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3 Things You NEED To Know As A Beginner In BJJ
From one of the best instructors on the planet!
Do you remember starting out as a white belt? Are you considering starting but haven’t yet? Maybe you are in this phase of your Jiu Jitsu career right now. The reality is regardless of where you are in your journey, there is nothing more important than having a solid foundation on which to build your next 10, 20, 30, lifetime of training on.
That being said, there are 3 techniques John Danaher feels are the most important techniques for white belts to focus on as they are getting started. Just because you are a blue belt doesn’t make you exempt, stick around and make sure you have the details down pat before you skip over this. Chances are there is something you can learn from one of the best instructors on the globe.
Before we dive into what these techniques are, incase you are coming here knowing very little or nothing about Jiu Jitsu, we should likely dive into why you should trust this John Danaher guy and his opinions on why you should focus on these 3 things. If you have been training for a while and are still asking this question, well, it’s time to get out from under the rock you have been living under and pay attention as well.
John Danaher is arguably the most sought after instructor in the world today as a result of his systematic and detailed approach to Jiu Jitsu which has led to his “squad” (more on that later) being some of the toughest and most awarded grapplers to ever step on the mats.
They have earned the name Danaher Death Squad, that is for sure. John has developed systems for each position and teaches these systems with such great detail it’s like nothing you have ever seen. The systems then flow together allow a skilled grappler to continue attacking regardless of what the opponent does because they have a solution to every problem.
For these reasons, and many more, it’s worth listening when John has something to say, you never know, you might just learn something. Understand that in these 3 techniques, they are not necessarily the most important because of their use in one or two situations, but rather important because of how they teach you to move your body and that movement is extremely valuable for you to build on as you learn more and more techniques.
While there are 3 important moves or techniques that are important, there is one that sticks out to John as being the absolute most important technique “bar none” and that is the elbow escape. Unlike wrestling where anytime you are stuck on your back you are “pinned”, in Jiu Jitsu it is much different, however.
An important concept to understand in Jiu Jitsu is the concept of keeping your legs between you and your opponent. This concept is the difference in “winning” or “losing” when you are playing the bottom game in Jiu Jitsu. Regardless of how the situation looks, if you are able to keep you legs between you and your opponent you are doing good.
A great example John provides is when he talks about how even when Bernardo takes his back and has back control, even though he (Bernardo) is on his back and John is on top, is still in the dominate position and has the “pin” because he is in control. Don’t worry, it may take a little getting used to, especially if you are, or were a wrestler, but you will get the hang of it quick, I promise.
Ultimately, it’s the underlying concepts that these techniques carry that make them the most important 3 moves. Let’s take a dive into what Professor Danaher thinks are the 3 most important techniques you should be focused on as a white belt are.
As we start to dive into the elbow escape John starts off being in bottom mount with his opponent straddling either side of his body. This is a terrifying position that can be extremely dangerous in a self defense situation if you don’t know how to escape. Often times new students really start to panic in this situation when they realize that there is very little they can do to get out from under a determined attacker, that is until they start to learn the elbow escape.
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The first step in the elbow escape is going to be to make a frame across the opponent’s belt line and then reinforce it by placing you other hand on top of the framing hand as shown in the picture below. It is also important that the elbow of your “reinforcement arm” goes inside of the opponent’s knee.
Next we need to start working to get our bottom (right leg in this example) leg on the outside of the opponent’s legs. To do this we first begin to get on our hip slightly, as you see in the picture above. Next we need to invert our knee so that it points down towards the floor as much as possible causing our knee to be lower than our foot as you can see below. If the knee is not lower than the foot you will not be able to get your knee to slide under the opponent’s leg as it will just continue to run into it like a road block, you must invert your knee here in order to be successful.
Once you are able to scoop your leg under the opponent’s leg, we want to capture the opponent’s leg. In order to do this, we bring our top leg over and hook in front of their shin and pulling it back until we are able to place the top leg foot on the mat behind our bottom leg knee. We now have captured the ankle, but we want the knee. To get the knee we start to turn our hips back to square on the mats (flat on our back). This enables us to bring our right leg up and around the opponent’s knee.
At this point we have what can be referred to as “half guard” essentially because we have one of the opponent’s legs inside our control, we have half of what we are looking for in order to have the opponent in our full closed guard. As you build your Jiu Jitsu game you may get to a point where you prefer to play a half guard game, and that’s great. If that is what you are deciding to do, the escape would stop here for you, but for the purposes of keeping this geared toward our newer teammates let’s continue and get back to full guard.
We now need to repeat the process on the other side. The first step again is to get our elbow inside the opponent’s knee allowing us to once again shift our hips and start to pull our knee out. It’s at this point that many less flexible grapplers find themselves stuck because it is very difficult to pull your foot out of your opponent’s guard from the position you are in. Once again, we have a solution for that. Simply plant your opposite foot and scoot your hips toward that foot changing the angle and making it extremely easy for you to pull that foot out. Once the foot is out, we simply wrap both legs around our opponent’s waist and lock our feet behind them securing them in closed guard.
At this point, again a great example of when we are on our back, but not pinned because we are in control due to the face that our legs are able to control the opponent. From this position there are a number of sweeps and submission we can start to look for as well.
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The elbow escape also works similarly if the opponent is attacking our back, meaning they are behind us with their legs over ours and some sort of a grip controlling our upper body as well, most commonly a “seat belt grip”. A seat belt grip is simply a grip where one arm goes under your armpit and the other arm goes over your shoulder and your hand grip in the middle of the chest with the under hook hand covering the over hook hand to protect it as it can be used for choke submissions.
