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Are You Truly Fanatical About John Wick?
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Are You Truly Fanatical About John Wick?

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With the release and success of John Wick 3, it is undeniable that Keanu Reeves has learned some serious moves since the film series began in 2014.

After all he has trained with some amazing martial artists for the role such as the Machados. For any martial arts film aficionado, the films are akin to what Bruce Lee and ninja did for audiences in the 70s and 80s. In fact, it is only a matter of time before gym owners begin to hawk John Wick-style classes for those who want to include guns, bulletproof suits and stoic sayings as part of their training regimen. But what exactly are we seeing on the screen and how might the average mortal become more like John in his own martial arts practice?

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The combat style of John Wick is essentially an amalgam of judo throws, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and techniques from the Russian hand to hand combat system of Sambo. This trinity of styles is glued together with a dab of aikido and a dash of "gun-fu", but in the end the styles quickly blur as one technique flows into another and another. To truly develop a style like the one we see in the John Wick Universe, you would need to explore and master the following techniques.


Judo techniques are never as simple as they look. Indeed, judoka take decades to learn the principles of kuzushi and movement to hit perfect throws. In John Wick's world there is no time for gentle dance like movements. John needs throws that are quick and deadly, but that also allow him to keep fighting. There are few throws as effective as ippon seoi nage for slamming the bad guys to the hard concrete, and John uses it quite often throughout the films. His version is not the one where he drops to his knees, however, as concrete is far less forgiving than tatami mats.  

Add a suemi gaeshi sacrifice throw to the mix and a few foot sweeps to the mix and you have the flashier John Wick judo techniques. For these and more I would argue that  you can find everything you need to add a bit of judo flare to your arsenal by taking a look at The Takedown Blueprint  with Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens.  A John Wick game would be incomplete without a perfect kata guruma also known as The Fireman's Carry. It is often the fatality move for Mr. Wick and few other practitioners dissect the throw as well as Matt D'Aquino in his BJJ Fanatics video, Fireman's Carry Frenzy.


For well-explained Sambo techniques that relate to John Wick, I see no reason to look elsewhere than to Vlad Koulikov. Vlad actually served as a fight coordinator and even had a brief role as the character, Pavel, in the first film. His collection Sambo for BJJ includes techniques such as the Kashiwazaki Roll with Georgian Grip, a Fireman's Carry to Ankle Lock, and a brilliant Rolling Knee Bar with Belt Grab. As soon as you take a look at how Koulikov moves and rolls his partner, you will see the influence of Sambo on the films.


One of the most classic maneuvers from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that appears is not actually done by John Wick, but rather by Ms. Perkins when she attacks a tired Mr. Wick in his hotel room.  While strangling and pouncing around John with her leather coat being used as a lapel, Perkins transitions through a wide range of BJJ techniques which shows how well-suited it is for a smaller female against a hitman known as Baba Yaga.  

For an excellent explanation of her combination maneuvers, you can check out Thomas Lisboa's YouTube lesson on the Kimura to Crucifix From Side Control. It is just a glimpse of his collection call Cruci-Fixing - 3- Setups & Finishes from This Forgotten Position.


Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the piece de resistance of the John Wick wheelhouse: the Flying Pendulum Sweep.  Unfortunately, this impressive-looking technique is not exactly as road-worth as Keanu Reeve's character makes it appear. It is essentially a jump to Guard with a questionable drop to grab and underhook the far leg as you then enact a classic Pendulum Sweep before hitting the ground.

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It looks amazing on the screen, but it is not a technique that you will find being hit often in either competition or any YouTube street fights. Still, if you truly want to emulate Mr. Wick, then this might be the perfect move to practice with your safest training after class, when everyone else has gone home, and when the only witnesses are the mice. Regardless, the John Wick Universe is opening up, so get out there and you might have a chance to be the next hapless bad guy taken down in the name of puppies everywhere.

Travis has joined forces with BJJ Fanatics for many great jiu jitsu and judo-related instructionals.  His most recent release is focused on how to achieve, maintain and utilize the best grips in jiu jitsu.  Get Scientific Gripping Systems for Jiu Jitsu today and know how to never let go of those effective grips once you achieve them!  Check it out at BJJ Fanatics!

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