Monday, February 24, 2014

John Will seminar 23 Feb 2014 - Advanced Spider Guard


In every BJJ position there are numerous small details that can lead to the position alone becoming much easier for you to keep. At the same time, the position becomes more threatening to your opponent and opens up additional opportunities for submissions. The position itself when properly applied can make him want to move in a way that gives you submission opportunities.

This is what Rickson Gracie calls Invisible Jiu Jitsu, and what Rigan Machado calls "Royal" positioning. Often the details are difficult even for an experienced observer to see, and can only be felt.

"Royalize" your positions, including the various guards. Once you have successfully royalized one position, you will have the desire and confidence to do the same with all others.

From closed guard, get grips on both his sleeves. Turn the palms up, lock your elbows to your sides. Put both feet on the floor,  turn on your R side and bring your L knee and shin inside his R arm so both knees are together, creating a barrier. Place your L foot on his R hip and turn the knee out to your L. Bring the R knee through, foot on L hip. Keep elbows in tight, flare knees out so he should have difficulty passing to either side.

Push off your R foot as you turn onto your R side and move your hips back so you are at 90 degrees to him on your side. This should create a big gap between his torso and his R arm, so that you can thread your L foot over his arm, and under his armpit. Thrust your foot through and pull it back so you can use it as a hook behind his shoulder to pull him in. Keep your L grip high up on the crease between your thigh and your hip with no space for him to circle his hand or pull it out and break the grip.

This is known as the "leg lasso" in many BJJ circles (including the big BJJ circle called the internet).

Square up to him and put your R foot in his bicep/elbow. Push him away with your R foot and use your L instep and grip to pull him in. He should NOT feel stable, but uncomfortable and off balance. His shoulders should be twisted. He should feel that he needs to stand up to keep his balance. Let him stand.

Learn to "steer" him from this position. If tries to pass around to your R, push his L elbow far out in that direction with your R foot, at the same time pulling him forward with your L foot and the lasso. If he comes around to your L, pull his L elbow down to the ground using the lasso While lifting his R elbow with your R foot. You should be able to block his passing attempts and perhaps sweep him just like this.

Most Jiu Jitsu people know how important it is to be able to get and keep a dominant position, like side control, mount, or kneeride. A much smaller number apply the same philosophy to the various guards, though the principle is just as applicable. Learn to maintain the spider guard, and all others, to make it impossible for the opponent to escape.


Use your legs and grips to  make him step forward , feet parallel, within reach of your hands. Release your grips and grab his ankles, as low as possible. Drive over and forward with your hips, similar to the basic back sweep from closed guard. Grab his collar and go to mount.


  Bring him forward as before. Your R foot moves to his L hip. Pull him forward and directly overhead. You must get his centre of gravity right over you. Use the R foot to lift him, then push his hip up as you use the lasso to pull his L shoulder down. He more or less spins in mid air, the lasso pulling him onto his R shoulder. Use your L knee to pin his R arm so he cannot roll away from you. Push his L hand to the floor with your R hand as you come to your knees and consolidate side control.


Use your legs and grips to bring his L foot forward. Grab the ankle with your R hand. Your R foot goes to his hip. Now your L foot goes to his hip as you turn onto your R side. You R leg drops to the floor and hooks behind his R ankle. Push with the L foot and you pull his L ankle with your R hand and reap his L leg with your R. AS he falls, bring your L leg back to come to your knees. You may be able to use your L heel to trap and extend his R leg so you end up on your knees with his R leg trapped in top half guard.


Move your R foot to under his R arm, near his hip. Keep the L grip tight, but drive your L leg all the way through, invite him to go to side control on your R. AS he does, grab the pants of his R leg, lift it as you roll to your L, using the grip to pull him over he top of you to finish in side control.

This sweep is a fine example of STRATEGY. You let him get what he wants, or thinks he wants, but in a way that gives you what you want.