In this position we are assuming that the opponent has not obtained a grip yet, and we are able to grab their choking hand. We want to maintain control of this arm throughout the escape. Once we have control of this it is safe to assume the opponent will want to fall towards the side of his strangulation hand. We want to ruin this plan and force them the opposite way by simply straightening our leg on the opposite side they want to go and pointing our toes in the direction they want to go. This will force the opponent to the side we want to fall to.
The next step is to get our bottom leg over their bottom hook. In order to do this, we simply walk our foot back until the opponent can no longer follow and then we simply step over the hook. As soon as you are over the hook, we want to start moving our hips to the floor on the outside of theirs’s. As soon as we get our hips and shoulder to the mat the opponent’s only choice is to let us have it and scramble for a dominate position, which is unlikely, or to start to come on top to mount.
As they start to step over we want to push their top knee down between our legs so that we can trap that ankle and get to our side inserting our knee into their hip once again by placing our elbow inside of their knee as we did before. Keep in mind this is like starting at the half way point in the previous example because we already have control of one of the opponent’s legs. Just like before we repeat the same process to free our second leg and wrap up the opponent in our closed guard.
One of the most important next steps is to look at how we can most efficiently use closed guard. This technique will get you thinking along the right lines to continue to build your closed guard game on. The closed guard can be a very powerful position when used correctly. Let’s check out Danaher’s second most important technique for white belts starting from the closed guard.
The very first thing we need to do once locking our feet and securing the closed guard position is to establish a grip. In the video clip (16:58) he shows how he wants us to use our right arm to go under the opponent’s left arm and across to the opponent’s right Gi sleeve. John is using a thumb in grip where he is rolling the sleeve up under his 4 fingers for maximum grip strength.
Next we simply pull on this grip while simultaneously pulling the opponent in by pulling our legs towards our chest. The goal of this grip is to steer the opponent off to our side as we are pulling them in. As we start to get them past the center line of our body you will need to start extending your right arm straight out forcing them further and further off to your right side.
At this point we are now half way to the opponent’s back. Since we have already come so far, it makes sense to go ahead and finish getting there. Next we will need to reach across and grab the opponent’s Lat muscle. Once we have secured this grip, we can abandon the sleeve grip and start to build up on our elbow and then eventually up to our hand. Doing this puts our head higher than the opponent’s head.
We can now put all of the weight on our top leg making the bottom leg light and easy to pull out allowing us to fully cover the opponent’s back and start to secure our seatbelt like grip by snaking the hand we had on the opponent’s Lat muscle and pushing it under their arm pit and securing a grip on the opponent’s far lapel around their chest area. Our second hand can then come over the opponent’s right shoulder and secure a thumb in grip on the lapel much higher than our first grip, closer to the opponent’s chin.
Now from here we are able to simply sit to the floor and bring the opponent on top of us. As you can imagine, even sitting to the floor has some specific details you want to note. John is first driving forward until his right elbow is on the mat and then he is sitting to his right hip first. As he sits to his right hip and beings to turn to a fully seated position he pulls the opponent on top of him leaving him in a position where the opponent is sort of laying in his lap with their head resting on his arm with the thumb in grip by the chin.
At this point we are able to finish the submission. In order to do that we can use our left hand to “take the slack out” of the opponent’s lapel by pulling it down. We then want to pull our bottom leg out and aver top of the opponent’s bottom arm for better control. From here we simply lean back pulling down towards the mat on the “choking” hand lapel grip while pulling the other lapel grip towards the opponent’s belt line and leaning back while also extending our legs and tightening our knees together. This will create an extremely strong choke submission that is very difficult for the opponent to fight out of.
The lapel should be viewed as a “murderous rope” around the opponent’s neck as it is very similar to having a belt around the neck and can be used as a highly effective tool for us to take advantage of for strangling the opponent.
As you can see, in this rather short video Professor Danaher has shown 3 techniques in extreme detail that he feels are paramount to your success, or lack of, as a white belt, or really any rank in Jiu Jitsu. These techniques are fundamental and should be mastered regardless of your rank.
You can expect to see this same level of detail in any one of his video instructionals available on BJJ Fanatics. John takes a very academic approach to Jiu Jitsu and teaches complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand and more importantly, easy to duplicate. No matter where you are along your path in the Jiu Jitsu journey, I am sure you can agree that there is much that can be learned from such an incredible instructor.
If you are just starting out you may want to consider starting with “Guard Retention: BJJ Fundamentals – Go Further Faster by John Danaher” as your first video instructional to study. Building a solid guard retention game will be something you appreciate for your entire Jiu Jitsu career. You can expect a deep dive into the details of maintaining your guard in various positions covered over 4 volumes and several hours of detailed instruction. It’s like going to a seminar, only better because you can hit pause or rewind when you need to see something again.
Depending on your comfort level with full guard, you may also want to check out Danaher’s latest video instructional Half Guard: BJJ Fundamentals – Go Further Faster by John Danaher. This is likely one of the most used guards in our game and the preferred guard by some of the best athletes in our sport such as Tom DeBlass and Bernardo Faria. If it works for these guys, there’s a good chance it will be effective for you as well. Why not learn it from the best?
There is no doubt that any instructional from Professor Danaher is going to take not only your game, but your thinking towards Jiu Jitsu to a new level. As you have seen in this breakdown the amount of detail is borderline overwhelming at times, however crucial if you want to be the best. As always, the instructional only works if you do so get out there and drill and do some live training to build the correct muscle memory to execute these techniques in competition and dominate your opponent.
IF you are beginning your Jiu-Jitsu Journey NOW is the perfect time to learn from one of the LEADING minds in Jiu-Jitsu. The Go Further Faster Series by John Danaher is designed to shorten the learning curve required to become proficient. Take the first step in ENHANCING your Jiu-Jitsu forever!