Friday, April 07, 2056

Seminar note links

Image by Bluefluke

John Will

4 Mar 2018 - Turtle Defence
11 Nov 2017 - Pirate Grip, Russian Tie
15 Oct 2017 - Half Guard, the Seed
5 Mar 2017 - Ashi Garami 2.0, Honey Hole and Heel Hook
9 Oct 2016 - Ashi Garami, straight footlock
John Will Seminar 16 April 2016- Legbars
21 Feb 2016 - collar grip guard, single leg X guard
30 Aug 2015 - post clinch takedown strategy, Z guard, kneeride
22 Feb 2015 - Snatch Single, Vale Tudo Guard, Darce/Anaconda
24 August 2014 - a Spider Guard Plan
23 Feb 2014 - Advanced Spider Guard
29th September 2013 - Crucifix Control
24 March 2013 - X Guard
21 Oct 2012 - ankle picks, Z guard
21 April 2012 - Z guard
25 Mar 2012 - Guard Passing
2 Oct 2011 - takedown strategy, 2 on 1
20 Aug 2011 - D'arce choke, Deep Half Guard
3 July 2011 Side control escapes and counters
John Will Seminar 16 Apr 2011 - attacking from the turtle
20 Mar 2011 - Hooks and hooking sweeps
24 Oct 2010 - Anaconda, D'arce, Peruvian Necktie, Shackle
15 Aug 2010 - Back Control
14 Mar 2010 - Kata Gatame
18 Oct 2009 - Getting the back, back attacks
1 August 2009 breaking out of the clinch, roundhouse kicks and takedowns
4th April 2009 - hooking sweeps, S Mount armbar
1 Nov 2008 - open guard, side control escapes
5 April 2008 - Shell, Omoplata
20 Oct 2007 - X guard
Jul 28, 2007 - MMA defence from bottom, darce
31 MAR 2007 Shell in depth and takedowns
29 October 2006 - Triangles,knees in guard. passing half guard, visor
29 July 2006 - handstand sweep, side back escapes
8 Apr 2006 - turtle escapes, pillow escape
9 Jul 2005 - half guard bottom
9 Apr 2005 - better choke and armbar from mount
23 Oct 2004 - hooks-in and side back techs
10 Jul 2004 armdrag from guard, crossface
6 Mar 2004 - sweeps, legbar against open guard, passing
18 Oct 2003 - basic takedowns, legbars

Interested in going to a seminar with John Will? Check his seminar schedule and sign up.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime seminar - 3 Feb 2018
Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime Seminar 4 Feb 2017
Steve Maxwell's Integrated Breathing Seminar 11th February 2017
Steve Maxwell - Gracie Jiu Jitsu Core Concepts - 11 Feb 2017
Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a lifetime /Mobility Conditioning for Jiu Jitsu and MMA seminar 6th February 2016
Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for Life seminar - 14 March 2015

Carlos Machado

Carlos Machado Seminar - 7th May 2015
Carlos Machado seminar - 8th May 2014
Carlos Machado seminar 16 May 2013
Carlos Machado seminar 10 May 2012

Rigan Machado

The Gathering 2017
Rigan Machado 17 Sep 2016
Rigan Machado Seminar 15 Sep 2007
Rigan Machado Seminar 21 Aug 2004

Jean Jacques Machado

Jean Jacques Machado seminar 28 July 2012

Richard Norton

Richard Norton seminar 21 November 2015

Gui Mendes

"Secret Session" at Langes MMA with Gui Mendes

Dave Camarillo

Dave Camarillo 16 Sep 2017 - offside grip, King's chair, SAP
Dave Camarillo seminar 3 Sep 2016 - Kimura grip, armbar

Pedro Sauer

Pedro Sauer 24 Oct 2016

Stanley Tam

Stanley Tam Qigong Seminar 25 Feb 2017

Monday, March 05, 2018

John Will Seminar 4 March 2018 - Turtle Defence

The seminar was held at Rick Spain's gym in Redfern.

There are many ways we may end up in the turtle position:

  • Failed shoot
  • Rolling to turtle to avoid our guard being passed
  • Being snapped down
  • etc.

Headlights Drill

We are trying to keep our opponent "in the headlights", i.e. in front of us, as he tries to move to side/back control.

We start head to head, and he sprawls on our back. we are on our elbows and knees.

As he moves around to our L, we drop onto our R hip, and "reach for our gun" with our L hand, so our L hand is on our hip. His R leg should thus be unable to ever get past our L arm, and we would be in a position to catch it for takedowns, should we so desire. We turn back to our knees finishing in the starting position, but 90 degrees from where we started. So of we were facing the front wall of the gym initially, we are now facing the wall to its left. Repeat the drill on both sides.

You should find as you fall to your R hip that your R forearm naturally moves at the elbow to point around toward your L. This is necessary to keep strong structure.

Reguard Drill

We are on our hands and knees again, he is sprawled on our back. Drive in and slightly to the left, posting on our L foot, so our head starts to comes out behind his L armpit. Look up at the ceiling hard so he cannot catch us in a headlock or guillotine choke. Very similar to a duckunder from standing. Slide our R knee and foot through as if doing a baseball slide. Get some hand grips and pull him into our closed or hooking guard.

If he insists on wrapping his R arm around your neck, keep looking up and pinch his R arm between your L ear and his shoulder. You now have a path to his back. You may get this even without him trying to choke you.

