The following is a conversation with Jon Donaher,
his third time on this podcast.
He’s widely considered to be one of the greatest minds
in martial arts history.
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And now, dear friends, here’s Jon Donaher.
The ADCC is the premier submission grappling tournament
in the world.
We just had it a couple of weeks ago.
We saw many demonstrations of greatness
from athletes you coached.
But a year ago, the team and you were at a very low point.
Take me through that journey.
What was the lowest point?
We had a very, very tight team for many years,
which began in New York City.
During the peak of COVID, training in New York
became very difficult to sustain.
So most of the team despised the city of New York.
I was the only person in the group
that liked living in New York.
I think part of the problem was that
I was the only one who actually lived in Manhattan.
The others had to commute to New York.
And there’s a world of difference between
living in New York and commuting to New York.
So most of them had a very negative view of New York City.
That was compounded by COVID,
when even the basic act of training
became very, very difficult.
And so everyone decided they want to leave.
So there was a prospect of a complete breakup
between myself and the team,
or I would have to leave New York.
It was a difficult decision for me to make,
because I’d lived in New York for 30 years.
I had built my life there
and had most of my friends and associates
that I know here in America were New Yorkers.
So I thought, you know,
these guys have been incredibly loyal to me as students.
So I should also be loyal to them, of course.
So I decided that if they wanted to leave,
I would go with them.
We decided to go to Puerto Rico
because there was a private gym
where we could train through the COVID period.
I personally wanted to go to Texas.
I thought that Texas was a better place for the team to go.
But many of the students, including senior students
like Gordon Ryan, Craig Jones, had been to Puerto Rico
and stayed with one of the head officials of ADCC,
So they loved their experience in Puerto Rico,
and almost everyone wanted to go down there.
So I tried to explain to them
there’s a world of difference
between going to a place for vacation versus living there,
but that didn’t have any effect.
So the decision was made,
a majority decision was made to go to Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico, the conditions in which the team lived
When you’re in New York,
New York is such a big city
that if there’s any tension between team members,
and inevitably there will be in a competitive sport
where everyone’s fighting each other,
you can kind of bury them in the size of the city
because there’s so many distractions in New York.
You know, you come in, you do your workout,
you go outside, and it’s New York City.
In Puerto Rico, we lived in a very small local town, Dorado,
and most of the athletes were living with each other.
And so unlike New York, where there was always a break,
you trained together, but when training was over,
you went about your life in New York and New Jersey.
With everyone living in very close proximity to each other,
any tensions got magnified
because there was no relief from them.
You didn’t get to get away from people.
If you had a problem with someone on the mat,
well, now you had to live with them
for the rest of the day and the night.
And this goes on for long periods of time.
So I believe it had the effect
of magnifying whatever tensions there were.
In particular, there was a family tension
between two brothers, which magnified over time.
And, you know, as so often is the case,
you get two brothers growing up,
one older, one younger, and the younger one
wants to grow and feel somewhat like a young tree
underneath a bigger tree.
And sometimes people just need their space.
So there was some unhappiness.
As a younger brother, I can understand.
As a little tree that had to grow up under a bigger tree.
Fuck the big tree.
There’s a lot of aggression I have to work on, I’m sorry.
Unresolved family issues coming out here, Mike.
That’s true, I’m just kidding, I love you.
He doesn’t, he’s lying.
So as time went by, these tensions started increasing.
They came to a point where it was difficult
for them even to be in the training room together.
At that point, you’re starting to, you know,
once training takes a hit,
then you gotta start to address these.
The attempts at reconciliation fell through
and a decision was made to move to Texas.
I wanted everyone to move as a team.
What I wanted to do was keep the team together
as long as the period leading up to ADCC
so that everyone could train together.
So I said, okay, there’s problems,
but let’s just tough it out one year.
We move to Texas, let’s just go there and keep unity.
If some people don’t wanna train with other people,
that’s fine, but I believe that the team
would be weakened by breaking apart.
I believe that they had an excellent rapport
as training partners.
Their technical level was increasing dramatically.
Many of the younger athletes are really starting
to come into their own and really develop well.
And so my take on it was, okay,
if there’s problems, so be it.
But let’s all just stay together
until ADCC 2022 was a unified team.
Go out, prepare yourselves as best you can.
And then after that, we can make a decision
as to whether we break up or not.
But that was rejected and the team split.
And they moved to Austin.
We’d made prior arrangements to go to a local gym
and they took that gym and we were left with no gym
and more or less homeless in Austin.
A year out from ADCC.
Yes, this is one year out.
So roughly three quarters of the competitive athletes
left in one week.
So at that point, that was probably the lowest point
because at that point,
not only did we not have a place to train,
we had very few training partners
for the few that had remained.
And the main athlete in the team, Gordon Ryan,
was going through a particularly bad spell
with his unresolved stomach issues.
And there was doubt as to whether or not
he could compete at all
and was actively thinking about retiring from the sport.
So maybe not compete ever again, potentially.
So that was a time when it was like,
man, the whole program seems to be dead in the water
at this point.
Most of the competitive athletes were gone.
There were very few training partners
for the few that remained.
And the main athlete around whom the group
had initially bonded was seemingly out of action,
Where was your mind?
Where were you mentally?
My thinking is everything bad passes in time.
I’ve had a lot of bad points in my life.
So my life experience is whenever things seem dark,
Time will ultimately cure most ills.
Not all of them, but most of them.
And I’m confident that if you give me
a new crop of students, I can produce magic.
It’s gonna take time.
So that confidence was in part a source of strength.
Yes, it’s just like, I wasn’t confident
that ADCC 2022 would go well
because we only had one year without a gym
and with a team that was completely broken up
to even attempt to get into ADCC.
So things looked a little grim,
but I was confident given enough time,
get in a new group of students and work.
As it turns out, one of the demonstration partners
that I used during filming for instructional videos
who lives in Boston, Giancarlo Badoni,
was interested in the idea of coming down and training,
but he’d always felt like it would be difficult
because there were people in his weight class
who were already there.
And he felt it would be awkward.
But now that they had left, that opened up an area for him.
So he was the first one to come down.
He moved from Boston to Austin, Texas.
I began teaching at a local school.
It was rather like going back
into my earliest days in jujitsu.
I went from teaching at the big Henzo Gracie Academy
to a tiny school in Puerto Rico
and now an even smaller school in Austin, Texas.
And locals would come in and train
and I would watch every day,
teaching there twice a day, seven days a week.
And I would see people come in and train
and I would say, this guy has some potential
or this guy has some potential.
And I would recruit people and bring them to another gym
where they would train with the professionals.
And if they proved adept and hardworking
and someone who can work well in a team,
they would stay and build their skills.
As time went by, more and more such people started coming in
and we had some remarkable people
like a young South African purple belt,
Luke Griffith came in.
He had lost in the European trials for ADCC
and he was down on his luck.
He came into Austin.
He did a show against a local purple belt and lost again.
So he was feeling bad about his performance and his future.
He came in and I thought he was a lovely kid
who worked hard and trained well.
So he became one of the main training partners.
He was similar size to Gordon.
So I encouraged him to train with Gordon whenever he could.
And more and more people started coming in
to train under that kind of basis.
One day I got a text from Gordon
who was filming an instructional video in Boston.
He said, hey, Nicholas Miragalli was training at this.
He was shooting video at the same time as me
and we just did some grappling.
He’s a really nice guy
and he’s literally never trained without a gi
For those of you who don’t know,
Nicholas Miragalli is one of the outstanding
gi jiu-jitsu competitors of his generation.
Has an amazing game and is a superstar
with the gi side of the sport,
but had never even trained without a gi once in his life.
So his first ever no-gi training session
is with Gordon Ryan, the best no-gi competitor of all time.
And I remember Gordon texting me saying,
hey, he’s really talented.
He’s a nice guy.
And he wants to come down to Texas and train.
So I was like, yeah, sounds great.
So over time, just more and more people started coming in.
And I told everyone like,
you guys are at a severe disadvantage.
Like you’ve got very little time to get ready for ADCC.
Luke wasn’t even in ADCC, he had to win trials.
Same for Dan Manasoyo, he failed at trials
and needed to get a win to even get into ADCC.
So around this time, a doctor suggested by Mo Jassam,
who himself had stomach issues earlier in his life,
began working with Gordon Ryan.
And Mo’s the organizer of ADCC.
For people who don’t know.
Yeah, he’s the head organizer.
He was able to get Gordon Ryan not cured,
but significantly better than he was before.
And to a level where Gordon could train
up to five to six days a week.
And that was a big improvement on what was going on
during the end of the time in Puerto Rico.
So things started moving.
We had a core group of athletes training at a local gym,
which was very, very generously offered to us
by the head manager of Roka Sunglasses,
a company here in Austin, Texas.
They have a private corporate gym,
which we were able to train in.
And these talented youngsters from around the globe,
essentially, came together and I said,
you guys are gonna have to train harder
than you’ve ever trained in your lives,
because you’ve got less time to get ready for this
And you’re gonna be going up against people,
potentially, who know exactly what I teach,
because I’ve been teaching them
a lot longer than I’ve been teaching you,
in addition to the other best people in the world.
So it was an incredible challenge for them.
And I must say, all of them gave
literally everything they had.
Everything I asked for, they gave twice as much.
And we had a crazy training schedule,
as many as three classes per day.
I know that sounds easy, three classes a day,
but try doing it sometime.
These classes are not your average classes.
These are preparation for ADCC.
They’re both mentally and physically, right?
Very, very hard.
And we had many people come in
and try to train alongside us,
and they fell off by the side of the road within days.
Forget about weeks, months, or a full year of this.
So I gave a very abbreviated set of skills for the athletes.
I chopped everything down to what I believe
were the most essential skills.
Anything that wasn’t essential to ADCC preparation
was just pushed aside.
And they had to focus almost entirely on ADCC,
with one exception, I’ll come to that soon,
over the period of their training here in Austin.
So it was compacted by time
and also by the breadth of skill that I taught.
Everything was just purely for ADCC preparation.
In a very short period of time,
Dan Manasoyo and Luke Griffith and Oliver Tarza
all won European trials and got into ADCC.
Nicholas Miragalli was already a superstar,
so he was invited, but he had to show himself.
So we enrolled him in local shows here in Austin
where he had his first three no-gi matches.
And with each match, you could see progress being made.
And so that convinced the ADCC people,
okay, he’s good enough to compete.
He ended up winning decisively a match
against one of the greatest American grapplers
of all time, Rafael Lovato.
And this was a clear sign that his skill level
in no-gi was sufficient to justify an invite.
And by the way, Lovato had an incredible
set of matches in this ADCC.
Yes, that was actually very impressive.
Which is really impressive and heartbreaking as well.
But if you go out, that’s a good way to go out.
So there was this long and tough preparation,
and it was compounded by the fact
that as Gordon felt better,
he felt a need to build up his own competitive record
prior to ADCC because he’d been inactive for so long
with his stomach issue.
So he proposed one of the most ambitious fight camps
that I’ve ever heard of in grappling,
which was he would take on the current WNO champion,
Who’s number one is WNO, yeah.
And also I believe the current no-gi world champion
IBJJF as a tune-up match, as a warm-up match.
Then he would fight his old nemesis, Felipe Pena,
the only man who submitted Gordon at black belt
and had defeated Gordon in an ADCC match in 2017.
And then ADCC itself.
So there was gonna be three big high-profile matches
back-to-back and very different rule sets.
So WNO was a 15-minute match.
The fight with Felipe Pena was no time limit,
which is a very different format to compete in.
And then ADCC.
So we had to drag out a 14-week camp
covering three matches with three different rule sets,
which went in diametrically opposite directions.
And the entire team had to go through all of this
over this 14-week period.
In addition to the previous year
that they had been working hard,
there was a further complication in the midst of all this.
Nicholas Miragalli had to go to the Gi World Championships
and we had to throw an extra morning class for that
to help him get ready.
Nicholas went on to win the open-weight gold medal
in the Gi competition.
And then the next day he had to come back to Texas
and begin his ADCC preparation.
It was a crazy, crazy time.
But they all came through it so well.
I’m immensely proud of what they did.
And shockingly, in the space of less than 12 months,
we went from rock bottom
to having a more successful ADCC team performance
than we did the previous ADCC.
It was in fact the most successful team performance
of the event.
And as testimony to how hard those young men worked
in the course of less than a year
to prepare themselves.
If we could just linger on the low point,
is it heartbreaking to you
that the so-called Donahoe Death Squad split
or the team as it was originally called split?
You know, we live a short life on this earth
and you put so much of your love and work into this team
and everybody put in the work.
Does it break your heart?
It was a sad time, yeah.
It was, you know, I’m not a particularly emotional person,
but it was an emotional time for everyone.
It was, it had an element of tragedy
insofar as not only was it a team breakup,
it was also a family breakup, which is much more serious.
I do believe that in time,
even the most intense family breakups can be reconciled.
And I also believe that once dialogue begins,
people will remember just how easy it was
for us to get along
and how tight we were for many, many years.
It’s so easy to let a minute of anger
destroy 10 years of friendship.
So, but there’s also the weight of those 10 years.
Like when I ran into the old squad members at ADCC,
we got along like a house on fire.
It’s like, we never had a problem.
A house on fire is a good thing.
Sorry, that’s a New Zealand expression, yeah.
Yeah, that definitely could have gone the other way, right?
Only a New Zealander would say that it’s a good thing, yeah.
So there’s, I still believe, you know,
in time things will be fine,
but there was an element where, you know,
youngsters need to grow.
think about it this way, from the athlete’s perspective,
there’s definitely a generational problem.
I’m much older than my students, okay?
And the years and the viewpoint that I have
is a reflection of the time in which I grew up.
And they’re from a completely different generation
with a completely different worldview.
It’s gotta be hard from the athlete’s perspective
when you’re training seven days a week
and you’re getting very, very good.
You’re beating everyone that’s getting put in front of you.
You’re losing very, very rarely,
and it’s always a tough competitive match when you do.
Everyone around you is calling you a superstar.
And you look phenomenal.
You check social media,
everyone’s saying you’re a god on the mat.
And then you come into the gym
and there’s some old guy telling you you’re not good enough.
And every day it’s like,
well, what does this guy want from me?
How hard do I have to work?
Like, you’re not good enough.
Like, I want you to be the best in the world.
I want you to be good, I want you to be great.
And all of your friends are telling you all day,
man, you’re incredible, you submit me so easily to do this.
And then this old guy’s just saying,
nah, you gotta get better, you gotta work more.
You’re not working hard enough.
At some point, you’re gonna be like,
you know what, fuck this old guy.
Like, it’s tough.
You know, mentally, I get why they left.
When I was 20 years old,
I didn’t get along with authority figures at all.
And to have someone telling you,
you’ve always gotta work that little bit harder,
no, your skillset’s not complete,
you still need this, this, and this.
When you’re already doing very, very well,
and far better than all but a tiny, tiny percentage
of people, and then you’ve got this guy
just constantly telling you, no, more has to be done.
You’re not there yet.
I can, you know, of course I understand.
Let me just enjoy this more.
Like, it’s always a choice in life.
You can be the best you possibly can,
or you can go a route where you just get
to enjoy life a little more, you do other things.
You know, like, there’s more to life
than just the inside of a gym,
and learning how to do a better heel hook,
or a better double leg.
So of course, you know, years go by,
you wanna try other things,
and you have to make this choice in life
between extreme excellence versus being incredibly good,
but maybe just enjoying my life a little more.
Yeah, it’s so interesting that incredibly good
is a hard thing to deal with.
It’s like when Kayla Harrison won her first gold medal
at the Olympics, you know, to go back to the gym
and to trust, again, maybe the old man,
you’re being too harsh on yourself,
but to trust the old man.
So Jimmy Pager and Jimmy Pager Sr., in that case,
to say, okay, we’re gonna go back to this grind,
and there’s still a path to improvement.
There’s still a lot to grow, and still have the humility,
even though you’ve just demonstrated greatness.
So really good is just a stepping stone to true greatness.
That’s really tough for athletes.
Like winning is actually very difficult.
Gold medals are very difficult.
Plus there’s the personal stuff of depression
that comes with that,
which is you give so much of yourself to trying to win that.
And once you do, there’s a lot of personal stuff
you have to deal with, which is like,
what do I want from life?
