BJJ Tips: How to get a blue belt in BJJ

In order to get a blue belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, you need to show your instructor that you have embraced the fight ideology of jiujitsu (close the distance, take down / pull guard, climb the positional hierarchy, finish the fight) and demonstrate that ideology by leaving your strength and speed at the door and embodying the fundamentals and basics of jiujitsu.

Fundamentals of Jiujitsu:

The fundamentals are, in my opinion, not jiujitsu techniques per se but rather the solo movements that build jiujitsu and, consequently, all healthy movement. These movements are performed in a very similar fashion by all jiujitsu practitioners and other grapplers irrespective of belt and level.

Bridging (3 variations)
Shrimping (3 variations)
Getting to your knees from lying flat on your back (2 variations)
Rolling over your shoulder (3 variations)
Pivoting over your knee
Hip switching / Box drill
Standing up from lying flat on your back (Technical Stand-up)
Generating momentum on your feet (6 directions)
Generating momentum on the ground (2 variations)

While two jiujitsu black belts may show you two slightly different methods to perform an arm lock from guard or  how to set up the triangle choke from side control top, 99% of grapplers and jiujitsu practitioners will perform the above fundamentals the same way. This, to me, is the true heart of jiujitsu. Not the medals, not the self defence, but learning how to move correctly.

Basics of Jiujitsu:

The basics are what we recognize more as jiujitsu and or grappling techniques.

Since jiujitsu can be seen to include 1000s of techniques, how do we decide what makes the cut for this list of basics? I use the following principles:


BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to escape the side control position and not fearing the learning curve

Something happened yesterday that reminded me of a BJJ session on side control escape I once had as an early blue belt. We were talking about how incorporating a new technique or concept correctly into one's A-game in jiujitsu takes about 6 months of progressive drilling and sparring.
The fundamentals of side control escapes are:

  1. Recover forearm posture
  2. Get on one side
  3. Strong back foot
  4. Shrimp to create space
  5. Pull guard / Underhook to the knees / Back-and-forth

My partner for the side control drills that day was a strong blue belt with a solid judo background. The only problem was: he didn't want to go side control and just played from scarf hold which, naturally, has different escapes.

After a few goes, I told him that his scarf hold was very solid indeed but we should probably focus on the Side Control drill like everyone else. He gladly obliged.

I was applying all the techniques taught and escaping very regularly. Soon he was getting pretty frustrated and at one point said laughingly: "Liam you're showing me up."

No I'm not, I thought to myself. I'm showing that the techniques work.

When I got on top he couldn't escape. Not even once, even though I was going no more than 20%. Not because My side control is inescapable! But rather because of two things:


Invisible jiujitsu: Rickson and Helio Gracie student Pedro Sauer shares secrets of Invisible jiujitsu

With the creation of the new Jiu-jitsu Global Federation under Master Rickson Gracie, everyone is talking about Gracie Jiujitsu. One of the elements at the heart of jiujitsu instruction is the "feel" of the move and the "weight distribution".

I recently had a 2 hour telephone conversation with my instructor Eddie Kone, Gracie Jiujitsu black belt under Royler Gracie, about when he was training at Gracie Humaita and Grandmaster Helio would walk in and part with his wisdom on how best to increase the leverage in techniques and how the difference was never some large, visible move but always a practically invisible detail that you had to feel and experience to appreciate.

"People look, but they don't see. They listen but don't hear!" Eddie Kone

Here's a brilliant example. 8th degree coral belt in Gracie Jiujitsu Pedro Sauer shows what invisible jiujitsu is all about from a couple of positions:


BJ Penn: Jiujitsu and MMA phenom

Photo borrowed from RVCA

BJ Penn. I say it again. BJ Penn.

A legend in MMA and BJJ retired recently from the UFC octagon. The first time I saw a live UFC event was a few years back up in Newcastle where BJ Penn destroyed Joe Stevenson with superior body positioning and strikes. 

BJ Penn's emotional retirement speech:


Helio Gracie Guillotine Choke Details

I love reading on flights and train journeys and Gracie jiujitsu literature is my favourite choice. Recently, I've been indulging in my friend Martyn's copy of "Gracie Jiujitsu" by the founder grand master Helio Gracie himself. I've come to love the simplicity of Helio's vision of what Gracie jiujitsu should be: multiple problems - few useful solutions executed with attention to detail and perfect timing. You can read my article about large padlocks and small keys here.

On a recent journey, I happened upon this picture of Helio guillotine choking his eldest son grand master Rorion Gracie. The technique is executed as a defence against a rush attack aimed to tackle the jiujitsu expert. Much like anything you will learn from Helio, Rorion or indeed Rener or Ryron, the nature of the technique itself is very fundamental and basic: Sprawl. Wrap the neck. Squeeze. Job done. No fancy sweeps and hardly any grips or grip-changes necessary.

