Category Archives: Jiu Jitsu Technique

Clark Gracie: The Omoplata Game

omoplatagame

.

In the days after the 2013 Pan Jiu Jitsu Championships, pictures of the winner of the middle-weight division were all over some of the biggest websites and news programs in the United States. Appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s Inside Edition soon followed. Rumours of a L’Oreal hair-care sponsorship were bandied about. Okay, that last one isn’t technically true, but it was a bizarre state of affairs that a Jiu Jitsu athlete would reap so much attention.  Was the sport finally breaking through to the mainstream?

It would be nice if this was a result of recognition for his win at the Pans. But Clark Gracie’s flirtation with popular recognition stemmed from an unrelated photograph of Gracie applying an omoplata to Ken Primola during the 2012 New York Open that made the rounds on Reddit and Facebook. The Jiu Jitsu Lab got in contact of Clark to ask him about his new-found fame, the pressure of his family name and his signature omoplata game.

“I first saw it the day after I won Pan Tournament when one of my students showed it to me on Reddit.”  Clark admitted when asked about how he became aware of the photograph that launched hundreds of image macros across the web. “I thought some of the memes were funny. I believe people, especially non-Jiu Jitsu practitioners, think that it is a very interesting position and for me to be looking so calm is unusual, but actually it is one of the positions that I feel the most comfortable and confident in.”

.

The Omoplata Game feat. Clark Gracie – Highlight Video

.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Profiles, Jiu Jitsu Technique

Pressure: On top with Guilherme Mendes

pressure

.

Driving past the blinding lights of the Richmond airport on our way back to Vancouver following a Friday night training session, the topic of conversation turned as it inevitably does to Jiu Jitsu. Guard passing was on our minds as the usual heavyweight destroyers were brought up. My training partner Cedric made the astute observation however that even as a light-featherweight, Guilherme Mendes can use a small number of passes to account for virtually all types of guards. The techniques Guilherme chooses work in a system to pass the various modern guards that he may encounter. Not necessarily by having a different move for each guard, but by applying principles that are universal.

After watching Guilherme Mendes fight for years I finally felt for myself how this light-featherweight can develop his passing pressure when I had the opportunity to roll with him while attending a Mendes brothers’ seminar in Arizona last spring. From this experience I was able to better understand Guilherme’s ideas on posture and pressure, as well as the technical details needed to pass some of the best guards in the world.

Guilherme Mendes is a three-time world champion at the black belt level. His first world title came in 2009, a year before his younger brother, Rafael, achieved his first world championship. Since then Guilherme repeated that feat in 2011 in a rematch against Samuel Braga, and most recently in 2012 in a grinding, back and forth match with Laercio Fernandes. While Rafael is best known for his guard, Guilherme has been increasingly using his crushing guard passing and collar chokes to overwhelm his opponents.

To study Guilherme Mendes’s Jiu Jitsu I edited together a compilation of some of his most commonly used attacks, focusing on his top game.  Combining training and competition footage allows us to see how techniques are ideally completed and how they must sometimes be modified in competition, respectively.  From watching these techniques we can learn some of the keys to Guilherme’s renowned takedown, passing game and submissions. Some important principles include: using posture and grips to create pressure and wear down your opponent, focusing on a small number of interrelated techniques, and switching between techniques when being met with resistance.

.

Pressure: Guilherme Mendes Top Game Highlight Video

.

Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Profiles, Jiu Jitsu Technique

Operation: Berimbolo Counter-Attack

.

The first time someone pulls off the dreaded berimbolo sweep on you, it feels like it is impossible to stop. My though process went something like this, “Oh, that’s a lot of pressure on my leg, it would be a good idea if I sat down to relieve it.” Next thing I knew someone’s spinning underneath me forcing me to throw myself to the mat to prevent my opponent from taking my back.

The berimbolo is becoming increasing popular, with multiple videos on the internet attempting to explain the sweep that was made famous by Samuel Braga and his rivals on the Atos team. But be careful, warns Caio Terra, when learning the berimbolo from videos: “It’s PATHETIC how many videos explaining the “berimbolo” are in the internet but NONE of them are correctly, I mean, not just the move is incorrect but people who posts it have no idea what the berimbolo really is.” Point taken, Caio… point taken. So let this be a disclaimer that it’s important not only to check out instructional videos, but to see how techniques work in competition. I’m a big believer in watching competition footage, and when talking to Rafael Mendes last week he said the same thing, much to my amazement.

The result of all the exposure: even lower belts are pulling off this seemingly-advanced technique. With the popularity of the berimbolo firmly established it’s becoming increasingly important to have an effective counter for the inevitable moment that you come across it in competition. The main counters most people try are to sit back on the de la Riva hook for a knee-bar or attempt to toe-hold the free leg. Either approach will likely result in your back being taken if you’re not careful. To get a sense of how to counter the berimbolo against one its best practitioners, check out how Bruno Malfacine dealt with the sweep against Ary Farias at the 2011 European Jiu Jitsu Open.

.

Ary Farias vs Bruno Malfacine – European Open 2011

.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

Troubleshooting the X Guard with Emily Kwok

.

If you had the opportunity to ask one question to a world champion, what would it be?

Bumbling around Facebook one morning I saw that former Vancouver resident Emily Kwok would be making a homecoming of sorts to film an instructional video with Stephan Kesting of GrappleArts.com. There was to be an open workshop with Emily at the downtown In-Fighting academy, which is a five-minute Skytrain ride from my apartment in False Creek. Needless to say I was intrigued and decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from the 2007 brown/black belt middleweight world champion.

Emily Kwok is a current student of Marcelo Garcia, and has adapted his game to the needs of a smaller female in a male dominated art. It was therefore appropriate that the theme of the workshop was “how to defeat the bigger, stronger opponent,” which would become the very specific-sounding name of the DVD package released by Kwok and Kesting a few months later.

The workshop was structured as a public private-lesson with In-Fighting coach Richie. Richie would ask questions about techniques or situations with which he was having difficulty and Kwok would take the group through a drill that would provide the correct technique. Being an on-again, off-again patron of Garcia’s online instructional site MGinAction.com, I recognized many of the techniques taught as being straight from Garcia’s game.

.

Marcelo Garcia – One leg X guard

.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

Super Smash Pass!

.

The smash pass: not only does it sound cool, but it is arguably one of the most effective and efficient ways to pass the guard. There’s some confusion about what constitutes a smash pass, however. I’ve seen knee-to-nose and other passes labelled as “smash-passes” because they put weight on your opponent. Simply put, you know you’re performing a smash pass anytime you are directing your opponent’s knees together on one side of their body.

There are several entries into the smash pass including the now-famous leg drag. This feature won’t go into detail about the leg drag since it is one of the most-discussed guard passes on The Jiu Jitsu Lab, although there are two nice leg drag videos show below. When I first started this blog there was little to no information about the leg drag online. Under a year later there is an abundance of “leg drag” material out there, not all of it any good. But the leg drag is only a small piece of the guard passing puzzle. More specifically, it is a good example of how a smash pass can be utilized in a specific scenario, primarily when in de la Riva guard or when you can’t stuff your opponent’s leg between your own.

Thankfully there are several excellent smash pass tutorials cropping up online that can help alleviate any confusion. Additionally, two DVDs from “Little” Tony Pacenski provide systematic guard passing instruction that includes many ideas that can be labelled as smash passes. I’ve been drilling material from Seminar Series Vol. 2 Sao Paulo Approach to Passing the Guard.

.

Tony Pacenski – Smash pass against the closed guard

 .

Tony Pacenski – Smash Pass against reverse de la Riva guard

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

Rodolfo Vieira: The Passing Machine – Part II

.

Rodolfo Vieira is the most feared guard passer in Jiu Jitsu today. In Rodolfo Vieira: The Passing Machine – Part I we became acquainted with Rodolfo and a selection of the guard passes that he uses to dominate his opponents on the tatame. Now the Jiu Jitsu Laboratory is pleased to present a step-by-step guide to how Rodolfo approached each of his most famous matches and how he used his guard passing combinations to deal with a variety of opponents and attacks.

.

Rodolfo Vieira vs. Antonio Braga Neto (Pan Ams 2011)

.

This is the match people picture when they think about Rodolfo Vieira’s guard passing. Although less than a year old, Vieira’s destruction of Braga Neto has become an iconic performance that has redefined guard passing in Jiu Jitsu. Keep in mind Braga Neto won the world championships in 2008 and again in 2011, two weight classes above Rodolfo; he’s no pushover.

Rodolfo’s opponents don’t stand long with him. Some are taken down quickly but many are aware of his reputation on his feet and choose to pull guard. This is a big part of Rodolfo’s success. Those who don’t have the ability to fight for the dominant position have to accept pulling guard, which is not a good place to be with Rodolfo on top of you.

A common theme in Rodolfo’s matches is that he doesn’t let his opponents get to their preferred position.  As in the upcoming matches, Vieira’s opponents are unable to close the guard (except Cobrinha). This is what happens when Braga Neto jumps guard, as Vieira drives his knee forward and closes his elbow tight.

 .

Toreador Pass – X Pass

With a belt grip and pant grip Rodolfo performs his signature toreador (bullfighter) pass, which was demonstrated by Andre Galvao in part I of this series. Jumping past Braga Neto’s guard Rodolfo switches his grip from the belt to the bottom pant and pressures forward. As Braga Neto attempts to pummel his leg over to reclaim guard Rodolfo again jumps over for the pass. Rodolfo hops back and forth, redirecting his opponent’s legs until he is able to create space for the pass.

Braga Neto is able to push up to defend and reclaim guard. This sets up back and forth X-passes. The main difference between a toreador pass and an X-pass is the grip and the characteristic kick-back of the X Pass. A toreador pass is performed with grips on the pants, redirecting the legs. An X pass is usually performed with a lapel grip and pant grip and is performed by moving yourself around your opponent by kicking one leg up and pushing your opponent away as you move past the guard. They are very similar passes and Rodolfo combines them almost into a single pass.

In this series of passes Rodolfo performs what I would characterize more as an X-pass, specifically a variation taught to our gym by Rafael Lovato Jr. (which Lovato called the “black swan”). Rodolfo leaps over Braga Neto’s leg then kicks his trailing leg back to make room for Braga Neto’s now straightened leg. He then does the same thing the other way, kicking his leg passed and continuing to straighten out Braga Neto’s leg with a pant cuff grip as we will see many times in other matches.

This match could be a nightmare to score (do these quick passing attempts count as an advantage? Did he control enough to get points both times he passed?), but fortunately for the referee Rodolfo’s last passing combination forced Braga Neto to turtle, exposing his back and setting Rodolfo up for the quick bow and arrow submission.

 .

Take away points:

  • Train Judo and wrestling. The more grappling you know the more dangerous you are.
  • Be aggressive but don’t force a position if it’s not there. Redirecting the legs back and forth to create an opening is what allows Rodolfo to pass even the toughest guards.
  • A successful guard pass can be a combination of different passes and passing strategies so long as it gets you past your opponent’s legs.

.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Profiles, Jiu Jitsu Stuff, Jiu Jitsu Technique

Rodolfo Vieira: The Passing Machine – Part I

rodolfo vieira

.

The Development of a Champion

After Rodolfo Vieira’s impressive campaign in 2011 he is widely considered to be the current best Jiu Jitsu player in the gi. He is seen as being behind only Roger Gracie, against whom we have regrettably not been able to see Rodolfo compete. The key to Rodolfo’s dominance is his ability to pass some of the best guards in the world.

Although winning titles at all belt levels, Vieira didn’t come into international prominence until 2009, when he won the Abu Dhabi World Pro qualifiers in Brazil, then went on to defeat several well-known black-belts to win the World Pro while still a brown belt.

According to his interview with GracieMag, Rodolfo Vieira started Jiu Jitsu as a chubby boy in Campo Grande, a medium-sized city in the middle of Brazil. It was 2003 and Vieira wanted to lose some weight. His journey in Jiu Jitsu soon saw him traveling to Méier, in Rio, where the young Rodolfo began training under Mestre Julio Cesar Pereira of Universidade Gama Filho (UGF) – now Grapple Fight Team (GF Team).

.

Rodolfo Vieira Highlight

.

Rodolfo won the Brazilian Nationals at both blue and purple belt, in 2007 and 2008 respectively. His journey through the belts was blindingly fast, but he didn’t give critics any time to complain, winning the absolute at the Worlds as a brown the same year he was promoted. But these accomplishments were only appetizers for his breakout year in 2009.

His performance in Adu Dhabi earned Rodolfo the nickname Caçador dos Faixas Pretas and a black belt, which was awarded to him by Julio Cesar as Rodolfo returned to Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro. At black belt Rodolfo won the 2011 Pan Ams, the 2011 World Pro gi and the 2011 Worlds all at absolute and weight.

.

GF Team documentary: Rodolfo Vieira and Julio Cesar Pereira

.

Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Profiles, Jiu Jitsu Stuff, Jiu Jitsu Technique

Make the Transition: the importance of intermediate positions in Jiu Jitsu

.

One of my Jiu Jitsu coaches, Matt, is the master of transitional positions. When we train Jiu Jitsu it seems we never follow the conventional pathways of positional progression but are often stuck in between the scored positions in a kind of grappling no-man’s-land. It can be frustrating, but exploring these positions has greatly helped my progression.  As Jiu Jitsu advances these transitional positions are becoming more important and are being utilized to a greater degree by the highest level competitors.

.