To understand what is exactly, what am I chasing?
Is it just winning, or is it some bigger picture
of excellence that’s beyond just winning?
So all of that mixed up together,
and then when you have to be, as a team,
really close together, there’s the personal relationships,
all of that gets exacerbated.
Do you think the team ever gets back together?
I think there’s definitely a chance of that.
Right now, I think they have an excellent team themselves,
and they’re doing very well.
They had an excellent performance at ADCC,
so there’s not a need for them to come to us.
It’s not like they lack anything.
They still remember everything I taught them.
They still coach and teach
with the same methodology that I taught them.
So I don’t think they have any need to do so.
If they did, it would be because they wanted to.
I still think many of the same personality conflicts
that originated the conflict would reemerge currently
if they started training together.
By the way, to pile on the compliments,
they have really nice merch, too.
The t-shirts are just excellent.
What have you learned from that process
about how to have a team with personal conflicts?
Do you have to deal with these giant egos as well?
Because the ego is in part a superpower, too,
so you don’t wanna-
Yeah, you don’t wanna suppress egos.
I always laugh when people say,
leave your ego at the door.
What do you think drives competition?
If you wanna be good at anything in life,
you gotta have an ego.
No, I don’t believe it’s good
or even a healthy thing to suppress egos.
I’m a realist, and I understand that this is a sport
where they make one gold medal per weight division.
As guys get better,
they’re gonna be looking at their training partners
and thinking, I’m gonna have to fight this guy one day.
And they’re training next to each other.
Of course, there’s gonna be tension.
There’s always gonna be disagreements
about what’s the right way to act
around certain people, certain issues,
and people are gonna come into conflict.
Everyone’s being programmed to be an alpha competitor.
You get a room full of people like that,
there’s gonna be conflict.
Now, your question was, well, is there a way to resolve this?
Yeah, there was.
For eight to nine years, I was very successful with this.
But there’s also a tipping point
where things can flare out of control
and there will be periodic breakups.
They’re not the first students I had that left.
I’ve been coaching a lot longer
than I’ve been coaching the squad.
And I’m sure in the future,
there’ll be other students who leave me.
That’s just the nature of the beast.
It’s sad when it happens, but life goes on.
Like Bukowski said, love is a fog that fades
with the first daylight of reality or something like that.
So even love is temporary.
Let me ask you about leading up the preparation
for the athletes.
I mean, this is such, given the darkness from a year ago
from which you had to find glimmers of light
and try to get greatness out of athletes,
what was the mental preparation like for Gordon,
for Nicholas, for Giancarlo, for the other athletes?
What was the mental side of things like?
Is there some key insights you can give
to their mental preparation?
I really think that people,
when they talk about mental preparation,
need to take a step back and realize
that almost every element of what people describe
as mental preparation has physical underpinnings.
Literally 95% of what I teach the athletes
is physical skills.
And it’s my belief that every mental aspect of competition,
the most important, which will be confidence on stage,
is a direct result of the accumulation of physical skills.
People tend to see things like confidence
as a mental state.
It is, but it comes out of the performance
of physical skills.
All my life, I’ve seen sports psychologists
try to create confidence in athletes
through non-physical means.
And it always ends up being the same kind
of cheesy motivational speeches,
highlight video reels where they try
to pump artificial confidence into people.
And I’ve never been impressed by this,
nor have I seen it have any kind of positive effect
on athlete performance.
What I do see build confidence is the sense
that athletes are developing skills
and using them successfully under conditions
that closely mirror the event they’re preparing for.
Once they get this down,
that’s where true confidence comes from.
Confidence doesn’t come from words.
It comes from accumulated skills,
which experience shows you have been responsible
for successful performances in the past.
And if you accumulate enough of these,
your confidence rises.
So when it comes to the mental aspects of competition,
I created a program where everyone was given a set
of skills that they had to work on,
skills directly related to what I believe
is the most important elements of success
in ADCC competition.
In the gym, they accumulated those skills over time.
I do it in two different ways,
depending on whether these are offensive skills
or defensive skills.
For the accumulation of offensive skills,
I like to have my athletes work with athletes
who are lesser than themselves in ability
so that they start to gain confidence over time,
just as you would never send a beginner
into a weightlifting gym and put 500 pounds on the bar
and tell him to lift it.
Rather, you would start with a wooden bar,
then the metal bar,
and then gradually accumulate weight over time
so you get a progression in weightlifting.
So too in jiu-jitsu, you don’t take a brand new move
and say, okay, do it on Gordon Ryan.
Never gonna succeed.
I have the athletes practice their offense on blue belts
and work their way up.
Defense, on the other hand,
you’ve got to start them in the deep end of the pool
so that they start to see what are their vulnerabilities.
So I put them with highly competitive athletes
at the start so they can see, okay, there is a problem here.
And then even in defense,
they start off with lower belts
and build up their confidence over time.
So just as a weightlifter builds up his ability
to build weight, sorry, to lift weight over time,
so too a jiu-jitsu player does it
by gradually increasing resistance.
Now in jiu-jitsu, resistance is not done by weight,
it’s done by skill level.
And so over time,
they started to accumulate this experience.
In time, we were able to switch off
and have them go against very, very tough athletes,
So Luke Griffith will do a full power match
with Gordon Ryan.
Now, they’re fully aware
that there’s no one better in the world than Gordon Ryan.
So if you have a competitive match with Gordon Ryan,
that’s a very, very healthy sign.
So they went from the start
where they were being programmed
going against relatively mild resistance
and building up over time,
and then building up to the greatest resistance possible
in the sport of jiu-jitsu.
And their goal is not to win, obviously,
but their goal is to provide a competitive match.
Now, Gordon doesn’t have any confidence issues.
So for him, it’s just good, hard competitive training
against people that are, in some ways,
better than those he’ll be facing in competition.
For the other guys, it’s getting a clear assessment
of what their current skill level is
by going against the best there is.
Then we add to this a competitive schedule
where the athletes have to go out into competition
so they get used to the idea
of performing in front of strangers on stage,
getting used to the strange elements of going out,
being observed and judged by people you don’t know
in a performance atmosphere.
And so they were all given matches in WNO competition
leading up to the event, ADCC trials,
local grappling events here in Austin,
and given a competitive schedule to fight
and prepare them for ADCC.
Obviously, as ADCC got closer and closer,
this was pulled back because of the danger of injury.
So within about three weeks out
was the last time we had a competition.
And by this method, confidence starts to grow.
And so the mental preparation
came out of those physical underpins,
the idea of progressive resistance increasing over time
for both offense and defense,
building up to a peak where they go in
against the best athlete in the world
so they can get an accurate assessment of where they stand.
Once you’re given a competitive match
to the best guy in the world,
you know damn well that when you go out in ADCC,
you’re ready to fight anybody.
And defense is broadly defined.
So defense in symmetrical positions,
like positions like guard,
and then defense also includes
escaping from horrible positions.
Yes, we’re big believers in the idea of depth of defense.
The idea that you should be able to mount defense
all the way through from early stages
based mostly around anticipation
of identifying danger visually before it emerges,
and all the way through to the deepest levels of defense
where you are 100% defensive in terrible positions,
and you have to claw your way out over time
and get back to a neutral position,
or even better, back to an attacking position.
You have an Instagram post on this topic.
When you get ready to step out
for the biggest moment of your life,
ask yourself one question.
How different is this really from what I do every day?
If the answer’s not very different at all,
then step forward with confidence,
and do what you do every day in the same manner,
and ignore the hype and distraction.
You’re ready for action.
By the way, for people who don’t know,
you need to follow Jon Donahartjohn on Instagram,
because you have nuggets,
or large buckets of nuggets of wisdom often,
which is quite profound, even bigger than jiu-jitsu.
There’s some aspect where you want to mimic
the conditions of your daily training
in intensity and in what for,
so physical to that of the actual matches.
You asked a question about mental training.
For me, the central focus
of whatever small amount of mental training
I give my students comes down
to a very, very simple concept to understand.
This is the idea of identifying competition
in terms of its normalcy.
Most people see training and competition
as two different things.
Training is normal activity that you do every day,
and competition is the exception.
Okay, it’s different.
You’re going out, there’s people watching you.
There’s a big crowd.
They’re making lots of noise.
In fact, the promoters of shows
go out of their way to reinforce this.
Look at, for example, ADCC,
when Gordon Ryan went to fight Andre Galvant.
Okay, do they just come out on the mat and fight each other?
There’s music, there’s pageantry, there’s fireballs.
They’re literally shooting fireballs.
Yeah, some dude in a tie sitting with Joe Rogan.
I heard about that guy.
Some meathead podcaster, comedian, whatever.
Which one was the meathead?
Well played, John Idaho, well played.
But you see what they’re trying to do.
They’re trying to create theater and pageantry,
when in fact, it’s just a grappling match.
It’s just two athletes, a referee and a rule set.
That’s the reality.
Now, what they try to sell you is
something which is not reality,
which is this is somehow bigger and different.
And they reinforce this with pageantry and theater
so that it becomes not just a grappling match,
but a grappling performance,
the same way you have a theater performance.
And my goal as a coach is to dispel that
and say, when you go out there,
there’s only one reality,
you, him and the referee reinforcing a rule set, that’s it.
Everything else you see, the smoke, the fire,
the music is an illusion.
And it’s put there intentionally
to make you feel a certain kind of way.
And your whole goal is to see this as illusion
and walk out and see only the reality,
which is that this is the same damn thing
you do every day in the gym.
The only difference is you’re going with a guy
you’ve never grappled before.
So the actual act of removing the illusion
or realizing that it is an illusion,
how do you practice that?
So when you step on the match-
Once you’re aware of it,
I always have them,
it’s like when you see a magician
and you have his tricks explained to you,
you never see the magic again.
The first time you see a good card trick
from a good magician, it’s like, oh my God.
Then when they explain it to you,
I did this, this and that, step one, step two,
then you look at it like, it’s not that special.
And when you explain to people
this idea of the pageantry as an illusion,
then just as when you watch the magician
and you learn the trick,
all the magic flies out the window,
so too with the nervous response.
So that’s for the pageantry,
but what about maybe the physical intensity of competition?
Isn’t there an extra-
No, it’s the same in every competition.
It’s not like they’re twice as strong
in ADCC as they are in the IBJF World Championships.
The physical intensity is always pretty much the same.
They experience it every day in the gym.
Like if you go out and you grapple Gordon Ryan,
it’s not like the next guy you grapple
is gonna be twice as strong as him or twice as fast.
He’s gonna be a little stronger, a little faster,
but not so much so that it completely changes
your approach of the game.
There’s not that much difference
between the human bodies out there on the stage.
So if you’ve felt intensity before,
you’re not gonna be shocked by ADCC.
But in terms of in training,
do you have to try to match the intensity of competition?
No, that would be foolish.
Every athlete in the gym would be injured.
You can do it for short periods of time,
but the training has to be carefully monitored
in terms of intensity levels.
Remember, we’re training seven days a week,
a minimum of twice a day.
You’ve gotta keep things under wraps.
Every other workout, you can have one of the five rounds
can be full power, but not seven days a week,
three times a day.
That’s just gonna break bodies.
And the full power is just a reminder of-
It’s more about skill development.
For us, it always comes back to skill development.
But what about matching the feeling
of the intensity of competition?
But it can’t be every single time.
Not really, it’s not rare.
Meaning like once a day.
Out of three hours of hard sparring per day,
15 minutes might be like 100% full power.
That way, that’s more than enough
to get psychologically ready for the intensity of conflict,
but won’t break your body over time.
Intensity of conflict, that’s well put.
Competition, doesn’t it have that extra level of animosity?
Like it’s a little bit more conflict than it is-
Sometimes there’s personality differences.
For example, like Gordon Ryan and Felipe Pena,
they admire each other a lot.
They respect each other’s skills,
but they certainly don’t like love each other,
that’s for sure.
So there can be certain matchup
where there’s more intensity.
But then there’s other matchups
where the two athletes come out
and it’s no more intense than a hard sparring session.
So first of all,
because I would love to look at a couple of matches with you
and before that, let me say a big thank you
to Flow Grappling for first of all,
helping the sport of grappling and jujitsu in general
by having organized footage
and tournaments that sort of show the sport
in its best light to the world.
And they do an incredible job of that.
So if you’re interested in supporting grappling
as a sport, helping it grow,
you should definitely support Flow Grappling.
Go to their website, sign up.
Also Flow Wrestling.
I’m a huge fan of wrestling.
So maybe there’ll be a Flow Judo at some point.
They don’t currently,
I don’t think, do any major judo stuff.
So anyway, I’m a big supporter of theirs
and I do have criticism that they know about,
which is I hope they continue to improve
on the aspect of making the footage discoverable
making it easy for you to do search through Google
and on their website to find matches,
to get excited.
Like if me and Joe Rogan are getting excited
about a particular match,
we wanna be able to pull it up super quickly.
Wanna be able to pull up Gordon Ryan’s matches
super quickly from ADCC,
make it super easy to show and share.
If we have to pay for it, fine, but make it easy.
And when you sign up for Flow,
it should be one click, not five clicks.
It should be one click.
It should be easy.
I think it’s inexpensive.
If you care about grappling,
it’s definitely worth it, you should sign up.
Anyway, my love goes out to Flow Grappling
and also my love goes out to Moe Jassim, as we said.
He’s the organizer of ADCC.
The next one is in 2024.
It should be 2024.
Well, you should follow ADCC underscore official
on Instagram and just send as much love
towards Moe and ADCC in general.
Like I said, the most prestigious,
it’s like where the best grapplers in the world show up.
And the magic happens.
It’s like some of the most historic matches
in grappling and jiu-jitsu ever happened on that stage.
Anyway, if I could talk about
some of the interesting performances
for the athletes you coach,
you post on Instagram.
Let’s start with Gordon Ryan.
Gordon Ryan, ADCC 2022.
The greatest event in grappling history is over.
New stars emerged, established stars shone bright again,
but one man stood above all like a colossus, Gordon Ryan.
You have a way with words, John Donner.
I have seen many incredible feats of grappling,
but I’ve never saw a performance like this.
For many, Mr. Ryan is a polarizing figure in the sport.
For many others, an inspiration to look up to.
But after this weekend,
there was no disagreement amongst haters and fans
about his merit.
He is the best ever.
It was a long and difficult journey to ADCC 2022,
just one year ago, and so on, as you told the story.
It was a virtuoso performance
of unmatched technique, preparation, and confidence.
No one else can claim credit for this achievement.
This was his and his alone.
No one else today brings together technical depth,
tactical insight, and confidence to use them
on stage as he does.
I had many students, but I only won Gordon Ryan.
And I think Gordon responded,
all this is true besides the credit that sits with you.
Thank you, and a heart emoji.
So anyway, that’s as a way of introduction to Gordon Ryan.
Can you take me through his set of performances
and maybe any matches that stand out?
So he competed in his division,
which is the plus 99 kilos,
and in the super fight against Andrzej Gawa.
This was, in fact, the first time in history
that this was allowed.
For your listeners who don’t follow grappling,
we may have been very rude
and just throwing a lot of stuff at you
without explaining ourselves.
First of all, ADCC is like the Olympics of grappling.
It occurs every two years.
You can either qualify for the event
through winning matches in a qualification process,
or you can be invited.
The only people who get invited are either former winners
or people in the sport who are just
widely recognized superstars
who bring some kind of brand value,
who have proven in the past
that they have what it takes to compete at that level.
In this format, there are two kinds of matches.
There are weight division matches
in which you compete against people
roughly your own size and weight.
There is an open weight where anyone of any size can enter.
So you can have very small people
fighting very large people.
And there is a second category called a super fight
where established champions
who have won previous open weight tournaments
fight each other in one-off battles,
one athlete against another.
So in most of the matches,
you will fight repetitively over time
towards a gold medal.
But in one category, you fight one fight,
the so-called super fight,
which is usually the headline fight of the event.
Traditionally, if you were in the super fight,
you could not compete in the weight categories.
It was seen as too risky
because you might get injured during the weight category,
or you might have to fight four very tough fights in a row
and get exhausted so that you’re ineffective
during the main event of the show, the super fight.
So throughout its history,
ADCC has always resisted the idea
of an athlete being allowed to do both weight category
and a super fight.
It’s never happened before.
