First contact

The Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the elder once said “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy”  This is often no less true in martial arts than it is in war. We’ve heard Iron Mike Tyson explain how everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and a grappler will tell you that strategy is something you have before somebody grabs your neck.

In any conflict, the major concern of any involved party is the development of a plan that is capable of surviving first contact. Robust strategies not only increase our chance of success, but also allow us to anticipate obstacles both seen and unseen.  Continue reading “First contact”


Be willing to kill your darlings

William Faulkner once said “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” In writing, it’s often considered an important part of the writing method. The idea is that you need to be willing to cull all of the overly-dressed and precious things that you are attached to because it removes you from your sense of objectivity.

Essentially, this is just simple critical thinking and it applies far more broadly than just to writing, martial art practice or study.  Continue reading “Be willing to kill your darlings”

Technique is not the most important thing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

If I said that technique wasn’t the most important thing in BJJ, I imagine many would stretch their fingers before beginning to furiously type a scathing response to such a heretical statement. But bear with me for a second…

Technique is second only to self belief. You can be an encyclopedia of technical knowledge, but if you don’t have the confidence or belief in yourself to pull it off, that knowledge is useless.

I’ve seen technically knowledgeable team mates flounder against less technically sound opponents many times; logically this should not happen, yet it does…Why? Belief in our ability to apply technique is a major factor in this. Confidence in our abilities translates to success in execution. There is no substitute to that equation.

Having the confidence to pull off a technique is often more of an influence than our knowledge of the technique itself. I don’t always have to have a complete understanding of the nuances of a particular guard pass to get it to work, sometimes my trust in my ability to pull off the technique at the right time will lead to a successful execution rather than overthinking the entire thing and not acting at all.

All of the best coaches I’ve worked with over the years have always helped to foster self belief in their students. Despite often imparting great technical advice, the best coaches seem to have a knack for also building a student’s confidence and belief in themselves. The best athletes are always built upon a strong foundation of self belief. For many it’s a learned internal narrative and it takes constant self reflection and objective assessment of one’s own abilities to develop.

Henry Ford is credited with having said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s true, all of our actions stem from our belief in ourselves and our ability to perform. If you don’t have the confidence to make yourself believe you can do something, then you are very unlikely to succeed.

You can explore this idea in anything that you do, it’s not unique to Jiu Jitsu. Vary rarely are any of the lessons we learn on the mat things that we cannot apply in other aspects of our lives.

Thanks for reading.



Chasing the Finish

In the same way that every logical argument has a conclusion, or scientific & mathematical equations have solutions, submission-based grappling styles have a singular favored outcome: The Finish. 

Submission is the ultimate goal in our martial arts. In realistic application the submission signifies the complete domination of your opponent. In short, submitting your opponent means that you have not only controlled them, but literally have the ability to either kill them or severely maim them should they not submit.  There is nothing more definitive than that. 

This was the original intent that these martial arts were developed with; the goal of controlling an opponent and putting yourself in the position to be able to fatally wound them should there be the need to do so.

At the core of grappling, this remains an imperative: complete control over an opponent Continue reading “Chasing the Finish”

Reverse X Guard Ride to Knee bar

I love X guard, Reverse X too. Not only are there endless opportunities for sweeps, but heaps of rides and reversals depending on the opponent’s response or escape.

Here, I ride Matt’s hip twist as he avoids the sweep into a reverse mount and finish the lay back knee bar.



Be Original: Two ways originality can change your Jiu Jitsu.

If you have a look at the top level competitors and practitioners in any sport, you begin to notice that they have a style that is distinctly their own.

It is extremely uncommon for us to be able to draw analogies between the greats of any sporting field, especially martial arts. We see this distinctly within Brazilian Jiu Jitsu too; any of the highest level competitors are very distinct in their strategies, style and technique.

Originality (and your ability to be original) plays a major factor in your improvement. Here are two ways originality can impact on your Jiu Jitsu. Continue reading “Be Original: Two ways originality can change your Jiu Jitsu.”

Recognizing Patterns

Every sequence of movements and techniques within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu creates a pattern.  As practitioners, we spend much time on developing effective patterns that eventually lead us to our end goal- superior position or submission.

As important as developing these patterns is, we must also learn to recognize the patterns of other practitioners or opponents. If we are able to recognize their patterns, we will be able to disrupt them by changing our timing or by applying effective counters.

This is an effective concept to try and to apply in both free training and in competition.

In free training, it will help you to develop strong counter-timing, build strong fundamental skills and help you to start thinking not just about your own game, but how it interacts with different patterns (which are core to game plans and styles).

In competition, it is usually the competitor who imposes their game plan first who will succeed. We cannot always guarantee that we will be first, but being able to recognize patterns of movement will help to to recover if you find yourself being sucked into an imposing opponent’s game plan. It may even open up opportunities to snatch a quick submission once you start to disrupt an opponent & they begin making errors.

Pattern recognition will help you to become a better all round strategist and practitioner as you will look more to actively problem solve for the pattern currently being presented to you, rather than stubbornly (and often futilely) trying to apply your same pattern to every possible situation.

Thanks for reading.