Divided we Conquer  

A classic thought experiment in the field of geometry is to imagine dividing a solid object or distance in half. Each half is divided again and again. How many divisions are possible before no more divisions can be made? In Jiu Jitsu these divisions occur between common positions. Early in the development of Jiu Jitsu the half-guard was considered a poor position; it was half-way towards getting your guard passed. The half-guard is now a considered a position unto itself with an assortment of attacks. The half guard is commonly credited to Roberto “Gordo” Correra, who developed the position when, during purple belt, he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from playing closed guard. Presently, the half guard has been expanded to many other transitional positions: half butterfly, deep half guard, Z-guard, X-guard, tornado guard, 50/50 guard, quarter-guard and many more. Each time the position is halved it creates a new point for development and discovery.

.

Abstract (Martial) Arts

But why would it be beneficial to continue the abstraction of Jiu Jitsu positions? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed primarily as a self-defense art and many practitioners still view it that way. Esoteric guards and complex positions are considered limited or detrimental in a self-defense scenario. Even for mixed martial arts competition, it’s rare to see any positions outside of the standard Jiu Jitsu positions like guard and side control. The exceptions of course are Jiu Jitsu black belts like Fabricio Wedum, Wilson Reis and Antônio Rogério Nogueira who use uncommon positions like deep half guard to take advantage of their opponent’s unfamiliarity with the position.

And therein lays the value of transitional positions. Despite protests to the contrary Jiu Jitsu, like MMA, is a sport – and in any sportive pursuit the ability to surprise your opponent with a position, technique or strategy to which they are unaccustomed puts you at a distinct advantage.

A transitional position can be considered as any arrangement that:  (1) is between two scored positions, (2) can be maintained for an indefinite amount of time, (3) has multiple pathways into and out of it, and (4) is often a midpoint in an otherwise common Jiu Jitsu technique.

Conceptually, Jiu Jitsu positions act as a series of decision nodes. Something can be considered a position, in this sense, if you are able to take more than one pathway depending on your goal or your opponent’s reaction. A position can be considered dominant if you have a greater range of decisions than your opponent and control over what decisions your opponent can make. As Jiu Jitsu champions like Marcelo Garcia have noted, it is often during transitions between positions that you set up your submissions. Having more options in these in-between situations makes you a more dangerous Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

Many other familiar positions in Jiu Jiu can be considered transitional. Knee-on-belly is half-way between side control and mount, for example, and can be used for a variety of attacks and transitions. Take a look at three other less-common transitional positions that are increasingly being used in the highest levels of Jiu Jitsu competition:

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

Reverse de la Riva Single Leg

Reverse de la Riva single leg!

.

The reverse de la Riva guard can feel tenuous and impractical the first time you find yourself there, yet with practice it can become a very difficult guard to pass and one with many options for attack.

The reverse DLR has been featured on The Jiu Jitsu Laboratory before (Part I, Part II), but this entry will expand on one of the most powerful techniques from the position, the single leg takedown. Many points from the bottom are scored by using the guard to set up takedown techniques at the highest levels of Jiu Jitsu competition. This is one such option that is used by several competitors, although it is utilized with the greatest proficiency by Japanese-Brazilian Roberto Satoshi.

Satoshi is a recent black-belt who made major waves at brown belt by winning his weight at the 2011 European Championships and taking bronze in the absolute, among other accomplishments.To begin our study of the single leg from reverse DLR check out Satoshi’s excellent performance against Jordon Schultz during the finals of the Europeans.

.

Roberto Satoshi vs. Jordon Schultz – 2011 European Jiu Jitsu Championships Lightweight Final

.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

BJ Penn – Dope Mount

.

BJ Penn is mainly known as a guard player in the Jiu Jitsu world. He was heralded for his seemingly impassable guard from early in his Jiu Jitsu training, and as a black belt won the 2000 Mundials primarily using his vaunted guard. Penn has even released a book on the subject. But as he has shown in many of his Jiu Jitsu and MMA matches, BJ Penn’s guard passing is equally developed and highly creative. One of his most famous passes is the dope mount.

There are some nomenclatural difficulties with the term dope mount. It’s a guard pass and it starts from half guard, although it does end in the mounted position. It helps to think of mount in this case as a verb, not a noun as it is commonly used. It’s just a dope way of mounting, as it were.

I first learned this move from my first real Jiu Jitsu coach, Adam Zugec at ZUMA MMA in Victoria, BC. It was the first time I had rolled with a black belt and one of the many things that I took away from the experience was this pass. I didn’t really understand it at the time, and I’m still working on the intricacies, but it is a powerful and graceful method of getting directly from your opponent’s guard to the mount.

.

BJ Penn guard passing in MMA compilation. 

Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique