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Playing The Dilemma Game With Gordon Ryan

Playing The Dilemma Game With Gordon Ryan


A Game of Choices

Something beautiful about Jiu Jitsu is the sheer amount of styles that exist in the sport. After learning the basics, you can truly specialize in any type of game that you want to. There are many styles we’re familiar with. If you’ve been rolling for any length of time, chances are you’ve run across one or more of these styles.

The pressure game puts the opponent on the bottom and slowly grinds to pass guard, ignoring even obvious submission attempts before complete dominance of position has been achieved. On the other hand, you have players who focus on submission-only open guard styles, incorporating more inversions and leg locks than we formerly thought possible. These players are often happy to relinquish a controlling position for the prize that they seek: a joint lock or stranglehold. 

Gordon Ryan has another idea: a dilemma game. In addition to whatever stylistic influences you may already have in your toolkit, “The King” recommends adding a set of dilemmas to the positions that you already know. So what is a dilemma game? It’s one where you create a limited amount of choices for the opponent that all end badly. It's a coordinated attack with intent to submit in competition. It's a premeditated attack with all contingencies covered that you will win if you apply it correctly. Lets see an example:

Gordan Ryan’s Yoko Sankaku Dilemma


Yoko Sankaku?

I’ll admit it: the Japanese names for moves are hard for me to remember. I like to call this move the Side Triangle. The video starts in “yoko sankaku”, which bears some explaining. It can be reached most easily from side control although it is certainly available from lots of other positions.

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If the following description is hard to visualize, feel free to skip it. The purpose here is to offer an entry to those who are curious. To get there from side control, you’ll want to attempt to pass the opponent’s near arm with your north leg. You'll find yourself in crucifix, with one knee on either side of their closest arm. From here, you can use your north leg to reach forward and underhook their neck. After you’re under the head with your leg, you can fall to your hip on the far side and to the north of the opponent while locking in their far arm with your legs, top over bottom. 

Your opponent now finds themselves flattened out with their shoulders controlled by your legs. Your two hands control the near arm of your partner while your legs control the far arm and neck. The dilemma has begun.

The Dilemma

The best dilemmas have a limited amount of choices for your partner, and this is no different. Your primary goal is to finish the side triangle by grabbing the far arm and pulling it towards you as you tighten up the triangle with your legs to complete the choke. Unfortunately, as Gordon points out, most everyone will see that coming. 

As a result, people will disconnect their hands in an attempt to put their far arm out of reach for the side triangle finish. In doing this, however, they will naturally expose their near arm to your free hands. They may try to tuck it in their thighs but, within reasonable size limits, they’ll not be able to prevent you from bending the elbow and sitting up for the kimura. As a result, many people are likely to regrip their hands to prevent the Kimura, taking us right back to the last place we were: threatening the side triangle via grabbing the far arm.

As Ryan puts it, this process repeats: “your partner either has to keep the hands locked and deny you the kimura, but give you the far arm to finish the yoko senkaku, or unlock the hands, deny you the strangle, and give you the ability to finish the kimura. There’s no way around this.” That last part is the key. A solid dilemma creates two options for a finish that feed back into each other instead of transitioning to other positions.

Keys to the Side Triangle “Yoko Snkaku” Dilemma

  • Attempt to complete the side triangle by pulling the far arm towards you
  • If they unlock their hands, commit both of your arms to the near side kimura
  • If they relock their hands, pull the far arm towards you for the side triangle
  • Repeat until they tap.

Gordon Ryan - The Submission-Only GOAT

If you don't know, Gordon Ryan is considered by most to be the greatest submission-only grappler of all time. He rose to fame under Tom DeBlass and Garry Tonon, eventually meeting John Danaher and forming a deep bond. Adding to his stardom is the fact that he’s only 26 years old. His accolades are impressive and seemingly endless; among them are gold medals in ADCC, the No-Gi Pan American Championship, No-Gi Worlds, and four first place EBI victories.

What stands out about Gordon Ryan’s teaching style is the intense love of structure gained from his instructor and friend, John Danaher. Both men have a no-nonsense, straight-to-business style, which means that their instructionals are packed with content.

If you like the idea of systematizing your attacks in a planned, intentional way, then check out any one of Gordon Ryan’s incredible products, like his Systematically Attacking From Top Pins: Side Control & North South, on Stop the guesswork and learn to create a game plan with Gordon Ryan.



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