Gordon Ryan requested to be able to do this
because of his extraordinary stature in the sport,
the ADCC organization granted his request.
That was the first time ever.
In addition, Gordon Ryan would be fighting
to be the first person to win three gold medals
in three different weight categories.
This has never been done before.
So it was a huge event on Gordon’s part.
And bear in mind also that prior to this event,
he had fought just a month and a half earlier
against a former ADCC open weight champion,
Felipe Pena, who had defeated him in the past
in a completely different rule set.
And then previous to that,
against the current world champion.
There’d been a buildup to this.
So he’d been very active coming up to the event.
And then he went in to fight arguably
the greatest ADCC champion of all time, Andre Galvan,
which would occur late on Sunday
and would have to fight the toughest people,
including the possibility of fighting his nemesis,
Felipe Pena, in the weight division
prior to getting to the super fight.
So there was genuine concern here
that he may have completely overstepped himself.
The biggest concern I had as a coach,
and I’m sure the organizers, Mo Jaison,
must’ve had the same concern,
is that he would get injured or exhausted
fighting in his weight division.
There were two athletes in particular,
Felipe Pena, who had given Gordon a very tough
40 minute match in a no rules setting
shortly before ADCC,
and his former training partner, Nick Rodriguez,
who were expected to give Gordon very, very tough matches
if they came up against each other.
So there was a genuine concern
that Gordon may burn himself out
before he even got to fight the guy
who most people believe is the greatest ADCC champion
of all time.
So our concern was, how do we manage this?
So what we looked for is extremely efficient methods
of reducing the time of the matches,
making the matches as short as possible.
Our favorite way to fight bigger, stronger athletes,
and I think Gordon was the lightest athlete
in his weight division.
Everyone goes, oh, Gordon’s so big and strong.
He’s actually quite light.
I think he was outweighed by almost all of his opponents.
It’s nice to see Gordon looking small
relative to his opponents, which is absurd to say,
but it is the open division, plus 99 kilos.
It was plus 99 kilos.
Right, that’s what I mean, sorry, by open, plus 99 kilos.
Everyone looks like the Incredible Hulk, yeah, yeah.
So our big thing is when we fight bigger, stronger opponents,
we always go in two directions.
You either go for the legs or you go for the back.
And so we constructed strategies
based around those two methods.
So going for submissions.
And we should also mention that ADCC rule set
for regular matches, I think it’s five minutes
and five minutes.
Total is 10 minutes.
And then for finals matches, it’s 20 minutes.
And half the time is spent with no points.
So these can be very, very long matches.
I mean, to put this in a perspective,
a modern judo match is five minutes.
A modern wrestling match, I believe,
is six minutes in international freestyle.
So these matches can be 40 minutes long.
Now that’s a long, long grappling match.
Depending on how you compete in it,
that can have a huge toll on you.
You can get to the finals and just be absolutely spent.
So our whole thing is, okay,
Gordon’s gotta not only get to the finals,
then he’s gotta fight the toughest ADCC grappler
of all time after that.
So we were looking for quick and energy efficient matches.
And that meant going to the back or going to the legs.
And in the overwhelming majority of cases,
that’s exactly what he did.
He was able to get some very, very quick matches,
courtesy of leg lock finishes.
And in the few cases where he didn’t finish on legs,
then he would simply take his opponent’s back.
And that’s a very low stress position to occupy.
In one case, his opponent deliberately kept his back
on the ground to prevent the back take,
and he just chose mounted position instead.
And so he was able to go through his weight division
with extremely low energy expenditure,
which set him up well to go into the finals.
No injuries, very little energy expenditure.
Now, it sounds easy to say that,
you know, okay, the strategy worked.
But in order to get that strategy to work,
you have to have one hell of a set of skills.
And we can see those now.
Would you like to?
Yeah, I would love to go through them.
And I should also mention,
for people just listening to this,
I’ll try to commentate on different things we’ll look at,
but the thing that was made clear is,
and maybe you can speak to that,
maybe to you it looks like efficiency,
but to me it looked like Gordon was not even trying.
There was a relaxed aspect to the whole thing.
So maybe it had to do with saving energy,
but he made it look very easy.
And he made the path of submission look very easy.
So here, the first match against an opponent
that, again, looks bigger than him.
Okay, I’ll just give an initial comment here.
First, you’ll see that Gordon elected
to sit to the bottom position.
The hardest work in submission grappling
is when two athletes take the standing position
and joust for takedowns.
That’s where most of the energy gets burned up.
So working on the idea of energy efficiency,
let’s go out and we chose to sit into guard position
and then start looking to access our opponent’s back.
Because of our opponent’s head position,
a far side arm drag makes a lot of sense.
Gordon’s able to beat the arm
and quickly get behind his opponent.
Now the question is gonna be
getting into a scoring position.
It’s too early to score at this point,
but we’re just concerned at this stage
of just energy expenditure
and make the other guy work harder than us.
So Gordon did the arm drag to the back
and now is working on the hooks.
The hooks are not particularly important here.
He’ll use it just to get stability on his opponent.
But interestingly, his opponent here
had an interesting strategy too,
which was to occupy bottom turtle position.
And look to get to the critical five point,
sorry, five minute demarcation point
where points begin to get scored.
His idea, I believe, I’m speculating here
based on his actions,
was to keep Gordon at bay in a defensive turtle position
until a five minute mark occurred.
In which case he would shake Gordon off,
walk away and force a takedown battle.
How many people are comfortable in that?
And what do you think about the defensive turtle position
versus always trying to come back to guard?
Turtle position is the second bottom position of jiu jitsu.
Many people only associate guard position
with bottom position in jiu jitsu.
There’s guard position and turtle position.
Now, as a general rule,
guard position offers a much, much greater variety
of attacking options than turtle position does.
But that’s not to say turtle position
absolutely can be an effective bottom position.
You can work effectively from there.
So there’s some case to be made that
to wait out five minutes, turtle might be-
I mean, I personally think against Gordon Ryan,
I mean, I admire the fellow’s courage.
It’s not easy.
But there was a logic to what he was doing.
People think, oh, he just got his back taken so easily,
but he did have a strategy.
Now, did he pick the right person
to use that strategy against?
So Gordon’s able to break the turtle down,
get one hook in.
At which point is this becoming
an extremely controlling position with Gordon on the back?
At which point are you happy with where it is?
At this point, it just started to dawn on me at this point
that this guy actually had a strategy,
which was to maintain a prone position that he’s in now
and then shake Gordon off after the five minute mark.
So once that became obvious,
then now I’m starting to look at the clock
and how close we are.
If we can take it up to five minutes.
Right now, this guy’s only intention is to stop Gordon
from strangling him and finish.
Okay, now the guy’s trying to go up in vertical,
freeze it there.
Now, do you see how he’s taking his elbows off the mat
in turtle position?
In jiu-jitsu, there’s only one reason
you take your elbows off the mat from turtle position,
that’s to stand up.
So now it’s clear at this point
what his actual strategy is.
It’s to get up, force a standing confrontation,
win a takedown battle and beat Gordon by points.
So he did have a strategy.
Now, our counter strategy is always based
around the power half Nelson.
This is a common move in the sport of wrestling
and it’s a great way to break people down
as they try to stand up.
That looks so heavy.
Yeah, I mean, Gordon is a master of it.
So there’s a power half Nelson that Gordon has on him
as the elbows are off the ground
and knees are off the ground.
He’s going to return his opponent to the mat.
And as you can see, he’s successful in doing so.
And now it’s clear what the man’s strategy is.
So I’m calling to Gordon to break him down to a hip.
You put a man on a hip, he can’t stand up.
Gordon successfully does it, traps the shoulder
using that one-on-one grip with his right hand,
puts him down to a shoulder and a hip.
That means standing up is no longer an option
for his opponent.
Now Gordon goes in, he’s already scoring
because of the turtle position that he’s in.
His opponent stays down on his shoulder.
Now Gordon’s responsibility is to start looking
for the stranglehold.
His opponent has basic defensive structures,
discipline with his chin, keeps the chin down.
But Gordon is a master of tying up defensive arms
and penetrating under the chin to get to a strangle.
And you’ll see that shortly.
There’s the trapping of the arm.
Notice that no advanced grips were required.
It was just a spontaneous trap.
There’s the penetration of the neck.
So the arm was trapped with the leg.
So now he’s only got one defensive arm
and he’s just taking that away with his left hand
and he gets a one-handed strangle for the finish.
And it looks like not much energy was expanded
during that process.
So that’s, the tournament got off to a very smooth start.
Very little energy expenditure, no injuries,
and a submission win.
Does that, there’s a kind of certain look to Gordon
of, that could be interpreted as nervousness.
That was an incorrect interpretation?
So there’s a…
What do you interpret as nervous behavior?
Well, this is, part of me is trolling,
but sometimes on the surface,
confident behavior can look like, almost like anger.
And there’s, Gordon’s face had like a vulnerability to it.
Almost like a…
When you go to judge confidence, don’t look at the face.
Look at the extremities of the body.
That’s where the truth comes out.
You see it in body language.
And the further from the face and chest,
the more honest the body becomes.
Look at the feet and the hands.
Well, there were, I mean, he was relaxed.
That’s when you see if people are nervous or not.
He was very relaxed in the extremities, that’s true.
See, you look more confident in this than anything.
What are you thinking about?
What’s going through your head here?
Is this the same stuff?
Are you intimidated by the two meat heads,
one in a suit and tie?
Or are you not thinking about that at all?
For me, it’s just about, okay,
what’s the most efficient path to victory
against this particular opponent?
It’s just, okay, I’ve done my job.
I’ve taken them through an extensive fight camp
that prepared them for every conceivable situation
that they’re in.
I’ve run an efficient warmup.
Their body temperature is perfect.
The elasticity in the muscles is perfect.
My main role when I corner is I avoid
what most people do when they corner,
which is to be a cheerleader.
Most cornermen, they’re not cornermen, they’re cheerleaders.
They’re there to express some kind of emotional support
to their training partners or their student.
Sometimes they’re even worse than cheerleaders.
They express their own emotional fears
as the match goes on.
I always believe that 99.5% of the job of the trainer
is done, the coach is done,
when the athlete steps their foot on the mat.
At that point, you shouldn’t need me at all.
Everything I needed to tell you
should have been not just told to you,
but imprinted into you.
Remember, there’s 15,000 people in that crowd.
For half of the match, you’re not gonna hear a word
that I can say.
There’s too much noise.
But you’ll hear my voice inside your head
because you’ve heard it so many times
over the last 14 weeks.
You’re sick of hearing it at that point.
And they’re programmed, know what to do.
So I’m usually pretty confident.
I’m also very confident that even in worst-case scenarios,
they can have effective solutions
because they train those worst-case scenarios
every single day in the gym.
And so in part, you’re there to have a front row seat
to analyze what happened
so that you can take that to the next match.
The biggest danger an athlete faces is tunnel vision.
Sometimes they will hit upon a certain move or strategy
and just say, I’m gonna go with this
when there’s much easier alternatives.
But because they’re so focused
on the alternative they’ve chosen,
they get this tunnel vision and just focus only on that.
The most constructive thing the corner man can do
is alert them to the presence of time,
which is very important in an ADCC match
because all the scoring is structured by time,
and to alleviate problems associated with tunnel vision.
That, okay, you’re doing this,
but if you just did this, it’d be so much easier.
So that’s the main goal.
So here, this was one of several anticipated matches
against, second one against Victor Hugo,
which is a very tough opponent, and-
Again, this was a situation
where Gordon was considerably outweighed by his opponent,
so the main thing here was efficiency.
His opponent elected to avoid the standing position
by jumping into guard, so now-
Close guard, yeah.
Yeah, Gordon would be in top position this time.
He has a very good close guard.
But unfortunately, Gordon has very good guard passing.
So he’s an excellent guard player, very talented,
but Gordon is renowned as the eminent guard passer
in the world today.
So it’s a tall order to hold Gordon off
for a 10-minute match.
Is there something you can say about this guard passing?
Gordon is making it look very easy.
It’s middle distance guard passing.
He eventually passes to mount, I believe, in a very-
Why don’t you run through the sequence
where he gets mounted?
There’s a couple, I believe he gets mounted twice.
There’s some, back just a little bit further.
So he’s trying one arm under-
Yeah, this is a stacking position.
Now, normally, we always insist on the idea
of getting advantageous angle first,
controlling the feet and getting angle,
but there’s a height advantage that Victor Hugo has here.
And the length of his legs means that he can play
very, very wide with his legs.
So getting an advantageous angle might be difficult.
In these circumstances, it often makes sense
to go right up the middle.
Now, Gordon could just go back for legs
because the legs, Victor Hugo’s legs
are so far apart at this point
that you could easily isolate a leg and attack that.
But Gordon wanted to show off his passing prowess.
Very often, he’ll go into a match and just say,
okay, I’m gonna show this skill.
And he’ll often use it as a demonstration
of techniques he teaches in instructional videos.
So he wanted to show that he could pass the mount readily
on a world champion.
Like this part here, this little step.
Okay, just freeze it right there.
Go back one step.
Okay, you can clearly see that all of his opponent’s
defensive frames are built on his opponent’s
So everything is defense on the left.
But you can see this comes at a price
and that price is back exposure on the right-hand side.
You can literally see his opponent’s back on that side.
So Gordon’s whole game is to place sufficient pressure
that the opponent overcompensates on the side of pressure
just to set up a quick switch across to the other side.
There’s the vulnerability, there’s the back exposure.
His opponent has to put his back on the ground,
switch his back.
That’s a world champion right there on bottom
who does a good job of recovering from the first danger.
But unfortunately, Gordon has been here a thousand times
and just switches his hips and kicks out.
A little step.
And so you see there’s two changes in direction,
left, right, in a very short period of time
that people find very, very hard to keep up with.
Now his opponent builds up to an elbow.
He’s looking to create more and more space from here,
but Gordon counters by just stepping over the hips.
It’s just when you feel like every move,
he’s doing the right things.
The man on bottom is doing well.
He’s doing the right things.
But the other guy’s just been here too many times
and is just a half second ahead of every decision being made.
So that going up on the elbow.
Man, Gordon makes it look so easy here.
It almost seems like Victor’s out,
but this turning of the hips
with the arm over the opponent’s back
is able to bring him back down and Gordon takes mount.
Notice how Gordon is never satisfied
with the mounted position itself.
He’s only satisfied with an extended mounted position
where the elbow comes up over the shoulder line.
Yeah, only then does he show,
there’s a little bit of relief right there, right?
There’s a little bit of relief.
That’s the look of a man who’s just proved a point.
This is very Michael Jordan-like, sticks his tongue out.
So yeah, I mean, there’s no points at this stage.
He really is going for submission.
And then this happens again.
Is this the match that wasn’t, Gordon was not able to-
This was the only match where Gordon
didn’t finish his opponent by submission.
Was this very frustrating for him?
Was there a-
It’s actually interesting that when he came off the mat,
he was visibly frustrated.
He wanted to get a finish,
but he was not able to get a finish.
He was not able to get a finish.
He was not able to get a finish.
He was not able to get a finish.
He was visibly frustrated.
He wanted to get a finish.
And I think he was more upset
about not finishing Victor Hugo
than he was delighted by winning his two gold medals.
So I think that says a lot
about the perfectionism of Gordon Ryan.
Most people would be thrilled
to beat one of the great grapplers of this generation
decisively in this fashion, but he was not happy.
So this is Gordon’s third match against Sousa,
Roosevelt Sousa, another guy who’s very big.
Yeah, this is different
because now we’re onto the second day.
Your listeners should be aware
that the event occurs over a two-day period.
So the previous two matches occurred on Saturday.
Now we’re into Sunday.
Now this puts a different context on things.
If we could just freeze it right there,
maybe go back one step.
Now we’re on Sunday morning,
and the idea is that Gordon will be fighting
the biggest fight of his life late that afternoon.
So now we’re into the idea of energy conservation, okay?
It’s okay to have two hard matches on Saturday
because you get to rest on Saturday night,
but now Gordon has to beat two people back-to-back
and save energy for the biggest fight of his life
on Sunday, late Sunday afternoon.
So now the emphasis is on a quick win,
and you can see Gordon Ryan certainly delivers on this.
Now, when you go to entangle your opponent’s legs,
the basic choice you have is between straight Ashigarami
and cross Ashigarami.
In the last five years,
cross Ashigarami has proven to be statistically
the more important of the two.
And as a result, many people have forgotten
the value of straight Ashigarami base leg locks
and undervalued them.
Gordon has outstanding heel hooks
from both straight and cross positions.
And his opponent was probably more concerned
about the danger of a cross Ashigarami,
left the right leg undefended for far too long.
And as a result, Gordon goes into a very classical Ashigarami
you would normally expect to see from five or six years ago
and gets a very, very quick finish.
So lifts his opponent.
There’s the Ashigarami,
the entanglement of one of his opponent’s legs
with two of his.
Now he’s got to turn and expose his opponent’s heel.
So there’s an initial off balance to the left
to get a defensive reaction.
The opponent overcompensates, exposes his heel,
and then there’s the submission.
There’s a danger of a leg being broken here.
Gordon has a absolutely ferocious outside heel hook
until you felt it, it’s quite different.
So the opponent, probably before he even felt the heel hook,
felt the control and that it’s screwed.
That he’s screwed there.
He doesn’t even want to.
When someone who knows what they’re doing
gets a bite on your leg like that,
you feel it deep inside your knee
and ankle tendons immediately.
There’s a sense in which you almost tap.
He got a couple of taps, almost like as if they’re early,
because the opponent knows.
People came up to us and said,
this guy tapped early.
It’s like, hmm.
No, he knew.
He knew that late would be a big problem.
So this is within like 30 seconds, within 10 seconds.
I think it was within 10 seconds.
So this was an excellent example of someone saying,
okay, I’m gonna conserve energy with a short match.
I’m not just gonna go down into a neutral position.
I’m gonna directly pull into a leg lock attack
from standing position.
You don’t see that much in heavyweight divisions.
That’s something you see more in the lightweight divisions.
So we gotta go to the final match of Gordon’s
within his division, which I think,
as opposed to facing Felipe Pena,
who lost to Nicky Rod.
Nicky Rod had a great match against Felipe Pena
and passed Felipe Pena’s guard.
I think only the second person in ADCC competition
to accomplish that.
I believe with a body lock.
It started as a body lock,
but he converted to half guard, top head and arm
and passed out of half guard top, chest to chest.
I think I listened to a Craig Jones sort of interview
summarizing what happened to ADCC.
And he briefly mentioned that Nicky Rod might have
the best body lock pass that he’s ever felt.
He’s very, very good with the body lock.
The way to face Nicky Rod is don’t get him,
don’t let him get the body lock.
But there’s a problem if you stand up,
he’s a good wrestler.
So there’s a dilemma there.
Like you have to sit down to guard,
but that goes into his body lock.
But then if you stand up,
now you go into his wrestling skill.
So it’s a great dilemma that he has.
And that’s what,
in facing Nicky Rod,
Gordon Ryan here chooses to,
yeah, if you look at the limbs,
there’s a relaxation there.
We should also explain some things here.
This is a finals match.
So instead of being 10 minutes long,
it’s 20 minutes long with the option of a 20 minute overtime.
So this could potentially be a 40 minute match.
So you can see why the ADCC people were very concerned
about Gordon doing this match,
because what if this match had gone 40 minutes
and then an exhausted Gordon Ryan
has to go out to fight Andre Galvan,
who’s fresh and ready to maul him.
And on top of that is two former teammates.
Who know each other’s game very well.
So there was a high likelihood in most people’s minds
that this would go the distance.
Because when you train with each other for years,
every single day in the gym, seven days a week,
you get to know each other’s tricks.
One big problem here for Nicky Rod is that
his body lock guard passing game,
which is his main weapon on the ground,
was taught to him by us.
So it’s not like we’re gonna be taken by surprise by it.
So that must have been figuring in his mind.
Do you think psychologically for Gordon
and psychologically for Nicky Rod, it’s tough?
So for him with that body lock, for example,
do you think it’s tough for him to know what to do here?
It’s tough because he would have remembered
the outcome of the training sessions.
It’s hard to go up against the guy
who used to dominate you in training
and then say, okay, I’m gonna beat him in competition.
But can you shut all of that off?
It’s tough, man.
Memory is memory.
You can’t lie to yourself.
Well, what do you think about competition?
Sort of there’s been a lot of, Olympics bring this out.
There’s been a lot of big upsets at the Olympics.
There’s something where people find something in them.
I mean, judo is a different sport than grappling.
In judo, there’s much more room for upset
because a mistake in judo
will have ramifications that will be felt
within half a second.
Like if you take the wrong grip in judo,
you can be thrown in half a second and there’s no recovery.
If your two shoulders hit the mat with momentum,
it’s over, it’s done.
In jujitsu, you could, especially in ADCC
where there’s no points in the first five minutes,
you could get taken down and mounted by your opponent
and still win.
Like you can recover from a bad start.
In judo, boxing, kickboxing, MMA, you get hit,
there’s no recovery time.
You just get swarmed on.
And jujitsu is a much more forgiving sport
where you can make a series of blunders
and you just recover from them.
You don’t make a series of blunders in boxing,
So there’s the blunder case,
but there’s also been just people where it’s their day.
I mean, again, maybe it’s romanticizing the notion,
but there’s been some epic performances
in Olympic wrestling, in Olympic judo.
As an example, Satoshi Ishii, he had a 2008 performance.
We talked about the All Japan and all that kind of stuff,
but the Olympics, he destroyed everybody on this path
to the Olympic gold medal.
And that’s when Teddy Rennero was also competing,
he got the bronze.
So, I mean that, and you could say he was at that time
the best in the world also,
but some people have a say.
Yeah, but I think it would be very fair to say
he was the best in the world.
I think about the people he beat
to win three All Japan championships.
Like he beat Kosei Inoue, he beat Keiji Suzuki,
they were Olympic champions.
Like he was already-
So you don’t believe in free will?
No, I don’t believe that a person
can walk on stage and be better
than what they are supposed to be.
You have a skill level, it’s set in stone.
This is your skill level.
You don’t just go on stage
and suddenly your skill level gets here.
What you do have is a situation
where you have a skill level, okay?
Another opponent has a higher skill level,
but he runs into confidence issues
so that he only uses a small percentage
of his actual skills.
And then he will fall below someone
who is technically lower on the skill scale than he is.
That can happen,
but you can’t just magically acquire skills-
Yeah, but all of us are able to fall in confidence.
Yes, so the question becomes who manages that fall best?
And that can create upsets, absolutely.
So you don’t think Gordon could have fallen in confidence
against a former teammate when the pressure is so high?
There was just no basis for a fall to occur.
You said he doesn’t have confidence issues.
What do you attribute that to?
That’s because he never loses in the gym.
There’s no experience that he’s had
that would make him say,
I shouldn’t be this confident.
So it’s the physical,
it’s like we talked about mental preparation-
Don’t get me wrong,
if Gordon lost 20 matches in a row,
of course his confidence would drop
because experience is now,
there’s gonna be a psychological dissonance
between his experience, his recent experience,
and what he believes.
Okay, if you believe you’re the best in the world,
you just lost 20 matches,
at some point reality’s gonna break in.
But if you’re just never losing in competition,
dominating people in the gym,
then there’s nothing in your experience
that would shake your confidence.
Can I ask you this just in a small tangent?
Why is Gordon Ryan so good?
So we’re looking at,
you’ve trained a lot of special athletes,
you’re a special human being yourself.
I could just look at human history.
There’s a lot of,
not a lot,
there’s some special humans.
It seems like Gordon Ryan is one of them.
I totally agree with that.
Can you try to dissect-
That’s what I meant when I said
I had many students,
but only one Gordon Ryan.
I’ve taught many, many people,
but they don’t all have his skill level.
So there’s an obvious elephant in the room here.
What distinguishes him from other athletes?
I’ll try and give an answer.
More than anyone else that I’ve ever taught,
he has a memory for things that were taught to him.
He has an ability to recall information
that is extraordinary compared
with other people in the room.
So that’s definitely a big part of it.
Secondly, he has a pride in technique
and technical prowess
that will not allow him to settle
for anything less than perfection.
And he will hate himself when there is imperfection.
So there is a love of excellence
and a hatred of anything less than excellence.
He has an ability
to pull the trigger when opportunity arises,
which is truly extraordinary.
Many people know what to do,
but when the moment comes, they back off
and they’ll doubt themselves.
If Gordon sees the opportunity,
the trigger pulls every time.
So can I just linger on that briefly?
There’s a few times where he gets
a little bit of an advantage
and he just chases it to get a big,
like with Andre Galvao,
it’s like there’s a dance and you get one step ahead
and he’s able to chase that.
Get a little glimmer of the back
and he’s able to chase that all the way to back control.
So is that kind of the trigger that you’re referring to?
It runs deeper than that too.
It’s the idea that good athletes are greedy athletes.
Okay, when they see a small opportunity,
they try and get as big a bite of it as possible.
So that a mantra that we always have in training,
if you can see the back, you can take the back.
And if Gordon sees an inch of your back,
you know that’s the direction he’s gonna be going.
If your far shoulder is within an inch of the floor,
he’s gonna be mounting you.
If your shoulder comes off the floor,
he’d be on your back on the other side.
He’s a maximalist with opportunity.
He’s not satisfied with,
oh, let me get a good enough outcome.
It’s like, I want the maximal outcome.
So when you combine all these things together,
an ability to recall information,
which is just far superior to anyone else I’ve ever coached.
An ability to work in the training room
towards not just good technique, but excellent technique.
The confidence to pull the trigger
whenever the opportunity arises.
A maximalist mindset where it’s never enough
to have a good enough outcome.
It’s always gotta be the best possible outcome.
And the fifth element,
which I believe is very, very important,
is extraordinary depth in his technical prowess.
In his technical prowess.
In particular, with regards his defensive acumen.
Everyone looks at Gordon and focuses
on his offensive prowess
because they see him dominate other athletes.
But what they don’t see is what I see every day in the gym
where he works from impossibly bad defensive position.
Someone locked in on a full heel hook on his body,
and a full judogitami amba in a complete pin
mounted with Gordon’s two arms stretched out over his head
in what looks like a hopeless position.
And Gordon will work in these positions.
And of course, because it’s such a bad position,
sometimes he’ll have to tap.
But he just works so relentlessly in these bad positions
that when he steps on stage, he’s like,
if this guy got the worst possible position on me,
there’s nothing he could do with it.
And within 30 seconds, I could turn it around on him
and win this match.
That gives his game an overall breadth and depth,
which is very, very hard to deal with.
It means there’s no obvious weak point
where you can just say, okay, I’m gonna attack him here
and use this strategy to beat him.
And that goes back to his confidence.
The reason why most people lack confidence
is because they fear bad outcomes, okay?
If you’re a strong guard player,
you’ve got an excellent guard,
but you’re terrified of leg locks,
and your opponent has strong leg locks,
you will shut down your own guard
and won’t play as freely and well as you normally do
because you’re afraid of the leg lock danger.
You’ll pull your feet in,
you’ll play a very conservative guard game.
But if you had extremely adept leg lock defense,
then you just play with all the confidence
you normally do from guard position.
Gordon puts himself in that situation.
He’s so defensively sound
that it translates into his offensive confidence.
When you talk about memory recall,
which is interesting,
I can’t help but see parallels
between him and Magnus Carlsen, who’s a chess player,
who’s the number one in the world,
arguably the best ever, certainly the best ever,
if you just look at absolute numbers.
The chess has the luxury of having a rating,
which you cannot have in jiu-jitsu
because it’s a game of human chess.
Chess is just a board game,
so you can actually calculate
the probability that you could win.
So he has the highest ELO rating ever,
and he’s maintained that rating.
Without competing against the number two in the world,
he could just prove that he’s the number one
in the world for many years.
Anyway, there’s certain similarities.
One is ability to recall.
So memory recall of information is fascinatingly good.
And the other one is not so much a love for perfection,
which is something you mentioned,
but the flip side of that,
which is what you also mentioned
is the hate of imperfection.
Now, in the case of Magnus,
it almost creates a level of anxiety for him
that’s almost destructive.
So the thing he seems to hate the most
is imperfection against people he knows are worse than him.
So the thing he loves is competing against people
that are close to his skill level
or the favorite is people who are,
might actually be better than him,
especially in certain positions.
He loves competing against them.
He hates competing against people that are still,
from the perspective of everyone else,
what are called super grandmasters,
so top three in the world,
but he knows he’s much better than them.
And the anxiety of being not perfect against those people,
that’s why he, I don’t know if you’re paying attention,
but he stepped away.
He’s not gonna defend his world championship
because he hates the anxiety
of playing people worse than him.
He figures they would somehow make him look bad or?
No, he just, for him,
at least the language he uses, it’s just not fun.
And he likes having fun.
To him, it was fun to win, no matter the skill level,
the world championship the first time,
but then defending it is a very grueling process.
With classical chess, you play these many hour,
it could be seven hour long games.
And on top of that, he really hates the fact
that it’s only, I forget what it is,
but it’s single digit number of games.
He says it’s low sample.
So I can’t, I would like to play 20, 30, 40, 50 games
if we’re gonna do it this way.
But then they’re too long, it’s gonna take too long.
So he’s really emphasizes the fun of it
and the clear demonstration of who’s the best.
Now, chess is an interesting game.
It’s probably different than grappling
because it’s been played for centuries.
So there’s this giant body of people that are playing it.
Like there’s other Gordon Ryans out there.
Imagine a world where there’s multiple Gordon Ryans
or something like that, different dimensions,
but you have like sharks everywhere.
And so there is fun to be had
even at the very, very, very, very top.
But the memory recall is the thing that stands out
and the hate of imperfection,
more intense than anybody else in the game.
That takes us back to the final.
So here Gordon is facing Nicky Rod,
former training partner.
And again, the intention here is
this has to be put in the context
that Gordon will be fighting
the greatest ACC grappler of all time
in a few hours after this.
So what we’re looking for is a quick resolution,
still the shortest possible match.
Now, there’s a complicating factor here.
Nicky Rod was a wrestler before he was a jiu-jitsu player.
On paper, the way his route to win is via wrestling.
He’s not gonna be able to submit Gordon Ryan
and he’s not gonna be able to pass his guard.
So he has to win by wrestling.
In the ADCC finals, you cannot sit to guard.
So the approach that Gordon used earlier
that we saw on video cannot be used in the finals.
Gordon must wrestle his opponent.
So on the way out,
Gordon and I were talking
and we’d had discussions obviously during the cam,
what’s the appropriate thing to do here.
And there had been some
matches earlier in the event
where it was becoming obvious
that stalling was being heavily punished by referees.
So I said to Gordon on the way out,
just give him your leg.
Let him take you down.
Because in the first 10 minutes of the finals,
takedowns don’t score anything
or there are no means of scoring the first 10 minutes,
but you can’t sit to guard.
That will award you a negative point.
So I said, just let Nicky Rod take you down.
And he’s like, Nicky Rod’s not gonna take the bait.
And I said, if he doesn’t, I’ll call him for stalling.
And then Craig Jones also commented after the fact,
is I don’t know why Nicky Rod took the bait.
So if we see the start of the match,
you see Gordon comes out and offers a leg.
Now, it’s not that, you know, Nicky Rod is smart.
He knows what’s happening here.
And what’s he gonna do?
Stall for 10 minutes
and get like five stalling calls put against him?
So Gordon gives him the takedown.
That way they go to the ground immediately with no effort.
And the match now favors Gordon
because Gordon is significantly more skilled on the ground.
The question is,
how can we make this match as short as possible?
And as is so often the case, the answer comes back to legs.
So for people just listening to this,
Gordon is in an open guard
and Nicky Rod appears to be trying to keep his hips away
from Gordon’s legs.
Yes, the big, Nicky Rod knows there’s a danger here.
So he’s elected to go to his knees
that will set up his favorite body lock passes.
And it will, in some ways,
mitigate some of the dangers associated with leg locks.
So Gordon’s whole thing is,
how am I gonna get my body weight underneath him?
He has a choice between linear entries
where he enters between his opponent’s knees
and circular entries where he inverts
and spins underneath his opponent
to get under a center of gravity.
Is there a way for somebody to try to get a body lock
without giving Gordon an opportunity to get under them?