At an intermediate level, you fight your opponent to get the underhook. At a more advanced level, you let him get the underhook, but clamp down on it with your overhook and hook sweep him to that side.

Here, you give him the pass because that actually sets up the sweep. The harder and faster he tries to pass, the easier the sweep becomes.


You have spider guard. You cannot bring him towards you because he is backing away. Hook the outside of his R ankle with the instep of your R foot. Spin, to invert, and reach for his R ankle with your R hand pulling yourself in until you can hook his R ankle with you R elbow. You still have your L grip. Pull your L shin down until it is horizontal, hook you L ankle with the back of you R knee. Pull down on his R arm with your L grip and your legs and lift his R  with your R hand. He should fall forward onto his L shoulder. Follow him over and sit up, weight on your L hip and thigh trapping his arm, shins out to the R similar to an omoplata position ("hula hula legs"). Consolidate your side control.


You get the feet on hips from closed guard but when you attempt to get the lasso, he pulls his R elbow to his hip leaving you no space to get your foot under his R armpit. Instead, Keep the grips but thread your L foot under his L arm pit. Square up to him, get your shin through so you will be sweeping him with thee top third of your shin nearest the knee (using hip flexors) rather than using the quads to straighten the knee.  R foot goes to the floor. Push with the R foot and kick his R shoulder with your L leg to the side of your L ear. He should fall onto his R shoulder to your L. Trap his R arm with your L knee/thigh as before and consolidate side control.


He stays on his knees and is pulling back. Turn on your R side and  straighten you body, pulling your head and shoulders back away from him. You are trying to get his R hand across your centreline without him realising it, setting up an arm drag. Once you have achieved this, extricate your L leg from the lasso and sit up , L leg to the outside, grabbing his R tricep with your R hand and grabbing his lattismus dorsi with your L hand Come up on your R knee and get a seat belt grip. then take you weight off the knee and put it on his R shoulder, so he collapses onto it. Hip escape backward so you can get his back while on your R side ("master" side, with the top arm underhooked), rather than rolling him over you.  Set your hooks and consolidate back control.

This guard is really flexible with a huge number of techniques coming off it, dozens of sweeps, triangles, omoplatas, back takes, armbars, etc. Search "leg lasso" on Youtube once you have drilled the techniques above and mastered them. You need to master fundamentals, not have an encyclopedia of techniques you aren't that good at.


I asked John about grip training, how to make your grip more effective, etc. He replied that he didn't think it was a great idea as it is as likely to cause later problems as it is to strengthen your grip. We need balance in our lives and not to end up with 20 gold medals but a physical wreck at 40 with no prospects.

Learn to apply the lessons you learn in mastering one technique to all the other techniques. And learn to apply those lessons to areas outside martial arts.

Learn to really observe. Some of the oldtimers in the US can see a technique once and shortly thereafter have understood it well enough to be able to apply it in sparring. Not perfectly, but adequately.

People fail on the mat and in other areas of life because they do not respect the process. You may have an end game (knowing where you want to end up is essential for strategy) but if there are six steps to get there you must put 100% of your effort into the first step. Then (and only then) the second, etc. until you reach your final goal.

People want to rush to the end (living in the future) or oversweep (remaining too long in the past). Live and roll in the moment. Do not fall behind or get ahead of the timeline. Respect the process.

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You've Got - Jay Abraham

The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Mushashi

"You let go of that grip and your mother falls off of a cliff...and dies!!!" - Kurt Osiander

(Kurt is awesome. Check him out on Youtube. Good free instructional clips. He swears a fair bit).

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Transmission and Evolution Models of Martial Arts Instruction

The big problem here is that too many people believe, because they have been so told, that martial arts skill development only comes from a teacher (Sifu/Sensei/Guro/Guru/Kru etc.) transmitting the information to the student. The passage of real info only occurs once per generation, and only one real successor is chosen. The transmission of the style's secrets (and secrets they must be) only occurs after many years, perhaps preceding the death of the master by the shortest possible period.