Combination Drill

Perform the headlights drill three times and then the reguard drill the fourth time. Repeat. Always good to revisit these basic drills no matter how far into your Jiu Jitsu career you are.


(Dongoa/Dongoha/Gongoa/Gongohan/...? I have heard this term and discussed it myself for well over a decade but have never before seen it written and have no idea how to spell it, let alone its etymology. A quick search of Google shed no light on it at all. Back in the late 1990s this was called the Pendulum. What the hell, I've got it to work very effectively).

Referred to by some as a Half Granby Roll.

Gongohan as Guard Retention

Your partner throws your L leg hard over to your R, then tries to smash down on you.

Go with the throw of the leg, ending up  in a fetal position on your L shoulder, and hip , facing slightly down. Your knees are drawn up to your chest, and the toes and balls of your feet are engaged.

Now extend your legs and drive your butt up into him, pushing him up and away. Your R leg swings around in a big circle, so it clears the head and ends up on the R side of your partner, as you pull him into your guard. Often you may end up in a position which gives you a triangle or armbar opportunity from here.

Gongohan as Turtle Escape

Head to head. You are turtled on your elbows and knees. He is sprawled atop you.

As he comes around to your R, get your R shin across his L hip and your R knee on the floor between both of his knees. Reach for your L foot with your R hand as you roll to your R across your shoulders and back, swinging you L leg in a big circle to clear your partner's head as above. Finish with him in your guard.

Options from Side/Back Control

Despite you best intentions and your attempts to employ the above countermeasures, you partner evades them and gets you in side/back control.

Arm Roll

Your partner is on your L side. He makes the mistake of reaching inside your R armpit with his R hand (without taking the preemptive measures discussed below).

Pull your R elbow to your side, trapping his wrist, and drop/jump onto your R side, trying to dive underneath him. Do this fast without flattening out. Roll to your L, pulling him over the top of you, finishing with him face up, you switchbased towards his feet, trapping his hips between your L elbow and you R hip. Try to grab his legs as you roll over, and put your face on his L leg to avoid an accidental or deliberate knee to the face. Resist the temptation to go straight to face down side control. Consolidate this switchbased position before moving on.

Most moves in Jiu Jitsu do not require speed or explosiveness. But this move is one of those that does. So drop quickly.

Do not reach up with your R elbow in an attempt to snag his wrist. He can grab your tricep from underneath with his R hand and pull his elbow to the other side of your back and his fist to his chin, in a position similar to Rodin's "The Thinker." From here he can move backwards and pull you onto your L side with easy access to a kimura control on your R arm from here. Not a good place to be, and much worse than where you were.

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

A more experienced opponent will not be tempted to put his hand in there so easily. Sometimes, it may be possible to entice him to grab you that way, by moving sideways away from him. He may chase you and grab there to stop you getting away. Then you have an opportunity for the Arm Roll.

"They all come to grab something" - Dave Meyer

Backdoor Kimura

For an experienced opponent, grabbing under the armpit is more of a calculated risk. In the gi, he can risk putting his hand in very quickly to grab the collar and pull it back out to a position where he can easily disengage and let go if you try the Arm Wrap.

Alternatively, he can reach in, but bring his elbow back to the near side of your back and keep his center of gravity low and to the near side. When you try the arm wrap, he will sprawl, with a good chance of not getting rolled and staying on top.

He is on your L side in side/back control. He reaches in. Try the arm wrap escape, but this time post your L fist on the floor, elbow bent at 90 degrees and forearm vertical, out in front of your face when you drop to your R side, so the elbow ends up somewhere near his R hip when he sprawls on you. The arm roll did not work. Just keep the L fist in position, walk your feet backward  and get your head out under your L arm and past his R hip. Resist the temptation to go face up, stay on your side and if anything slightly face down. You should come out from under on his R side with his R arm trapped in a figure four position. Put your weight on his shoulder and apply the kimura / hammer lock. No big deal if you lose the arm, just turn toward his feet and go for his back.

The arm roll will still work if you do the post on the L fist and he does not set up successfully for the sprawl. So you might as well get used to doing it all the time.

Also, if you want to plan ahead for the backdoor kimura, it would make sense to move your body on more of an angle towards your partner's feet as you trap his arm and drop to your side, meaning you will have less distance to move underneath him to pop out on the far side.

Essentially, be ready for him sprawling on your arm roll by posting on your fist every time. But the arm roll still might work, and you will have lost nothing. If the arm roll fails, go to the backdoor kimura.

Walkaround Escape

This escape requires him to have his far knee on the mat, generally regarded as a mistake. He would normally be up on the far foot, driving into us.

At a more advanced level, there are ways we may be able to force that.

He has side/back control on our L. His L knee is on the mat. Reach across the front of his legs with our L hand and grab the outside pit of his L knee. Post on our head, and on our R palm, fingers facing out to the R, tripoding up on our toes, butt in the air. Drive with the R palm and walk around behind his back to his L, rolling him over his shins and pushing him onto his back, ending up switchbased toward his feet on his R side.

You may need to move the R hand on the mat to keep maximum driving force into him as both of you move.

If his L knee is not on the mat but he is up on his L foot, crawl our elbows and forearms to our L until we are in a position to grab his L knee with or L hand and force it to the mat. The proceed as before with the Walkaround Escape.

