BJJ DVD Review: Rafael Lovato JR Guard Mastery

Rafael Lovato JR Guard Mastery DVDs Review:

Short Review: This is a sport gi jiujitsu set. This is not universal for no gi, self defence or MMA. Having said that, it is an excellent one at that. If you are brand new beginner, this set will be overwhelming. I personally think this is a great set for the competition oriented purple or brown belt or even higher but not necessarily the first set to buy as a white / blue belt grappler.

Disc 1: 1hour, 25 minutes

The DVD starts with Rafael explaining how he morphed from a strong guard player to the pressure guard passer, raised under the prodigees Saulo and Xande Ribiero, that we now know him to be. This is a much appreciated segment as viewers get to see a different side of the black belt and not just technique after technique. We get a sneak peak into the mind and the evolutionary journey of this jiujitsuka.

1. Xande Sweep: Xande used this flower sweep to defeat Marcelo Garcia at the 2004 worlds. Rafael does a good job of sharing all the grip-hip-move-timing details that are so vital to jiujitsu.

2. Follow-up: Rafael acknowledges that posting isn't always enough to stop the sweep, but nonetheless shows how to take advantage of the post and shows a very smooth back take and a bonus mount technique. The grip he uses is not NoGi friendly, but adjusting it shouldn't be too difficult. The instruction is, ala Saulo, very detail rich.

3. Arm bar: Building off the opponent's natural reactions to the danger of the back take, Rafael shows how to isolate and lock the opponent's nearside arm. Again, I'm very impressed with Rafael's ability to articulate everything he's doing. Jiujitsu instruction extraordinaire.

4. Pendulum Sweep: 2008 Pan Ams. Rafael Lovato Jr v Roberto Tussa Alencar. If you haven't seen it yet, watch it:


Surviving Bad Positions in grappling / jiujitsu - Seminar at Union BJJ, Manchester

Jiujitsu hands
Having lived in Manchester for over 12 years, I've formed many friendships, a huge majority of which are in the Jiujitsu community. I recently travelled back to Manchester to teach my second seminar at my friend John Dang's gym UNION BJJ near the city centre.

This was a special visit. Not only had this seminar attracted attention from students of the art from multiple local Jiujitsu gyms and academies, it was also the first time I'd visit UNION BJJ's new location. Previously, Union used to be at another, very iconic, city centre location in Manchester: the Van Dang Building. That building had been an unquestionable part of North England martial arts heritage. Not to mention, I trained and taught privates in their for the last 6-7 months before moving from Manchester and got to know the team at UNION BJJ quite well.

Speaking to John before the seminar about its contents, he expressed a strong wish for the focus to be on the topic of Survival. As an avid traveler and visitor of Jiujitsu gyms and academies everywhere I go, this topic is very close to my heart. I cannot guarantee that you will win every match or sparring round, but I can show you mechanical principles that will make you feel far more comfortable than usual while surviving bad positions. Heck, I'd even venture to say, if you drilled this principles properly and enough, positions will cease to be "bad" or "good" they will just be "grappling positions".


Karate? Jiujitsu? It's all sleight-of-hand

My first true love in the martial arts was Karate and while I do dedicate the absolute majority of my training time to jiujitsu, judo and yoga, I will always consider myself a budo-ka: a martial artist first and foremost. Karate will always be a major component of that and my black belt is one of my proudest moments.

All that seriousness apart, I recently found myself sketching traditional Karate hand formations and thinking, in a very un-serious way, about what they could mean in a jiujitsu context. The result was nine nice sketches and a humourous take on an otherwise (too) serious subject.

Nukite: "Stop!"

Nukite is as mysterious as a karate technique as they get. Traditionally, this was meant to be aimed at the oppornent's soft tissue such as the throat or solar plexus. More recent interpretations call for protecting the fragile fingers and shooting us as a sideways palm heel to the jaw instead. 

In modern jiujitsu, however, the most often I've seen this gesture is by a referee stopping the two competitors and then calling them onto the tatame.


Academy Review: Eddie Kone Academy of Jiujitsu HQ

Looking through the archives of my blog I soon realised I'd visited and reviewed many academies both here in the U.K. and abroad, but never really written much about my professor's HQ academy here in north London. I guess it's natural as this is my home-base and the other places are ones I visit,  albeit some more regularly than others, so I assumed they'd be interesting for, well, other academy visitors too.

In retrospect, EKBJJ HQ has over the past few years had its own throng of visitors, ranging from white belts passing through town to 7th degree coral belt master delivering seminars. Either way, a review of the Academy of Jiujitsu was overdue.

The Academy's located on:

First floor, Unit DA4 Sutherland House
43 Sutherland Road  Walthamstow, London
E17 6BU


Have you ever been in love with Jiujitsu?

Anybody who has been in love with jiujitsu will testify to this:

If you haven't seriously contemplated quitting then you haven't really been in love with jiujitsu. 

If you have never put your gi in the bin at least once (before taking it out again, of course!) then you haven't really been in love with jiujitsu. 

If you haven't thought about all the time, money and energy that would be freed up from quitting jiujitsu and all the activities you could do with it then you haven't been in love with jujitsu. 

And unless the only thing stopping you from quitting jiujitsu was having a conversation with someone who doesn't train jiujitsu and picturing your life like them, then you, my friend, have never really been in love with Jiujitsu.

See you all in the new year.


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BJJ / Grappling tips: Passing the half guard: Dealing with the Underhook

The half guard used to be viewed as a position of weakness, especially if strikes are available as a weapon. Partly, the top player is almost past the guard players defenses and partly it allows the top player to lock the bottom player's hips in place and deliver damage.

Naturally, the half guard player has many attacks at their disposal and by becoming a subject matter expert within that narrow field, they can learn to manipulate the top fighter's weight and sweep, submit or take their back. To stop them, we need to first neutralize their most valuable asset: The underhook.

Picture courtesy of grapplearts.com 

The best option to defend the underhook is to have the underhook first. The half guard will not suddenly materialize out of thin air so anticipate your opponent's intentions to steal it and get there first.

If, however, they get there before you, here's a strategy that my professor, Mr Eddie Kone, learnt from his teacher Master Royler Gracie that has given me much success over the years.

and you can see the same technique explained by legendary jiujitsu fighter Sensei Saulo Ribeiro:

Lineage in the Martial Arts is something I am very passionate about, for this simple reason. No man is an island and we are all connected. Use this technique to re-gain the underhook from the half guard top.



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10 Gift Ideas for Gracie / Brazilian jiujitsu Practitioners

Are you looking for jiujitsu gift ideas? 


I’ve put together a list of 10 jiujitsu holiday gift ideas for you.


BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to pull guard in competition

While most fights go to the ground (self defence, MMA and / sportive grappling with or without the gi), they all start standing. Pulling guard at jiujitsu competitions is the subject of many jokes of meme. Some are even funny:

Fact of the matter remains that you will spend the majority of your grappling career (BJJ, nogi submission wrestling, MMA and to some extent even Judo and Sambo) either using the guard position and all its variations (Open, Close, De La Riva, Half, Spider, Galaxy, Ping Pong...etc.) to attack your opponent or trying to deal with and pass your opponents' guard.

The guard is NOT an artificial position created by one or two fighters to gain the element of surprise but rather a naturally occurring  geometry of two bodies:


BJJ Gi review: Flow Kimonos Pro Series

Flow Kimonos is an innovative Jiujitsu gi manufacturer based out of Chicago, USA. Their slick, clean and well marketed products caught my eye on https://www.instagram.com/flowkimonos/. The management behind the company is very friendly and their product is of a high quality with some nice and unique ideas. They sent me the Pro Model to road test.


Why is Gracie Jiujitsu appropriate as a Self Defence Art?

Please watch this short demonstration of the Gracie Jiujitsu self defence curriculum and competition sparring by masters Rickson & Royler Gracie. 

I recently found myself on the train to my professor Eddie Kone's HQ academy to teach the Wednesday introduction and advanced classes. As always, the focus and centre of all the sessions at EKBJJ is Gracie Jiujitsu as a complete art of self defence and my reading companion for the train journey today is: Brazilian Jiujitsu Self Defence Techniques by Royce Gracie, Charles Gracie and Kid Peligro. 

If you're not familiar with the book, I highly recommend it as a 103 position / technique encyclopaedic overview of how the Gracie Family approach self-defence but before you get to these positions, there's a 17page introduction that is already worth the price of the book. The technical portion of the book deals with the how (and to a certain extent, the when) but that intro delves nicely into the why and why not. We're given a brief historical overview of Jiujitsu in Brazil but also two articles that, unfortunately, many academies I've visited around the world ignore. I'll share here a couple of bits out of each that I feel sum them well:

What is it about Brazilian jiu-jitsu that makes it so effective as a self defence system? 

We can break the answer into four main points:

1) it is designed to work even when you are surprised and in a poor position 
2) it is designed by small people to defeat larger ones 
3) it allows you to develop instantaneous reactions by practicing in extremely lifelike exercises and 
4) it provides you with a range of severity in dealing with your attacker

Now I invite you to rewatch this clip and ask yourself:

1) could those techniques have worked even when you are surprised and in a poor position?
2) would those techniques have allowed a small person to defeat a larger aggressor?
3) would it be possible to create extremely lifelike exercises and drills for these scenarios that'd facilitate instantaneous reactions? 
4) did you witness a range of severity in dealing with your attacker?

Training Guidelines:

Class structure: this is something I have quizzes every son or grandson of Grandmaster Helio's that I've met: If someone is on a tight schedule and can only make a one hour session 2-3 times a week, how should the professor structure their session?

Every single one agreed on one thing: Technique drilling and repetition and positional training / sparring is far more important, and therefore should hold the lion-share of a lesson, than free sparring. Check this excellent study by Gracie Jiujitsu black belt Mr Josh Vogel of positional sparring.

Study the art. Don't just train aimlessly and hope for the best.



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BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to leglock like Garry Tonon

Leg locks of all variety are gaining a huge momentum in both Brazilian jiujitsu, MMA and of course Submission Grappling. There are many different ways to attacks the joints of the leg such as straight foot locks, heel hooks, figure - 4 footlocks, knee bars...etc. But how can we learn to leglock like a champion of Garry Tonon? Well you need to know how to set up the leg lock from a variety of positions. In this video we see the standard basic entry to the straight foot lock from the open guard by Professor Ryron Gracie, head instructor at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California:

What is often missed when entering the foot lock (and the guillotine, as Garry explains below) is the invisible details during the transitions. These are the details that will win or lose the leg lock battle:


BJJ / Grappling Tips: Escape Side Control

Thursday sessions at Eddie Kone Academy of jiujitsu focus on NoGi training and Striking For MMA. It is not unlikely to walk onto the mat and see the main class to be run by an experienced coach while Eddie is on the side taking a student through their paces on the pads or through grappling drills. I remember recently walking in and seeing the grappling coach taking a class thru side control escapes / guard recovery and he was doing a great job emphasizing the importance of creating space by constantly establishing frames and moving away from them. As I turned to my left I saw Eddie and one of his higher blue belts drilling and discussing the finer details of leg locks, laying a clear focus on staying tight on the opponent thru-out the series of movements.

It was a beautiful moment. The contrast couldn’t have been clearer between the two sides of the same coin and I’m positive neither party was aware of what the other was doing. Fantastic BJJ / Grappling Coach Roy Harris once said that when you are attacking, space is your enemy. You want to be on your opponent like a wet towel on a basketball. When you are escaping, however, space is your best buddy.

I’d like to add that when in transitions (whether between positions, attacks, postures, escapes…etc.) then space becomes a more complex question! Tightness alone just isn't enough and too much space is definitely not the answer. What you need is a state of negotiation.

Think about it. There is a moment when you are passing the guard when you definitely need to create space and that is usually followed by one where you need to eliminate all possible space to secure the new, more superior position you have negotiated for yourself.

Also, there is a moment after you have broken someone’s posture down in your guard and eliminated space where you need to actually give them a little bit of space to correctly affect the palm-up palm-down choke or spinning armbar. That’s where sensitivity can overcome strength. That’s where the magic happens in BJJ.

How do I get there? Through relaxation and thousands of repetitions against a variety of levels of resistance. You need to dare eliminate the space but also dare negotiate some back to be able to move in the most optimal way.



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