This seems more prevalent to Chinese styles than any other, though this may only be my opinion coloured by decades of involvement and training in those styles. We even have situations like that claimed in one version of Yip Man Wing Chun where Yip Man's teacher, Chan Wah Shun, allegedly was only taught a modified and crippled version of the style. This after he originally tried to learn the style by watching his teacher Leung Jan teach his (the teacher's) son from a secret hidey hole. Leung Jan of course could always tell when Chan was or was not watching and taught his son the modified version when Chan watched, and the real version when he wasn't. Eventually Leung Jan agreed to teach Chan, but continued teaching him the fake version, not the real thing. Must have been very confusing and hard to manage ... lies usually are, just watch Fawlty Towers.

The problems with this are legion. With only one successor, the odds of styles getting lost are not insignificant. If you are the master, and the guy you chose as successor turns out to have issues (and a case can be made that many of the alleged successors have such issues), I guess you are honour bound to take the sacred knowledge to the grave with you. And what if your guy has an accident or dies in one of the challenge match of which there were supposedly plenty in the pre-internet era but rather fewer now?

Not a great business model, is it? Only one student? He's going to pay your bills? Or take on a whole lot of patsies, bilk 'em by showing 'em crap and only select one near the end to show the real stuff? Better hope like hell he's just stupid enough to put up with this, but not much stupider. Or he doesn't get greedy. Or smart.

Aside: I actually went to a Kwoon where a few of the students tried to sue the instructor because he wasn't showing them the "secret" stuff and thus not providing the goods that were advertised for sale. Surprise! It didn't work.

Secrecy itself presents a problem. Like everything else, fighting techniques require exposure to resisting opponents to determine whether or not they really work, what effective counters might work, and how to change the technique to lessen the effectiveness of such counters, or to counter the counters. The parallel here that comes to mind is cryptographic algorithms; the best ones are fully publicized, and the best cryptographic minds around the world invited, indeed encouraged, to hammer the things, to try to find weaknesses or shortcuts. You can have a pretty good level of confidence in an algorithm that is still standing after years or decades of the best cryptanalysts on the planet trying to knock it down.

If the fighting style has secret techniques, particularly those determined to be too deadly to spar with, then their effectiveness is never really tested.

If you've only got one guy showing the full system to one other guy, because of some cosmic rule set down by no one that says you can't have several successors, then it eventually becomes like making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a ... bits are forgotten or misunderstood, the quality slowly but surely and inevitably leaches away, a very long and complicated game of, no pun intended, Chinese Whispers.

Nearly all other fields of human endeavour work differently. Knowledge rarely springs fully formed from the void, appearing as the result of a dream or hallucinogenic vision. There are exceptions - Kekule, the dream of thee snake biting its own tail and the benzene ring, but these are rare. And Mr Kekule ws well and truly putting in th 99% perspiration that allowed him that 1% of inspiration. Knowledge is build on previous knowledge, tested and peer reviewed. The lone genius exists but is the rare exception. Generally knowledge increases because previous knowledge is built on or refined. "If I have seen further it is only because I have stood on the Shoulders of Giants" - Isaac Newton. Mr Newton was not exactly a dumbass.

You wanna be a martial artist? Go sit at the feet of some old guy in a cave or temple somewhere and hope like hell he's going to pick you and not some other dude with more talent, a smoother presentation or deeper pockets. Good luck.

No. Go somewhere where an instructor will show you the basics. While you want to be sure he knows what he's talking about if he's taking your money, your success in martial arts will be pretty much up to you, not the instructor.

In Kung fu, there is a set of stone tablets that supply the totality of the system. No one other than the founder has ever been smart enough to tinker with, let alone try to improve or upgrade the system. having the arrogance to try, or to mix other influences, is to start down the road to perdition and failure.

In non traditional MA's, you need to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals. But after that, if you aren't using your brain and attempting to solve your own problems using your own unique experience and initiative, you aren't going to get very far. While unfiltered input at the start is confusing, once you get the fundamentals understood you damn well better start using that brain in your head. Martial arts is about self discovery, not reading someone else's lecture notes.

