Monday, March 19, 2018

IBJJF Referees rules meeting/course 2 April 2016 - 25 March 2017 - updated 17 Mar 2018

Updates made at the rules meeting on 17th March 2018 are in bold. The notes here are not designed to replace the rule book. I only note issues which I feel were discussed or explained at a level of detail not available from the rule book.

The leader for the meeting in 2016/2017 was named Gabriel. In 2018 it was run by Eduardo. In 2018, a test was given after the discussion, consisting of twenty multiple choice questions. As far as I know no one failed and everyone attending got a certificate.

Eduardo stated that there are scheduled to be changes to the rules after the 2018 IBJJF worlds. He was not at liberty to discuss them, but did say that changes around half guard were likely.

Referee Duties: General

The referee and athletes should not speak unless the referee is issuing one of the four verbal commands (COMBATE, PAROU, LUTE, FALTA) or for the athlete to communicate a medical issue or problem with his uniform. We do not wish to "break the wall". You do not have to ask or require the athletes to bow, shake hands, fist bump, etc. My coach Anthony Lange recommended to me a long time ago that if one athlete wants to shake your hand or bows to you, you should return the favour and then treat the other athlete exactly the same, to avoid any impression of favouritism.

If both athletes stand after a LUTE or FALTA command where the rules do not require it, call PAROU so that one does not get an unfair drop on the other. then COMBATE. You can do this in a number of situations, including reorienting the athletes if they look to be on their way out of bounds.

Positions are expected to be achieved in ascending order of dominance (and points). Thus voluntarily moving from mount to kneeride will not attract the 2 points for kneeride. If the opponent escapes mount to some sort of scramble and then is put back in kneeride, then the 2 points should be applied.

Similarly, no additional points should be awarded from voluntarily switching in kneeride from one side to the other, as no positional advantage has been achieved. Were the athlete to have kneeride on one side, the opponent push him off into a scramble from which he then regains kneeride on either side, he would then be entitled to the extra two kneeride points after 3 seconds of stabilisation, as he has had had to claw back the positional advantage.

The referee is expected to consider the age and rank of the athletes when considering whether to stop the fight because of possible or actual injury. A straight arm in an armbar might be enough to stop a kids' or adult white belt match, while an adult brown or black belt would be expected to know when to tap to avoid injury in any circumstance.

You can attempt to warn kids if they look to be about to do something illegal, but if they ignore the warning then you must disqualify them. DQ'ing a kid is something we want to avoid if possible.

Adults are expected to know the rules. We are not coaches, we are referees.

If an athlete appears to have suffered an injury but does not withdraw or verbally submit, you should stop the match at an appropriate point and ask the medical staff to decide whether or not the competitor is fit to continue. It is not our decision to make. We are not doctors, we are referees. IIRC Jacare won the Worlds or similar one year with an obviously broken arm.

If an athlete is bleeding while applying or in a submission hold so that the match needs to be stopped for the bleeding to be attended to, 2 points should be awarded to the submitter and the match restarted if/when the bleeding has been dealt with. Separate bleeding injuries are each entitled to two attempts by the medics to stop the bleeding.

The rule book says that the athletes should not communicate with the referee unless reporting a medical issue or a problem with their uniform, but we should use common sense for other situations. For example, if one of the athletes notices the scoreboard is not working or the clock not started, and reports it, that is a benefit to the competition and a penalty would be inappropriate.

If a competitor vomits (or has similar problems) during a match, he is deemed to have lost the match. If the competitor submits his opponent, or the time limit expires, and then he vomits, that has no bearing on the result. The match was over. If he got the submission or points, or the ref chose him if points were tied, his spewing is of no consequence to the result.

If the match finishes and one of the competitors runs off the mat to vomit in a more acceptable place like in a trashcan or on his towel, etc., it would be inappropriate for him to be penalised for exiting the match area before the result is announced. He is trying to assist the competition. be sensible. (I had a kid vomit on the mat once after winning a match, after I had raised his hand. He couldn't help it, but cleaning it up under time pressure wasn't easy. It would have been much better if he had managed to exit the mat first. As I say, not his fault.)

In the event of the scores being tied and both athletes showing similar levels of action and aggression, variance the number of submission attempts was recommended as a tiebreaker. Ultimately, though, the decision is that of the referee alone.

