Sunday, December 23, 2018

Into an Alternate Universe with Rex King^

How it felt on a bad day

I first met the man I will call Rex King^ in, probably, 1979. He had a high profile in Kung Fu circles in Sydney back then. He had definite skills - plus a stocky, muscular physique with very powerful kicks. Great hair.

I saw him break untreated weathered house bricks, taken from a nearby building site, with his knife hand - "karate chop" - on several occasions.

One of his ex-wives told me how he had been challenged by the head of a karate school, after they both appeared at an event. Rex tried very hard to convince the guy to back out of it, but when all peaceful options were exhausted, Rex ducked under the guy's first punch and put him on the floor, gasping in agony, with a punch to the groin, not dissimilar to a move performed by JCVD in "Wrong Bet."

He had studied both Kung Fu and Traditional Chinese Medicine in both Hong Kong and Taiwan and had excellent credentials from those he studied with. He was a consulting acupuncturist and definitely knew his TCM theory very well.

I took a three week trip through Asia with him and perhaps twenty other people. He certainly had contacts everywhere. I was involved in a friendly contest of Taiji push hands on a Taipei rooftop one night in a visit to a Kung Fu school there, and managed to hold my own with Rex coaching me from the sideline, much the same as a BJJ instructor might coach a student during a tournament match.

I made some good friends there.

That Rex had real skill was not to be denied.

The Name Game

Rex King was not his real name. But it carries the same aura of charisma and "born-to-ruleness" as the "real" changed name he gave himself. Not the name his parents gave him.

There are legitimate reasons for changing one's name. A guy I trained with before I met Rex was Michael Coxhead. Married and with a child on the way, he changed his name to Michael Quinn to spare his kids the totally predictable nicknames with which they would be branded all through school, and possibly beyond.

There was nothing wrong with Rex's original name, other than it lacked the gravitas with which Rex wanted others to view him, and presumably with which he viewed himself. Something more befitting a natural scholar and leader.

So he became Rex King.


I had started Kung Fu in Canberra in 1977 with the excellent Dan Croft*, a teacher of Kung Fu. He had excellent skills, a deep well of knowledge, and was extremely generous to me with his instruction.

I did not enjoy my life in Canberra as a public servant, my first job out of university. I found it a cold and unfriendly place. I despaired at my own apparent inability to make new friends. After a holiday in the South Coast of New South Wales, during which I made many new friends and even scored a sweet holiday romance, I concluded that my social isolation had been the result of Canberra, not me. I worked hard to pay off my debts, built up some savings, and moved back to Sydney.

I had given up on Canberra, but not on martial arts. I knew I would miss Dan and his excellent tutelage and example, but didn’t realise how difficult finding another competent instructor in Sydney would prove.

In the days before the internet, one had books, magazines, and the Yellow Pages. Finding information about martial arts schools relied on these sources exclusively, unless you were privy to some word of mouth. Dan gave me a few suggestions, but for one reason or another I found these unsuitable.

My First Time

I became interested in Rex's academy, which was advertised frequently in magazines and had a prominent advertisement in the Yellow Pages. I fronted up one day and spoke to one of his senior students. During that conversation, I noticed, behind him, sitting at the desk in the little admin space at the school entrance, an attractive girl with long dark hair, dressed in a black uniform, repeatedly rolling a 64 sided die made of red plastic, and consulting the Yijing / I Ching about the result after every roll.

Imagine this, made from red plastic

The I Ching, or as I’ll call it from here on in, the Ching, is an ancient Chinese philosophical and divinatory text, dating back to before the time of Confucius. It's highly revered and taken very seriously by its adherents, which included the seminal psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

A flippant use of the Ching, especially rejecting the initial reading and trying again in the hope of a more auspicious outcome, might often result in Hexagram 4, “Youthful Folly”, basically the Ching saying to you, “Take me seriously, idiot."

I have been but an occasional and sceptical consultant of the Ching. I ran into “Youthful Folly” on occasion. I may have deserved it.

Shortening the thing's name from I Ching / Yijing to Ching, as I just did. might earn such a slap in the face. I’d imagine using a 64 sided die of red plastic, because more traditional methods of consultation  took too long, might you one as well. But, here she was, rolling the dice. I could have asked her about it, but doubted she would have deigned to talk to a mere prospect off the street such as myself.

These days, I might have asked her why she was wasting her time with that, and not hitting a bag or wrestling.

Training at Rex's

The training was intense from an exercise perspective. We would do a warm up and some stretches, then a truckload of calisthenics, pushups, situps, leg raises, squats, squat jumps, etc. etc. Then, dressed in black kung fu pyjamas, coloured sashes, and feet bare, we would run “three times around the figure eight”,around and between two odd shaped city blocks, concrete and bitumen, along heavily trafficked streets, cars and pedestrians. Occasionally people in cars would give us the finger, or insinuate we looked like dicks. Imagine!

We’d line up outside the school and await a senior student’s order to ascend the staircase. I remember once a non-running senior student, Chris*, known for his “old school” attitude, stuck his head out of a window on the second story where the academy was and berated us at the top of his voice for our indiscipline, talking amongst ourselves while awaiting the call. Not like we were making a whole lot of noise. I had always thought that Chris was wound a little too tight.

So eventually we'd go back upstairs, and into the training hall. We’d all line up, and after a suitable period of suspense, Rex King would stroll into the class, black uniformed, hands clasped behind his back, a leonine full head of blond hair, a look of inscrutability on his face, and an aura of mystery around him.

He would take us through basic XingyiQuan techniques. In the order of the Sheng, nourishing cycle of the Wu Xing, the five elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A complex business it is, but essentially each element leads into, or checks (via the Ko, or checking cycle), one of the other elements. Similar in intent, though much more complex philosophically, to the various angles of attack and defense, in the Filipino martial arts. Not that complexity is necessarily the same as superiority, where martial technique is concerned.

The concepts, theory, and philosophies of Traditional Internal Martial Arts are precisely ordered, at the same time simple and profound. One can marvel at their brilliance and symmetry.

Actual fighting however, is chaotic, and ugly.

We would occasionally practice the twelve more advanced animal forms of Xingyichuan, the circle walking and palm changes of BaguaZhang, or the twenty four movement Short Yang form of TaijiQuan.

I got to learn a great deal about traditional Chinese medical theory, through Xingyi practice, and as part of a inhouse course on acupressure massage lasting several months, led by Rex's offsider, Rob, a friendly chap with a sense of humour that made learning the fairly dry conceptual material a lot more entertaining than it would otherwise have been.

We also studied the Yijing and its eight trigrams for Baguazhang, and the use of various herbs, elixirs and the like, intensively, if not all that deeply. Also dived into Taoism, Buddhism and other Chinese cultural practices.

The eight trigrams - Rex's first academy had a large multicoloured version of this diagram painted on the floor

How to deal with a prospective attacker lining you up for the “interview”, pre-fight strategies like the “fence”, the legal ramifications of self defence, how to really hit hard, effective combinations and the like, were not so often discussed.

Consumer Affairs

A fair number of the student body could be described as hippies. There were several Orange People, followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho, amongst the atudent body.

Hippies or not, a few senior students decided that Rex was jamming their capitalist sensibilities by withholding information, and was not teaching them fast enough. Arguably, correct.

The logical next step, apparently, was to report him to Consumer Affairs (now called the Department of Fair Trading).

Did this work? Amazingly, no!

