Master the Outside Heel Hook with John Danaher

Master the Outside Heel Hook with John Danaher

Hell may have officially frozen over.  One of the most successful BJJ and grappling coaches and instructors, John Danaher has joined forces with BJJ Fanatics to share his entire leg lock system. This highly anticipated instructional is slated to be nearly 10 hours chock full of all of Danaher's philosophy and concepts underlying his leg lock system. This is your chance to finally become the leg lock ace that you've been dreaming you could be.  

This is the exact system that has been used by his team who aptly goes by the nickname "Danaher Death Squad" and includes competitive rockstars like Garry Tonon, Gordon and Nicky Ryan, Eddie Cummings and often features guest combat athletes like Jake Shields, Tom DeBlass and Georges St. Pierre.  Soon you will be performing heel hooks just like these assassins.

The Danaher Death Squad is arguably the most successful submission only competitive team right now.  There enigmatic leader, Renzo Gracie black belt John Danaher has been tight lipped about not only the techniques, but more importantly the system that underpins those techniques.

Recently during an interview with comedian, martial artist, and hugely popular podcaster, Joe Rogan, Danaher shared an anecdote about a somewhat inocuous comment that grappling legend and leg lock pioneer Dean Lister once said to John.  During a brief conversation around the topic of leg locks, John who had been brought up in the traditional manner that many practitioners grow up in, with a relative ignorance and sometimes fear of leg locks.  Dean asked John casually, "Why would you ignore 50 percent of the body?"  This simple statement, shaped the course of Danaher's focus and development of his students.

The "squad" as Professor John Danaher refers to them has been dominating the various submission only grappling events out there.  Whether it be Polaris, Fight to Win Pro, or the Eddie Bravo Invitational where the squad has overwhelmingly dominated the competition using the techniques forged in the blue dungeon back at Renzo Gracie NYC.  Garry Tonon himself, a 5 time EBI winner, was himself already a highly accomplished black belt under Tom DeBlass when he began studying under Danaher and has since developed into one of the most dynamic and dominating grapplers on the planet.  Garry's first black belt and squad member, Gordon Ryan, himself a 4 time EBI winner and 2017 ADCC Champion is another of the Death Squad's most successful team members.

In the video below, we get to see 5 time world champion Bernardo Faria, who himself is a self-professed "white belt" in the world of leg locks, despite being one of the most successful competitors in history, easily work through the though processes and system of Danaher to master the outside heel hook.  He is joined by Renzo Gracie black belt Carl Massaro.

 The first few things to notice that sets John Danaher's approach apart from other instructionals is the philosophic and systemic foundation that he shares with his students.  In a recent social media post, Danaher shared that one of his goals in sharing these techniques and systems is to help teach people how to become effective problem solvers.  Danaher's instruction will give you a starting point to use logic and creativity to handle all of the many scenarios and problems that one might encounter in their training and competing.

A big part of learning a new system is learning the language and vocabulary of that system.  Techniques and positions can often have a variety of names depending on the school or team, but similarly to the 10th Planet system with its unique nomenclature, the Danaher system is built on language of key terms like ashi garami, sankaku, and kazushi.  So like a child learning to utilize language for the first time, a newbie to the leg lock game must learn how to take these words and concepts and begin to translate them into techniques, positions and submissions.  Like Bernardo says at the start of the video, Danaher has created a new jiu jitsu within jiu jitsu with his systems.

The Mechanisms of Heel Hook Mastery

For Danaher, the starting point for mastering the outside heel hook is understanding and differentiating between what he calls the "mechanism of control" and what he calls the "mechanism of the break".  In this particular technique the controlling mechanism is the use of a series and variation of positions known as ashi garami.  Conversely, the breaking mechanism is the heel hook itself.

During the explanation of this technique John describes the evolution that a grappler must work through as they lock up the initial ashi garami position.  By teaching the techniques in this dynamic manner, he is able to explore and troubleshoot the many contingencies that can present themselves during the execution.  This method will also strengthen the understanding of the fundamentals and concepts that form the backdrop for the techniques.

Ashi Garami and the Mechanism of Control

The first task or goal that Bernardo must achieve with the body of black belt Carl Massaro is to create a strong connection to the body.  The method is to utilize the first of four different variations of ashi garami or leg entanglement.  In the first instance above, Bernardo is instructed to use an arimi ashi garami which creates a closed connection between the outside leg's heel and the inside leg's knee.  This creates a clamp on Carl's thigh which allows Bernardo to be glued to his body without the help of his hands.

This initial variation of ashi garami creates a strong starting point of control, but does not effectively allow the outside heel to be attacked.  Despite its incredible control, if the outside heel hook submission is the goal, the heel must be more effectively exposed and by staying in this position, the opponent can actually work for inside control and attack our inside leg.

Inside Ashi Garami and Sankaku

The initial closed ashi garami was dominated by the inside leg which was pointing outwards.  In order to expose the heel, the hips and dominant leg must be switched pointing in the other direction.  By changing to an inside ashi garami position, the opponent's heel is now exposed allowing Bernardo to begin gripping.  But with this heel exposure, also comes the exposure to a new list of challenges, primarily in the opponent's ability to begin rolling away and escaping.

For this reason, John recommends a third variation of ashi garami that utilizes a tight leg triangle called sankaku which reaffirms the mechanism of control while moving close to the execution of the mechanism of the break.  This leg triangle also serves to hide Bernardo's feet to prevent the opponent from having an opportunity to counter the technique and launch attacks of their own.

 Once the sankaku and it's inherent control is reestablished, the opponent is forced to continue rolling away to try to escape.  In the attempt to unwind the entanglement, the opponent is actually setting up the fourth and final variation of ashi garami.  During the roll, the sankaku and entanglement keep the opponent from freeing their knee line from the control of Bernardo's hips.

The Heel Hook and the Mechanism of the Break

As the opponent's roll comes to fruition, Bernardo's legs naturally fall into an outside ashi garami position which allows him to dig his heels into the opponent's butt and hips, while arching his hips into the the knee and torquing the trapped toes to the opponent's butt finishing the heel hook.  Here we see the culmination and perfect unique of both the mechanism of control (ashi garami) and mechanism of the break (heel hook).

In this master class video, John Danaher has broken down into explicit detail a submission set up that can literally happen in a matter of seconds.  In the blink of an eye, a Danaher student will make these ashi garami transitions forcing their opponents to scramble and act quickly before their tendons and ligaments are destroyed.

Soon you too will be able to learn the complete system used by the likes of the Ryan brothers and Garry Tonon.  This video makes it extremely clear that by following Danaher's clear concepts, a leg lock newbie like Bernardo Faria can become a leg lock ace in almost no time.

To tide you over, check out the best selling Down Under Leg Lock series featuring Australian grappling standout Craig Jones.  In the series' four volumes, Craig shares all of the secrets that have helped him rise to the top of the competitive grappling circuit in the past year.

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