Reflections from Fight to Win

Recently, FTW was in Charlotte, NC. Since that’s HQ for my school we had a ton of guys on the card that night. I was going to make a post on the FB members page for our school but I thought many of these lessons might be more broadly applicable. It was a pleasure to be there and once again our small school caused some big waves. A few consistent ideas seemed evident to me from coaching and filming nearly 20 people I roll with regularly that night:

  1. If you can, keep it standing. So much of modern jiu jitsu is agreed upon interactions. One guy pulls guard, another steps in. It’s important to work your stand up game. You don’t need to be awesome at takedowns. It take serious explosiveness and years of reps to be good at takedowns, but it takes exponentially less time to be good at defending them. Remember your three defenses – hands, hips, and head. Keep distance and hand fight, don’t accept tying up. Learn the movement of a nogi uchi mata, it’s unorthdox and resets a scramble into the possibility of a headlock well. If you get taken down briefly, don’t accept it. Tripod up, control the hands and Granby or GTFO. I’ve seen plenty of high level wrestlers be blown away by jiu jitsu standing defense. Finally, if you are going to do takedowns, make sure the propensity to get subbed on the way down is low. Think knee taps, duck unders/throw bys, ankle picks, double legs with your head in the middle. And as always, arm drags.
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What we can learn from ADCC.

Welp, after an insane weekend with many upsets and some amazing rolling, I feel that it my duty to share some insight on what can be gained from watching a weekend of competition with the worlds best grapplers (in nogi). So what did we learn?

Any day can be your day. 

Most people had hardly even heard of Craig Jones, and unless you’d seen Kit Dales instructional or perhaps watched all of the EBIs (he barely lost to Vagner Rocha in the semis), it’s not likely you would have. Nonetheless, this is a man who largely plays the saddle or inside sankaku position (almost identical to the DDS guys-I’d show you a specific breakdown but with Flo’s insistence on not sharing footage with me I can’t :/ ). Below are some of his own tutorials. Jones was relentless with his leg lock attacks even looking like he tweaked Lo’s knee at one point on an inside heel hook. He rolled like he had nothing to lose and his leg attacks created enough of a scramble at one point to take Lo’s back and finish with a RNC. Keeping up his momentum he flying triangled the still great Murilo Santana in his next round.

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The Injured Athlete’s Guide to Meditation

About three weeks ago, I woke up and thought I was having a heart attack. I was pouring sweat. I was extremely disoriented. I had my fiance call 911. I have a pulseox beside the bed (I’m always curious about my heart rate), my heart rate was 120. The room was spinning. I was freaking out. Medics came, turns out I wasn’t actively dying. “We can take you to the ER if you want.” they said. “No thanks.” I replied. I wasn’t about to wait 6 hours in an ER if I wasn’t dying, I hadn’t been to the doctor in 20 years. Long story short, I have some friends that are doctors and after a bit of convincing from them I went to a general physician, who sent me to the ER anyway. A few MRIs later, it doesn’t seem like I had a stroke. Turns out, after nearly half a lifetime in contact sports,  I got a concussion. In fact, probably a couple close together after lengthy discussions (I was laugh-crying regularly at movies and shows on TV, and kept training anyway).

I thought I had to be knocked out to get a concussion but neurologists say 80% of concussions are just a quick change in acceleration/deceleration. Of all sports, not something I expected to happen in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We don’t get punched in the head. We don’t run into each other head on.

In any case, when you’re an athlete and you’re injured, it’s tortuous. After all, you’re the type of person who stays busy, obsessed with improvement, with the hope of accomplishing goals. Your body atrophies and you lose your cardiovascular ability. And most of all, you’re pissed off because of it.

So what can you do when you’re injured? Do you desperately attempt to simulate some abbreviated version of any relatable activity to your sport? Do you watch as much footage as possible so that you return with a new and better strategy?

Maybe. But you know what you should do? Meditate.

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Get after it. Moving first in BJJ.

The last thing my wrestling coach would always say to us before we stepped out on the mat was “Get after it!” I have to confess, for years, I never really knew what “it” was. Or rather I did know what “it” was, but couldn’t go after it. You see, I’ve been a reactive grappler for most of my life. In wrestling, I wasn’t great at shooting, but I had good takedown defense.  My aim has always been to shut down the game of others, to tire them out, then dig deep towards the end of the round and try to finish with a win. I don’t know why. Probably because deep down inside, I’m just damn lazy. It takes a long time to get good at this style of grappling, but once you do, it’s extremely efficient. There are plenty of counter wrestlers that have been decent,  but you’re hard pressed to name any of the best modern bjj players that aren’t uber aggressive.

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Erberth Santos – Savage

The first time I paid attention to Erberth Santos was in this highlight video of him doing jumping back takes. It only takes a few reps of this move yourself to learn how hard it would be to hit against someone decent.


I was impressed. I looked him up. Oh yeah, I remembered this guy. He’d won brown belt Worlds, and Pans, and Brazilians. At his weight and absolute. He was TLI, which only made him scarier. I knew he was climbing the ladder of the 1%. I thought “it’ll take a while.” But when I saw him break Pena’s arm I was like “damn.” He lost that match because Pena toughed it out. I knew then one day Pena would be due for some payback. And he was.

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The Best Short Guys in BJJ

I wish I could write the top 10 short guys in BJJ but I can’t. If you’re into Jiu Jitsu, being short is hard, so hard that the taller you are for your respective weight class – the greater your chance of winning. Sure, there are advantages to being shorter such as faster reaction times (shorter neural networks), greater strength to weight ratio, faster limb acceleration, greater endurance, and greater power to weight ratio. Nonetheless, the physics of Jiu Jitsu is about maximizing mechanical advantage and longer levers do just that – Especially when it’s multiplied using the gi.

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Interview with Dominique Bell: IBJJF Purple Belt MW World Champ


You may have heard about Dominique Bell. He’s a purple belt from Atos. He’s an amazing cartoonist (we’ll call him Doodle Dom). And now he’s the current IBJJF middleweight purple belt World Champion.

I first heard about Dominique Bell at a local tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. Someone mentioned to me “Watch this dude, he’s awesome.” Sure enough he demolished some poor local jiu jitsu player in less than a minute. If you’ve ever waited the 142 hours to have a match at the purple belt level at a local tournament, you know that by the time you step out there you are often times exhausted and disappointed despite the outcome. If you win you wished you had more matches and if you lose you’re disappointed you waited all day for one match. Not Dubious Dom. You could see it on his face. He wasn’t fatigued. He wasn’t disappointed he’d waited all day to demolish someone in a few seconds. You could see his passion.

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Modern Day Catch Wrestling: Effective Techniques and Fighters With Roots in CACC


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Catch-as-catch-can (CACC) wrestling started in the late 1800s/early 1900s in the UK as a hybrid form of grappling that combined a number of different styles of wrestling at the time. Eventually this form of wrestling began to spread to the US and throughout Europe as a form of entertainment and in shows at carnivals. This became known as “professional wrestling”.  Most of the movement was scripted in an effort enhance its entertainment value. Despite its scripted nature it did indeed contain effective technique for grappling and Dan Gable even claims that when he first learned to wrestle in Waterloo, Iowa he was learning a style they called catch wrestling at the time. Continue reading