John Danaher: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor
John Danaher currently sits high atop the Mt. Olympus of grappling coaches. The long time Renzo Gracie black belt and instructor has been the mastermind behind the BJJ and grappling achievements of some of the most dominant MMA and grappling athletes on the planet. With long time students like Garry Tonon, Gordon and Nicky Ryan and a whole host of others, he has a led a group which bears the nickname "The Danaher Death Squad" to become one of the most dominant teams in submission grappling today. He has also coached and developed the grappling skills of MMA legends like Georges St. Pierre, Jake Shields and Chris Weidman to name just a few.
With the release of his first instructional Leg Locks: Enter the System, John Danaher began a revolution in grappling instruction by opening the playbook that has helped his team become so successful, changing not only the landscape of BJJ techniques but also how instructors teach. Instead of focusing on isolated and disconnected techniques, Danaher's approach begins with a systematic look at the conceptual underpinnings of those moves to show the connectedness of all BJJ.
Danaher Coaching Achievements
Below is just a very short list of the combat athletes that John Danaher has coached along with some of high level stages they've competed on. This is such a small snapshot, but represents the elite caliber of his aptly named Danaher Death Squad and the MMA luminaries that visit to hone their skills during fight camps.
- Georges St. Pierre (UFC)
- Chris Weidman (UFC)
- Eddie Cummings (EBI, ADCC, Polaris, Fight To Win)
- Garry Tonon (EBI, ADCC, Polaris, Fight To Win, ONE FC/MMA)
- Gordon Ryan (EBI, ADCC, KASAI, ACB)
- Nicky Ryan (ADCC, KASAI, Fight To Win)
John Danaher is one of the most sought after brazilian jiu jitiu instructors and coaches at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City.
With the help of BJJ Fanatics, he has graciously shared his complete system of leg locks in the most eagerly anticipated BJJ instructional of all time. This instructional sets itself apart in a number of ways. First in sheer quantity of content. John Danaher has made himself well-known for taking a very conceptual and philosophical approach to his grappling instruction. Therefore, an instructional which attempts to encapsulate his philosophy of leg submission must contain far more than just a series of techniques. This collection clocks in at well over 9 hours of content, nearly 4 times the length of any other BJJ Fanatics offering.
No other athlete or coach has created more buzz or mystique around their instruction. With the unique, conceptual approach and his team's dominance at submission only events, the world eagerly anticipated this release. The hugely popular Leg Lock system instructional was soon followed by a second series, equally as impactful on the world of BJJ, namely Back Attacks: Enter the System. Both are available below.
Leglocks: Enter the System
The release of John Danaher's Leg Locks:` Enter the System was the most eagerly anticipated BJJ related video release in history and will go down as the series that changed the landscape of competition and how average and competitive BJJ players look at leg locks.
Traditionally something to be feared and scorned, leg locks were a mysterious tool that Danaher and his squad of competitors used to dominate the No Gi competition scene. This made both competitors and average practitioners alike hungry to learn these secrets.
Back Attacks: Enter the System
John Danaher would go on to further explore what he referred to as the main submission positions, the back in his Back Attacks: Enter the System. With nearly 10 hours of material, this complete system will take you from back attack zero to human backpack in no time.
Front Headlocks: Enter the System
In this series, John Danaher shares his complete system of front headlocks from all positions. Starting with standing positions and moving to kneeling and seated variations of the guillotine and strangles using the head and arm.
The front headlock system for John Danaher is the starting point he recommends for his students as no matter if the submission attempt is successful or not, it opens up other submission pathways because of the defensive reactions that having their heads attacked opens up.
Kimura: Enter the System
Just when you thought you knew the kimura. It's a technique or submission we learn early, but as John Danaher does in his other systems, he presents what we thought we knew as a series of problems to solve and different roads to take. Know this powerful submission better than you ever thought possible.
Triangles: Enter the System
The triangle is one of the most difficult submissions to master. With John Danaher's systematic approach you will learn the modifications necessary to make this a powerful and crucial part of your BJJ game.