The TMA guy will excommunicate you, cast you into outer darkness, for daring to seek another's opinion. Go train with them, you'll have embraced the dark side. Loyalty and truth are important, and it's only polite to tell the instructors in your life what you are up to and who you are training with, but generally a wide range of experience is a good thing. Certainly more interesting.

You are the master of your fate. You don't want to abrogate that responsibility to anyone. It's called SELF actualisation for a reason, because you have to do it yourself. There are people who can and will help you, people who have walked a path similar to yours. But you don't want to become them or their idea of a disciple or descendant. Take the helm, navigate your own course.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

So you've done Kung Fu and want to learn BJJ, huh?

I started BJJ after doing Kung Fu for about 15 years, including reaching an instructor level in Wing Chun under Rick Spain. At first, it seemed that the Wing Chun principles I had learned in my previous training were applicable to everything in BJJ. After a long time (IIRC after I got my blue belt) I found this approach of trying to see BJJ through Wing Chun coloured glasses was actually holding me back.

The temptation is there to think or hope you can shortcut the Jiu Jitsu learning process by using your other martial arts knowledge as a base.I know I'm not alone in this.

The facts are that Wing Chun is probably a poorer base to start learning Jiu Jitsu from than, say, surfing. As much as we all might want it to be otherwise. As Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." Assuming you can base Jiu Jitsu on Wing Chun is to make it too simple. In some ways this is intellectual arrogance. Wishful thinking.

I really had to let my old knowledge go to learn this new art properly.

In Zen and related disciplines, like, allegedly, Kung Fu, much is made of the story of the empty cup. The new disciple goes to the master, and yabbers on about how long he has studied and practiced, how much he knows about Zen, blah blah blah. The master serves him tea, and fills his cup. The cup is full, but the master keeps pouring, soon there is tea everywhere. "Master, the cup is full!" cries the disciple. "That is your problem," says the master. While your cup is full, I can serve you nothing. Empty your cup."

Cool story, bro, oft quoted by Kung Fu guys, including myself (obviously, see paragraph above). I needed to empty my cup to learn Jiu Jitsu. So I think, does everyone else in my position. The Jiu Jitsu saying is "Leave your ego at the door." Your ego isn't just about winning or losing on the mat, it's about how much you think you might know about Jiu Jitsu. So ... leave your ego (and all your preconceptions) at the door. Please!

Many martial arts saying say that the final phase of learning is integration of everything you have learned, the resolution of the contradictions, simplification, removal of the useless and redundant. But you can't possibly know what might or might not be useless and redundant at the start. Maybe after a few decades in the arts.

There is tactile sensitivity and tactile sensitivity training in good Wing Chun, but assuming it is the beez kneez is arrogance in the extreme. Sensitivity in BJJ is a whole body thing you have to learn (and in a Wing Chunster's case, RE-learn) from day one. Again, assuming that the sensitivity you learned in Wing Chun is necessarily translatable to everything or anything else is arrogance.

The highest graded guy in BJJ I know, a fourth degree black belt, goes to seminars or to train with other black belts with an empty cup.  The seminar guy says, "you know how to do this, right?" He always says "No. Please explain it to me." This approach often allows him to glean new ideas and fresh approaches, even regarding the fundamentals. If he's still doing this after a couple of decades of full time training and teaching, maybe you should consider how sensible it is to bring your preconceived notions, from Wing Chun, BJJ, or anywhere else, into a situation like this where you are there to learn.

He also told me that in his opinion there is no limit to how deeply you can analyze and work on a technique. All analysis and no training leads to analysis paralysis, of course, but there is a time for both. There is always room for improvement. In this regard maybe arts like BJJ are fractal, as much as we might want them to have limits and be simple. As unfortunate for those of us who might want to fully master Jiu Jitsu in its entirety this might be, Jiu Jitsu seems to be effectively infinite.