We may also entice him to put his knee on the floor by "running away to our R in the hope that in his efforts to chase up he may put his knee on the floor momentarily, or put us in a better position to force it there.

Fist Post vs. Palm Post

Posting on the fist (with the wrist straight) allows for extra height, and also allows the post to rotate easily. It does not offer much on the way of applying force other than straight up.

Posting on the palm allows us to apply directional force, by pushing away from the direction in which the fingers point. It is not as high as the fist post and allows no rotation.

For the Backdoor Kimura we want as much height as we can between the floor and our elbow, for maximum space to escape. We also need to be able to let that post rotate. The fist post is the ideal choice.

For the Walkaround escape our concern is the application of directional force to knock the guy over. The palm post is what we need.

Double Leg Takedown

He is kneeling before us, or on our backs head to head, but with his knees on the ground and not sprawling. We may have used the Headlight Drill to stop him getting side/back.

Shuffle in our knees toward him and get a grip behind both his knees with our hands. Our head goes to the L of his R hip. Keep moving in and to the left and come up on our L foot, our L foot roughly on a line with his feet. Using our head , L leg, and grips, drive him around to our R and back behind us as we turn to our R around our R knee, essentially trying to put him down back where we were. He should end up on his back or L side. Our R ear stays on his R hip and we are facing his feet, sideways on the the ground, hips in the air and feet engaged. We put our L hand on the point of his knee and walk up on the balls of our feet toward him, so our hips are high in the air.

Don't try to get side control here! Don't do anything more ... yet. Wait for him to try to move his L knee beneath you to recover guard.

"Sometimes you have to wait your turn." - John Will

When you feel him move. push on his R knee, and using in and your R shoulder as support, jump over his legs, landing with your R hip or ribs on top of both his legs, pinning them to the floor. He is facing away from you out to his L. You will find it easy to move behind him and get side control, perhaps even with a kimura trap.

Single Leg Takedown - Inside

N.B. In general, double leg takedowns are always done with the head to the outside, single legs takedowns with the head to the inside (on the knees, your head will be between his legs). Trying a single leg takedown with your head to the outside gives your opponent an easy path into an extremely dominant position called the crucifix. Ask an instructor to show you this sometime, it's a good lesson to learn.

One form of the crucifix position. You will not enjoy being here.

For ease of learning, we want our partner on his L knee and R foot, with his hips off his heels, giving you easy access to the inside of his L leg. 

From you knees, move in towards his L knee and wrap your arms around the back of his L knee in a Gable grip, no thumbs. The outside (R hand) is palm down - when you reach around a corner with your hand, you always have it palm down - palm up cranks your elbow. L hand palm up. Drive your head in between his legs, your R ear on the inside of his thigh. Come forward a little more, post on your L foot. Grab his L heel with your L hand, and using your head, L leg and grips, drive him around to your R, trying to put him back where we were, rolling him over his L shin onto his L side. 

Take your head out between from between  his legs and put it on his R hip. You should now be in a position nearly identical to that you were in during the double leg take down, sideways with your hips off the ground. Walk in on your toes, butt in the air, hand on his knees, wait your turn, jump over and go to side control on his back same as for the double leg takedown.

The similarity in the double leg and single leg takedown sequence of movements is intentional. This avoids the need to train the two techniques as separate movement sequences, so that while we are training the one we are also training much of the other. John called this a "compounding effect" Fewer decision points for us as well.

John stated that his observations indicate that single leg takedowns are far more prevalent in fights than double legs. 

Single Leg Takedown - Outside

(This does not mean we initiate the single leg with the head on the outside!)

We shoot for the single leg as above. One of his defences is to keep turning to his L, moving his heel away from our L hand so we cannot grab it and take him down as we would like. However, this movement moves his foot close to our R elbow, setting up a different takedown. 

We go for his heel, he moves to his L taking his heel away. We fall to our R hip and get our R elbow to the mat on the far side of his R shin, trapping his shin between our elbows. Come back to our knees anid move to our R behind him, one knee on either side of his lower leg. Cup his knee with both hands, pull it toward us and drive our shoulder into the back of his thigh to put him face down on the mat. From here the back looks like a good option.

Don't worry about losing structure to snag the leg with the elbow. Dive for it.

This is often called a go-behind takedown.

It shouldn't be a big logical leap to see that we can fake the first single leg takedown to set up the second, and vice versa. If he runs away from one, that sets up the other.


You go for the single leg - inside takedown on his L leg as before. He sprawls. You cannot complete the takedown. Plan B.

Keep a grip on the outside of his L leg if you can. Your L elbow is in the centre on the mat beneath you, forearm facing forward, ready to take the weight. come up on your toes and drive forward, in a tripod position, butt in the air. Come up as high as you can. lifting him as he keeps the pressure on.

Now drop your knees forward, diving in between your hands under him back to a turtle position, your head coming out the back between his legs. Grab a hold of his L leg with your R hand now if you haven't already got it.

Push up on your L hand and lift your upper body from the hips. Do NOT lift your butt off your heels! It should feel like you are tipping him off your back behind you rather than lifting his weight. Lift your hips, you may be unable to lift a heavy opponent and may damage you lower back.

