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Dynamic Vs Static Grappling In Leg Entanglements With Dean Lister

Dynamic Vs Static Grappling In Leg Entanglements With Dean Lister



If you are coming to this site, chances are you have heard the legend of how John Danaher became interested in leg locks. The story goes that Dean Lister was visiting the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC. After seeing Lister submit his training partner with a leg lock, Danaher made a comment explaining that he did not typically attack the legs. Lister changed the game with a simple statement “why would you ignore 50% of the human body.” 

To those in the know, Dean Lister exerted enormous influence on the grappling game well before this interaction became common knowledge. Lister is an ADCC champion and a successful MMA fighter. Bursting onto the scene in the 2003 ADCC, Lister won Absolute Gold, securing two leg locks on the way. Replicating his success in 2005, Lister won his first and only superfight. In 2011, Lister secured three heel hooks which he topped by securing five heel hooks in 2013. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Dean Lister will break your legs, but the full picture is more complicated.

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Looking at the remainder of Dean Lister’s competitive record in both MMA and grappling, you will see the expected leg lock finishes. You also find numerous upper body submissions. Any competitor facing Dean Lister needs to be prepared for the whole gamut of attacks or they will be going home defeated and disappointed. Well-rounded proficiency such as this is rare, especially considering the era in which Lister came to prominence. Having a skill set that encompasses a range of upper body and lower body attacks, mixed with consistent, high level success places Dean Lister in a unique place to opine on the optimal strategy for jiu jitsu. He is able to speak to what defines great jiu jitsu in ways that very few people on Earth can. In the video below, he describes one particular technical choice when attacking the legs that has significant implications for the jiu jitsu game overall. It gets at the heart of what defines great jiu jitsu; a dichotomy that we will look at briefly in this article. 

The Great Debate: What Is Great Jiu Jitsu

What is great jiu jitsu? This is one of those straightforward questions that does not have a perfect answer. Answers seem to fall into one of three broad categories: Jiu jitsu that works regardless of size and athletic differences, jiu jitsu specialists, or the jiu jitsu that is dangerous everywhere. The first category is what many associate with jiu jitsu: the ability to effectively apply jiu jitsu technique to subdue an opponent regardless of size. While this is commendable in jiu jitsu, the reality is that at the highest levels, heavier guys win the absolute division. Marcelo Garcia, arguably the greatest small man in jiu jitsu history was only able to secure a silver medal in the ADCC absolute (Obviously, this is a gargantuan achievement). Because size and athleticism in high level jiu jitsu can become nigh insurmountable, let’s confine our discussion to the remaining two categories.

What makes someone a jiu jitsu specialist? Specialists have supreme technical skill in a specific area so that they can apply their game to anyone at any time regardless of their defenses. When I think of specialists, I think of someone like Craig Jones. Don’t get me wrong here; Craig Jones can do it all, but we know what Craig is going to look for in a match. His opponents do too, yet he remains the most dangerous leg locker in competitive jiu jitsu. Yet another category of great jiu jitsu is the competitor who is exceptional in multiple areas of the game. Well-rounded grapplers that are dynamic. Garry Tonon is a great example of this archetype. Garry can seamlessly flow through attacks depending on the reaction that his opponent gives him. He does not get tunnel vision. He does not limit himself to a specific attack.

Open Vs Closed Circuit Positioning


Technique Breakdown

Dean Lister seems to subscribe to the idea that it is important to be dynamic when attacking. Because of this, he recommends that you use an open circuit when attacking the legs. So what is the difference between an open and closed circuit position? Dean explains that a closed circuit position is when you lock the position in place by crossing your legs. Closed circuit positioning makes it difficult for your opponent to escape. The specialist would prefer this positioning so that they have time to work on getting the finish. Perhaps this is one reason that Craig Jones and Lachlan Giles spend so much time attacking from 50/50. Transitioning from the closed circuit positioning is difficult. Once you begin attacking from a closed circuit you have committed a significant portion of the match to this position. 

Dynamic, dangerous-everywhere grapplers are better suited by the open position. Lister explains that in an open circuit, it is easier to transition to different attacks when your opponent defends the initial maneuver. Watch one Garry Tonon match and you will see this in action. Garry flows from leg attacks to upper body attacks and back to the legs. This is the type of grappling that Dean Lister recommends in the video below and employs himself. Watch the video to see the man himself, Dean Lister, explain the concept of open vs closed circuit positioning in depth.

Dean Lister's Instructional

Reap The Leg by Dean Lister  is available today to learn how to effectively apply these concepts to become a high percentage leg attacker in all rule sets.



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