The ingrates were all immediately and unceremoniously shown the door. We were told they had “resigned”, not a particularly applicable description, really. “Cast into Outer Darkness”, perhaps.

Word had it that they subsequently took up with a more senior disenchanted former student of Rex – and there was an impressively long list of those - who at that time billed himself as a “Master of Oriental Exercise”.

Forget all that fighting malarkey. That’s not what the internal martial arts are about at all.

Into the Bizarro Dimension

Things occasionally took a more savage detour into the Bizarro dimension.

Rex enlisted the more senior members of the group into a special program. We were to undertake a strict diet - no meat, dairy, or gluten (bread, wheat products, etc.). No black tea or coffee. No alcohol.

Ever try buying lunch in the city under those conditions? I was pretty lean to begin with and looked like a concentration camp survivor at the end. And - I cheated. The guilt was crippling. Well, a little bit.

I almost forgot - no sex. My then girlfriend and I were having challenging times. mostly due to my association with Rex, who she had hated at first sight. This particular edict went over, as Keith Moon said to Jimmy Page about his new band, "not like a lead balloon but like a Lad Zeppelin."

No self relief, either.

This regimen went on for about a month, though it seemed like a year. Rex then counselled the male and female participants in separate groups.

My fellow male students and I were each given a medicine bottle of brown glass, and told to produce a specimen of the particular male bodily fluid to do with reproduction therein. The bottle was to be labelled with our name, kept in the freezer at home until it could be transferred, with all possible haste, to the communal freezer in an ancient refrigerator at Rex's academy.

Fill 'er up

We were not informed as to what the ultimate purpose of the exercise, or even the next step, would be at the time.

Female students had something different to do. Obviously. Not one would tell me what it was. The most subtle and oblique questioning immediately crashed into a wall of secrecy and suspicion.

The bottles sat in the fridge, completely undisturbed, for months, becoming progressively encrusted with ice. There were a couple of power outages, and all the labels came off the bottles, so one could no longer tell which bottle belonged to whom.

The subject of the bottles and their purpose was not raised or discussed again. Ever. No one wanted to out Rex as forgetful, and by association make themselves look stupid or ungrateful.

Eventually, the school moved premises, and the entire fridge, with the bottles, disappeared  en route, as if into a wormhole.

The Refrigerator of Perplexity

I still have no idea what this was all about. Had Rex read an article in a magazine about sperm banks and decided to diversify his business, then gone off, or forgotten the idea, after having enlisted others to it, because some other brainwave or academy crisis took precedence? Not an unusual business strategy, where Rex was concerned.

Who really knows? I'm not even sure Rex knew what the ultimate purpose of this incredibly strange endeavour was.

Was I gullible? Totally. Embarrassed? A bit, but on balance it still makes for a great story more than thirty years later.

Friction and Disappointment

I had kept up a friendship with my excellent first instructor in Canberra, the aforementioned Dan Croft*. Dan ran an annual camp, for decades, to which he had invited martial artists of all styles from all over. Karate, Hapkido, various styles of Kung Fu, etc. I attended a number of times, and students of Will Mason*, head instructor of another popular  Kung Fu school at the time, and personal friend of Dan, were also regular attendees.

One year, I took along a few of Rex’s guys, and all went well.

Dan and some of the others being amused by the primitive version of crop circles, we left in the frost around a group of trees, performing Bagua circle walking practice early one morning.

I performed a demonstration of Xingyi’s cycles of attack and defence, with another Rex student on the Saturday night, which seemed to go over well enough.

I was all set to take a second group the next year, and put in some effort to set this up, informing Dan of likely numbers, to allow for catering, etc.

In the meantime, Will Mason had been arrested, and spent some time in jail for offences not publicly discussed. I would be breaking a confidence to give details, suffice to say they were of a political rather than straight criminal nature, and may have even been seen by heroic actions by some, one man’s terrorist being another’s freedom fighter, etc.

Will Mason lost few of his former friends in martial arts as a result, and went on to head at least two prominent overarching Australasian martial arts and Kung Fu organisations. He continued his associations and friendships with many high profile local and overseas martial artists. Those in the know definitely did not see his conviction as reason to discontinue their associations and friendships with him.

Rex had a different attitude.

He seized on my casual mention that some of Will Mason’s students would be at the camp, with a "gotcha!" twinkle in his eye.

He explained that he and his students could not possibly be seen to be associated with any taint of criminality. our going to Dan’s camp was out of the question! The other former prospective attendees all nodded sagely at me, backing Rex. We couldn’t be seen to be associating with the wrong element.

Support a brother martial artist going through hard times? No, we had too much class for that.

“When I was down, you just stood there grinning” 

I had to let Dan know, and I paid his expenses for our late withdrawal from the camp from my own pocket. Not a huge amount of money, but this was probably the beginning of the end for me. The hypocrisy had become personal.

I did not mention to Dan the reasons why at the time, but he was still understandably pissed off. 

He was a lot more pissed off, but not with me, when I later told him the real reasons for our cancellation, after I had ceased my association with Rex.

I was starting to fall into a spiral of disenchantment. A spiral into which one fell progressively faster as one came closer to the centre.

Linear Bagua: Now You See It, Now You Don't

Baguazhang is best known for its circular stepping and practice walking a circle. We would begin sparring matches by walking around the shared centre of a circle, coming closer and closer like two black holes about ot collide in interstellar space.

There is also a linear form of Baguazhang, which Rex claimed he had never taught to anyone before. After a few lessons, one of the senior students, who was either being gradually pushed out by Rex, or slowly coming to the decision to leave himself, asked a question that Rex took exception to. Rex then told us that he had misjudged our readiness to receive this information, and he would let us "season" for an indeterminate while longer, until we were possibly experienced enough to be properly ready. Everyone stared daggers at the hapless questioner, but it wasn't his fault.

Relationships, Toxic and Otherwise

Rex seemed to view the relationships of his students with their significant others as a challenge to his authority. He certainly seemd to find many pretexts to drag me away from home on dubious errands. I can remember at least two marriages broken up during my time there, though ot be fair one was where one partner ran off with another student. And also to be fair, one or two breakups might be on the cards statistically. But being part of Rex's academy certainly didn't make for easier times at home.

He had two ex-wives and four kids, two from each marriage, when I met him.

When the school moved and the fridge with the bottles disappeared, Rex had hooked up with a Jaapanese Jiu Jitsu black belt, Wayne*, and the arrangement was that they would both run classes there and apportion the rent accordingly.

Wayne was a nice man with his heart in the right place. I took a few of his classes and talked to him a fair bit.

Wayne also had a smoking hot blonde girlfriend who I'll call Janice*. Rex also ran his acupuncture practice out if the new premises, and hired Janice to be his receptionist and admin person.

Fast forward a couple of months. Rex has stolen Janice away from Wayne, his business partner. I heard later that he eventually married her. Wayne, the poor bastard, never knew what hit him. He was a dead man walking for weeks, until they dissolved the partnership, and I never saw him again.

Awkward. Really, REALLY awkward.

The End of the Line

Rex had obviously read or studied the "work" of some dodgy sales “gurus”, because he got the student body together one night and encouraged each of us to pledge to signing up a specific number of new students in the next month. This was written down, presumably as a means of either increasing the cash flow and number of new innocent minds file for indoctrination, or as yet another example of our frequent failures to live up to Rex’s standards … standards which he finagled us into setting for ourselves.

I said I’d commit to two new students, with my fingers crossed behind my back.

Tough luck, Buster! I had my fingers crossed all the time!

I had already decided I would be gone by the time the ledger was tallied.

Commitments made, there was then the option of kicking on at the school, by paying two dollars to watch a video which Rex had got a lackey to hire from the local Blockbuster, and shown in violation of copyright law.

I went home instead, and never went back.

Rex called me at work, about seven in the evening, a few months later. I was working late, taking steps to succeed in a career that had until then been barely puttering, because most of my energy was being sucked away by Rex, like that of a hapless binary star into its partner black hole.

He asked for Dan Croft’s phone number. I gave it to him. We made no small talk. I think my voice would have sounded so icy, his phone hand would have been getting frostbite.

All this finished for me over thirty years ago.

Closing Thoughts

I married my Led Zeppelin girl, and remain with her today, after nearly thirty four years of marriage. I absolutely made the right choice there. Because that's what it would have become, a choice - real life or Rex.

Rex promoted dependence, not self-actualisation. His whole shtick was that I’d have to wait, invest in loss, prove my worth, train hard, and put up with whatever he decided was necessary or appropriate, no matter how preposterous, for as long as he decided it would take. If you were a good enough student/supplicant, you could eventually become a disciple.

Good instructors will feed you all the knowledge you can handle. They will not try to blur useful distinctions between training and the rest of your life. They want you to become a thoughtful and creative adult, who can learn to teach themselves and their own students, eventually. Not a disciple subject to an instructor's grace, direction and whims.

Rex had the possibility of becoming a cult leader, but his lack of organisation, and his train wreck of a personal life, would have been too distracting for him to really follow through. There's plenty of precursors there, though  - the promise and withholding of information as a carrot and a stick, the treatment of the student body as a pack of lovable but intellectually challenged children, hinting at new levels of performance and understanding that we were never quite ready for, etc.

I can't really go as far as to say Rex King was evil. Weighed down with some significant issues? 100%. Would I talk to him if I ran into him in the street? Probably ... unless he's read this blog.

Had I remained his disciple, would I have eventually broken through to the other side, received the sacred teachings, finally mastered the power of chi, achieved enlightenment?

No. I’d still be waiting.

* - names changed to protect the innocent
^ - name changed to protect the guilty

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

True Story #15 - the Dragon Pole

I practice Wing Chun Kung Fu under the tutelage of Sifu Rick Spain.

Wing Chun is a pretty minimalist Kung Fu system. Its standard curriculum consists of three empty hand forms, then a set of techniques to be practised on a specialised wooden dummy, though they can also be done without it - "Air Dummy", like "Air Guitar", and finally, weapons forms.

There are two traditional Wing Chun weapons. One is a pair of knives, of length slightly shorter than your forearm with hooks on the handles, sometimes called Butterfly Swords. They allow for intricate twirling, slashing, stabbing, and blocking movements.

The other is a long, tapered pole with a brass ferrule at the business end, named the Dragon Pole. It can range from five to approximately thirteen feet in length. It is significantly heavier than the Japanese bo, or staff, and is generally held with both hands at one end, the stance and body acting as a counterbalance. It is used more like a spear, rather than the double ended Japanese weapon. Manipulating a pole of considerable weight is also seen as a good exercise for building the particular type of strength Wing Chun Kung Fu requires. I'll pass discussion of the veracity of that statement to those better educated in exercise science than I.

Rick Spain practising Dragon Pole techniques with the Dragon Mettle, a high tech metal staff, stick and pole training tool, developed by Sensei Russell de Lacy

Some Wing Chun systems have additional traditional weapons, such as throwing darts. But the swords and pole are the ones universally cited.

Neither is particularly practical as is, in twenty-first century Australia.

Carrying knives for self defence is illegal where I live, and pairs of blades around forty centimetres in length aren't exactly easy to conceal.

Unless you are very highly skilled, sharp butterfly swords are as much a danger to yourself as to anyone else, and most practice is done with unsharpened metal weapons, or those made of wood or hardened plastic.

Many of the techniques, if performed with sharp weapons, could result in you losing a hand, if you are not fully cognisant of what you are doing, and well practised. I know one highly skilled trainee who accidentally cut a finger tendon with sharpened butterfly swords and was unable to make a proper fist for the next twelve months.

A thirteen foot long pole isn't exactly easy to carry around either, especially if your commute  involves public transport, a bike, or a small car without roof racks.

The reason for this choice of weapons is that their techniques can be easily adapted to readily available improvised weaponry. In essence, short or long sticks. You might have a rolling pin and spatula in your kitchen drawer to defend yourself with using butterfly sword techniques. Or you can pick up a broom, mop or umbrella, and use dragon pole techniques against an attacker.

Several martial arts practitioners I know keep sticks and cudgels concealed in easy to access places in every room of their residences, in case of home invasions. One man's paranoia is another man's preparation, I guess. I will neither confirm nor deny.

A good length for a practice dragon pole is often stated as being from the ground to your outstretched finger tips, when you stand with one arm stretched vertically overhead. This is a practical length which allows for a pole of reasonable weight, and still allows you to practice with it in spaces smaller than aircraft hangars and sports stadiums.

Still, one needs to be careful. As I found out one day.

I came in about an hour before class to practice the Dragon Pole. It takes up a fair bit of room, and other students gave me plenty of that, once I started swinging that sucker around.

I went through quite a number of repetitions of the form, the entire sequence, and in bits and pieces. I felt I was slowly becoming one with the weapon, my movements, smooth, economical and precise.

Well ... only up to a point.

Just before class was due to start, I decide on one final run through, full power. One of the sequences involves the bon dao, a diagonal deflection used against an overhead strike, after which I swing the pole around on a large overhead circle, then striking directly down on my hapless imaginary opponent with what might be called a number twelve strike in Filipino martial arts.. 

I had performed this action several dozen times in the session without incident, and proceeded confidently through it this time, doing my best to add a little extra oomph! to my technique.

My overhead strike takes out a fluorescent tube. Shattered glass and powder go everywhere. Of course, I am barefoot. Everybody gasps.. 

Some buds help me as I rush around with broom, dustpan and brush, and newspaper, to clean up my mess in the final seconds before class start time. Clock's ticking, dude! We finish, line up, and bow on with not a second to spare. 

Sifu, Rick Spain, laughs. He asks me to take the warm up, still chuckling. I do so, reflecting on the virtue of humility.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pedro Sauer Seminar 27 Oct 2018

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu, in the City of Sydney PCYC, hosted as usual by Mestre Pedro's Sydney representative, John Smallios.

The seminar was pretty much all Pedro answering questions from seminar participants. While this blog describes "techniques", he would want them to be seen as particular manifestations of more fundamental and general concepts, that could be applied in a far wider range of situations.

A packed mat, as you would expect

Passing Closed Guard

We want to put the person whose closed guard we are passing in as difficult and uncomfortable a position as possible. Stretch him out. If his legs are pulled in tight, he has mechanical advantage. Make him long. he is now at a significant  mechanical disadvantage while trying to use his legs to move you around. Like the difference between bent leg knee raises and straight leg raises while hanging from a bar.
If we spread our knees wide, it is easy for him to pull us forward and break our posture. If we are in this posture, we will need to keep our arms in play to keep him from breaking us down. Ideally, we want our arms to be free, so we can attack, rather than have them occupied with keeping our posture. 

We should bring our knees closer together behind his butt or close enough to frame it ,and stop his pelvis coming under out centre of gravity. We control his hips, using our femurs to stretch his legs out, our knees to frame his hips. He should find it much harder, hopefully impossible, to pull us in with his legs. 

You can test this by sitting up straight on our heels and taking our hands up near our chest while he tries to pull us down. We roll our hips under in the posture to increase his difficulties. 

He could still take us sideways, we keep our knees narrow but spread our feet wider to stop that. We should be up on our toes, so the toes are engaged.

Pedro emphasised using skeletal alignment, or frames, to maintain and improve our position, rather than muscular strength and energy.

He talked about, and demonstrated, using both our upper and lower arms as distinct frames, rather than using the stiff arm as one big frame with gaps around it. Using "two pieces of wood", rather than one.

Inside his closed guard, you can control his femur both with the frame of your upper arm, shoulder to elbow, preventing him from moving it upward, and the lower arm, with your hand on his hip or rib cage and elbow pressing into his thigh to stop him pulling it back towards him. 

His black belt student Cam, from Singapore, showed how using your elbow below his knee as a frame, your humerus and his femur aligned, can stop him coming toward you as you move back to pressure his ankles open.

Once you have made him long and put pressure on his crossed ankle grip, you can use an elbow frame combined with the hip drop to open the legs. Then try and scoop that leg up. If he goes to heavy leg on that side, push the other leg down and bring up your knee on that side, ready for the knee through pass. He can try to heavy leg but he can't do it on both sides, and if you can't lift his leg, you can turn his hips and then look to pass over the leg that is low with your knee and shin.

When your path is blocked, don't fight against the obstacle but seek a different path.

Use your shin and elbow on the low leg to control his femur at the end of the lever. keep your elbow behind the leg while your shin is up, so he cannot get his knee under your elbow and thus lever it up and put his foot onto your hip. 

If he grabs your sleeve and pulls it towards him, that is the time to move with the pull get your knee to the floor in front of his leg and start driving through for the knee through pass. Keep that knee, shin and foot to the floor as you switch the other leg out to pass, so that he has no opportunity to catch your other leg in half guard.

Once you pass, consolidate your side control. Turn your toes out for maximum control if he is energetic. 

Do not rush to the mount. If you go to mount while he is flat, you run the risk of being bridged immediately. The best time to go to mount is after you have encouraged him to bridge.

If you place your knee on his stomach from side control (just moving the knee up, not going all the way to the knee on belly scoring position), this may trick him into bridging, giving you the opportunity to mount.

If while in side control, you are using a switched base toward his head (also called the modified scarf hold), take the far foot behind you and come up on its toes, thus making his attempts to slide a knee underneath your hips much more difficult.

Two finger grip the first two fingers are aligned with the forearm, not the others

Passing open guard

We always play the "dirty feet" game, doing our very best to stop him putting his feet on our hips, chest, or shoulders.

While approaching him, keep you elbows and knees together, to prevent him putting his feet on your hips, deflect with your hands to stop him putting his feet on your shoulders or biceps. You want to prevent him getting any kind of purchase whatsoever on your body with his feet. Grab his pants inside his knees and use your elbows to pry his shins apart and come between them. 

Try to get to where you can control his knees with yours from the inside. Carlos Machado talks of getting to a position where your belt knot is directly above his with good posture, during any standing pass. His leverages here are compromised. 

Try to underhook his legs with your elbows or press down his legs and use your shins to pressure his thighs. Eventually you want to get your hips past his leg frames so you are pressuring his hips with yours. Look to control his arms anytime the opportunity arises.

if he grips your sleeve or reaches for you, look for ways to exploit that. If he grips your sleeve, counter grip and move his arm out of the way of your pass, 

If you are controlling his R leg underneath with your L arm with his R leg on your shoulder, and he reaches for your R collar with his L hand, grab his R hand with your R and pin it to your chest/shoulder as you continue to pass under his R leg, pressuring with your hips and chest. This will result on an armbar of opportunity on his R arm. 

Use every attempt he makes to counter your pass as an opportunity to exploit by taking his arm out off the game, or counter attacking it. Don't necessarily fight off  grips and frames used against you, look for opportunities those grips present for you to exploit.

Aligning your elbow and knee and keeping them together can also work while consolidating the pass,

If you can get to him to face away during you have an opportunity to get his top collar from under his neck, to apply a variety of chokes - half nelson lapel, bow and arrow, etc.

The Two Finger Collar Grip

Pedro demonstrated how, from sitting back control, he likes to open the collar and turn it over to provide a better "handle" for extra control. 

From the seat belt / harness grip with your L arm going under his L armpit and R arm around his neck, use your L hand to open his L collar, allowing the space to zip your R thumb inside deep.

If you use the regular grip using the thumb on one side and all four fingers on the other, say with the R hand on L collar, when the opponent grips the collar below your R hand with one or both of his and pulls it out to your L, to strip the grip. The force of the strip hits your little/pinkie finger first, then the ring finger, and it seems that this progressively weakens the grip of the hand - presumably the interplay of the fingers as controlled by the nervous system causes them to fire or weaken as a group.

Instead, try gripping the lapel with the thumb inside, and only the index and middle fingers gripping the lapel on the outside. You should still curl all your fingers into a tight fist, only with the lapel under the index and middle fingers, passes between the middle and ring fingers, with the ring and pinkie now inside the lapel.

Pedro explained that if you look at your hand from above, the index and pinkie fingers align with your forearm, while the other two are slightly offline. A training partner pointed out that the tendons controlling the index and middle fingers are on the radial side of the forearm, while the others are not.

I'd really need to consult someone with a strong anatomical background to take this discussion much further. Suffice to say that in experimentation, the two finger grip is significantly more difficult to strip than the more conventional one.

I am not sure how far this goes, e.g. whether it will make all chokes using that grip more or less effective, whether it can be effectively applied to cuff grips, etc. That is left as an exercise for the reader (and the writer, for that matter). 

Regular (top) and Two Finger (bottom) collar grip

Escaping Front Control / North South

He is on your R side, with his L arm under your head and his R arm under your L elbow.  You block his L hip with your R elbow, to stop him coming around to front control. Use the elbow and lay your hand on his back to use the frame of your upper arm, rather than trying to use the forearm and muscular strength, which he can fairly easily crush with bodyweight.

Arm and shoulder strength will not be enough to stop him moving around to front control. Instead, use your legs to follow his movement by scooting sideways, clockwise, your R hip following his L. You legs are doing the work, not your arm.

Also, experiment with bringing your legs up and crunching slightly, to get your head and hips slightly off the ground, presenting a small surface area to the mat so you can spin easily and thus you get pushed around by his movement to follow him. 

If you stay flat, you entire back is on the ground, and friction is greatly increased. He can then get sufficient purchase to lever your arm out of the way with his hip 

We are looking to reduce mat friction, but more importantly not relying on the elbow in his hip as the sole means of stopping him coming around but allowing our body to follow his. From our perspective, we want it to require less force for him to spin us thna it does for him to remove the frame of our elbow.

He should eventually realise this isn't working,  and change hand positions so his R hand goes next to your L hip, thus stopping your hip from following his, as he tries to move to front control. 

Now, trap his R arm and elbow with your R arm and elbow and pin his R arm to you. He will probably also move his L elbow to the L side of your head, you can reach over his L arm with yours and  at least partially trap his L arm on that side as well.

AS he now moves around to front control, push back into him  the R, to get a reactive push back from him. With timing, use the force of his pushback and a bridge and roll him over to your L as your bodies align like a pencil.

There are quite a few subtleties with this move against higher level people. Against them and big guys. the fundamental strategy, as it is anywhere, is first to survive. Do not feel you have to compromise a safe position to escape for ego driven reasons. Wait in safety for your opportunity.

Butterfly sweep to Mount

Oscar Loudon complained that he could get the sweep to mount, but was often getting rolled immediately out of the mount and reversed.

As you sweep, and come to the mount, get the knee down first, then the foot with the toes pointing outward, heel to the mat. You want to try and finish in high mount, not low where he can bridge you easily.To prevent the elbow/knee escape, use your heel on the mat to track and control his knee, which is the end of the lever that is the femur. Dig the heel in, and lift the toes, which makes it much harder for him to slide his knee under your leg. Carlos Machado calls this "sinking the stirrups", and he uses it all over the place.

To avoid the mount situation entirely, it makes sense to hook sweep the guy into side control. rather than mount. Per John Will - If you are butterfly sweeping him to the R, as soon as he starts to fall, turn face down and get your L knee next to his torso, "building a wall". Flatten him out and wait for your opportunity to mount him, best time is when he bridges or tries to get his knee under.

This video of John Will gives some excellent reasons NOT to butterfly sweep direct to mount, but to go to side control instead. The relevant section is at about 05:00, but the whole video is well worth watching.

John Will and the Butterfly Sweep

Back Defence

We are sitting up, he has back control with two hooks in behind us.

As before, we want to do our best to compromise his position and its mechanical advantages. The best way to do this is to slide down towards his feet, this making him long once again, and also making ourselves more difficult to choke. Try and make ourselves heavy on him by getting on our heels and slightly lifting our hips.

From here, it will usually be reasonably easy to free one leg, say our R, by kicking our R leg straight. The hook should slide off and we can bring our R knee back inside his leg, and our knee to our elbow to stop him putting the hook back in.

It may be possible to remove the second L hook that way, but unlikely.What we should do here is fall on our L side, killing his left leg by putting our weight on it, turning face up and sliding our butt out to the L over his L leg. If he has the seat belt on, you should fall to the side where his arm is under your armpit as your weight can then trap his arm as well.

You can sit on his L leg to stop him crossing his R leg over it and trap your R leg in a form of half guard from the back. You could put either foot on his L shin as well. Slide your butt over his leg, perhaps blocking the outside of his shin with your L foot, as you slide your R knee under his L leg. Start turning towards him and come on top as you step your L foot right over both his legs. Come on top and triangle your legs around the bottom of his thighs in the Leg Mount Ride / Leg Clamp / Khabib Mount position.

Here's a video by my training bud, BJJ black belt and MMA fighter Sonny Brown giving a detailed breakdown of this position as used in MMA, and some BJJ:

 From here you probably want to move up to full mount and get your points and increase your submission options. If he pushes/frames on your back or side with stiff arms as you try to move on top of him and up to mount, do not push directly back into him - instead move up obliquely so that his arms must move up and over his head ot follow you, putting him at a mechanical disadvantage and removing the frame by changing the angle.

Once his arms are up and over his head, this gives you the opening to control them, and to move your knees one at a time up under his armpits to attain the high mount.

If he has his R thumb in your L collar in back control, looking to choke, but you manage to slide down and get your hips over his L leg, you cna work on escaping the choke by moving your hips out to the left and counter clockwise so that you are a bit less than a right angle to him. Try and get the point on the top and back of your head into the crook of his R elbow. 
Come up on your heels and lift your hips slightly so your weight is on him, making it harder for him to reset his choking arm. If you sit in the floor, he has  way more freedom to move. Lift those hips.

Turn your head to look at his face, and you should be able to slide your head under his arm and escape the choke, If your weight is on him as advised, that will make it easier for you to come on top in the likely ensuing scramble.

Freeing the head in back control

You should try to work your way out of his arm controls using small, conservative progressive mechanics, creating angles and space that perhaps you can dig an elbow into or slide a hand through to gradually improve your position. The most immediate threat is getting choked and that is your prime directive for survival. Try not to present him with armbar opportunities by keeping ypur elbows close.If you can clamp both his arms under your armpits, you are probably pretty safe. 


If you are stuck in a hold and feel your ear is folded over and likely to get mashed if you move, think (and survive!) for a second before you try to rip your head out. See if you can move your head of the other guys arm just enough to free that ear up before you continue working your way out. 

This is how Pedro has managed to train for fifty odd years without cauliflower ear.

Freeing the arm trapped from the back

Many people like to hook one of your arms with their leg whne they catch you in back control. This can make your defence more difficult and opens up different submission opportunities for them.

Trying to free your arm by moving it around, trying to get pull it out, will almost certainly never work against a competent opponent.

Instead, hide that arm by placing it against your side and the top of your thigh, so it effectively becomes part of your torso. Now you can lift your hip, kick your leg straight, and/or manipulate his foot so that your hip comes out in front of it, with your arm along for the ride.

Freeing the arm from back control

If he is in your Guard

Once again, let him start but don't let him finish. Anticipate and intercept. If he goes to push down on your leg to open your closed guard, open your guard and get your foot to his hip, shoulder or hooked under his leg before he has a chance to control your leg.

For your long term benefit, get comfortable with opening up your closed guard and play using your legs. A pretty old Jiu Jitsu maxim is that it should be you, not him, that opens your closed guard. look for the opportunities his movements present to use your legs and feet as controls, or to set up attacks of your own.

Learn to get good at guard by playing this way,

Leg Locks and their Counters

As with most things, it is much easier to escape by doing so before the control is fully established. Rather than concentrating on escaping, and thus perhaps injuring yourself by using strength and speed, try to undo the control instead, but opening the legs, knees apart, or pushing the control down below the knee line. If Cyborg Abreu decided to tap to Gordon Ryan's heel hook rather than try to roll and thrash around when he knew he was caught, you probably should too.

Pedro advocated developing an accomplished guard game before trying too many footlocks. However, this was the same advice given to me way back when I was a white belt, and a long time before the Danaher Death Squad, Craig Jones, etc. At least get good at fundamentals before becoming a leglock specialist, or any other type of specialist for that matter.

A few other videos featuring Pedro Sauer from other Australian seminars:


Standing posture

Defending the guard


Pedro talked about training with longevity in mind. The importance of a playful attitude and developing sound technique using frames, levers and proper posture and structure rather than muscular strength.

First, survive. Survival before escape. Survive until the opportunity to escape is presented. This is a fundamental them of Saulo Ribiero's Jiu Jitsu University book as well.

A roll is like a negotiation or deal - you take what he gives you and do with it what you can. Timing is paramount - you don't try to escape while he is controlling you, you escape while he is attacking or transitioning. A white belt will probably make less advantageous deals, but blue and purple belts should be rolling as if trading and negotiating.

Let him start, but don't let him finish. Use his grips, defences and attacks, not so much as threats to be fought against, but as potential opportunities to advance your own position and goals. Whne you encounter obstacles and roadblocks, not opposing them directly but looking to see what toher paths may be open or what opportunities the obstacle may present.

It's difficult for beginner and intermediate practitioners to cultivate such an attitude when many such attempts will probably fail, but the mat culture should be structured so as to allow trail and error without undue punishment for failure. 

Jiu Jitsu should help you develop confidence and ways of dealing and negotiating effectively with others from a confident position, both on and off the mat. How to proceed in a deliberate and stepwise fashion toward your goals, to develop and employ strategies, and so on. This is obviously a huge subject, but one you should definitely consider. You spend so much time on this, it seems only sensible to try and leverage it into other areas of your life.

L to R: Andrew Nerlich, Dave Badlan, Mestre Pedro Sauer, and our HJJ host John Smallios

Sunday, October 07, 2018

John Will Seminar 7 Oct 2018 - Advanced Crucifix

The seminar was held at Rick Spain's Red Boat Wing Chun Academy in Redfern.

The crucifix is a variant of back control, with one arm trapped by your legs. The essence of back control is to keep your chest glued to your training partner's back, and it applies equally here.

This seminar assumed a basic knowledge of the crucifix. An earlier seminar we took with John in 2013 covered more fundamental aspects of the position.

29th September 2013 - Crucifix Control

IMPORTANT: John no longer recommends the common setup where you trap the guy's near arm with your leg from side/back control and roll forward over his back. He has seen or heard of several neck injuries from heads being driven into the mat when partners reacted too violently. Plus it is usually less effort to pull them back toward you once the controls are secured.

John Will and Sean Kirkwood demonstrate the Crucifix position

The Hunter's Drill

We hunt the crucifix position and when our partner tries to escape, we hunt and reclaim it again.

Crucifix Entry from Head to Head

We sprawl on him and get a front headlock, our R arm around his neck and our L arm around his R armpit and neck. We come up on our toes and drive him back, pushing his butt onto his heels and we stand up, until our hands touch our L knee. Drive into him, don't pull him toward us.

We push our L knee between his R arm and his torso, trapping pinching his R upper arm between our legs. We turn slightly to our R. We change our grips on his upper body so our L arm goes under his L armpit from the back, our R arm around his neck. The L hand grabs his R wrist, so we have the same grips as if we had a seat belt grip from IBJJF-sanctioned back control.

We step our L foot slightly in front of our R foot, then sit/fall down onto our left side, so his R arm is trapped between our legs and our arms encircle his head and L arm. The position of John and Sean Kirkwood on the photo above is the position we want, but on the other side.

The Hunter's Drill Itself

He will want to escape as he would from back control, by getting his back and shoulders on the ground, sliding down onto the mat toward his feet.

As soon as we realise we are losing the position, we change to a kimura grip on his L hand. Our R arm comes across his face so we no longer encircle his head, and we grab his L wrist with our R hand and our own R wrist with our L hand under his L arm.

He frees his R arm from our legs (for the drill, let him do it!) and turns L to his knees. We also turn L to our knees, keeping our grips, So we are kneeling next to him on his L. This position is called the "Kimura Dogfight". We post our head on the ground, keeping the kimura grip, come up on our toes and walk toward our head, this lifting our hips, so we can post on our head and jump over him to his R side. Come up on our R foot and put our weight toward our L hip, so we can snag his R arm behind our R shin and knee, Change our upper body grips to a seat belt, going under his L armpit, as before.

Fall to our L now and we are back in the same crucifix position.


(iI may be possible or sometimes desirable to get the seat belt grip again before snagging the leg after you have jumped over. I need to experiment with this.)

With the seat belt, we generally grab the wirst of the arm around the neck with the other hand, the one under the armpit. If he tries to strip our grip he will peel off the top armpit hand, and we go directly for the choke with the other. If our hands were the other way round and he peels the top, choking, neck hnad off, we do not have that option.

Crucifix Entry from Side Control

We have side control on his R side. His hands are up, protecting the neck, elbows in.

We switch base towards his head, to switchbase side control, our R arm under his L. Our L hand slides between his R forearm and chest, and grips his R shoulder, thus starting to separate his arm from his torso. Use our L elbow to pry his R hand further away from his chest. Our L leg sweeps up and over his face and snags his R arm, dragging it away to our L, so we can pinch it between both our knees and push them and his arm to the mat.

Reach over our L leg and grab the sleeve of his R arm, pinched under our L knee.Move our L foot above our R shin and post it around his shoulder level. Our R fist posts next to his L hip.

We push up on our R hand and L foot, swinging our R knee to meet our R wrist, in a knee ride position, still gripping his R sleeve with our L hand so his R arm is under our L leg.

We grab his R collar with our R hand, and hoist him up to a sitting position. We turn slightly to our R, pinching his R arm between our legs, similar to the first technique. As before we get a seat belt grip on his back, our L arm underhooking his. We sit/fall back to the crucifix as before.

John said he uses this method, sweeping the knee backward, to get kneeride from side control almost exclusively these days. The standard way of just jumping straight up from side control gives a quick player on the bottom too much opportunity to get his knee in and go to guard while you're trying to get your knee in.

First Choke

In setting up any choke from the seat belt, we want to start by pulling the choking arm in tight, before we release the seat belt grip. So from the crucifix position with his R arm trapped and the seat belt grip we have achieved, pull with our L hand and drive our R forearm in under his chin and into his throat. This will prevent him being able to drop his chin to his chest and foil our subsequent choking moves.

Turn on our L side, and use the L arm to open his L collar and get a deep grip on it with our R, thumb inside.

Now we do two things at once:

  1. Slide our hips underneath his shoulders, going towards flat on our back again. You will need to post on your feet at least a little to do this.
  2. Move your L arm out in a wide arc, snagging his L elbow, ending up with our L hand grabbing the back of our head, this effectively trapping his L arm.

We should end up close to flat on our back - not so far that he could backward roll and escape.

From here, we just pull our R elbow to the mat for a strong choke.

snag the throat - turn on your side   - get a deep grip - Slide hips under him and snag his arm so you are flat on your back - pull elbow to the ground

Enhanced Choke

This is an enhanced version of the choke that makes any escape far more difficult. However, we MUST have a DEEP collar grip first. Otherwise, failure is an option, and a likely one.

We set up the deep collar grip with our R hand, thumb inside, as above.

This time, we move our hips so they are next to his, our L hip up against his R. We take our L leg over the top of his R leg, and hook out L instep under his R calf or Achilles tendon. We use this grapevine-style hook to lift his R foot off the mat, so he cannot bridge or post with it. Our R foot goes under his R hip.

We do not need to trap his L arm like before, we can just grip his L shoulder from behind.

We choke him pretty much the same way.

Our hips next to his makes it much harder for him to free his R arm from our leg control, or to bridge and roll backward, etc.

Upstream / Downstream

The above techniques all result in us landing in the crucifix with the arm trapped by our legs pointing "upstream", with the top leg (in the cases above, our R leg) hooking his arm and his hand more or less pointing toward his head, like an Americana.

It is also possible for us to trap his arm using the bottom leg (for the above, the L leg) with his hand pointing more toward his feet, like a Kimura. This we call the "downstream" control.

Both allow us to apply different submissions. In particular, the downstream configuration frees up our top leg to allow us to employ it for submissions without losing the arm.

Sorry, this was irresistible - but you too can be the Puppet Master with these Crucifix techniques ;)

Entry to Downstream

From Head to Head, he shoots at your legs. You sprawl to avoid the takedown. You move up on him slightly and get a "butt seatbelt" grip around his R leg and hip - your L arm goes under hi groin, the R arm over his butt - your R arm in line with his intergluteal cleft, or in more common parlance, his butt crack. John's words!