Armbars: Enter the System
A complete series based around the armbar and all conceivable iterations of the submission from all positions. First you will learn the mechanics of control and then the mechanics of separation. After the underlying concepts have been ingrained in your application, the true art of the armbar can begin.
Go Further Faster: Pin Escapes and Turtle Escapes
Once the final piece of the Submission System position was released, rather than sit back and watch these systems change the game,he set forth on his most recent project with the Go Further Faster Fundamental BJJ series. In this series, John Danaher attempts to solve the age old jiu jitsu problem of finding oneself in from the beginning and all through the jiu jitsu journey, the problem of finding oneself in an inferior position.
The underlying goal of each series is to defend and to escape. Once a practitioner is equipped with the ability to defend submission attempts and escape from inferior positions, they will then be free to develop their jiu jitsu game to the fullest.
Go Further Faster: Guard Retention
Go Further Faster: Half Guard
Go Further Faster: Closed Guard
Go Further Faster: Open Guard
Go Further Faster: Passing the Guard
Go Further Faster: Half Guard Passing and Dynamic Pins
About John Danaher
John Danaher was born in New Zealand and found himself in New York City attending Columbia University's 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.
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.
John Danaher Understanding Jiu Jitsu
In the video below, John Danaher is joined by star student Gordon Ryan and 5 time world BJJ champion, Bernardo Faria to explain the essence of jiu jitsu as he understands and teaches it.
For John Danaher, it is important to understand that pure combat can have a sense of randomness. Spend some time scrolling through YouTube and Worldstar street fight videos and watch as most represent the untrained masses flailing their punches and kicks into the air hoping that they strike the opponent in a devastating knockout blow. John Danaher presents jiu jitsu as a systematic approach to combat that once understood can bring a coherent and cohesive plan to the chaos that we know of as those viral combat videos we all enjoy.
Starting from the standing position as most conflicts would typically start, John Danaher explains that from a standing position, combatants have access to the full mass of their bodies (legs, hips, shoulders) which allow them to employ large quantities of kinetic energy for striking.
Within Danaher's system of jiu jitsu, there are two ways that this massive amount of energy must be dealt with. Either proactively, where we take our opponents down to the ground or in a reactive manner where we are taken down by them. Either way, once the fight is down to the ground, much of the kinetic energy potential for strikes is thwarted, though danger still abounds from the legs of the opponent.
From the top position (where you've taken down your opponent), if you find yourself with their legs between you and a more dominant spot, the next goal that must be achieved is a pass beyond their legs. In an untrained person, the legs can present upkicks or trips. In a trained opponent, the legs can present any number of guard variations, submissions or sweeps.
Once past the legs and achieving the first two primary steps of BJJ for John Danaher (takedown and guard pass), the combatant must be able to move through a series of dynamic pins, each with varying degress of striking potential. Positions like side control, knee on belly, and mount ultimately allow us to pin our opponent, while also allowing different levels of striking potential.
The most favorable of these positions would arise as one is striking down from the mount position. In this vulnerable position, the opponent would either accept their fate and allow punches to rain down upon them, or they would instinctively begin to turn to the side or even face down, which would expose their backs to you and allow you to take ultimate control of them from behind. This creates the most favorable position because there are no more strikes available and the hips and their power are greatly nullified.
From this most favorable position on the back controlling the opponent, the only step left is the final one for John Danaher, to secure either a joint or preferably a strangle submission on that opponent. Understanding the four step process as described by John Danaher will give practitioners a better sense of direction no matter where they find themselves.
All BJJ players are attempting to move back and forth between those four steps to achieve their goals. From the takedown, to addressing the legs and guard, to achieving a dominant pinning position, to finally securing a submission. These are the golden rules of BJJ. No matter how the back and forth of the match or combat scenario goes, these truths remain necessary to follow.
Danaher looks at variation as well, should the opponent take us down. Our first goal should always be getting our legs and their power back into play from either a protective sense, or an attacking sense (triangles, armbars, etc). Regardless of the order, the principles remain clear and our goals at each stage remain in sight.
Enjoy the video!
Notable Students of Danaher
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.
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.
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.
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.