What you do get, however, is exact details of how and when to sprawl, wrap the neck and squeeze. In fact, "how" and "when" are huge understatements. Look at the picture and read the caption below it:

Do you see anything different to the usual instruction to the guillotine choke?


How a small key can open a large padlock: Jiujitsu solutions are often smaller than you think!

I was unlocking the gym where I teach NoGi grappling last Tuesday and noticed this: this huge, hefty padlock that was blocking me from entering the room didn't necessarily need the biggest key to open it and allow me in. I'll say that again: the size of the obstacle did not necessarily reflect the size of the solution or even the effort needed to solve it.

 For those who know jiujitsu, the above is the definition of leverage. I once told John B Will that levers are multipliers of effect and he loved it so much he put it in one of his fantastic articles on his blog. A very proud moment for yours truly.

 I strongly believe in that. The right solution at the right time at the right angle can unravel the biggest and, seemingly, most insurmountable challenge. This is why I fell in live with Judo and Gracie Jiujitsu.


Local Karateka gets a taste of the skill of a Royce Gracie Jiujitsu Blue Belt

I've visited Royce Gracie Lancashire, aka Força Combat Academy a couple of times, taught there and trained with their head instructor my good friend Ross a bunch of times. Over this time, I've come to know and really like the team there so when Ross told there had been a "situation" with one of the Jiujitsu students, John, I had to do a piece! The altercation was of a friendlier nature than good ol' Gracie challenges, but there was still some foul play and dirty tricks. Read below to see for yourself how Royce Gracie Jiujitsu did. 

Does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu work in real life self defence?

Hi John. How long have you practiced jiu jitsu?

I've trained Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu for two years at Força Combat Academy. I received my blue belt from Royce Gracie a few weeks back.  

Cool. I believe you've recently been involved in an incident. Tell us in your own words what happened.

I went for a workout at the gym (ed. note: this is a separate leisure centre and not Força) and on the way out noticed a small number of guys getting changed into Gis, one was a purple belt and one was a two stripe brown belt along with a couple of guys with them who must have been starting. Interested to see what martial art they were doing I decided to watch them for a while with my brother, who also trains Gracie Jiujitsu. I asked the Brown belt what martial art it was and he told me it was Shotokan Karate, he then explained that they would do some body conditioning (which turned out to be him battering the other students with different strikes), some techniques (calling them everything when they got it wrong, such an inspirational instructor...) and then some "ground fighting". To which I said "can I watch?". I watched for a while all of their different techniques and then came the ground-fighting. 


BJJ / Grappling Tips: RNC - Variations on the Rear Naked Choke

The best submission in Brazilian / Gracie jiujitsu, Nogi grappling or MMA is the rear naked choke or Mata Leão (translates to the lion killer). Done well, it is close to impossible to defend or esacpe it. I'm lucky enough to have been taught the details of how to set it up, secure it and finish it by no less than the great Rickson Gracie.

Watching intently as Master Rickson Gracie explains
 the finer points of the Rear Naked Choke on my friend and
 instructor Professor David Onuma.

Some of the best instructionals out there is Stephan Kesting's tutorial below. I've also found a couple of really handy additional tips from both him and Robert Drysdale. I hope you benefit from them.

Stephan Kesting I:


BJJ / Grappling tips: How to prevent the guard pass and improve your triangle choke

Are people passing whenever you attempt to triangle choke them?
Not cool. The triangle choke is an iconic attack within grappling arts and if it didn't work unless you had long skinny legs, it would never had become a part of judo, a martial art and sport created by the Japanese.

It's all about creating the right angles and applying the pressure at the right time.

Here are a few details I've encountered over the years from the great Renzo Gracie and his nephew Ralek Gracie. I love these details as they allow me with my stocky legs to finish the triangle choke on big, muscly opponents I'm likely to find in my weight category.

Create a straight arm frame against your knee:

Renzo Gracie:

Dominate the arms within the triangle choke and shoulder walk:

Ralek Gracie:




BJJ Interview: Submission Fight Co Founder Mr Shakib Nassiri

Shakib Nassiri (2nd from left) with the team helping prepare
 Eddie Bravo for Metamoris III at
Jean Jacques Machado's Tarzana BJJ HQ
Recently, I published the review of the Sensation (previously Hemp Sensation) gi by Submission Fight Co. If you missed the review, you can find it here. That review has proven very popular so here's a Part Time Grappler Interview with the owner of the brand Mr Shakib Nassiri where he discusses some of the controversy around the gi, but also gives some great advice to all us other part time grapplers on how to balance life, training and everything else.

- Hello. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little about yourself?

My name is Shakib Nassiri and I am a bjj purple belt under Jean Jacques Machado. I am also the president of Submission Fight Co.


- Are you currently working? Is that Full time / Part time?

Yes, I am currently working full time at Submission Fight Co. with 1 part time employee, Chase Gould.


- You also set aside time to practice a sport. Which sport(s)?

I was on lots of sport teams as a kid but when I took up Jiu Jitsu a few years ago, it took over my life and have only been training BJJ ever since.