You should be on your knees, spine vertical, head up between his legs, your butt on heels, him suspended hips on your shoulders. Grab his L heel with your L hand and pull it across your body to your L side, dumping him onto his L side and back. Head goes on his R hip, tripod up, wait your turn and jump over just like for the double leg.

It would be wise to practice you single leg takedowns on this side with the L elbow moving toward the centre, so that if the guy sprawls, you are already in prime position to hit the Iranian.

You can drill this as a two person drill. A shoots a single leg, B sprawls on him. A switches to the Iranian. Rather than grab his heel and dump him in side control, A allows B to slide off his back into a forward roll. B comes to his knees, A turns to face him. B now shoots a single, leg, A sprawls, etc. Repeat.

Single Leg Tweak that (maybe) makes the Iranian Redundant

Shoot in for the single leg - inside on his L leg as before. A you secure the Gable grip, pull in and tripod up on your toes, driving into the top of his thigh with your R shoulder, driving him back onto his butt and shins. Try to "hit him in the face with your butt". With his weight pushed so far back on his heels, he should be completely unable to sprawl. Continue the single leg takedown as before.

Other Points

An instructor can use a common error made by a less experienced student in class, or something a student does extremely well, as a useful example to illustrate a technical point or principle. Of course, we must be careful to treat the student with respect and avoid embarrassing them.

"Attention to Detail" - John Will's answer to podcast interviewer who asked, "If you were asked for your most important piece of advice in your last five seconds of life, what would it be?"

"Pay Attention" - Jordan Peterson
"Attention to Detail" - John Will

Counter to Clock Choke (question from Matt Klein) - if he is on your L and setting up the clock choke from side/back control with his L hand in your collar, fall onto your R hip and roll on your R side turning to face him, undoing the choke, as you slide your R shin in front of his R knee, which controls the distance. Move your head away from him as you fade back and pull him into your guard.

Reverse Hooking Sweep (question from ... me) - if I have his R arm in a cross-sleeve control and am grabbing his belt with my L hand with hooks in, one of the problems I and others have encountered is that when you move your L hook from his R leg to his L leg as the sweep requires, there is an opportunity for the opponent to sprawl on your L leg and perform a smash pass. John suggested using the Pirate Grip instead (instead of our L arm going around the opponent's back, we instead thread it under the opponent's R arm and grab his R collar). This will give us an opportunity to keep some structure which will allow us to keep his upper body under control and make sprawling more difficult.

Pirate Grip? I'm glad you asked!

John also briefly showed a snippet of technique where he said something like "I wouldn't grab the head from that position - unless I did it like this to set up a crucifix" and another way to use an opponent's reaction to set up a back take. Too much too fast for me to absorb it all. Pay Attention ... Attention to detail. Might do some Youtube research on that one and/or play around myself.
“I will be happy if I can improve your game by ten percent" - John Will

Seminar Group

John's autobiography. Three volumes. Ripping yarns and great advice.

John Will's seminar schedule. Get on board with one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches on the planet.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

True Story #5

Sometime in the early 1980’s, back in the Wudang school near Central Railway in Sydney. A weeknight.

We had had a grading a week or so before. Tonight was the night when new sashes were to be presented. Everyone is looking sharp in precise lines in their black cotton uniforms, all sashes and frog buttons correctly fastened. The student body treating the moment with the gravitas it deserved, as we all hope to make that jump to a higher frequency and level up. Faces wear appropriate expressions of utmost seriousness. We had already been through a half hour of hard callisthenics, ran three times around a large city block in black uniforms and bare feet, and followed that up with forty-five minutes of intense technical practice.

Because no one would disrespectful or dumb enough to just front up at the end of class and expect to get his new sash handed to him. Would he?

The Sifu begins delivering the generic lecture regarding the virtues of hard work and consistency., to set the tone for the grading, how pleased he was with our attitude, how we all tried very hard but cannot afford to rest on our laurels, slack off, get a big head, etc. etc.

About ninety seconds into this sermon. Les arrives, ready for the sash ceremony. In street clothes. He takes a seat on a visitor’s chair, looks around briefly, then pulls a folded copy of the tabloid-sized Rugby League Week magazine from his bag, unfolds it, and begins catching up on last week’s footy scores and ex-player analysis. Feet spread, elbows on knees, eyes only for the print on the page. Multitasking, making the most of his short time on the planet.

The entire class is sniggering. Some people are shaking with silent laughter they are having trouble containing. Others stare, open mouthed., mistrusting the evidence of their eyes.

The Sifu sees the joke, and keeps on with his speech, hardly missing a beat. Soon, he starts handing out the lower level sashes.

Les keeps reading, concentrating intently on the articles before him.

Kurt telling it like it is

We move on to intermediate level. Yellow sashes. Several people come out to the front, bow to the Sifu and red sash Sihings, and return to their places in the assembly.

The Sifu calls out Les’s name. A murmur travels through the student body like a Mexican Wave.

Les does not respond. He appears engrossed in the finer points of adversarial expert argument over a disallowed try between the Roosters and the Sharks that occurred the Sunday before.

The room is silent. All eyes are on Les. The tension is palpable.


Les looks up, realises he is the centre of attention. He gives no indication whatsoever that he realises his behaviour might seem unusual to others present.

The copy of Rugby League Week is quickly stuffed back into the bag from whence it came. Les jumps up from his chair in street clothes and stocking feet and goes up to the Sifu.

The Sifu plays it straight. “Glad you made the effort to be here,” he says.

Les bows, takes his new sash, goes back to his chair, stuffs the new sash in his bag, picks up the bag and walks straight out the door - and into Kwoon legend from that day forward.

Everyone laughs. The tension breaks.

The ceremony continues. Surprisingly, most of the gravitas has vanished.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Machado NSW Brown and Black Belt Open Mat 11 Feb 2018

The gathering was hosted by Anthony and Nikki Lange at Langes MMA, North Manly.

Leg attacks were the theme of the day.

Notes from techniques shown by Luke Martin and Andre Powell.

Luke Martin

Outside Ashi to Outside Heelhook

Outside Ashi Garami, not quite the way we did it

You have his R leg trapped. You should be deep on his thigh, well above the knee. Sitting on your L hip, R heel hidden, L foot crossed over R. Your L elbow controls his R foot. Rather than lie on your shoulder and dig under for the heel, instead expose the heel by lifting your knees toward vertical. Tap the toes in the armpit and trap the heel with the ulna bone, where your wristwatch goes. Gable grip is OK but Luke advocates a wrist to wrist grip.

Double Wrist (Butterfly) Grip

Double wrist grip demo'ed by Dean Lister

To break, move the R foot against the thigh, pressing hard inward on the thigh and down toward the knee. L foot presses parallel on the R foot. Flare the knees outward. Put your weight on the L elbow and raise your hips off the mat. The knee flare and hip lift should bend the knee, essential for the submission - it is unlikely to work if the leg is straight. Do not twist, but take the L shoulder away and look over your shoulder to complete the submission.

This is not a position in which I have much experience, so any problems with the above description are mine, not Luke's.

Escape Outside Ashi

He has your R leg trapped in outside ashi. His L foot should be crossed over his R to prevent you attacking his heel. If not, it just means you can leave out the step of removing his L foot, as it won't be part of the problem.

Lie back on the mat and grab the bottom of his L foot in a C grip with your R hand. Push his L foot out to your R. Keep hold of his foot.

Grab the inside of his R foot with your L hand and pull it across your body to your L. Come up on your R elbows and trap his R foot using your L armpit or elbow so he cant take it back.

Your hip and knee should be free now, and he should be unable to lock your foot with any authority. Move your hips away, free your foot by dragging it from his grip, and look at disengaging, or countering with a leg control of your own

Andre Powell

Leg drag to Inside Sankaku / 411 and Inside heelhook

You are facing his open guard. Grab his L ankle with your L hand and R knee with your R hand. Step to your R and drag his leg to your L hip. Drop to the leg drag position. Should be fairly shallow, your L shin going over the top of his R knee or even the top of his shin. Use your hands on the mat to control his legs as you step over his legs with your R foot. Keep the R foot close to help control his legs. Sit back to the 411 / inside sankaku, hooking your R foot under your L knee as you complete the position. Probably a good idea to control his R leg with your L hand.

Go to submission from here would be the inside heel hook.

Butterfly grip yet again

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime - 3 Feb 2018

Steve has our full attention. Note the handsome dude with the chrome dome at extreme lower right

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu, in the City of Sydney PCYC. Hosted by John Smallios.


The three sides of the Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime triangle are:
  • Skills
  • Conditioning
  • Health

Conditioning is mainly about increasing strength and mobility.

Health is about diet, breathing and recovery.

Steve is not a fan of learning strength and conditioning from younger people. If you are over 40, 50, 60, and they are not, they just don't know how older people operate and what they can take. Steve's tyraining gurus are or were older than him. Richard Wynette, Clarence Bass, Jack LaLanne.

Skill Training

For most hobbyists, people with jobs, families, etc., working on Jiu Jitsu skills 3-4 times a week is ideal.

With less than three times a week, you will not progress as quickly.

With five or more times a week, you run the risk of overtraining and injury.

If you are young and have excellent recovery ability, you may be able to train more often. If you are older, any extra sessions should be light drilling and light rolling.

In Steve's opinion, if you are out of breath, you are going too hard. He gets students to roll with a sip of water held in their mouths to ensure they breathe evenly through their noses. There are methods of breathing while rolling, and breathing exercises, which can increase your ability to perform well with less oxygen and avoiding getting out of breath which Steve discussed in earlier seminars (links at the bottom of this post).

The aim is to learn to wrestle using a minimum of tension. Steve mentioned how Royler Gracie in particular was so relaxed and so unused to tensing up his body that Steve had great difficulty teaching him the Turkish Getup with a kettlebell, a movement which requires the judicious use of muscular tension to complete well. Royler remarked that what Steve was trying to teach him was completely the opposite of what Rickson and his father Helio were trying to teach him to do.

You absolutely want to be as strong as possible. If two people are of equal skill level, the stronger of the two will have the advantage.

However, Steve quoted Helio Gracie as saying that the two hardest types of people to teach Jiu Jitsu to were the really strong guys, and people that are really smart.

The strong guys overpower everyone rather than learning to use efficient technique and leverage. Which works until they meet someone as strong or stronger than they are, or they get fatigued.

Smart people tend to fall victim to overthinking and analysis-paralysis. Too many "what if?"s.

Bigger and stronger guys should generally play from the bottom when rolling with smaller or weaker people. That way both can get something out of the exchange. A big guy that can roll light with smaller people is good to have around. Darko Zaric and Stuart Morton fall into this category and have helped my Jiu Jitsu a great deal.

For longevity in the sport, you need to do most of your rolling non-competitively. Some people really enjoy competition but no one says it is good for you long term. Do not allow people to stack you. Give up the submission or let them pass your guard instead. Do not fight unreasonably hard to avoid getting caught. If you are rolling with skilled partners you should expect to get caught. Allow yourself to take risks (not with your body!) and try new things, get caught now and then, and tap. Tapping is learning. Your training environment should be such that taking risks and trying unfamiliar things is encouraged, not punished.

Strength Training

As mentioned above, you absolutely want to become and remain as strong as you can. Most people will reach their peak level of strength after 3-4 years of regular, sensible strength training. Significant improvements after that are highly unlikely. However, people who have never strength trained before can make rapid and significant gains. Steve had one client in his eighties with significant mobility issues, whose strength he was able to pretty much quadruple, and was able to play golf again after about six months of strength work.

It is important to understand that we want to become stronger, but not to become strength athletes, with Olympic lifting, powerlifting, crossfit, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with playing such sports, and we will definitely get stronger doing them, but if our focus is on becoming better at Jiu Jitsu such methods are too technical and with too high a risk of injury for us.

If we are training 3-4 times a week, Jiu Jitsu itself is a form of strength training. More than two strength sessions a week as well will probably be too much from which to recover properly. Two sessions a week may be too much for some people. You can still make gains with a single session per week.

When Steve was training Xande Ribeiro to fight Roger Gracie, Xande only did one strength session per week.

We are looking for the "minimum effective dose" to achieve the results we want. Unless we really enjoy exercise. But for most people, there is a difference between recreation (Jiu Jitsu) and exercise (strength training). WE should never get injured during exercise. WE might expect the occasionaal injury in our recreation (Jiu Jitsu). 

Adaptation (strength gains) are directly related to the intensity of the exercise. 

Intensity is related to time under load (also referred to as time under tension). We need to subject the muscles to load for between 30 to 90 seconds, with most people getting best results between 40 and 70 seconds. This is dependent on your muscle fibre type.

Form is very important. It is still possible to get strength gains with bad form, but the risk of injury is greatly increased.

Recent sport science theory has it that there is little difference in results between low reps with heavy weights, and higher reps with lighter weights. It is intensity and time under tension that produce the desired results. One set  of an exercise to momentary muscular failure will give you nearly all of your possible gains.

If you perform sets to momentary muscular failure, there is little difference in gains from performing multiple sets. The difference percentage in gains between one set and five comes down to very low single digits.

You can obtain excellent results with low volume.

Exercise Selection

You should select exercises which work what Steve calls The Five Pillars:
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Rotate

Pushing should include both horizontal and vertical pushes (e.g. pushup, overhead press).

Pulling also should work through horizontal and vertical directions (e.g. rows, pullups).

Ancillary exercises are required for the neck, hands, abs, feet, and calves.

It is arguably more important to work the muscles *not* used in Jiu Jitsu as those we use constantly, to avoid muscular imbalances, shortening etc. which leave us vulnerable to injury.

In particular, we should work the expansion of the hands and fingers to balance all the gripping Jiu Jitsu involves. A rubber band looped around the fingers and thumb, or more specific equipment like the Hand-X-Band, can be used for this. Stever recommends doing such exercise after every Jiu Jitsu session.

Many people who have office jobs and sit all day can develop "gluteal amnesia" where their nervous system forgets how to properly activate the glutes during daily tasks, placing undue stress on their knees and lower back. For such people, specific glute activation exercises will be beneficial.

Hingeing are movements bending from the waist, like a deadlift or straight legged deadlift. These engage the glutes and hamstrings more than the quadriceps, whereas squatting movements engage the quadriceps more than the glutes.

Strength gains can come from using machines and isometrics as much as from so called "functional" training. Functional training only makes you good at the specific lifts you do. Steve related a story about how he and another wrestler type were able to lift a two hundred pound sandbag and place it over their shoulders, whereas two lifters (including Pavel Tsatsouline) who were also there, both of whom had 500 pound plus deadlifts, were unable to do it. Neither Steve or the wrestler could deadlift close to 500 pounds, but they could clean the sandbag. NFL gyms are full of machines. 

Isolation exercises and isometrics are particularly good for working around and preventing injuries.

Strength increases are generated, not during the workout, but during the recovery period afterwards. To allow supercompensation (strength gains), most people require a recovery period of 48-72 hours. If you are training hard every day, you do not get that opportunity to recover and this to supercompensate.

Arnold Schwartzenegger was rumoured to spend around 24 hours a week in the gym when he was training at his peak. Around four hours a day, six days a week. Mike Mentzer was a worthy rival for Arnold, and was able to achieve similar results with only ninety minutes a week in the gym due to smarter training protocols. Dorian Yates is another legendary bodybuilder who was able to achieve stellar results with reduced training volume. Minimum effective dose. Us the rest of the time for skill training on the mat. Or enjoying the full richness of life.

As Steve demonstrated, it is possible to achieve a high intensity, full body workout in 25-30 minutes using only a chin up bar and a Jiu Jitsu belt, and mostly isometrics with some calisthenics.


It is not difficult to overtrain if one is doing both Jiu Jitsu and strength training regularly. The best way to determine if you are overtrained is to use your resting heart rate.

To determine your normal resting heart rate, when you wake up, stay in bed and take your pulse rate for one minute. There are plenty of mobile device apps that can do this for you. If you have to get up to take a whizz or whatever, lie back in bed and stay there for ten minutes before measuring your heart rate.

Do this for seven days, and calculate your average resting heart rate from that.

Check it every morning. If you resting heart rate is more than five beats per minute over your average, you are overtrained. Avoid strenuous activity that day. Relax, walk don't run, do some light drilling or very light rolling if you go to the gym. Wait until your heart rate settles down to normal before doing another hard workout or hard rolling.

The BOLT (Body Oxygen Level Test) is another method to establish whether you are overtrained. From rest, breathe normally, exhale and cover your mouth and pinch your nose. Hold the exhale until you feel a strong urge to breathe. A string urge to breathe, not until you are about to pass out. Average the interval that you can hold the exhale over seven days.

Test yourself in the morning. If you get a low BOLT duration, you are overtrained. Take it easy that day.

Some people are genetically gifted in various dimensions, be it strength, endurance, physiology, body type, etc. It is a huge mistake to try to emulate the training methods of your genetic superiors.

Large amounts of "cardio" training are not necessary. Endurance is highly activity specific. A seasoned marathon runner unskilled in Jiu Jitsu will not fare any better than any other beginner. Your cardio will come from Jiu Jitsu. And proper high intensity strength training will elevate your heart rate and breathing as much as any other activity. Long sessions of running, swimming and the like only stress your joints unnecessarily. Spend that time rolling if you want ot work your Jiu Jitsu endurance.

Steve runs some, but only to keep up the skill of running into advanced age. And he runs at a pace which does not outstrip his breathing. Mostly he walks.

One of the benefits of Jiu Jitsu is that it can be adapted to almost any body type.

You should breath smoothly, inhaling through the nose, while exercising (and while doing Jiu Jitsu). Grunting, gasping, groaning are all indications of poor breathing patterns, emulating the Valsalva sync. Such breathing, particularly in the upper chest, emulates panic and dumps cortisol into the system. Work with weight and at a level which does not require you to breathe in such a fashion.

Keep a happy face, do not grimace. Smile. If you need more oxygen, do burst breathing, short breaths into the diaphragm.

A protocol and exercises for a short but intense predominantly isometric workout appears below.

Diet and Health

(Diet is a highly contentious subject. Steve's opinions occasionally conflict with various governmental guidelines and other dietary philosophies. Don't take any exception you take to any of this up with the writer, please)

Steve follows dietary principles detailed in a book called Toxemia Explained, by Dr John Tilden.

Dental health is important for overall health. Gum disease is an indication of dietary problems.

Briefly, it consists of food combining principles not dissimilar to the Gracie Diet. You should have fruit based meals, protein based meals, and starched based meals, not combining the food groups, especially not combining starches and protein in the same meal. Fruit and veg can be combined with most things. you can eat LOTS of fruit.

Weight control is largely a matter of calories. Caloric restriction is king for weight loss, burning fat through exercise does not work nearly as well and tires you out. Steve often cuts the starch down or out of his diet if he feels he is getting a little pudgy.

Indications of a good diet include:
  • You are trim and not fat
  • You do not get sick often
  • Teeth and gums are in good condition
  • You do not fart a lot, and when you do they are not obscenely stinky
  • No diarrhoea
  • No constipation
  • Clear skin
  • High energy levels
  • No bad breath
  • Healthy libido

If this isn't working, you may need to fast and/or experiment by eliminating certain foods from your diet for a while.

Steve fasts regularly. Just water. Do not train hard, and preferably do not work or travel, while fasting.

An overly acidic diet can lead to sore muscles and joints. It is possible to test your urine with litmus paper to check acidity.

Protein and other supplements, including multivitamins, are generally unnecessary. Human metabolism is not well enough understood to fully understand how the many various micronutrients in natural occurring foods work with the main vitamins and minerals appearing in various pills.

There is nothing wrong with moderate doses of tea or coffee. Steve prefers Yerba Mate to coffee.

A small amount of baking soda taken in water can decrease your sensitivity to carbon dioxide, and increase your ability to utilise oxygen and hold your breath.

Steve also advocates the occasional colonic irrigation.

Steve has some great information on breath and breathing drills, most of which he covered in early Sydney seminars - links below.

Example Strength Training Workout

Only equipment required is a chin up bar or similar, and a Jiu Jitsu belt. Exercises are mostly isometrics, with some calisthenics.

For isometric exercises, find a position around the midpoint of the movement you are trying to emulate. You will be exerting force for 90 seconds, as follows:

  • The first 30 seconds at 50% intensity
  • The next thirty seconds at 70% intensity
  • The final 30 seconds at 100% intensity. If you are working against the belt, try to break the belt. For the final 10 seconds of that last 30, give it everything you have left

For calisthenics like pushups or pull ups, You want to try to keep the muscular contraction going throughout the exercise, including the turnaround (changing from raising to lowering, and vice versa).  This means you do the exercise SLOWLY, maybe a four count down and a four count back up. Do not go to a dead hang for your pull ups or a lockout for pushups, keep tension on the muscle all the time.  No bouncing or ballistic movements. If you cannot do another rep, try to stop in the flexed position for as long as possible, and then lower yourself slowly. If you have not reached muscular failure after ninety seconds of sustained slow movements, find a way to make the exercise more difficult next time.


Pull ups - very slowly up and down. No dead hang at the bottom, keep tension on the muscles the whole time, Concentrate on maximum tension on the muscles of the upper back.

Stanley Tam, black belt from China and Steve's Qigong teacher, showing considerable strength in the pullups

Pushups - very slow, no lockout at the top, constant muscular contraction throughout the set.

Stan doing pushups

Wall squats - face the wall, as close as possible. Palms facing the wall. Try to go straight down and back up, slowly. Not lockout at the top, no rest at the bottom. Continuous muscular tension. Go to 90 seconds or failure.

Stan's wife Lulu (Tianmo Zhu) showing excellent form in the wall squat

Isometric Squat - Squat leaning against a wall so the thighs are approximately horizontal. Belt is wrapped around your waist, the ends placed under your feet so you cannot move upwards. Try to straighten up against the resistance of the belt - 30 seconds at 50% effort, another 30 seconds at 70% effort, the last 30 seconds 100% effort, try to break the belt. Last ten seconds, give it whatever you have left in the tank. Keep your head up, happy face regular breathing. Use the burst breathing if necessary in the final stages. This is a killer. Be careful standing up out of this position as your quads should be fried.

Isometric Squat by Stan

Isometric Zercher Deadlift - Tie the ends of the belt together so you have a big loop. Stand inside the belt with both feet on it. you are bent over, knees bent, raise your forearms and hold the belt in the crooks of your elbows. Take your feet further apart or close together to riase or lower the top of the belt loop. Back should be approximately horizontal. Try to raise up against the resistance of the belt, keep the back straight, head up, happy face, controlled breathing. The same 30-30-30 second protocol as for the Isometric Squat. This is a hingeing movement targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Be careful with your posture.

Isometric Zercher Deadlift. Apologies for photo quality. Stan is holding the belt in the crooks of his elbows.

Isometric Glute Raise - wrap the belt once around your waist from the back. Lie on your back and place the ends of the belt under your heels. The length of the belt should be short enough to stop you doing a complete bridge. Flex your toes toward your shins (dorsiflexion) so you are on your heels. Drive your heels into the mat and bridge up against the belt, clenching the glutes, with the same 30-30-30 protocol. Works well to correct gluteal amnesia and to develop a killer bridge and hip movement.

Lulu demonstrates the Isometric Glute Raise

Isometric Lateral Raise - belt under the feet, hands holding the belt so the arms point down about 45 degrees (though you could try other angles as well). Loop the belt around the hands so the grip is not the limiting factor. 30-30-30 protocol, happy face, control the breath.

Isometric Lateral Raise - could do front or rear as well

Isometric Guard Situp -  Lie on the floor with your butt up against the wall. Allow your legs to fall outwards. Sit up so your shoulders are off the floor and lift your torso, pushing with your palms against the wall. 30-30-30, happy face, breathe.

Other exercises are demonstrated below, each using the same 30-30-30 protocol, happy face, breathe.

Isometric Neck Extension on Sphinx posture. Stan is lying on his stomachwith his legs stretched out behind. You should try and push your elbows into the ground as well. If you don't have a partner, tie the belt around a suitable immovable object.

Isometric guard situp variation demonstrated by Tetsu. Elbows and knees together, try and lift hips and shoulders off the floor. Do not pull too hard on the neck and try and keep a good distance between chin and chest.

Isometric chin up hang. Go for time. Steve is keeping Lulu honest. If you can't hold it up any longer try to lower as slowly as possible. Good for the grip as well as the arms and back.

Isometric pushup

Another Isometric Guard Situp variation. Try to touch the wall, keep distance between chin and chest.

Isometric Seated Row

Isometric Overhead Press

Note that these are example exercises. you can make up your own. You can use door jambs, walls, or other immovable objects to provide isometric resistance. Steve has a video and ebook on his website ( if you need more exercise suggestions or more detailed info.

You do not have to and should not do all these exercise in one session. Choose one exercise using each of the five pillars mentioned above (push, pull, hinge, squat, rotate) and ancillary exercises. Include a horizontal and vertical push, and a horizontal and vertical pull. If you take each exercise to failure or use the 30-30-30 protocol, you should not need multiple exercises per body part, nor should you need multiple sets.

Your muscles should be exhausted and you should be breathing fairly hard if you put in the maximum effort here. This and Jiu Jitsu should be enough cardio for you. You should be able to complete quite a comprehensive and taxing workout in less than 30 minutes.

The 30-30-30 protocol for isometrics makes it almost impossible to injure yourself.

The only real issue with isometrics and partial movement is that they may shorten the muscle over time unless countermeasures are taken, so make sure you are doing a good amount of mobility work to off set this. Good joint health demands that you do that anyway.

The links below are to earlier seminars I took with Steve, in which he went onto much more detail about the practical rather than theoretical side of his systems. The breathing drills and philosophy in particular are indispensable. The 2015 seminar writeup is IMO the most informative, but I include the others as they do contain other valuable information.

Steve also has video of footage from the 2015 seminar and related footage available on his website,

Books mentioned by Steve in the seminar: