BJJ / Grappling tips: impassable guard? Start from the bottom of the side control

Master Rickson Gracie demonstrating 
his open guard on me

The open guard is a core position in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Competitors and fighters within and outside the Gracie family have used it for generations to stay safe on the bottom, escape back to their feet or even reverse or submit their opponent but what good is a guard as a defensive / offensive tool if it's constantly getting passed?

Do you want to make your open guard impassable? Start every sparring round from the bottom of the side control. Don't even worry about escaping to begin with. Just focus on preventing the mount / knee on belly / North / South and defending their submission attacks. 

Why will this improve your guard retention?


Master Rickson Gracie discusses the future of jiu-jitsu with master Pedro Sauer and the head instructors at the Gracie Academy HQ: Ryron and Rener Gracie.

In a new video shot at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California, Master Rickson Gracie discusses the future of jiu-jitsu with master Pedro Sauer and the head instructors at the Gracie Academy HQ: Ryron and Rener Gracie. Here's the video and the subtext to the video as published on YouTube:

Published on 7 Jun 2016
Jiu-Jitsu has reached a critical point in it's evolution. On one hand, it is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet, on the other hand, it is at risk of losing its identity and suffering the same fate that has negatively affected nearly all other martial arts. What made made jiu-jitsu famous in the 80s and 90s was its unprecedented effectiveness in real fights, yet today, most jiu-jitsu academies do not teach the elements that make the art applicable in a real fight.


BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to take the back from closed guard

Taking the back from the closed guard is a basic transition that no one in jiujitsu should get to blue belt without learning properly. It features in sports jiujitsu (gi and no gi), MMA and of course when defending yourself against a bigger, stronger aggressor who managed to take you down in an altercation.

Below are three version of how to take the back from the closed guard that I really like:

Getting their arm across your belt line, as demonstrated by Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida:


BJJ / Grappling tips: How to improve your guard, half guard and every other jiujitsu position by focusing on pit stops

Something I've always enjoyed exploring in grappling / jiujitsu is the use of pit stops. In this context, pit stops to me are points along the path of a roll / grapple / match where you can stop, secure & re-evaluate before you close the deal (submission, new position or even escape).

Over the past few years I have come to really appreciate the value of pit stops. In my opinion they are even more important than submissions. Not only do they slow the game down and allow you to be more cerebral, but the very nature of a BJJ / Grappling pit stop means that they often present you with a few directional choices (e.g. the chance to change submission or switch to a sweep / positional transition)

A few of my favourite ones are:

Penelope, aptly named, after Penelope Pitstop, during a no-gi session on tightening triangles

Spider-web a la Eddie Bravo


BJJ Interview: Valor Kimono Founder Kevin Adshead

I recently ordered a beautiful gi-material brown belt from Valor Fightwear after a very positive review from my friend Seymour at Meerkatsu. I was so impressed with the quality and aesthetics of the belt I contacted the company for an interview and got through to Mr Kevin Adshead, the founder. He was very generous with his time. I hope you enjoy it.

Hello. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little about yourself?

My name is Kevin, I am 34 years old and I am originally from London and now live in Essex. I am the owner of Valor Fightwear and I also own/run a couple of gi stores as well.


BJJ / Grappling interview: Grapple Nation Promoter Jake Cross

As some may know, I recently did a 20-min submission only jiujitsu super fight at Grapple Nation 7, a well run grappling promotion up in Manchester, in the North West of England (more on my match in a future post). I thought it'd be a good opportunity to interview the event promoter, my friend Jake Cross.

Hello. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little about yourself? 
Hi Liam, my name is Jake Cross and I am 25 years old from Manchester, England. I am an events promoter that has brought such event as Sub-North, Grapple Nation and now Empire Grappling Events Ltd.


BJJ / Grappling tips: Yoga & Jiujitsu

Adding yoga to jiujitsu is a great idea. The functional understanding of your body that the poses and flows of yoga give you, not to mention the breath control and mental focus, will go a long way to help both prevent injury by strengthening your joints and muscles and raise your competitive performance. Just look at the examples of Eddie Bravo, Sebastian Brosche and any Gracie. 

The thing is, we already know this. 

So why aren't yoga studios full of aspiring jiujitsu practitioners? The reasons are many:

1. Lack of additional time
2. Money
3. Not really knowing where to start...etc

All these reasons are perfectly valid and if like to use this post to help you overcome some of them. 


Submission grappling / MMA gear: Joint Guardian

Just a quick post to highlight a NoGi MMA brand that was kind enough to send me a sample of their products. Joint Guardian are a relative newcomer on the MMA Nogi gear scene but are indeed unique in their message:

"We produce innovative, socially responsible fightwear that allows our customers to wear the armor they need, while contributing to making this world a better place"

Making the world a better place how, I hear you ask. 

They strive to use organic and / or fairtrade cotton

They strive to use recycled polyester to reduce their environmental footprint

They are members of the 1% for the planet movement. Read more about it here: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org

But what really makes this Start-Up unique in my eyes from a social-responsibility POV is their take on fighter sponsorship:

"Just like other fightwearcompanies, Joint Guardian also sponsors fighters. What makes our sponsoring deals different from everyone else is that we ask our fighters to choose a good cause and to give something back! Fighters can choose any cause they consider worth supporting! Once Joint Guardian has decided to sponsor a fighter and his/her cause, Joint Guardian will do everything in its power to raise money for your cause and support you on your way to the top."

As for the products, I found them of a very high quality. My only gripe, which is more with me and my appetite for good food than with them, is that they were tight in my body frame. I'm 177cm and 85kg and the size medium spats, shorts and rash guard were..ehm.... Snug! 

Initially I didn't like the (removable) EVA knee protectors during ground grappling but I wasn't too bothered as I soon removed them. I have, however, found them more useful if you incorporate a lot of wrestling shots (or on my case, judo) into your training.  

I'd like to extent my thanks to Dhani and team at Joint Guardian again for the opportunity. Keep up the great work. 



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BJJ / Grappling tips: Paradox of jiujitsu.

What's the hardest yet most tantalising thing about jiujitsu? It's that fact that demand all of your attention when you are doing it. Not some. Not most, but all. 

What's the best and fastest way to improve your jiujitsu? It's to tone down your attributes and focus on the details of the techniques. 

We know these statements to be true, but how do we put them in action? Here's my suggestion. 

1. Add more steps: 

John Will once told me: "every technique in jiujitsu, and in life, is made of steps and the more steps and micro steps you add, the more exact and accurate your jiujitsu, and life, will be"

As an example, John demonstrated the omoplata shoulder lock from the closed guard then he taught it quickly in 2-3 moves / steps. To emphasise his previous point, he re-taught it in 6-7 steps and the whole group understood it and performed it much better. He then gave us 4 minutes to discuss in pairs how we could even more steps to the omoplata with the motivation that the pair of students who had the most steps won*.


BJJ / NoGi grappling seminar at Berserk MMA- Stockholm, Sweden

It was my great pleasure to teach a  NoGi grappling seminar last Monday at Berserk MMA back home in Sweden.

The beautiful and super clean facilities at Berserk MMA

Berserk MMA was founded by my friend Johan Halldin, who is also the owner of Fighter Magazine, Scandinavia's leading martial arts publication. The attitude there is very relaxed and, in a word: healthy!


Gracie Jiujitsu Legends: Helio Gracie's second son Relson Gracie on the health benefits of Jiu Jitsu

I really like this video. Actually, I love any video of someone above 50 doing things many 20 year olds can’t do. Relson Gracie has done a great job preserving his health.

What he has done here, which I think every human being out there should, is taken full responsibility for his life. Many people succumb to an image of getting old. A negative image. Relson, however, and many like him refuse to age badly. They refuse to allow the number of candles on their birthday cake (or flan, or smoothie or avocado or whatever Gracies eat on their birthday!) to determine how healthy he should be. For that, I salute you Relson.



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BJJ / Grappling / MMA tips: getting back into jiujitsu

What's the best way to get back into Jiujitsu?

Jiujitsu is an integral part of my life, but, as a part time grappler, there are times when I cannot train for a couple of weeks, or even more. Obviously if I can sneak in a session here or there I will but that's not always a possibility. 

Some may have to take a shorter or longer break from training. This could be due to work, family, moving home or even an injury. Hopefully, these obstacles subside and we find our way back to the mat, but people are often too eager for their own good when getting back into training and it's not uncommon for them to burn out within the first month or so. I know this because I have been that person. 

Here are 5 pieces of advice I've gathered over the years that I hope may be of value to you: