John Danaher on Teaching Positional Dominance and Strangles Before Joint Locks in BJJ

Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor John Danaher on teaching BJJ to beginners (excerpted and transcribed from the UFC Unfiltered podcast with Matt Serra and Jim Norton, episode 40):

“If I ran a beginners class, I would not only disallow leglock activities for the first year of training, I would probably even disallow arm locks. I would have students only focus on positional work and strangleholds.

Relson Gracie teaching a bread-cutter choke (lapel strangle variation) at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

I do believe strangleholds are the most effective submission in the sport. They give you the most versatility and the highest percentage of controlling people. They are the most useful in actual fighting, as opposed to just a sport situation and I believe that when you ban everything except strangleholds, beginners are forced to develop a strong positional game because the only way you can get to someone’s neck is by first getting past their legs and controlling them, and pinning them.

So, for the first year of training, I would have my students only do positional work and strangles. Only when they had gotten through that, would I bring in joint locks of any kind, whether leg or arm locks. Then, they would go into the advanced class and they would change.

There are really two jiu-jitsu‘s that I would teach. I would teach them an even more traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu than the standard method for the first year, so they become positionally strong and they develop the ability to get to and follow the back for strangleholds, the most important kinds of submissions. Then, joint locks would be introduced in the second year of training and they would work from there.”

Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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