Referee Duties: Keep athletes within the match area

The takedown must start on blue (inside the match area). If the athlete starts with both feet on blue and takes it out to yellow (safety area), and stabilises in the safety area, the athlete can get the points. Then, PAROU, move them back onto blue, same position.

The athlete may start on blue, go out on yellow during the takedown and finish on blue. No need to stop or move them then.

If the opponent flees the match area to avoid a takedown or sweep: PAROU (stop the match), bring them back to the centre, apply a penalty to the one running away, and give 2 points to the athlete performing the takedown or sweep. Restart standing.

In the above case, if it is the second or third penalty recorded against the infractor, only the two points will be given to the opponent, not the additional advantage (for second penalty) or additional two points (for the third penalty). The penalty will be recorded against the infractor as any other.

A single leg takedown attempt where the opponent is forced out of the match area earns an advantage for the athlete attempting the takedown, no matter whether this was done accidentally or intentionally by either athlete. We were told this rule is likely to be changed.

Four situations where the action exits the match area while athlete 1 has athlete 2 caught in a submission:
  1. Athlete 2 deliberately exits the match area to avoid submitting to a legal hold - athlete 2 DQed.
  2. The athletes go out of bounds because athlete 2's movements are a legitimate defence to the submission - athlete 1 awarded 2 points, restart standing.
  3. Athlete 1 deliberately exits the match area in a attempt to get the 2 points - penalty to athlete 1, restart standing.
  4. The athletes go out of bounds accidentally - possible advantage to athlete 1, restart standing.

(I'd say case 2 would be more common than case 4).


The takedown must start on blue (inside the match area). If the athlete starts with both feet on blue and takes it out to yellow (safety area), and stabilises in the safety area, the athlete can get the points. Then, PAROU, move them back onto blue, same position.

The athlete may start on blue, go out on yellow during the takedown and finish on blue. No need to stop or move them then.

Takedowns that start from the knees in a continuous movement will not be awarded points. The takedown must start from a standing position. The opponent must be in a position to be taken down for takedown points to be awarded, i.e. at least one of his feet must be on the ground.

Pulling someone on top of you is not a takedown.

Takedowns are valid if the opponent is on one or both knees, provided you start from the feet.

If the opponent flees the match area to avoid a takedown or sweep: PAROU (stop the match), bring them back to the centre, apply a penalty to the one running away, and give 2 points to the athlete performing the takedown or sweep. Restart standing.

In the above case, if it is the second or third penalty recorded against the infractor, only the two points will be given to the opponent, not the additional advantage (for second penalty) or additional two points (for the third penalty). The penalty will be recorded against the infractor as any other.

A single leg takedown attempt where the opponent is forced out of the match area earns an advantage for the athlete attempting the takedown, no matter whether this was done accidentally or intentionally by either athlete. We were told this rule is likely to be changed.

On a takedown or sweep where the opponent ends up on his knees, a full back clinch is not necessary, but you must keep control with at least one knee on the mat, and be behind the line of the opponent's shoulders to get the points.

If the opponent goes to his knees or turtle of his own volition, this will not be regarded as a takedown. The athlete must force the opponent down himself to be awarded the takedown points.

If athlete 1 takes athlete 2 down and athlete 2 immediately performs a counter takedown, athlete 1 gets no points, athlete 2 gets 2 points for the counter takedown if he can stabilise for 3 seconds.

If athlete 1 takes athlete 2 down landing in guard or half guard and athlete 2 immediately sweeps athlete 1, athlete 1 will get an advantage for the takedown and athlete 2 will get two points for the sweep, if he can stabilise for 3 seconds.

If athlete 1 takes athlete 2 down landing in side control (or front control, mount, kneeride?) and athlete 2 rolls athlete 1 to attain the top position, athlete 1 will get an advantage for the takedown and athlete 2 will receive nether points nor and advantage.

A takedown landing in top half guard and stabilised for three seconds will receive 2 points for the takedown plus an advantage for the half guard.

Guard Passing

If an athlete attempts to pull guard, messes it up and the opponent makes some sort of passing move to a stabilised position, the opponent can earn 3 points for a guard pass.

The athlete must be presented with some sort of guard to pass, and the opponent have a chance to sweep, to be awarded guard pass points.

A guard pass should finish with the opponent on his back, in side control, front control, kneeride or mount. The double underhook flip to put the guy on his knees is not regarded as a passing attempt. If an athlete in his opponent's guard gets double underhooks under the legs and flips the opponent straight back in the air onto his knees, this does NOT constitute a guard pass. Neither 3 points nor an advantage should be awarded.

The advantage for the opponent going to his knees is given only when the opponent is forced to go to his knees to prevent his guard being passed. An advantage should not be given if the opponent goes to his knees when no passing pressure is applied.

A guard pass that ends up in a kneeride on the opponent's back will be awarded the 3 points  for the pass (plus 2 for kneeride?), provided the opponent is stabilised for the required 3 seconds.

A guard pass that ends up in reverse kneeride (facing the legs) or reverse mount and held for 3 seconds will accrue the 3 points for a guard pass. There will of course be no additional kneeride or mount points.

If an athlete has a lasso guard in place, but the opponent passes the guard to kneeride and stabilises it, the guard pass and kneeride points should be awarded. The lasso in its own does not constitute a guard.

If the the athlete has a spider guard foot on the bicep and keeps his leg extended and keeps the opponent away from him, and the opponent gets to kneeride but does not remove the foot on bicep, this is NOT treated as a guard pass or kneeride. If the athlete has a foot on the bicep but allows the leg to bend and the opponent to come to side control with chest contact, this WILL be treated as a guard pass and the 3 points awarded after 3 seconds of stabilisation.

Knee on Belly (Kneeride)

A guard pass that ends up in a kneeride on the opponent's back will be awarded the 3 points  for the pass (plus 2 for kneeride?), provided the opponent is stabilised for the required 3 seconds.

Mount and Back Mount

Mount, back mount, and back control (with hooks) are all separate positions, and achieving each from any of the others with a 3 second control will incur an additional four points.

If you have back mount held for 3 seconds and got 4 points, and the opponent then gets to his knees and you get back control from there with both hooks in and can hold for three seconds, you will get an additional 4 points for the back control.

If you get sidemount, the opponent on his side, first up, this is counted as a mount after 3 seconds. If he goes belly down or face up from there, do not treat that as an additional mount. If he then goes from face down to face up, or face up to face down, and you hold that mount or back mount for 3 seconds, that is an additional 4 points.

If he goes from underneath mount to sidemount, then back to mount, treat it as only one mount.

Stepping the foot over from side control and immediately pulling the opponent into back control does not constitute a sidemount or a mount.

If the bottom athlete has one arm under a leg in mount, but the opponent's knee is above his shoulder - this can be an advantage. WAIT to see if he gets his leg down below the shoulder for the points before giving the advantage. Similarly if the opponent has both arms under the legs (advantage) but there is a possibility of the top guy getting one leg back under for the 4 points.

No points for a mounted triangle, you must unlock the legs and get to a proper mount for points, or close to for an advantage. A mounted triangle will probably deserve a submission attempt advantage in any case.

Sitting on the opponents' chest with both legs out straight above his head is not a mount. No points or advantages.

Back Control

Mount, back mount, and back control (with hooks) are all separate positions, and achieving each from any of the others with a 3 second control will incur an additional four points.

If you have back mount held for 3 seconds and got 4 points, and the opponent then gets to his knees and you get back control from there with both hooks in and can hold for three seconds, you will get an additional 4 points for the back control.

Removing and then replacing hooks in back control does not accrue additional points or advantages.

A sweep which ends up on top of the kneeling opponent's back with both hooks in could be treated as a sweep followed by back control (2 + 4 points).

A sweep or arm drag which ends up on top on the opponent's back with one hook in could be treated as a sweep (2 points) plus an advantage for the incomplete back control (wait to see if he gets the second hook in for 4 points before awarding the advantage!)


A sweep which ends up on top of the kneeling opponent's back with both hooks in could be treated as a sweep followed by back control (2 + 4 points).

A sweep or arm drag which ends up on top on the opponent's back with one hook in could be treated as a sweep (2 points) plus an advantage for the incomplete back control (wait to see if he gets the second hook in for 4 points before awarding the advantage!)

To get an advantage for a sweep, you must get on top for a moment at least. If you looked at it frame by frame as in a video, there must be a frame where you are on top to get the advantage. Knocking him over but remaining seated is insufficient.


You never EARN or ACHIEVE an advantage. Advantages are for point scoring moves or submission attempts that fail and/or are incomplete. Getting to half guard with 3 seconds of control is the only exception.

Advantages given for failed submission attempts should only be applied when in your judgement the sub is taken close to its limit, but there is no tap and the opponent escapes, or similar.

Facial expressions are not a yardstick for how close the submission comes to the limit. Whether or not the opponent defends the submission attempt is not a consideration.

Multiple different submission attempts within the same position could incur multiple advantages if they place the opponent in real danger. You could try a bow and arrow choke, then switch to a RNC, then an armbar from back control and incur an advantage for each. Similarly for armbar, figure 4 and wristlock while the  opponent is caught in your triangle.

Do not award advantages until there is NO chance of the athlete achieving the position, pass, sweep, etc. If an athlete gets a hook in in back control, he is entitled to an advantage. But do not award it yet! He may still get the other hook in eventually and then earn the points. The example was given where a guy got a hook in from the back, switched off and performed a twister roll, and then got proper back control with both hooks. That should be 4 points. No advantage should have been given for the initial hook, as it was treated as only the prelude to the full back take. Mistakes here might be understandable.

Getting top position when the opponent gets deep half guard, reverse half guard or Z guard will not be awarded an advantage. It should be chest to chest control or half mount with both knees free and on the mat to gain an advantage.  An incomplete knee slice pass is insufficient. Who has control? Is the criterion.

If an athlete pulls regular half guard and the opponent stabilises in the top position, the opponent is entitled to an advantage.

If one gets an advantage for half guard on one side and after a scramble, etc., ends up in half guard on the other side and stabilises, a second advantage should be awarded.

Fouls and Penalties

The Baratoplata can be performed as like either a kimura (legal at all levels) or as a bicep crush (legal only at brown and black belt).


The (Victor) Estima footlock can be performed as either a straight ankle lock (legal for 16-17 years and all adults) or a toe hold (legal only at brown and black belt).

Estima lock

(In both cases, telling them apart can be difficult and possibly contentious)

One can be awarded cumulative points for successive point scoring moves ending in a stabilised position, e.g. guard pass to mount gets 7 points. They are also entitled to cumulative advantages if the final position is not held for the full 3 seconds - 2 advantages in that example.

If an athlete's gi is rendered unusable, give him a time limit, say 5 minutes, but give him more time if he is actively trying to find a replacement gi. We do not want to DQ an athlete who is sincerely trying to find a replacement gi.

For illegal grips - the action should be stopped, the perpetrator penalised, and the athletes restarted in the position that occurred before the illegal grip was applied. If the illegal grip resulted in a sweep before the action was stopped, the sweep should be disallowed and the action restarted in the position that occurred before the sweep. The illegal grip should not be replaced by a legal grip. You should restart without the grip in place. To do otherwise would give the infractor an unfair advantage - he may have just managed to get that illegal grip, and to give him a legal one will put him in a better position, unfairly.

If an athlete is caught in a submission hold and uses an illegal grip to release himself from the submission hold. the athlete must be DQ'ed. We cannot restart a match with an athlete caught in a submission, so the DQ is the only option.

Stepping on the inside of the skirt of the opponent's gi is treated as passing a limb inside the gi, and incurs a penalty. Similarly, stepping inside the collar behind the opponent's neck to hold him down on the mat is illegal and incurs a penalty.

Any grip on the opponent's uniform or your own uniform in nogi matches is illegal and incurs a penalty.

20 seconds are allowed for an athlete to retie a belt, 20 + 20 seconds if they are also wearing the green and yellow belt and need to retie both belts.

An athlete deliberately turning toward the other leg while applying a straight footlock should be DQed, as this is illegal. However, if the other athlete initiates the turn while attempting to escape, that is fine. There may be point where such a move could be regarded as a deliberate attempt to put the footlocker in an illegal position, which would result in the person being footlocked getting DQed. If the guy is already on his side when you apply the footlock to the top leg that is OK. Only rolling when the footlock is already in place is contentious.

Knee reaping

Knee reaping - if neither athlete has a submission in place, the DQ should not occur unless the foot passes across the outside line of the body - they should still receive a penalty if the foot crosses the body's midline and have their position reset.

Knee reaping - if either athlete has a submission in place, crossing the foot over the midline of the body results in disqualification for the perpetrator. This applies to both the athlete applying the submission and the athlete caught in it. A match can never be restarted with an athlete caught in a submission, so we cannot move the offending foot to a legal position and restart. Thus a DQ is the only option.

Knee reaping - You should stop the fight (PAROU), apply the penalty, return the foot to the position it was the moment before the reap, and then restart the fight (COMBATE).