Slide your R knee in under his L elbow, R knee going between his L elbow and knee, as you use the grip around his R hip to pull and roll him toward you onto his L side. Your R shin hooks over his L elbow to trap his arm, as you hold it down under the outside of your R knee on the mat .

You now have a crucifix, except this time you are controlling his arm with your bottom leg and controlling his hip instead. It should be fairly easy to slip your L elbow over his R arm, controlling it under your L armpit.

Hell Choke - Jigoku Jime

From the position you are in, reach over and grab his L far collar with your L hand, thumb inside, palm down. Your L leg comes over his head and hooks his R ear in the crook of your L knee. Your R leg still has L arm trapped. You can grab his pants at the R knee or underhook his R leg with your R hand for extra control, which is always a good idea. Choke him by pushing his head away with your L leg wihile pulling his L collar toward you with your L hand. This is a very strong choke. It does not require a deep grip with the L hand and will work with more stretchy material like a T shirt just fine.

As John pointed out, it is ironic that a Hell Choke comes from a crucifix position.

Judo version of both upstream and downstream versions of the Hell Choke (Jigoku-Jime). With a different setup.


We need options when our partner starts to escape, and we start to lose the position. We need a Zen attitude here, where over attachment to a position can result in our downfall. A time to kill, a time to heal.

A time to hold, a time to transition.

To everything there is a season

We have the crucifix and seat belt control, his R arm trapped. He starts to shimmy down toward his feet, trying to get his shoulders on the mat and escape.

We transition to the kimura grip on his L arm as for the Hunter's Drill above.


"Float" his elbow by getting your L elbow/forearm underneath it, so it is "floating" off the mat.

Hip escape away from him and turn face down, feet behind you so you are 180 degrees to him , driving your R elbow to the mat. He is flat on his back. Your R hip should be next to his L ear. You never release the kimura grips. Move forward and try to snag his shoulder with the bottom of your rib cage. flatten out and sink into the mat, applying kimura pressure to his elbow and shoulder. This may be enough for a tap.

If not, we move around to side control on his R side and apply the top kimura proper. Key points - Our R hip is dropped to the ground and our R leg stretched back as far as possible to stop him sitting up and rolling us. We step over his head with our L leg with our foot on the ground, which also stops him sitting up, but its main purposes is as an engine to drive him up on his R side enough so we can crank his arm without the ground getting in the way.


He starts to escape, we get the kimura grip as before. He manages to turn away from us and get up on his L elbow.

We keep the kimura grip. We slide our L knee through the gap he has made between his elbow, his chest, and the mat. Our R leg goes over his head, and pulls it back to our R to the mat. We drive our L knee and hips under him and up, turning onto our back and into an armbar position.

Whether we want to bring our R leg out and over his body for the arm bar or leave it where it is depends on a number of factors.

If we do want to take it over, the safest way is to keep out knees pinched and take them to our R toward his head, this keeping his arm tightly controlled. this allows the foot to come out so we can take it to the far side of his torso without compromising our control.

Kimura Dogfight and Crucifix on the Other side

He starts to escape, we get the kimura grip. This time he manages to turn to his L all the way to his knees. We follow him turning L to our knees. keeping our grips, as per the Hunter's drill.

Now we post our R knee on his L thigh, in a sort of mini knee ride, giving us enough room to stuff his arm between our legs, catching it in a downstream position.

We get a seatbelt grip on his back, but on the other side, our R arm under his R armpit and L arm around his neck, our R hand gripping our L wrist,

We pivot on our knees, taking our feet clockwise as far out to the left as we can, keeping his L arm trapped. We fall onto our R hip, ending up in a downstream crucifix, his L arm trapped.

"Desert Island" Drill

It should be apparent that this gives the opportunity a different take on the first, Hunter's Drill. From here, he could start escaping, we get the kimura grip on the other side, go to the kimura dogfight with him, stuff the arm, and end up in another crucifix on the original side.

We could mix the two drills up, getting crucifixes and drilling on both sides, interspersing upstream and downstream.

John talked of his project to devise such drills for every position family in Jiu Jitsu, so that one could devise the entire panthen of Jiu Jitsu systems from those drills. If you were trapped on a desert island with no instructor (though presumably, with other people to train with).

Other Links

29th September 2013 - Crucifix Control
 - mentioned above, more fundamental material.

11 Nov 2017 - Pirate Grip, Russian Tie - has an entry to the crucifix from the Russian Tie when he is turtled near the end. Can be started from your guard.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Dave Camarillo 21 Sep 2018

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

The seminar was no gi. The techniques are equally applicable to gi, MMA, and possibly self defense or law enforcement arrest techniques.

Warm up Games and Drills

Start from a wrestling crouch. Attempt to touch your partner's knee with your hand and not get tapped yourself, while he attempts to do the same and stop you tapping his knee. If you get tapped, do a pushup.

Switch it up so everyone in the room is trying to tap everyone else's knee.

Same starting position, look to get a two handed grip on one of his wrists, then get your head in a good control position under the side of his jaw and drive him around for a few moments. Reset.

Same as above, but try to get an arm drag position, with the other hand controlling his wrist. Same head position as above.

A drill, no resistance from your partner - arm drag, to two on one,  shoulder pressure and turn to front headlock, drive him down so at least one of his hands is on the floor, turn and take his back. Swap.

Guard passing and/while pinning

All passes should end up in a pin. Dave's system does its best to allow us to pin our opponent all the way through the pass.

Three fundamental concepts to understand are:

  • The elbow line
  • The knee line
  • The battle zone

The battle zone is the area between the opponent's elbow, knee and hip on the side to which you are trying to pass. So your objective, for example when passing to his R or trying to maintain side control there, is to occupy the space between his R knee, hip, and elbow.

In these passes, we stay low, and try to keep the opponent pinned with pressure, and when possible, grips, as much as possible throughout the movements.

Passing Half Guard, with no Knee Shield

We apply "OCD of the knee." Both the bottom and top guys should be obsessed with occupying the battle zone with our knee.

He has our R leg in half guard. We should go straight for a far side underhook on his L arm with ouR R. Our head is posted on the mat next to his R ear, looking out to our L, driving our head into his, bending his neck to his L. Our L foot is out to the L. We are keeping our R hip low as possible so as to turn him on his R side with his R knee on the mat.

We control his bottom R knee with either our L hand, or if we have the flexibility, our L foot, holding it place so he cannot follow our R knee as we move it toward his head.

We free our R knee from his half guard, by tripoding up on our R toes, lifting the hips, holding his R knee in place as we extract our knee from his guard. As soon as we can, we drop our R knee over his R thigh, thus using it to occupy the battlezone. We do not take our head from the mat or loosen our far side underhook at any time, we stay as low as possible.

Once the knee occupies the battlezone, we can stop holding his knee in place with our L hand or foot. We drag his R elbow out from his body with our L hand and get an underhook on his R arm with our L. We join our hands in S, butterfly or gable grip under the base of his neck, flaring our elbows out to separate his arms from his torso.

Use our L foot on his top R knee to push it toward his feet and free our R foot.

We move to side control, short base, hiding our R foot. We move back/down slightly to lower our base even more and increase the pinning pressure. Our head stays next to the R side of his head.

As he moves to try and create space to escape, we must similar move to reclaim that space. If he moves his hips away to our R, rein him back in by clinching hard with the R elbow, and chasing down his hip with or R knee, driven from our toes.

If he manages to recover half guard at any stage, or later on, repeat the process. If our position gets compromised at any stage setting up the pass, back out and reset.

Passing Butterfly Guard, using the Tackle Pass

We start learning the pass in a position where he is on his back. We are on our feet. His shins are inside our thighs and we are in effect sitting on his shins. Stay upright so as not to give him gripping opportunities on our upper body.

We sit/push down on him using our bodyweight. hoping to get him to react by kicking us off using his shins. As he kicks, we straighten our legs and lift our hips, while "diving" forward over his knees, wrapping our arms around his thighs above his knees, like a rugby tackle. The grip Dave uses is one hand grabbing the other forearm, like an anaconda choke or guillotine.

Our head goes next to his R hip as we switch off to our R, twisting our torso to the R, driving our R shoulder into his abdomen or hips, pinching the grip by pulling our elbows in. We should be facing his knees.

Get our L knee under his knees, and his it to drive his legs out to our L, his R, flattening his torso out, but with his legs twisted to our L we can now hunt with our arms for the double underhook pin position we used in the first pass.

We could also drive his legs further still with our L knee until his R knee is on the mat, and drive our L knee between his thighs to achieve the classic leg drag pass position. From here we could pass, or fairly easily sit back to the Irimi Ashi Garami position (John Danaher's terminology, check Google) and start working your heel hook game.

Passing Z guard with the Tackle Pass

Z guard is half guard with a knee shield. Assume he has our R leg caught again. Our starting position for the pass is to be upright. We do not put any pressure on his knee shield. We should already eave our knee up and over his bottom R thigh, fairly close to the groin, because we also want to grab his R knee from underneath with our L hand. Grabbing the knee both prevents him getting a base from which to do a technical standup or slide backward to bail out of Z guard, and will allow us to get our arm underneath him and encircle his legs when we go for the pass.

We stand, lift our hips and "dive" over his knee shield as before, our arms encircling his legs. Once we have the grip, over his thighs, we sprawl hard, driving our R leg back,, flattening the knee shield and our hips to the mat, freeing our leg. We keep our weight on his legs.

If his legs stay flat, we may be able to just crawl up to a mount position, where we get the double underhooks and head control as for the first technique.

Otherwise, we can drive his legs across as before with out knees, this time to out R. We can look this time at sliding our bottom L knee under his legs, stepping over them with our R foot, then coming in top, triangling our legs around his knees, R ankle behind our L knee. We can move up to mount here. Or switch off to side control at any time we feel our mount is being compromised. There is ample opportunity to use wind shield wiper, grapevine and other leg work techniques here to change positions and move around his defences and counters.

This video, from the excellent Sonny Brown, shows how the "leg clamp" Dave shows as a prelude to getting the mount is used extensively in MMA by Khabib Nurmagomedov, among others.

Setups - Up/Down, Left/Right

Up/Down: if the guy is sitting up as you approach him, grab his ankles and flip him onto his back, pushing his legs over his head. As he reacts by rolling forward and sitting up, drive forward through his half guard, going for the first half guard passing technique above, with OCD of the knee, head position and the far side underhook. If he gets the knee shield, we go for the tackle pass.

Left/Right: push one or both of his knees to one side. His reaction, swinging them back in the other direction, will give you an opening to go for the tackle pass.

Up/down and left/right should be seen as principles rather than specific techniques. You always need to adapt to the actual movements of your opponent.

Troubleshooting and Maintaining Control

If his legs stay flat diring the tackle pass, we have the opportunity to go to mount. If he starts lifting his knees before we consolidate the mount, we should be prepared to switch to side control.

If he have the double underhook elbow control, and he is pushing our head away, we can just slide our linked grips down to his thighs to a tackle pass position, and work our way back, We are so far away from his arms in the tackle pass positions as to negate the value of any attempt to pass.

We do need to be careful of guillotine attempts, though these are of limited value when the head is on one side and the legs on the other. The choke is pretty much unworkable then, while at the same time we are given the opportunity for a Von Flue choke.

We should be able to keep constant pinning pressure with the body lock on him all the way from the elbow line to the knee line and back.

If he starts sitting up while we have the tackle position, we need to break him down immediately. Dave did this when the guy came up his elbow by grabbing the posting forearm with one hand around the front and one around the back, pulling the guy toward him while driving forward and breaking him back down. Try to stop such counters immediately, before he can post all the way up on his hand.

In Sun Tzu's The Art of War, military leaders are advised to take high ground and let the enemy try to attack from a lower position. Fighting from an elevated position is said to be easier for a number of tactical reasons. Holding the high ground offers an elevated vantage point with a wide field of view, enabling surveillance of the surrounding landscape, in contrast to valleys which offer a limited field of view.

So, don't let your opponent up.

Once we have our hands linked around him, we can in effect slide them up and down his body between the elbow line and knee line, switching sides and positions, constantly adjusting to nullify his attempted defense's and counters and keep ahead of him as he tries to catch up in the OODA loop.

Realistically, we may need to release and regrab our grips, especially if the mats are not slippery and thus not conducive to easily sliding our clasped hands up and down his body.

He gets an Underhook

We have the bodylock side control with double underhooks we reached after the first pass. Somehow he manages to get an underhook, say with his L arm under our R arm.

We switch to head and arm position (scarf hold / kesa gatame / headlock control). Dave will keep his hands clasped rather than change to more conventional hand controls here. Lift his head off the mat so he cannot bridge.

We turn our head to look towards his feet, bridge up slightly, turn our body toward his feet, walk our feet in the same direction, as we drop our L elbow to the mat near his R hip to occupy the battle zone, reach over and behind his legs and encircle his thighs with our arms as we turn into the tackle pass position, with our head on his L hip and our L shoulder controlling his hip.

While we are turning from kesa gatame, our weight distribution should be such that we are trying to keep him turned slightly to his R side. This both makes the tackle pass setup easier, and also makes it much harder for him to roll us to his left.

Dave is not a fan of kesa Gatame as a long term control - he feels the back is too exposed, especially if the guy has access to a blade with his untapped hand (the one he got the underhook with). I can't argue with this, though I'd like to hear Josh Barnett's opinion as well ;)

Go to SAP (standard armbar position)

We get the double underhooks elbow line side control from the first pass, on his R side.

We move our head from the R side of his head to pinching his L arm between our R arm and R ear. We take our L arm out from under and pass the L hand under his chin and get the L elbow on the ground, our arms encircling and isolating his L arm. We can now drag him up on his R side with our R underhook, and then start hunting for the Kimura position and then move to the standard armbar position (SAP) per Dave's first seminar in 2016.


These moves are as much about concepts and principles than specific technique. We need to constantly adapt to his movements and stay at least one step ahead. Dave reminded us of the Zen of position - not becoming too attached to a position and trying to hold onto it once it becomes compromised. Move on to a more suitable position.

Dave is all about systems. Systems are all about dilemmas for the opponent. Ryan Hall and John Danaher also talk about this on their instructionals.


Similar but different approach here:

Similar ideas from Lachlan Giles:

This is not quite the same thing, but this BJJ Scout video of the Miyao brothers no gi bodylock passing style has some interesting parallels. Interesting ideas about blocking his hip movement.:

Links to Previous Seminars with Dave Camarillo

Until 2019...