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Wrist Controls To Triangles by John Danaher
Who is John Danaher? For a long time he was the best kept secret in grappling. He was known as the coach to MMA fighters and champions of the highest caliber. Fighters like George St. Pierre and Chris Weidman called him coach. John turned his attention to focus on submission grappling. A talented team of grapplers like Eddie Cummings, Garry Tonon, Gordon and Nicky Ryan are proud to be a part of the “Danaher Death Squad.” The success of his students made John arguably the best grappling coach on the planet.
For the Jiu Jitsu community as a whole, there was a great mystery around his technique. While the Danaher Death Squad destroyed everyone in competition, grapplers all over the planet would scour the internet for even the smallest insight into his grappling systems. With John Danaher’s Enter the System series, this long time Renzo Gracie black belt has shared his deep understanding of Jiu Jitsu. The Enter the System series is among the best grappling instructional ever. It is not an overstatement to say Leg Locks – Enter the System has served as a fundamental shift in the paradigm of Jiu Jitsu.
How did this New Zealander become a world renowned Jiu Jitsu coach in New York City? John moved to New York City to attended the prestigious Columbia University where would eventually earn a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. While attending classes, he worked as a bouncer at a variety of bars and clubs. A friend invited him to try a Jiu Jitsu class at the legendary Renzo Gracie Academy. As a bouncer, he immediately found an interest in the gentle art. Like Columbia University, John’s education at Renzo’s was of the highest caliber. He studied under the great Renzo Gracie. Ricardo Almeida and Matt Serra were among his training partners. A pivotal moment occurred for John when Ricardo Almeida and Matt Serra left to start their own academies. As a purple belt, John undertook the heavy responsibility of teaching. While he never competed on the highest stages of Jiu Jitsu due to injury, coaching took Danaher’s obsession with Jiu Jitsu took new heights. There are many great qualities that make John an exceptional teacher. His educational background, obsession with Jiu Jitsu, the clarity in which he communicates technique and his ability to both think and create systems of Jiu Jitsu are some of the elements that make him the quintessential instructor.
The fact that his students are the best of the best is a strong testament to his teaching ability. His students include former multiple times UFC Champions Georges St. Pierre, Chris Weidman. In Jiu Jitsu Danaher students have also achieved amazing things. One example of this is long time Danaher student Eddie Cummings. Cummings accomplishments include: EBI 4 Champion (2015 – 145lbs),EBI 7 Champion (2016 – 145lbs),Polaris 2 Super fight Winner (2015),ADCC US East Coast Trials Champion (2015),Grapplers Quest World Series of Grappling Champion (2012),Grapplers Quest US Nationals (Rough Zen) Champion (2013),Long Island Pride XVI Champion (2012 purple), Grapplers Quest World Series of Grappling 3rd Place (2012 ), Grapplers Quest US Nationals 3rd Place (2012). Garry Tonon is another Danaher protégée. His accomplishments include IBJJF Pan American No-Gi Champion (2015), EBI WW Champion (2014/2015), EBI LW Champion (2015), EBI LHW Champion (2016), and IBJJF Pan American No-Gi Championship 2nd Place (2015), IBJJF World No-Gi Championship 3rd Place (2014). Gordon Ryan is a third testament to Danaher’s teaching ability. His accomplishments include ADCC Champion (2017), IBJJF Pans No-Gi Champion (2018), Quintet 3 Champion (2018 ), EBI 6 OW Champion (2016 ), EBI 8 MW Champion (2016), EBI 11 WW Champion (2017), EBI 14 OW Champion (2017), Grappling Industries Champion (2017 /2016) and ADCC 2nd Place (2017). There are certainly many other exceptional grapplers who have benefited from Danaher’s tutelage. This is meant to be a snapshot.
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Another testament to John’s teaching ability is his popularity. One example of this is his social media presence. John’s posts are hugely popular. What is unique about his posts is that they are not a step by step breakdown of technique. Rather quite often they focus on the art of learning Jiu Jitsu. John has also been featured in the New Yorker magazine and on the popular show "Billions". His instructional videos on BJJ Fanatics are among the most popular ever produced.
In this video John Danaher explores a triangle set up from closed guard. He starts by discussing the classic setup to a triangle by using double wrist control. In this traditional set up, once double wrist control is obtained, one arm is pulled and the other arm is pushed to obtain the requisite one arm in and one arm out for a triangle. John notes some inherit flaws with this traditional submission. Using double wrist control does not allow you to control your training partner’s posture. Even a mildly experienced grappler can often see this set up coming and stop the submission before it starts by posturing up. John advocates that a superior approach is to have a collar tie and one wrist controlled. Danaher starts the sequence with his opponent having inside control on his arms. He uses one of his biceps to feed his opponent’s arm to a cross grip. With the near side arm he now takes a two on one grip. Notice how after this grip is achieved Danaher secures the collar tie with the far side arm. Danaher then pushes his training partner’s wrist into their sternum. This allows one leg to come over and take a bite on his opponent’s shoulder. Notes how John also takes a deep scoop grip under one of his opponent's legs. This grip enables him to cut the angle necessary for a tight triangle. John finishes the submission with this lower back off the floor. Well done John Danaher. I can’t wait to incorporate these details into my game.
This video is a wonderful example of John’s ability to communicate technique to even novice grapplers. Like all of Danaher’s instructional videos, there is a lot of detail. I know that I often gain new insights every time I re-watch one of his videos. Beyond technique, his instructional videos also serve as an education on the principals of grappling and thinking in systems. These elements have a powerful impact on anyone who makes a careful study of them. John’s education, the success of his students and the popularity that he has achieved are testaments to his exceptional abilities as an instructor. Certainly the Jiu Jitsu community is lucky to have him.