John Danaher was born in New Zealand and found himself in New York City attending Columbia Universities prestigious philosophy program, where he would ultimately earn his Masters Degree. During his college years, he worked as a bouncer at a number of clubs and would spend a great deal of time working out in classic weight lifting gyms to stay strong and be ready for any interactions with drunken patrons at the clubs he was working at.
When a friend invited him to a jiu jitsu class, John attended with relatively low expectations and was quite surprised to actually find himself interested in the art. He would become a student of the great Renzo Gracie at a time when his peers and training partners would have been the likes of Ricardo Almeida, Matt Serra and Renzo's late brother Ryan Gracie.
As time went on, eventually Renzo Gracie's highest level students like Ricardo Almeida and Matt Serra would leave to continue their careers or start their own academies. It was at this time, as a purple belt that he was called upon by the Renzo Gracie team to step up as a coach. It was this pivotal moment that truly began his obsession with becoming the absolute best coach he could be.
It is said that John would easily spend 12-14 hours a day at the gym working on his BJJ and his skills as a coach. Renzo is said to have said that John Danaher would spend Christmas Day on the mats if he were allowed.
Since that time, he has worked with and continues to work with a who's who of talented grappling and MMA superstars. The "Squad" as he calls them, or the "Danaher Death Squad" as the world would call them would be made up of superstars like Eddie Cummings, Garry Tonon, Gordon Ryan and his younger brother Nicky. The squad goes much deeper and includes too many up and coming grapplers to mention and is continuing to grow. One of the greatest testaments to John Danaher's ability as a coach as seeing long-time black belts like perennial fan favorite, Tom DeBlass, joining his students Garry and Gordon by incorporating time with John in his busy schedule.
One of the best introductions to John Danaher came on a recent Joe Rogan Podcast where he discussed his evolution and theories of grappling.
Joe Rogan Experience Podcast Featuring John Danaher
John's career as a coach is different than most BJJ athletes in that his competition experience as a competitor is extremely limited. Due to long standing injuries and many surgeries, he has been relegated to his role as Mastermind for the many talented athletes he has been able to teach and coach.
With the release up his Leglocks: Enter the System instructional, he has opened the proverbial Pandora's box and shared his unique and comprehensive approach to lower body submissions that have helped his squad members dominate the world of submission grappling. His students have won nearly every single Eddie Bravo Invitational, Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon and Nicky Ryan all showcased their talents at last year's ADCC event with Gordon being the youngest athlete to win his weight class and to also double medal after earning a silver medal in the absolute division. Young Nicky Ryan, not yet 17 years of age, has now bested multiple high level black belts in competition, while still only a purple belt under Danaher.
In the video below, John Danaher shares the first glimpse into his leg lock system with the help of Bernardo Faria. The video serves as a fitting appetizer for those who are prepping themselves for the full power of Leglocks: Enter the System.
BJJ Fanatics and John Danaher Outside Heel Hook Masterclass featuring Bernardo Faria
Stuart Cooper Presents John Danaher's Four Part System
Renowned filmaker Stuart Cooper brilliantly adapts a piece of John Danaher interview in which he describes the brief and somewhat random interaction between himself and grappling legend Dean Lister, who is one of the pioneers of the leg submission game. It was an off-handed comment to Danaher that sent him back to his laboratory so many years ago and ultimately led to the development of his system.
John Danaher Interview from Jiu Jitsu vs. The World
John Danaher, in the film, Jiu Jitsu vs. The World talks about what it means for him to be an effective coach to his students and how their development should be measured.
Because John Danaher has not competed himself on the highest stages due to things like injury and surgeries, he has competed vicariously through his stable of brilliant students. His first and longest Death Squad member is Eddie Cummings. As one of the smallest and lightest of the squad members, he is also the one with the perfect body and style for leg locks and it is with the leg attack that he is most comfortable.
Eddie Cummings Highlight
There have been few grapplers as exciting to watch as Garry Tonon. As a Tom DeBlass black belt, Garry had already stood on the world championship stages before he ever began training with John Danaher. Garry is an example of a grappler who embraces his weaknesses and instantly invested everything he could possibly invest into traveling up to 3 hours each way back and forth from New Jersey to Manhattan to train with Danaher.
Now as he makes his next move into the world of MMA with One FC, Garry continues to look to John as an important coach and mentor. For now Garry has put his grappling on the back burner, but we are confident of a return someday and look forward to watching his MMA career develop.
Garry Tonon Highlight
Gordon Ryan, himself a Garry Tonon black belt has only been training BJJ for approximately 6 years. At 22 years of age, he has achieved more than many athletes who have been training and competing for decades. His talent is equaled by his work ethic. He is currently on pace to be one of the most successful BJJ athletes in history. Currently he is working to become as dominant in gi competition as he is in No Gi competition.
Gordon Ryan Highlight
Young Nicky Ryan is Gordon's 16 year old brother. As a John Danaher purple belt, he has already bested some of the grappling worlds premiere black belts. In 2017 he became the youngest person to ever compete at the ADCC world championship and though he didn't medal, put on an amazing performance.
Nicky Ryan vs. 10th Planet's Marvin Castelle