapplearts.com.

Position before submission, not just for upper body attacks anymore!

2 – Master the straight anklelock and the kneebar

When applying 95% of leglocks you end up either facing your opponents head, or facing his feet. The mechanics of controlling your opponent in these two positions are relatively similar whether you are doing a ‘safe’ straight lock or a ‘dangerous’ twisting lock.

» Continue Reading.

The post How to Safely Practice Dangerous Leglocks appeared first on Grapplearts.

Kettlebell Conditioning for BJJ with Jason C. Brown

Kettlebells are a very popular tool for conditioning these days, with people doing all kinds of crazy exercises.

In episode 111 of The Strenuous Life Podcast I talk to kettlebell expert (and longtime BJJ practitioner) Jason C. Brown and get a ton of relevant and useful tips for the combat athlete!

From how to do the basic exercises, to program design, to carryover from exercises to BJJ techniques there’s quite a lot here.  Plus we also riff on old-school jiu-jitsu techniques and why they still work.

You can listen to just episode 111 of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Jason C. Brown below, or go to the link for the show on  iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself!

Give it a listen and, as always, please share it with someone else if you think it’ll be useful for them!


The post Kettlebell Conditioning for BJJ with Jason C. Brown appeared first on Grapplearts.

Wrist Locks – Attacking The Most Under-Attacked Joint

Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling offer techniques to attack almost every major joint in the body including the elbow, shoulder, neck, knees, feet, and ankles.

These should be your bread and butter submissions because they have a long, proven track record of effectiveness.

I think a bit of variety is a good thing, however, so let’s talk about a not-so-common attack: wrist locks!

The wrist is the most under-attacked joint in grappling. Just about every time you are attacking the arm you have access to the wrist as well. If your opponent is really good at defending the armlock, for example, you may be able to switch to a quick wristlock and get a submission that way.

The video on wrist lock safety below also has lots of examples of wrist locks that you can intentionally (and accidentally) apply on the ground:

There are lots of ways to compress, extend and twist the wrist. Just watch an aikido class or read a book and traditional Japanese Ju-jutsu. Typically these wristlocks start with both combatants in a standing or kneeling position, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also work on the ground.

But against resistance – an opponent who is really fighting you – wrist locks are a lot easier to do on a pinned opponent than on a more mobile standing opponent.

I am not alone in my respect for the wristlock in grappling. Fernando ‘Terere’ and Fredson Paixao are just 2 of many BJJ players who have used the wristlock at the highest levels of competition. One the home front, one of my main training partners is a master of sneak wristlock attack. When we spar I constantly have to watch where I put my hands or he is going to trap a hand and lock the wrist.

Now for an important safety announcement: APPLY WRISTLOCKS SLOWLY!! Here is why:

The wrist is a small joint with many small bones and ligaments and thus susceptible to injury in the first place Wrist locks are relatively easy to counter, so  the temptation is to slam them on quickly If  you slam them on quickly you WILL injure your training partners.

In a very real sense wrist locks are the heel hooks of the upper body – very effective, but also prone to injure your partner if misused.

I’ve accidentally injured a training partner’s wrist with a simple twist of » Continue Reading.

The post Wrist Locks – Attacking The Most Under-Attacked Joint appeared first on Grapplearts.

The Strenuous Life Podcast: New Episode with Extreme Kiteboarder Jack Rieder

I really enjoyed talking with kiteboarder and extreme athlete Jack Rieder (in part because I’m dying to try kiteboarding myself).  

It’s episode 107 of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Stephan Kesting.  You can listen to the audio below or subscribe to the podcast and then download the episode in iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Even though Jack doesn’t do martial arts (yet!) he still exemplifies the strenuous life. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Here’s just a bit of what we talked about…

1:10 – What is kiteboarding? 6:47 – The disciplines of kiteboarding 13:57 – Other uses for kites 17:51 – Controlling the kite 21:28 – Injuries and risk 27:14 – Media and video process 30:36 – Training vs doing for high level performance 38:07 – The future of the sport 41:11 – The art of getting sponsored

The best way to listen to this podcast is definitely to download a podcast player to your phone and subscribe to the podcast (details above) but if you want to listen to it right now you can just hit play on the player below:



The post The Strenuous Life Podcast: New Episode with Extreme Kiteboarder Jack Rieder appeared first on Grapplearts.

Podcast Rant: Why You Have to do Jiu-Jitsu, and How to Get Good at It Fast

Here’s a quick 10 minute audio rant I released on my Strenuous Life Podcast recently.

I start out by talking about why you absolutely have to train some form of grappling if you consider yourself a martial artist.

Then we go into the 6 basic position of traditional BJJ – the positions that you’ll be spending 80% of your time in when you’re rolling around on the mat.

And then I cover the idea of having at least 2 reliable escapes, transitions and submissions from each of those positions.

You can listen to the audio below or go to iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and listen to Episode 104 of The Strenuous Life Podcast.


If you’re convinced by my arguments about the necessity of training BJJ and want some help in getting to the next step then I would suggest doing two things…

First download my free checklist of jiu-jitsu positions and techniques in PDF form by clicking here, and then Download my free Roadmap for BJJ app for your Apple or Android device by going here.

Both steps are free and both will definitely help you get good at jiu-jitsu MUCH faster!


Stephan Kesting

The post Podcast Rant: Why You Have to do Jiu-Jitsu, and How to Get Good at It Fast appeared first on Grapplearts.