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.
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.
WARNING: This is exhaustive. This discussion contains no walkthroughs or tutorials on leg locks. It serves as a contextual reference for the orientations and nuances used by the best grapplers to secure leg locks. It may be best studied in sections so as not to seem overbearing.
Here at wrestlejitsu we’ve seen that individuals with prior wrestling experience often incorporate leg locks into their game. This is due to a number of reasons. First, many leg lock positions allow equal opportunity for both individuals in the position and thus the individual who is more aggressive in attacking them often secures one first. Second, although many of the positions seem neutral, positional dominance can be achieved. Those who wrestled are often more aggressive and prioritize positional dominance.
Now that we’ve grossly overgeneralized the reasons why the wrestlers we’ve studied use leg locks we’re going to delve more deeply. Having spent an inordinate amount of time researching jiu jitsu one niche remains largely unfilled: the theory of leg locks. Although most leg locking positions have a designated nomenclature (many of which in fact have multiple names), to my knowledge no one has assessed positional dominance coupled with entries in to those positions and options from them using the games of the most predominant current leg lockers. This includes Masakazu Imanari, Rousimar Palhares in MMA, Davi Ramos, Joao Assis, Dean Lister, Eddie Cummings, and Gary Tonon in nogi, and Luiz Panza, Renato Cardoso, Edwin Najmi, and Hunter Ewald in gi.
A myriad of leg locking walk-throughs and tutorials can be found in instructionals and online, but finding realistically effective patterns requires the analysis of footage coupled with basic principles in physics and knowledge of the human skeleton.
Using leg locks effectively requires two things: control and risk reduction. The geometry of the human body allows for both players to attack each other’s lower limbs with their upper ones when the lower face each other. Controlling the position allows you to attack your opponent’s legs and prevent their escape while staving their ability to attack your legs and reducing your risk of being leg locked.
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Given the history of grappling, the rear naked choke (RNC) has likely been the most effective grappling technique of all time. Greek statues have even depicted the movement in sculpture. Modernly, it is the most effective submission in all of mixed martial arts. In the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is called the Mata Leao or Lion Killer. This name embodies its effectiveness. This effectiveness however, and people’s general lack of understanding regarding the technique, can make it a dangerous move to implement. Before we investigate this danger it’s important to understand the basics regarding how to execute the technique properly, the goal in its execution, and most importantly how to defend it.
Breathe like Rickson
One of the most iconic images of the Choke documentary is Rickson Gracie’s breathing techniques. This documentary is a staple among grapplers. I personally remember the feeling of having seen it in Choke and then in The Incredible Hulk with Rickson teaching Edward Norton how to control his anger with his techniques. I was ecstatic.
Breathing is probably one of the most underestimated skillsets in wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, MMA, or any sport for that matter. Being from Bermuda and having a father that dabbled in amatuer freediving my interest in breath holding far outdates my athletic ventures.
Only recently has breathing practice and holding capacity been investigated for its effects on aerobic ability. Continue reading
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