Knee reaping - always try to stop at a penalty stage before a DQ position is reached. If they have a submission in place, this will not be possible, and the immediate DQ applies once the foot crosses the midline, or the foot gets stuck.

Before the 2017 seminar, I thought knee reaping was a lot more cut and dried than I do now. I had thought that any movement with the legs towards inside ashi garami or the saddle / 411 / honey hole would be an automatic DQ. But such positions are fine provided that the lower part of the "reaped" leg is not stuck between armpit and hip. If it is above the shoulder line or the arm, or the foot is free or held in front of the chest, there is no reap.

Legbars and toeholds from the saddle on the near leg would be legal as well, provided the near leg does not get caught between your hip and shoulder. If you legbar from here and shove the foot under your armpit, that may be a DQ if the knees stays reaped and the foot is then trapped between shoulder and hip.

Following this logic, the Texas Cloverleaf from the saddle, and Danaher's "Double Trouble" control from the saddle where the far leg is overhooked but not the near, could be legal. Unless you regard it as being trapped there by the other leg, or temporarily trapped during the transition. Not 100% sure about this.

Texas Cloverleaf AKA American Knot. I had the Saddle/411 on March's left leg, but his left foot was never trapped between my shoulder and hip, unless you regard it as being trapped there by his other leg. I had trapped his right leg there by overhooking it with my left arm, but that is not illegal. Legal hold at brown/black belt level? Wouldn't bank on every ref recognising that in the heat of battle.

The rabbit hole here runs pretty deep. Any notion that you don't need to know all the cool leglocks because they are IBJJF-illegal doesn't stack up. If anything, you have to understand them better than you might otherwise to be able to adjudicate about them correctly.

Stephan Kesting and Rob Berniacki go through IBJJF legal leglocks. Still some grey areas here

Penalty for a hand or foot on the face - face is regarded as area containing eyes, nose and mouth. There should be no penalty for such contact with the chin, forehead, of side of the head.

White belts - kids and adults - are not permitted to jump to closed guard. Flying armbars and triangles are also considered as jumping closed guard and are similarly proscribed for white belts. All coloured belts, both kids and adults, are allowed to jump closed guard with no penalty.

Upon applying the fourth penalty to an athlete, do not bother applying the penalty, just PAROU and signal the disqualification - unless there are three referees.

If one of the penalties was for exiting the match area to avoid a takedown or sweep, incurring a penalty and two points to the opponent, this is treated as part of the standard ascending hierarchy of penalties. In thar particular case, the additional advantage or 2 points to the non-infractor for the second and third penalties would not be awarded.

An example:

First penalty, for an illegal grip - penalty only.

Second penalty, for exiting the match area to avoid a takedown - for other serious fouls, this would incur a penalty and advantage to the opponent. But this specific foul incurs a penalty and two points (no additional advantage).

Third penalty - stalling - the usual step in the hierarchy, penalty and two points to the opponent.

Fourth penalty - disqualification. You could signal a fourth penalty before the DQ, but it is redundant.

Stalling is not considered when the athlete is in a correct scoring mount, back mount, or back control. However, if from back control with hooks in, then moves to a body triangle or crosses their feet or another non-scoring back control position, and stalls (no attacks) from those positions for 20 seconds, they can be penalised for stalling.

An athlete should not be penalised for stalling while caught in a submission hold.

Do not set the timer on your watch or similar to start the 20 second count for stalling. The staller or their coach may notice this and use it to their advantage.

A "double guard pull" does not occur unless both athletes pull guard simultaneously. If they pull guard simultaneously, whoever gets top position first will get an advantage.

If athlete A pulls guard, then athlete B pulls guard as well in response, this is not a double guard pull. In this situation, were athlete A to come on top and stabilise, he would be awarded 2 points for a sweep. Were athlete B to come on top, he would get neither points nor an advantage.

If there is a double guard pull, and one athlete stands up and then sits back down, the double guard pull and the associated 20 second period no longer apply. The example discussed at the course were if one athlete stood up to apply a footlock on the other.

If both remain sitting after a double guard pull while a footlock is being applied, and the opponent eventually escapes the footlock but both remain sitting for the full 20 seconds, the standup and penalty to both will then apply. An advantage may be given for the footlock submission attempt.

2017 group - some significant Jiu Jitsu talent here

2018 Certificate - Yes, that's 10 out of 10 for the test :)

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 - Les and Rugby League Week

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.