Well, the body lock is an excellent way
to shut down leg lock entries
if you can get to the body lock.
But you can see Gordon’s very, very disciplined
with his elbow and knee position.
Elbows and knees work in a position
where it’s very, very hard
for his opponent to access his waist.
That shoulder’s always either across the hip
or in front of the shoulder.
Sorry, his knee is either in front of the shoulder
or in front of the hip.
And we’re one minute into the match,
and just if I were to look at the video player here,
it appears that the match is over soon.
So I guess Nicky Riot is facing this.
I need to get close in order to do the body lock.
And the closer you get, the more danger there is
to let Gordon get under you and get the leg control.
Now they’re starting to get close here.
Gordon’s going to try and get his head
underneath his opponent
and make a circular entry into the legs.
He’s clearing his opponent’s head out of the way
by faking the arm drag on the far side.
First move that he used against his first opponent
earlier in the tournament.
And there’s the leg.
Spins underneath it, goes circular,
gets his body weight underneath his opponent.
And now he’s going to trip him down to the mat.
Now, I believe Nicky Riot tries to pull out his foot here.
And Craig also said that Nicky Riot has gotten used
to being able to pull that foot out from anybody.
And that he was very surprised at the grip
that Gordon was able to actually hold on.
So I just want to comment.
I’m just parroting commentary.
If you look at what’s happening here.
From the internet.
If you just freeze it,
you’ll see that Gordon, like any good leg locker,
will always treat his opponent’s foot
like a knot at the end of the rope.
Just as you slide down a rope,
if there’s a knot at the end, your hand will catch.
So too with the human leg.
When they go to extract by pulling,
you just keep your fist as close to your shoulder as possible
and narrow the gap.
The foot will always catch.
The failure that many people have
is they let their hand drift away from their own shoulder.
And so there’s room for the foot to extract.
But you’ll see Gordon’s extremely disciplined
with thumb close to his own shoulder,
which creates a situation that’s very, very hard
just to simply pull your foot out.
You’re focusing on the knot of the foot.
Yeah, also it’s very early in the match.
There’s very little sweat.
Both athletes are still pretty dry.
Now Gordon has to climb the leg.
And now he’s already captured his opponent’s shoelace.
There’s the heel exposure coming up.
Nicky Rod already knows things are getting bad.
And there’s the win.
Actually, the comment I made,
I guess, was from a little bit earlier.
There was an earlier time
where Nicky Rod was trying to pull out the foot
and Gordon is able to hold onto the knot,
which is interesting.
Now, that was a brilliant day’s work by Gordon Ryan.
He’s had two matches against opponents
considerably bigger and stronger than himself.
And the time of the two matches can be measured
in, I think, less than two minutes.
So he’s done what he set out to do.
No injuries, no exhaustion.
He’s beaten four guys back to back,
all of whom are excellent athletes
with minimal energy expenditure.
And he’s ready to go on to his super fight.
So, and that’s against one of the greatest,
arguably, for a long time,
really, really up there jiu-jitsu practitioners,
competitors, grappling no-gi competitors of all time,
which is Andre Gavarro.
Yes, Andre Gavarro is almost certainly at this point
the greatest ADCC competitor of all time.
He won more super fights than anyone else
by a landslide.
So if I may just read a few words
you’ve written on Instagram about this match,
about Andre Gavarro, on greatness.
How great you become in any given endeavor
will always be assessed by the degree of difficulty
of the barriers you had to overcome to get to the top.
Just as the lion became king of the jungle,
not by living among sheep,
but by dominating a world of elephants, hyenas,
buffalo, leopards, crocodiles,
so too the greatness of an athlete will be determined
not just by his own ability,
but by the greatness of the athletes he faces.
Thus, in his quest for greatness,
Gordon Ryan owes a debt to the greatness
of his toughest opponent, Andre Gavarro.
And you go on to sing him praises.
So, and that introduces this match.
You know, there was an interesting moment.
I didn’t even listen to the words exchanged,
but because I had the great fortune
of sitting next to Hodger Gracie,
there was this fascinating moment before the match.
And I can’t believe Gordon is sufficiently relaxed
to do this, but he walked up to Hodger Gracie
and had a discussion.
What do you think?
You’ve faced Hunter Gavarro before.
What are your suggestions?
And they’ve talked it back and forth.
They brainstormed ideas like minutes before the match.
And it was just a beautiful moment of like,
I don’t know, like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan
talking to each other, something like that.
I mean, I wonder how much brainstorming there really was
and how much was it just kind of like spiritual inspiration
or something like that.
Yeah, I think it’s more spiritual inspiration.
He looks up to Hodger as a very close friend
and mentor of mine.
So I always tell my athletes,
look to Hodger as your example.
This is a guy who always fought for the finish.
He tried to express the highest ideal of jiu-jitsu,
which is control leading to submission
in every match he was ever in.
He even lost matches on tactics against people
that he could easily have defeated
if he adopted a different tactic.
But he always insisted on victory by submission.
It defined his career.
It made him who he was.
And I always try to have my athletes emulate him.
So what was the strategy going into this match?
What were you thinking?
What were you thinking?
Okay, for Andre Galvan,
there’s a sense in which Andre Galvan had to fight
literally the perfect match to win this.
Okay, this is a match that’s gonna be 20 minutes long
and potentially 40 minutes long.
Andre Galvan cannot win by submission.
Gordon’s submission dominance here is just too great.
It would be exceedingly difficult
for him to win on the ground.
Gordon’s ground positional game is just too advanced.
And so for Andre Galvan, he had to win.
If he was going to win,
it was going to be in a standing wrestling exchange
where most people assessed him
as having a measure of superiority over Gordon Ryan.
The problem is that it’s hard
to just keep a potentially 40 minute match on the ground,
sorry, off the ground that whole time.
It’s very, very difficult indeed.
So he would have had to fight literally
the perfect tactical match to make it happen.
And he would have to do it
without getting called for stalling points.
Gordon has the luxury that if at any point
they go to the ground, he has complete dominance.
But Gordon too has a problem
that he can’t pull guard without being penalized.
And if Andre Galvan can play this tactical game
of forcing Gordon to pull guard
and then staying at a distance where he doesn’t,
he’s doing enough action not to get called for stalling
but not so much to engage
with the dangerous Gordon Ryan on the ground,
then it’s feasible he could have won.
But it would have been, as I said,
it would have required the most perfect application
and integration of technique and tactics
that he’s capable of.
How much intimidation was there?
Was there, or are these assets already beyond that?
When you say intimidation, be more precise.
Do you think there was some degree,
if you’re just to empathize with Andre Galvan,
do you think there’s some degree
in which Gordon was in his head?
Because of the trash talk leading up to certain events,
because of the level of dominance that Gordon has shown
in this competition and in the months
and years leading up to it.
Also the fact that Andre Galvan is also a coach
of a large team.
So there’s some pressure to demonstrate to the team
that the old lion still got it.
Yeah, I can’t speak for Andre,
but I know for Gordon,
it’s hard to be intimidated when you know
the other guy has no method of finishing you.
It just takes so much pressure off.
When you just go in there saying,
there’s literally no way this guy can finish me.
And there’s no way this guy can pin and control me.
I can’t be finished.
I can’t be pinned and controlled.
The only way I can lose this
is if this guy plays a tactical game.
So in his best case scenario,
I lose by a tactical game.
But from Andre’s perspective, it’s like,
if I make one screw up, this kid could finish me.
You can see which way the intimidation game goes.
Now, for the start, things get interesting here.
We’ve already said, if you could just freeze it right there,
Andre’s only realistic path to victory
is standing grappling.
That would require him to take Gordon down,
presumably multiple times after the first 10 minutes,
and not be taken down at all by Gordon.
So it’s a tall order.
It’s possible, but difficult.
And here’s where things get interesting.
I told Gordon before the match,
just go out and offer him the leg.
Same way you do with Nicky Rod.
And that’s where things get interesting.
I must say that I loved what Andre Galvan
did at the start of this match.
He’s a little crazy here.
There was just so much energy in the room at this point
that his hand fighting got a little-
For people just listening,
there’s a bit of hard slapping.
Yeah, that’s fine.
That could be considered a strike.
There was just a lot of electric atmosphere in the room.
So now things settle down a little bit.
But here’s where things get interesting.
Andre throws the whole tactical game out the window
right from the start.
He goes for the takedown.
Gordon doesn’t try to fight the takedown
because it’s in his interests to go to the ground.
But I love this about Andre.
He’s literally like, fuck you, kid.
Let’s see how good your ground game is.
So he shoots the takedown,
and Gordon accepts it, obviously,
because it’s to his advantage to accept it.
But I love the fact that Andre was like,
I’m not even gonna try and stall this out.
I’m just gonna, bang, there it is.
So he’s like, okay, let’s see what you got, kid.
They say you’re good on the ground.
Let’s see what you fucking got.
And I love that about Andre.
Unfortunately, he’s entered the hornet’s nest now.
What happened there real quick?
Because that was very-
Gordon immediately went into ashigurami.
Not just any ashigurami,
but ashigurami where he’s holding both legs.
He’s in open guard and he’s scooted forward.
Wow, that’s really nice.
So he splits the legs.
Now he dominates the space between the knees.
So there’s a guaranteed straight ashigurami here.
He split the knees against Andre Galvao,
like effortlessly right there.
So already, Gordon’s in his preferred domain now.
So he’s starting to off-balance his opponent.
He’s looking for a reaction to get heel exposure.
He does get heel exposure.
Andre does a good job of monitoring the feet
to try and reduce the breaking pressure.
But the brute fact is it’s in Gordon’s realm now.
This is where he has all the advantage.
So, and the match is gonna be 20 minutes in Gordon’s realm.
That’s gonna be a very, very tall order.
Was there a moment here, again, Gordon’s on the legs.
Are you impressed that Andre’s able to get out
Andre, I would expect this.
Andre’s been preparing for this for two years.
And remember, Andre has gone against some
of the greatest leg lockers in grappling before and prevailed.
So he’s not naive.
You know, he knows how to defend himself.
The big problem is that he’s gonna create
defensive reactions, which lead into other aspects
of Gordon’s game, in particular, back exposure.
So here, ashigurami goes to like a single leg type
of position where Gordon runs to Andre’s back.
Now he has to return him to the mat.
The most efficient way to do so is always courtesy
of foot sweeping.
So he pulls out a de-ashiharai from the back
to sweep him down to the mat.
And now Gordon’s on top.
And this is a serious problem for any grappler in the world.
Once Gordon gets top position, he’s just relentless.
But just getting Andre Gavar’s good,
just getting the guard back, all of that,
There’s also a sense here in which Gordon is pacing it too,
just to physically fatigue an opponent.
So he’s passing the guard, but not rushing it.
Now what Gordon’s looking for here is complete
He’s getting very close to it now.
And once he gets chest-to-chest on an opponent
in top position, past one of his opponent’s knees,
it’s gonna be awfully, awfully difficult
for an opponent to recover.
What is he waiting for here?
Is this pressure here?
And over time, he just wears you out.
Yeah, it’s part of a campaign of attrition,
of pressure over time.
Now he’s creating a situation where he’s either gonna get
back exposure or mount exposure.
And either way is pretty much fatal
when you’re dealing with Gordon.
Andre elected to go the route of back exposure.
Now Gordon got the body triangle, is on his back.
And now it’s a…
Now there’s one physical problem here,
that’s that Andre Galvan has a neck like a bull.
And he has a very short and very thick neck.
So penetrating under the chin for a strangle
can be a real problem.
He also has extremely well-developed shoulders
and upper arms.
So when the head comes down and the shoulders go up,
there’s very little real estate to work with,
with regards to your strangle holds.
So Gordon in time will trap one of his opponent’s arms
with his legs in order to take away
one of those strong defensive arms.
There you can see the arm has been trapped
and now he can start-
Heating the body triangle.
Working towards the strangle.
And now here is still difficult.
It’s still difficult, but things are looking good.
There’s still considerable amount of time left on the clock.
Gordon is well ahead on points.
So all the pressure, all the tactical pressure
now is on Andre.
You’ll see the critical penetration of the jaw.
With the wrist, yeah, wow, yeah.
Now Gordon elects for a one-handed strangle.
Andre fought very bravely.
But a strangle, it doesn’t matter how brave you are.
And where does the strangle actually happen in terms of,
it felt like the strangle was at the blade of the,
it wasn’t even fully sunk in.
So where does, is that like a full comers,
like a one-handed choke?
There’s a sense in which once you get underneath,
you know the inevitable follow-up is coming.
Again, the inevitable, you’re feeling the inevitable.
To go back to your chess analogy,
it’s like resigning in chess.
In chess, it’s considered almost like impolite
to let it run out when you understand.
When you understand that death is on the horizon.
And there’s a lot of respect.
That was the beautiful thing.
With all the trash talk and everything like that,
Gordon always shows respect.
I love that about the drama of combat.
It’s trash talk in the beginning and respect at the end.
I think it’s, you know, when you feel someone,
Andre has great skills.
And when you grapple someone,
you feel just how skilled they are.
And whatever issues you had prior to the match evaporate
when you feel, okay, they’re just like you.
They do the same moves and same kind of concepts.
And you see that there’s more that bonds you together
than separates you.
And that’s the feeling at the end of most grappling matches.
So if we could talk about Giancarlo,
who had an incredible performance.
And I mean, there’s a lot of things we can say.
We can probably go through his matches.
But if we could just talk without that
about some of the most impressive things he saw about him.
One of the things I think you mentioned elsewhere in here
is about confidence.
So one of the things you saw that could really benefit him
as an athlete and competitor is to build up his confidence.
Is there, can you speak to that?
First of all, I should give you some background.
Giancarlo Bodoni was a strong local black belt in Boston
teaching at Bonato Faria School.
When I would film instructional videos,
I would often talk to him
and talk to him about his competitions and training.
And he would do local competitions.
He was trying to go from Gi training,
which was the majority of his competitive background
into no Gi.
And he was struggling in local competitions,
especially with things like leg locking,
where he had no background in leg locking
and would often get submitted.
So as we worked together in instructional videos,
we would talk and discuss.
He would periodically come to the gym in New York City
and come in to work out with the guys.
And he often struggled in the training room.
He had no experience with things
like body lock guard passing.
And this used to mean that he was,
many of the training sessions didn’t go well for him.
So he was always like a very polite,
well-spoken young man and worked hard.
When we went to Puerto Rico
and the team ended up drifting apart,
when we moved into Austin,
he said, you know, now that many of your athletes have left,
could I come down and train with you guys full time?
And I was like, yeah, I’d love to.
I thought it’d be a great training partner
for Gordon and Gary.
We didn’t really have any training partners at that point.
And sure enough, he literally just picked up
everything he had and moved down to Austin.
Now, anyone who just moves halfway across the country
to begin training, that already gets my respect right there.
That’s a big commitment.
And he began training.
We put him on a training schedule
where first he had to cover up his big weaknesses.
He had limited attacks from bottom position.
He had poor leg lock defense,
and he was very, very vulnerable
to certain kinds of guard passing,
which weren’t part of his experience.
This is all a year out from AGCC.
And we should also maybe give the spoiler,
which is he wins his division in a dominant fashion.
He also does incredibly well at the Absolute.
It was an amazing thing.
To give you an idea, when he first moved to Austin,
he competed in a WNO event,
and I don’t think he scored a single point,
lost a couple of matches,
and including matches to people who were in this ADCC.
So he came out of that looking very depressed,
and he lost to Ken Andoate.
He lost to Mason Fowler.
So John Cutler always struck me
as someone who was positionally sound.
He had good guard retention, things like this,
but he had no offense.
He had no leg lock defense,
and he just wasn’t able to assert authority on matches.
He was a guy who was always gonna be tough to beat
because it was hard to pass his guard, that kind of thing,
but he wasn’t dangerous.
Can I ask you a question on that?
Because my interaction with him early on
when he came to Austin,
I remember he interacted with me a bunch on the mat,
showing me stuff,
but I wonder if that kindness
is a detriment to the confidence?
Is there some connection?
Killers can be nice, too.
Confidence comes from skill level,
and confidence is a much more rational thing
than most people ascribe it.
People think of confidence as like this esoteric,
ethereal element that you either have or you don’t,
when in fact, confidence is much more a reflection,
a rational reflection on your past experience,
and if you’re successful with your past experience
and you’re expecting to compete in a situation
which is similar to your past experience,
and that past experience has mostly been successful,
you’ll be confident.
Are you pretty confident that the sun will rise tomorrow?
Of course you are,
because it’s done so every time in the past.
Now, there’s no, as people like Hume pointed out,
there’s no supreme rational reason for believing this,
but nonetheless, your confidence is high,
and it’s the same thing in jiu-jitsu.
If you’re performing well,
and skills are the reason for that,
your confidence will be high in the future,
regardless of what your mindset is.
So it’s not a question of, you know,
this personality does better in competition
or that personality.
Ultimately, it’s gonna come down to your skills,
and your confidence will be a reflection
of your accumulation of skills.
So what was his journey like to a person who lost,
to a person who dominated the competition?
Yeah, first things first, we had to say,
okay, you’ve got an obvious weakness, leg lock defense.
So every day in the gym, he would be taught,
okay, this is where you put your feet,
this is where you position your knees,
your point your knee this way, not this way.
Then he would have to start sparring situations
in leg locks, and have to work his way out.
Initially, these were like heartbreaking sessions for him,
where, I mean, I’ve got to give that kid full credit.
Like he just worked his way through it patiently,
dealt with frustration, initial failures,
and just said, I’m going to get better.
Can we just linger on that?
So what’s the experience of those early training sessions
like from an athlete perspective?
It’s daunting, it’s daunting.
Are you basically dealing with the rational thought
that you’re not going to ever be good?
Yeah, you’re wondering, have I even got what it takes?
Think about it, he’s an established player,
he’s been in an IBJF competition,
I believe he’s a brown belt world champion in the Ghee.
And suddenly a group of kids that he’s never even seen before
repeatedly submitting him with leg locks in the gym.
And he’s like, man, this is terrible.
A year from now, I’m supposed to fight ADCC
against people like Craig Jones,
some of the best leg lockers in the world.
It must’ve been hard, but he just stayed in there
and no one worked harder than him.
He just was in the gym three times a day, studying every day
and unlike so many other people,
every time he was shown something,
he consciously and deliberately tried to enact it,
even at the price of initial failure.
Do you advise that that’s a good way to go?
It’s the only way to go.
Like if you can’t wrap your head around the idea
that trying to acquire new skills
will create a temporary time
where your effectiveness diminishes
as you’re trying to bring on new skills,
you’re never gonna make it
because you’ll always stay at whatever skillset you are.
The whole mental trick is to imbue this idea
of delayed gratification that you have to accept
that when I bring on new moves,
my overall effectiveness will diminish,
but there’s the belief that in time,
as my skill performance increases,
it will increase over time,
but it will come at the price
of initial frustration and failure.
And John Carlo made that mental switch early on
in his time in Austin
and to his credit, just stuck through.
Within a very short period of time,
he came very hard to leg lock
and even the best leg lockers in the room
had a hard time with him.
And that was the first step in confidence.
He said, okay, I’m not getting finished quickly anymore.
Then he had to bring in a whole new set
of upper body submissions.
He neglected upper body submissions.
When you say upper body submissions,
do you mean the arm locks?
Strength holds, arm locks, things like this.
And in particular, he put very, very hard work
on his strangle holds.
He had always been someone who was positionally strong.
He could get to the back,
but he could never finish from the back.
And then suddenly in the gym,
he started finishing from the back.
And then his gym performance
against the lesser students increased
and you bump them up against better students.
And then this goes on all the way up
to the best guys in the room.
And in time, in a relatively short period of time,
there were significant increases in performance
and success begets success.
And this kept going.
We started to get a hint of his developing confidence
in local competitions.
I remember seeing John Carlo compete
in a local fight to win competition
against a tough Brazilian kid.
John Carlo just came out,
dominated and finished with a leg lock.
Now that was interesting.
It’s like, okay, you’re the guy
that used to get finished by leg locks
and now you’re beating tough opponents with leg locks.
And that was an important psychological step
for John Carlo Badoni.
And with each little step as we went further and further,
then he got to ADCC trials
and had one of the great performances.
I believe he submitted all of his opponents in ADCC trials
and put on a fantastic display of grappling.
Shockingly, no one paid attention to it.
They were just like, oh yeah, he won.
And John Carlo flew into ADCC completely under the radar.
They just saw him as,
oh, he’s the guy that won American trials.
And no one really paid much attention.
In his first match,
he took on a great Brazilian champion, Izaki,
and won in dominant fashion.
He was about to strangle him
with just a few seconds left on the clock.
And I remember John Carlo being furious
at the end of the match,
thinking like I was so close to finishing,
he wanted a perfect finish.
Up on points, six to nothing.
I mean, he could have just coasted at this point,
but he wanted to finish every one of his opponents.
And he got very, very close, but not quite there.
And then in his next match,
he had to take on the defending gold medalist
from the previous ADCC.
Yeah, Mateu Diniz.
This was the guy who was the favorite to win.
So you have a relatively unknown John Carlo
fighting the man who defeated Craig Jones
in the previous ADCC.
Do you remember what stood out to you about this match?
So Mateu Diniz is good wrestling, he’s good at everything.
Good all around grappler.
He’s got, by jiu-jitsu standards,
he’s a very strong wrestler.
So our intention was to match his wrestling
with John Carlo’s judo skills.
So you will see, if we could perhaps go back,
you’ll see the first takedown.
And took him down with a simple dragon peck.
So that was John Carlo’s first takedown.
That was more wrestling oriented
and good for his confidence to see
that he could score a nice takedown.
But Mateu Diniz is very, very good at standing up
from bottom position.
If we just go back just a step.
Okay, now here we have something interesting.
Mateu comes up from bottom, seizes a leg,
and John Carlo defends the wrestling move
and then goes immediately into-
What the fuck?
It’s kind of a mix of Sasai and Diyashi Hirai.
Wow, that was beautiful.
I didn’t even notice that.
That’s really nice.
Look at that.
From defending a single, threatening a guillotine.
One of the big themes of our ADCC camp
was that most of our opponents now
are getting very strong in hand fighting.
Look at that.
But they are not strong in foot fighting.
And so we put a very heavy emphasis on foot sweeping attacks.
You remember Gordon Ryan took down
Andre Galvant with a foot sweep.
And here you have John Carlo using the same technique,
not from the back, but from the front.
And an overhook.
Left hand post.
Catches the foot mid-air.
And that’s just a beautiful, beautiful takedown.
That’s beautiful judo.
And then later in the match,
you’ll use a Kusarigake,
another classical judo takedown,
to get top position.
Now at one point, John Carlo was in trouble.
He got his back exposed.
With this situation.
Double leg to-
To a knee pick.
So he has to expose his back
in order to avoid giving up takedown points.
But here’s a defensive training
that we work on is coming through.
He’s defensively sound, shuts out the hook,
prevents the score.
Keeps his body at the right angle
to prevent a power half Nelson.
Now he’s got to turn this around.
It’s one of the hardest things to do in grappling.
How dangerous is it to put your-
In this position to put your hands on the ground?
It’s ordinarily, it could be dangerous
because your opponent could switch to an armbar.
Whoops, and there’s the body lock.
Now there’s some controversy here,
but you can clearly see it.
The hand is in the air.
The hand is in the air.
The hand is in the air.
And yet the hands were locked.
So it shouldn’t really be as controversial
as people are saying.
Now watch for the right leg Kosarigake here.
Pulls in the hips, exposes the leg, boom, and down.
Also probably a lesson that
complaining to a ref does not protect you
from a good takedown.
Yeah, that’s why they say in combat sports,
defend yourself at all times.
But now the great advantage of judo takedowns
over wrestling leg tackles
is they confer upper body connection after the takedown,
which is very, very important for ADCC.
That’s why we put such a heavy emphasis on them.
And now Giancarlo is absolutely in the driver’s seat.
He just scored four points for that takedown.
So he’s well ahead at this point
against the established favorite
for the entire weight division.
So now Matthias Denise has to start taking some risks.
He’s staring down the barrel of defeat
and there’s not that much time left.
And that’s what’s gonna set up the pressure.
Now it’s tactical pressure.
It’s not physical pressure, it’s tactical.
Matthias has to turn away
and that’s gonna create back exposure,
the most dangerous kind of exposure in ADCC.
Oh, there it is.
Mount the back.
And Giancarlo capitalizes.
Matthias is smart.
He’s keeping on his side
so that less than 75% of his back is on the floor
to deny the mount points.
But that comes at a price
and that price is back exposure.
So the thing we talked about with Gordon,
the circumstance of fate,
which is he has a lot of grueling tough matches
and still chooses to do absolute.
And he seems to just power through all of it.
How much of the calculation is how to survive the cardio,
the grueling cardio aspect of all of this?
It’s a great question.
And the truth of the matter is
you can’t afford to pace yourself
because if you say,
I’m gonna hold myself back for this match
in expectation of the others,
you could end up losing your first match.
So he didn’t pace himself.
For any of the matches.
You have to just be in good shape
and that’s what the camp is for.
Some of the mental or no?
No, it’s mostly physical.
That’s what the camp is for.
Like he’s felt more pressure in the training room
than he felt in any of his matches.
But still sort of attacking.
Look at this.
That was a beautiful transition.
From back or from whatever the heck that position was,
right, from looking for the back,
What the heck is this transition?
So Mateus is engaging in a very good tactic,
which is to get most of his back off the ground
to deny them the mount points.
So as back exposure starts to occur,
he turns in.
Threatening an arm lock.
Yeah, but you can see what’s happening here.
As the left foot goes under,
it’s gonna create a beautiful triangle entry.
Right foot penetrates through underneath the neck.
And now he’s locking a triangle, a Senkaku,
but not just any triangle,
a triangle with the figure four locked
on the back of the opponent’s head,
which makes any kind of stacking defense
very, very difficult.
It makes it very, very hard for an opponent to pull away
and creates a much tighter strangle than average.
And as a result, it’s a quick submission.
Still chasing the submission.
With a minute left up on points.
Against the former champion.
Against the former champion.
That’s match number two.
Now, that’s the first day.
So John Collar goes to sleep that night thinking,
okay, I just beat a world champion in my first match
and almost submitted him.
And I just submitted the defending champion.
So of course he wakes up on Sunday morning
feeling pretty damn good.
Now, there’s an interesting twist here.
His opponent is a talented young Irishman
who won European trials, I believe,
almost entirely with leg locks.
And almost all of his major attacks in the tournament so far
have been leg locks.
Bear in mind that a year ago,
John Collar was losing to local blue belt competitors
via leg lock.
So in my mind, I’m thinking, okay,
how’s he gonna handle this?
Will the leg lock training kick in?
And you’ll see the result.
John Collar is on top, passing an open guard.
So you can see-
Keeping his legs away from any attacks.
His opponent, Owen from Ireland,
is employing the same tactics that we made famous years ago.
The idea of sitting to butterfly guard
and looking to entangle the legs.
He’s kind of playing that game.
So John Collar is obviously used to this
from training in the gym.
So he’s doing a good job of preventing entanglement,
controlling his opponent’s shoelaces
and moving out to an angle
which limits his opponent’s entry options.
So hands on the shoelaces and angles
is a good defense here.
It’s an initial defense.
Now, his opponent wants to get
underneath the center of gravity.
So John Collar wants to get outside the line of his legs.
At some point, your opponent’s going to entangle.
If he’s determined to entangle,
at some point it’s going to happen.
So John Collar decides, okay, let’s let it happen
and let’s see where his feet go
and let’s see how disciplined he is with his feet.
And the opponent is inverted.
Here, he does a good job getting behind John Collar’s knee.
So now they’re fully locked in.
So John Collar moves away to protect the heel,
rotates out, controls his shoelace.
Now, at this point, the Irishman’s starting to lose
discipline with his own foot position, okay?
He’s so focused on his own attack
that he’s starting to get a little sloppy
with his own foot position.
You see, he’s assuming, oh, I’m the guy who’s attacking,
so my opponent will be afraid of my leg locks
and is starting to make some small tactical errors
that John Collar will be able to take advantage of.
So he’s threatening the sort of the north-south passer,
like, yeah, he’s not putting too much pressure on the pass
because we’re still pretty early in the match
and he’s not ready to score yet.
So here again, he turns away his heel.
Now his opponent’s starting to get more and more cavalier
with his foot positioning to a point
where now it’s just downright sloppy.
So John Collar sees it, identifies it,
locks up a wrist-to-wrist toehold, and breaks his foot.
Where’s the, dumb question, where’s the control here?
How is he?
The control comes from his opponent.
The entanglement is his opponent’s.
His opponent is holding his own body in place
with his own legs.
So he’s the root of his own problem here.
So you got sloppy, well done, well done.
And a little smile from John Collar, that’s very nice.
The reason for that smile, you can probably guess,
is because a year ago, this would have been a disaster.
And now instead, it’s a guaranteed ticket to the finals
in either a gold or a silver medal.
And so you can see in that compressed moment,
that’s the look of a man who’s made,
who’s just recognized just how much progress he’s made
in what was once a weakness in roughly 10 months,
was the time it took.
And so he faces Lucas Hulk Barbosa in the final here.
Now these two have a history.
Hulk has beaten John Collar many times.
And so for John Collar, it’s a question of,
okay, here I’m matched up against a guy
who’s repeatedly beaten me.
How am I gonna turn this around now?
And in terms of, we talked earlier about confidence.
If confidence was just a mental thing,
John Collar never would have won this fight.
When you’ve lost all those times to an athlete,
words aren’t gonna change anything.
But you can see right from the start,
when they get into the hand fight,
John Collar is much more tactically adept
with his hand fighting.
He’s doing a good job of controlling his opponent’s hands,
preventing any kind of prolonged pressure on the head.
And Hulk gets a sense here in which he realizes
he’s fighting a very different person.
And this goes a long time.
Again, another super grueling match.
That eventually leads to a back take here, back triangle.
Body triangle, I apologize.
Here you can see the same tactics
utilized by Gordon Ryan.
Back control based around the body triangle.
Many attempts to try and entrap his opponent’s arm
and take away those defensive arms.
The main difference here is, again,
you have an athlete with a very powerful, compact neck.
So neck penetration is very important.
Neck penetration is difficult.
And so John Collar will switch to a palm to palm strangle
instead of the conventional figure four.
And now there’s eight minutes left.
So all the time in the world.
Is it only just a matter of time at this point
in situations like this?
Yeah, John Collar has a massive tactical lead in points.
There’s literally no way he could lose this match
at this point.
Even if his opponent did get out of here
and take him down,
John Collar would still be ahead on points.
So this question,
the question now is not whether John Collar
will get the gold medal,
but whether John Collar will get it by submission.
And there it is.
There’s the penetration of the neck
and he can’t get the figure four,
so he opts for palm to palm instead.
And there’s the submission.
John Collar is a relatively unemotional man,
but you can see there’s emotion.
That’s not fake, that’s genuine.
And that’s the emotions of a man
who 10 months ago couldn’t have done that.
And then 10 months later,
by dent of his own hard work and dedication
and his ability to actively attack his weaknesses
and turn them into strengths
and then develop an ability to finish,
that was a truly, truly remarkable achievement.
Let me ask you about Gary Tonin.
So he is one of the,
at least in my opinion,
greatest submission grapplers of all time.
There’s a lot of components to that.
But he lost in his first match.
Not only did Gary lose,
he lost to the bottom seed of his division.
And that in itself is something pretty remarkable
about what’s happening in ADCC,
how there’s a sense in which the days of
the invited athletes being far superior
to the trials winners are over.
It was a clear signal that anyone who makes it to ADCC
can beat the best people.
Sam McNally is a very talented submission grappler
He specializes mostly in armbars,
but he has a good positional game as well.
Has a very modern look to his jujitsu.
And he did a fantastic job against Gary Tonin.
I think tactically,
Gary perhaps got a little far away from
his true nature in grappling,
which is relentless submission attack.
And perhaps I should be given blame for this
because I put such a heavy emphasis
on the training camp overall on positional pressure
that I feel that worked very well
for all of the athletes except Gary Tonin.
Interesting, so you have to acknowledge
the nature of the athlete part.
And I think I was coaching so hard
to the new people in the room on positional pressure
that I neglected Gary’s innate ability to,
the fact that he does best
when he attacks exclusively by submission.
So I think if anyone should get blamed
for the failure here, it should be me.
There’s another comment as maybe I’m over,
overvaluing sort of just the physical aspect of this,
but it seemed like Gary looked skinny.
Is the weight cut difficult here?
This is the first time he ever went down to the 66 kilos.
So it wasn’t critical.
There’s other guys who are bigger than him
who made the weight.
But the weight cut, if you can just comment on,
does that ever play a part in the athlete’s,
the physical and the mental aspect of the weight cut?
It is a thing in wrestling that could break
even some of the toughest minds.
Yeah, but no, it wasn’t a weight cut
that would break someone like Gary Tonin.
It’s more physical.
You train lighter and weaker.
You tend to get injured more in camp
because you’re lighter.
We have a team now after the breakout
that’s mostly comprised of people over 215 pounds.
So there’s very few small people left in the gym.
Most of the smaller athletes went to B team.
So Gary’s been struggling a little bit
with training partners.
But here I think the chief problem was that
Gary focused perhaps a little too much
on the positional tactical game
and got away from his true gift,
which is relentless hunting for submissions.
And as I said, I think the person to blame for that is me
because I had to put so much emphasis
on the positional game for the developing athletes
that I didn’t pay enough attention
to Gary’s unique attributes.
So this, I mentioned I posted some stuff on Reddit.
So there’s a relevant question here.
Somebody on Reddit asked, Gordon has said,
and perhaps you have said as well,
that there are two types of jiu-jitsu practitioners,
ones who move themselves around like Marcel Garcia
and ones that control the motion of their opponents
What are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach?
And how do those different approaches apply
depending on which weight class you’re in?
That’s a great set of questions.
Yes, I’m the person who promulgates this idea
that there’s two broad ways you can go in jiu-jitsu.
You can either focus on promoting your own movement
to create opportunity
or by restricting the other person’s movement.
If you’re a slower, less athletic opponent,
then you should definitely focus on the idea
of restricting the other fellow’s movement.
That’s how slow unathletic people win in jiu-jitsu.
If you’re quick with the ability to change direction,
stand up quickly, go down quickly and move like a leopard,
then you’re almost always better off generating movement
in order to create opportunity.
So, one is based more on movement
as the source of opportunity.
One is based more upon pressure
as the source of opportunity.
So, you’ll get someone like Gary Tonin
or the Rua Tolo brothers.
Their game is based around the idea
of promoting their own movement to create opportunity.
Whereas someone like Gordon Ryan or Hodra Gracie
is about restricting movement
and using that pressure to create reactive opportunity.
Those are the two paths you can take in jiu-jitsu.
Because our team now has become mostly associated
with people over 200 pounds
and because most of them were beginners,
I took the more high percentage approach of,
okay, let’s focus primarily
on controlling the other fellow’s movement.
But Gary’s a unique individual
and I feel like I let him down
by not giving him special attention
in regards to what he does.
The fact that you’ve mentioned this now
like four times in the span of a few minutes,
just, I love that,
that all of this stuff weighs so heavy on you.
And he is a truly special person
and it is truly interesting to see
what is the nature of a particular athlete
that if you highlight makes them shine.
Let’s go to the part where Gary actually loses the match.
Okay, so the match is pretty innocuous at this point.
The guy does a good job of turning into the arm
and Gary gets caught reaching from the knees.
Okay, that’s always a mistake.
And the guy does,
I think does a great job capitalizing on it.
Now there’s limited time left on the clock.
This guy realizes, oh, this is my opportunity.
He’s got good flexibility and he gets the hook.
So if he just frees it right there.
So there’s a minute and a half left
and typically in ADCC, if you get the bag,
you score three points.
So this is a huge score.
For Gary to win here, it’s gotta be by submission.
Okay, so Gary’s made one mistake.
Now this talented young fellow from Ireland
does a great job, not only of getting the bag,
but he really attacks well from the back.
And let’s look at the depth
of Gary Tonin’s defensive acumen here.
And we should say leading up to this,
his defense is incredible.
He keeps escaping every position.
Our nickname for Gary is the Slippery Salmon
because it’s like trying to hold a goddamn salmon
on the riverbank, trying to hold onto this kid.
So he gets into a position
which looks absolutely hopeless here.
It gets worse.
This is already bad.
It’s one of the most fun things to watch
about Gary is the skill and the escapes.
It’s beautiful to watch.
So the guy has an excellent opportunity
to transition off here into a rear triangle,
which is one of the hardest things
in the world to get out of.
And from here, if this was anyone but Gary Tonin,
I think it would have been curtains.
But you see Gary just extends,
keeps his arm at just the right angle
to pop out and gets out.
So now Gary’s like, oh crap,
I’m going to lose to this fucking guy.
So he’s got a minute left to do something.
So he goes back into his submission mode.
He goes back to who Gary Tonin is
and immediately goes into leg lock action.
Now the young man from Ireland realizes,
hey, I’m going to win this match
against the number one seed.
So Gary goes into the legs,
gets to one of his favorite techniques,
the heel hook.
Now Gary has a brutal heel hook as heck
and gets real pressure on the kid’s leg.
Oh, I can’t, oh, oh, that’s hard to watch.
Yeah, but to his credit, the kid is smart.
And he’s like, you know what, let me,
he just let me take some, let me take some time.
Wait, is there a weakness to that?
Like where he turned his hips?
Yeah, it’s unclear from the video
whether Gary’s arm slipped up.
There’s considerable breaking pressure.
Oh, it slipped, I see.
Yeah, it’s unclear.
Even before the slip.
But sometimes the heel can slip
because it’s, because something’s popped.
So it’s unclear what happened there.
There seems to be a reaction from the part of the opponent.
Like it definitely did some damage.
So Gary goes back for a second one.
And again, you get that same kind of pressure.
I like the Irish kid’s reaction though.
He’s just like, you know what, let me eat this
because I’m going to win this match
and I’m going to be a legend for beating Gary Turner.
So I admired his internal fortitude.
And, but now Gary knows he’s lost it.
So there’s a sense there in which you see how close it gets
in these situations,
how little there is between winner and loser.
And sometimes you just get these heartbreaking situations
where someone who ordinarily
you would probably do very well against
and you make one mistake
and it’s an unrewarding, uncompromising sport.
One mistake can be fatal.
In class, you talked about escapes for arm locks
and it applies here as well.
So you were teaching arm lock escapes
and I think choke escapes.
And the question came up,
well, when should an athlete not tap
and risk their arm being broken?
And you quoted George Patton, as of course you would,
that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making some other bastard die for his country.
So what’s your view on when to tap
and when not to tap in competition?
First off, in training, you should be tapping very early
because you’re not getting paid to fight in the gym.
You’re getting paid to fight on stage.
So be a professional in the gym, tap early, tap fast.
That way you’ll last a lot longer.
In competition, things are a little different.
We also have to specify what is the situation, okay?
If you’re in the first round of ADCC,
your first match, you get caught,
I would always expect my students to tap
because if you get your leg broken
or your arm broken in the first round,
you still got three more matches before you get to the final.
There is a escape clause there
is if you’re a guy from Ireland
and you’re fighting the number one seed.
There is always an escape clause, yeah.
Like let it snap.
Yeah, let it go.
Your students, yes.
Yeah, I would expect them to tap.
I also think that if you’re in a stranglehold,
it doesn’t make a lot of sense in not tapping
because you’re gonna pass out.
It’s like you said in chess,
it’s kind of impolite to make the guy
take it through to his conclusion.
So I don’t see any heroism
and just letting yourself pass out.
Now, things change when you get into a final.
If you’re in a final and you’re ahead on points
and you’re willing to,
most people at that point are gonna be willing
to let something break in order to win a gold medal.
At that point, I leave it up to the student.
It’s a deeply personal decision.
I would never say to a student,
I expect you to let your body break
in order to win a gold medal.
I think my students are more than mature enough
to make up their own minds.
I would be angry if they let their bodies break
in a meaningless fashion,
in some random tournament
or in a first round match
where there’s no way you could go on
to the second, third and fourth matches
with a broken limb.
But in a final, in a gold medal match, in ADCC,
I would leave the decision to them
a spontaneous decision in the moment.
I would be confident that I had prepared them
to do their very best to defend themselves.
But what ultimately they do is their decision.
And winning ADCC is, for a grappler at least,
You’re a world champion forever.
And no one can ever take that moment away from you.
So I would understand if they took a decision
to take damage.
Hopefully it will never come to that
because I do a good job of preparing people
to get out of situations as you saw with Gary Turner.
He was in a dreadful situation
and got out within five seconds.
I saw that.
Gary’s been in arm locks that looked like
even I was in the corner going like,
oh my God, what is happening here?
And still got out.
So it comes down to training preparation.
But if they did make that decision,
I would understand,
provided it was a situation
that would make their lives better.
And they made a calculation.
It’s not an emotional thing.
Now, sometimes you get emotional.
You fight a guy you just don’t like
and you just don’t wanna tap to him.
Then things get a little more interesting.
Then, again, it’s a personal decision.
If you hate someone so much
that you literally can’t even conceive of yourself
submitting to them,
probably best you don’t get into matches with them
in the first place.
But if it should happen,
again, it comes down to the student.
I teach technique, not morals.
So I let people make their own decisions on that.
My thing is, look, don’t get injured.
Because if you’re injured, you can’t train.
You can’t train, you can’t get better.
So stay away from injury as much as you can.
So one of the other incredible stories here is,
as you mentioned,
one of the incredible gi athletes in jiu-jitsu world,
not ever having done no gi training or competition
and so on in a period of a year.
Actually, it’s significantly less than a year.
Nicholas only came about six months,
I believe, before ADCC.
As a phone call came from Gordon,
he was just like, okay,
Nicholas wants to come down and train.
He wants to move to Austin.
So he came down.
It was funny.
I remember the first day Nicholas came in,
Nicholas Meragali, as you can see,
he’s this tall, handsome Brazilian guy
with a great personality and a wonderful smile.
Also a super nice guy.
So he comes in, he sits down on the mat
and we’re all kind of looking at the new guy
and introducing ourselves.
And I look at him and I go,
buddy, what the fuck are you doing here?
And he’s like, what do you mean?
And I go like, look at you.
You’re like tall and good looking.
You should be a fucking model, not a jiu-jitsu guy.
Look at us.
We’re all fucked up with horrible bodies
and bad personalities.
You’re like a happy, good looking guy.
You should be surrounded by supermodels.
What are you doing jiu-jitsu for?
And he just laughed and he started training with us.
So he came in.
Now, historically, he has been an athlete
who always pulled guard.
In jiu-jitsu parlance for your viewers,
in jiu-jitsu you have the option
of sitting down to the ground.
Jiu-jitsu was mostly performed on the ground.
And many athletes take advantage of this.
They just come out and sit to the ground position
and completely forego takedowns.
Nicholas did this his entire career.
Jiu-jitsu also is practiced both gi and no-gi.
Nicholas was a shining light in the gi side of jiu-jitsu.
He was one of the great champions of his era.
But he had not only never competed without a gi,
he’d never even trained without a gi.
So there’s significant differences between the two.
There’s a lot of overlap,
but there’s also some very significant differences.
We’re talking about a sport where even small differences
can make a difference between a guy
who gets the gold medal versus a guy
who loses his first match.
It doesn’t take a lot.
So this was a very, very tall order.
Yeah, a lot of his attacks involve the gi from guard.
He’s in a very dangerous attack.
He doesn’t just wear the gi, he really uses the gi.
Like 90% of what he’s based around
is based around a combination of cross
and straight collar controls
with the control of the sleeve cuff.
And so he really actively uses the gi.
So when it came off, his first training decisions
were like, oh, he looked like a fish out of water.
In addition, he had no experience of leg locking.
So one of the most significant parts of the modern game,
he just had nothing.
Plus the wrestling.
He had literally zero wrestling,
which is half of ADCC is based around this.
So ADCC is like six months away,
and he has to get ready for the gi world championships.
Nicholas had won many accolades in gi jiu-jitsu,
but he had never won the open weight division of gi world.
So he’s like, the first day he’s there, he’s like,
John, I wanna be the first guy to win gi open weight
and ADCC open weight in the same year.
Now in my mind, I’m thinking like,
yeah, that’s never gonna fucking happen,
you fucking weirdo.
Do you think there was a degree
to which he actually believed that?
He thought it was like a certainty.
So he’s looking at me like, yeah, I’m gonna do this.
So I’m like, well, Nicholas, this is very laudable
and I approve of your confidence,
but this is a difficult goal you’ve set yourself.
But perhaps maybe like 2024 would be a more realistic.
He’s like, no, no, I’m gonna do it.
In all seriousness, it is incredible
that Nicholas Meragali had the guts
to set such a nearly impossible goal.
So what do you learn from this experience
of setting a goal that most people would say
is just unachievable and him actually almost doing it?
It’s on the surface, just absolutely crazy.
Like when he mentioned the goal to me,
I was, as I said, just looking at him
and almost like disbelief.
I didn’t wanna show it on my face.
And yet he came within inches of actually doing it.
He won his first ever gold in the open weight with the Gi
and got to the finals and lost a tight decision
in the finals to take a silver medal.
He wanted two golds, he got a gold and a silver.
And there’s a sense in which the sheer audaciousness
of the goal set seemed ludicrous when it first happened.
It’s like, this is insanity.
And yet he came at it with a plan.
He came at it with his characteristic passion and hard work
and came within inches of doing so.
And there’s a sense in which you could look at it
as, oh, he had a plan and it failed.
And yet, of course, no one in their right mind
would look at it that way.
They would say he set an audacious goal
so high that it seemed impossible
and it pulled his entire performance up to a level
where even failure creates something truly memorable.
Do you encourage athletes
or do you not get in their way when they set such a goal?
Maybe even just, forget athletes, human nature.
Yeah, that’s a great question.
There’s a sense in which you don’t wanna make people
delusional, that said, but I do believe
that if people are sufficiently embedded
in a given project, if they’re committed to it
to a certain degree, then you can skimp on many things
in life, but don’t skimp on your goals.
Because the bigger your goals,
the bigger your achievements will be.
And even failure, as we saw in the case
of Nicholas Miragalli, I almost frowned to use
the word failure because if this is failure,
give me more of it.
Falling slightly short of perfection.
Falling short of what would otherwise be a perfect year.
Even that still creates such a massive uptick
in your performance that it’s absolutely
the right way to go.
But there is a danger to this where people aren’t committed
and simply aren’t working from a framework
where they can realistically achieve these things.
Then it descends into delusion
and that direction goes towards madness.
You can’t have that.
So there has to be some kind of reality check here
where you have to be physically and mentally capable
to some degree of moving towards these goals.
You can’t just, you know, a random blue belt
can’t make audacious goals like that.
It’s just ludicrous.
But with that in mind, if you’re committed
and there’s a sense in which this is a definite possibility,
set your goals high.
Okay, make big demands.
Yes, there’ll be times of frustration,
there’ll be more failure in your lives than otherwise,
but even your failures will be something great,
See, but in the near term,
you would be hard-pressed to find any data
that justifies that goal.
Because in his case, he probably wasn’t very good
at Nogi even in the training room.
So it’s like, where do you look for even inklings of hope?
We saw an incremental progress
with each successive competition that he was in.
His first competition, he looked good, but not great.
Second competition, a little better.
Third competition, took on one of the legends
of American grappling and won decisively.
So there was a sense in which it was becoming
more realistic with each outing.
So now putting that inspiring philosophy aside,
what was the actual plan on how to make it happen?
So the leg locks.
First, same thing with Giancarlo.
First, you gotta learn how to defend a leg lock.
So initially, just as Giancarlo struggled, he struggled.
Then he had to learn not just takedowns,
but just how to set up a takedown.
He had to learn basics like stance and motion
and how to fight with the hands, et cetera, et cetera.
So he had to learn from the ground up.
And then he had to improve.
He always had a very good triangle,
always had a very good armbar.
Those were his two strengths coming into the no-gi training.
And those translate pretty well between gi and no-gi.
But he had no guillotine, he had no,
his strangles from the back were,
he has great collar strangles from the back,
but he really, really struggled
with finishing people from the back.
So he’s learning all this, and then he’s like,
well, now I gotta get ready for the gi.
So we had to switch his training to gi training,
and that took out a couple of months.
Then he went back briefly to Brazil
and got a terrible rib injury
right before the world championships
and came back more or less unable to move.
So the world championships is a week away,
and he’s like, John, I can’t move.
So I’m like, what are you gonna do?
He’s like, I’m gonna compete.
So I’m like, are you sure?
So we fly to California.
He goes out and competes.
His first opponent is literally the biggest man
who competes in jiu-jitsu.
This man is almost like 400 pounds.
Nicholas has got completely broken ribs.
We’re taping up his ribs backstage
before he goes out to compete.
He beats everyone by submission
and wins for the first time the open weight,
a title he had never won before.
He steps off the mat, looks at me, he goes,
well, I got the first of them.
He won it, gi, open weight, and now ADCC.
And now he can barely move.
He’s still gone through two days of brutal competition,
and his ribs are completely screwed up.
Takes a week off to try and get his ribs
somewhere back in order,
and then begins light training, building up to ADCC.
We start putting him in no-gi competition.
He fights two opponents of good quality,
but not like world-beating quality.
And then as his game starts improving,
we’re getting closer and closer,
he’s starting to develop a sense
where he can wrestle confidently on his feet.
He’s no longer easy to leg lock at all,
and is starting to leg lock people,
and is starting to get his very strong guard passing,
which was based mostly around pant grips and the gi,
to adapt to leg no-gi grips.
In addition, he’s starting to develop
strong chest-to-chest positioning,
which was never really part of his game,
a pressure top game.
And so things are looking good.
He’s matched against Rafael Lovato,
one of the great competitors of ADCC,
and wins a convincing victory,
featuring a lot of takedowns and a lot of pressure passing.
And people were just absolutely shocked.
I remember the staff of Flow Grappling
coming and going like, who is this guy?
He’s literally transformed, he’s like a different person.
So he goes into the World Championships.
In his weight division,
he was matched with a fellow Brazilian in the first match,
and they had an absolute barn-burning battle
where at one point Nicklaus was picked up and slammed,
and then ended up winning by Kimura, beautiful Kimura.
Then he took on the man who ultimately wins
ADCC open weight division and defeats him.
And again, grueling matches.
Yeah, tough, tough match.
Now, Yuri Samoiya at that stage
was two-time gold medalist in ADCC.
Nicklaus wins a very, very close match against him,
and then fights Craig Jones,
who’s one of the best leg lockers in the world.
So I think most people were expecting Nicklaus
to get leg locked very easily by Craig.
Nicklaus showed the degree
to which he had improved his leg lock defense,
in a six-month period.
Craig never really got close to the legs,
and ended up becoming a takedown battle.
Could have gone either way.
Craig, I thought, did a really good job of pacing himself.
Both athletes were very tired,
but Nicklaus was ahead on points,
and then Craig hit one last takedown,
which sat Nicklaus down to a hip.
Didn’t score, but it was the most aggressive takedown
of that last period.
And so Nicklaus got the nod and won a narrow victory.
Craig commented afterwards,
he said that, I really wanted the submission,
and he said, Nicklaus seemed to have
really wanted the submission,
but it ended up being a grueling match.
He took everything, exhaustion-wise, everything he had.
It was a tough, tough match,
and they were very well matched.
Once they figured out they couldn’t submit each other,
it came down to their wrestling ability.
Neither one of them is a wrestling specialist,
but they’re both competent in wrestling,
and it became physically very, very tough.
Then Nicklaus went on to win the bronze medal
in his weight division.
So the next day, when we get called for the open weight,
obviously Giancarlo had won a gold medal.
Everyone agreed that he should go into open weight.
Did Giancarlo agree?
Of course, he was-
Because he didn’t have an easy format.
You don’t order people into it, you ask them.
But he was delighted.
I guess the question I’m asking is,
how do you find the strength to then go on to absolutely,
after, because you’ve done a 14-week training camp
where every day was just as intense as any ADCC day,
so you’re used to it at that point.
But he had very, very long, tough matches.
But he’s used to it.
He’s a good athlete.
So Nicklaus and Giancarlo went out.
And Giancarlo had a spectacular submission victory
against his first opponent.
Nicklaus had some firework matches.
And one of the toughest opponents he came up against
was the brilliant Tai Ruatolo.
They had an absolute barn burner.
It was a very, very close match.
And Tai had an incredible first two matches.
He’d beaten Pedro Mourinho by submission,
and he’d beaten the great Felipe Pena
in a very narrow match.
Very, very tight.
Felipe lost on a guard pole.
But Felipe is considerably bigger and stronger than Tai.
So for Tai to win that match, even by a guard pole,
was deeply impressive.
It was an action-packed match that went back and forth.
Very, very impressive.
Can I ask you a small tangent?
Both the Ruatolo brothers had an incredible performance.
What do you think makes them so good,
if you were to analyze their game,
sort of outside of just this specific match?
There’s a range of factors.
One is that they started the sport very, very young.
They’re probably the first example in American grappling
of American students who started at age four or five.
Most people, when I began jiu-jitsu,
started jiu-jitsu as adults.
I was 28 years old when I had my first lesson
as a white belt.
So in time, people got a little younger.
For example, Nicky Ryan started, I think, when he was 12.
But the Ruatolo started when they were literally children.
They had excellent coaching,
going all the way up through into their teenage years.
So they had the advantage of starting
the way so many successful athletes do, as children,
and going up through adulthood
and with strong coaching all along the way.
Excellent parental support.
So they had a great history where their youth
didn’t show off just how long they’d been in the sport.
So you’re dealing with a kid who’s 19 years old,
but he’s been grappling for 15 years.
And what counts is not your age, but your mat age.
Quality mat, yeah.
Now, they were very young in years,
but they were very old in mat age.
But there’s a lot of athletes that have now,
as you correctly said, have spent from a very early age
on the mat, but still these particular ones stand out.
Yeah, no, there’s a lot more to it than that.
This is just the first set in the scene.
But what really makes them stand out
is that they’ve mastered this idea of covering up
and improving initial weaknesses
while building upon strengths.
When the Rua Tolos first encountered my students,
they were relatively easy to leg lock
because none of their training experience
had prepared them for that.
Now, they were young at that time,
I believe like 16 or 17.
And it was an obvious problem for them.
They both got heel hooked by my youngsters also,
Nicky Ryan and Ethan Cralenston.
And you could clearly see that they identified
their current weakness and made prodigious steps
to improve upon it to a point now
where they’re winning championships
with their own leg locks.
I love the fact that even as teenagers,
they had the maturity to say,
okay, here’s an obvious weakness.
Let’s get around this.
Let’s turn it into a strength.
I love the way they did that.
And focusing on the weakness and let that guide you
to the thing you’re working on.
But they also, they covered up their weaknesses,
but they also understood what are our actual strengths.
Now, physically, both of the brothers
have extraordinary reach for their height.
They both have extraordinarily long arms for their height.
That means that variations of Karigatame,
in particular, dasas, anacondas are gonna be much easier
for them and their weight division than for most people.
These are all chokes.
So they specialize in those.
They adapted a game based around movement,
which forces opponents, not with physical pressure,
but with tactical pressure into positions
which expose them to those specialized strangleholds
that they use.
Traditionally, when we looked at the Ryotaros
when they were young, we saw that there was a disparity
between their top game and their bottom game.
They were generally much better in top position
than they were in bottom position.
Again, they saw that as a potential weakness
and they turned it around using, again,
their unique long limbs relative to their height.
And they make use of a buggy strangle.
I’m not sure why it’s referred to as a buggy strangle,
but basically, it’s a variation of Karigatame
using the legs done from disadvantageous positions
And they both make brilliant use of that,
not so much as a strangle weapon.
Occasionally, they’ll strangle someone with it,
but they mostly use it to create pressure
to make people back off.
And as a result, they overcame the disparity
between their top game and their bottom game.
Now, their bottom game is part of their offense
and they’re very, very successful from there.
And so, again, you had that really impressive sense
in which they identified their weaknesses
in leg locks and bottom position,
turned it around and made it into strengths.
And at the same time, they identified,
okay, what are our physical gifts
and how can we maximize their use?
And they created a program of initiating movement
that created tactical rather than physical pressure
to set up their best strangleholds.
I deeply admire what they’ve done.
Those two young men have a huge future ahead of them.
And so, here, one of the brothers faces
in the absolute, Nicholas Meragali.
Now, bear in mind, Tai has just fought
two very tough matches against guys
bigger and stronger than himself.
So, he’s coming into a third match
against a third guy who’s also bigger than he is.
So, hats off to Tai fighting open weight
against three monsters in a row.
Now, Tai and Cade, one of their best attributes
is they’re two of the best scramblers
in the sport of jiu-jitsu.
So, whenever you go to shoot on the legs with them,
there’s a danger of running straight
into a da stranglehold.
They’re very competent at counterattacking single legs
with da strangles.
It’s also very hard to control them after a takedown.
They do a very good job of springing back up to the feet.
So, I told Nicholas to favor upper body judo-based takedowns
rather than wrestling takedowns.
And you see here a fine example
of Nicholas’s gathering skill in uchimata,
one of the great throws of judo.
Set up with a, there’s a bit of a foot sweep.
The nice thing is he starts off with what it looks like.
It’s actually a two-directional uchimata.
He threatens uchigari to the back.
That’s a throw that throws your opponent to the back.
His opponent pushes into him,
then he changes direction with a support foot
and takes him over with uchimata.
As we said earlier, the great advantage of judo
over wrestling is that because there’s upper body connection
during the throw and after the throw,
it’s much harder for an opponent to scramble away from you.
And even Tai Ryutaro is one of the best scramblers
in the sport, has to stop scrambling here
and just go back to guard position
and enable Nicholas to hold top position.
I mean, some of it is also the surprise.
There is something less understandable
about judo techniques because there’s less data,
it feels like.
The Ruth holders also have a good uchimata.
I think they’re very familiar with it.
How often do you think are they
on the receiving end of an uchimata?
That’s a good point, yeah.
So I just feel like they have more data
in terms of defending.
I mean, of course, there is fundamentals to the uchimata
that make it difficult to scramble around, but.
This is a good example of someone
who literally didn’t have a single takedown six months ago.
Now he’s throwing one of the toughest guys in the sport
with one of the more difficult throws of judo.
Now, you’re a judo man.
You’ll back me up on this.
Uchimata’s not an easy throw to learn.
It takes some time.
You’re hopping on one foot with both of your body weight
supported on one foot.
It’s very counterintuitive.
Yeah, it’s a lot of work.
It’s one of the more difficult throws.
Let go of your understanding of takedowns,
of maybe wrestling-style takedowns,
or more intuitive kind of takedowns to understand it.
There’s many throws like this.
Uchigari is like this.
Sotogari is like this.
Uchimata is like this.
I’m on one foot.
I’m hopping around.
This makes no sense.
But it works.
Foot sweeps are also weird in that way.
They’re a little bit more intuitive,
but to get very good at foot sweeps,
you have to understand timing, weight distribution.
It’s a dynamic thing that’s weird.
I always laugh when I talk to Nicholas.
I say, you know, I try to teach him a single leg,
which is traditionally most,
you know, like a high single leg
is one of the easier takedowns to perform
in terms of mechanical difficulty.
And Nicholas always struggles with it.
And then I teach him one of the more difficult takedowns,
Uchimata, and he does it flawlessly.
He never knows.
Certain things get attached.
I mean, you see this in Judo.
It’s kind of interesting to see
there’s classes of takedowns
and certain people just gravitate
in their philosophical, intuitive understanding
of body mechanics or something like this.
It’s like Seinagi versus Uchimata.
You very clearly see there’s some people that understand,
they like to have both their feet planted on the ground.
And there’s some people that are okay
with this one foot on the ground
and the other one is doing something else.
And I think that, I don’t know what that,
what is that?
I don’t know.
It’s what makes you fall in love
with one field versus another.
So what, can you speak to that,
that, you know, you’ve released a new instructional
on takedowns and standing skills for Jiu-Jitsu,
just at a high level,
using Nicholas as an example,
what are some key ideas about takedowns?
Okay, first, whenever people talk
about standing position in Jiu-Jitsu,
they always say, oh, I need to learn some takedowns.
But it’s never a question of just learning the takedowns,
it’s learning the prerequisites to the takedowns.
The takedowns are more or less like an afterthought.
You’ve got to begin with stance,
motion, the ability to engage in grip and contact,
get your opponent out of balance,
and then comes the takedowns.
The takedowns in Jiu-Jitsu are mostly divided
into a lower body takedowns,
tackles to the legs, single legs, double legs,
to a lesser degree, high crotch in Jiu-Jitsu,
and then upper body takedowns,
which are mostly Judo-derived.
Nicholas had to start more or less at the ground.
He didn’t even know how to come out
and make grips or hold a stance.
So he had to learn every element of it.
And the fact he was able to do so in six months
is just incredible.
Can you comment on the upward posture
that seems to work for Jiu-Jitsu?
The matches in Jiu-Jitsu are much longer
than the matches in wrestling.
In addition, there are many kinds of submission threat,
which are not there in wrestling.
So the stance has to be significantly changed.
In wrestling, they favor generally a very low crouch
because the vast majority of attacks are tackles
to the legs.
So anyone who stands upright in wrestling
tends to get heavily punished
by being taken down immediately with a leg tackle.
In Jiu-Jitsu, the matches are so much longer,
it would be difficult in a 40-minute match, for example,
to maintain a bent over crouch.
You’d be exhausted.
There’s also problems associated with submission holds.
There are many forms of submission hold,
guillotines, dice, et cetera,
where if your head comes down too low,
you become a little vulnerable to this.
And so the stances in Jiu-Jitsu competition
tend to be much more upright, more like Judo and Greco.
So right off the bat, you see the stance is different.
The motion tends to be much slower and more evenly paced
because you’ve got to be able to do this
for long periods of time.
So the number of fakes per minute,
the number of shots attempted per minute
is usually much lower.
So these are obvious differences.
The biggest difference, however,
has nothing to do with that.
It has to do with tactics.
In Jiu-Jitsu, the scores
will be judged by what happens after the takedown.
In the case of ADCC, you can take someone down
in ways that would score in both wrestling and Judo,
and possibly even win the match in the case of Judo,
and it would score zero in ADCC
because of the nature of the rules.
The whole idea of ADCC scoring
is to demonstrate control after the takedown.
It’s what happens in the critical three seconds
after the takedown that creates the score.
In Judo and in wrestling,
the emphasis is placed on the takedown itself.
In Jiu-Jitsu, the emphasis is placed on the aftermath
of the takedown.
That’s where the score is allocated.
And that can be a period of up to three seconds.
Now, three seconds doesn’t sound like much,
but in a scramble after a takedown,
three seconds is a fucking eternity.
It goes on forever.
And so you will see many examples of takedowns
that, as I said, would score very well
in Judo and wrestling, but don’t score at all in ADCC.
And so the whole skill becomes packaging
the standing position in terms of the takedowns themselves,
but in particular, preparing the athletes
for that critical three seconds after the takedown.
That’s why many people who are very fine wrestlers
struggle in ADCC.
They take people down by wrestling metric all the time,
but don’t score under ADCC rules.
What makes GSB so good at takedowns?
I’ve gotten a chance to even recently watch him
Is it within this framework that you’re teaching,
what stands out to you about him
that you draw lessons from?
That’s another example of someone who’s performing takedowns
in a rule set radically different from wrestling.
Just as the ADCC rule set is so different
from conventional wrestling rule sets
that the whole manner in which you approach takedowns
and even your understanding of takedowns
has to be quite strongly modified.
So to an MMA, it’s even more extreme.
People always think, oh, this guy’s a good wrestler.
He should be able to get takedowns in MMA easily.
What you find is that the wrestling skills in MMA
enable you to finish takedowns.
If you get in on your opponent and get to the legs
or the waist or what have you,
your wrestling skill will enable you
to finish the takedown.
But getting to the takedown is massively different
in the context of MMA than it is in wrestling.
The entire stance is different.
The entire set of distancing is different.
There’s the idea of positioning within a cage,
like how close you are to the perimeter of the cage
changes radically how you approach the takedown.
The setups are literally night and day different.
The setups are almost entirely composed of striking setups
rather than grappling setups.
And so the act of getting to the takedown
is like a completely different sport.
Now, George studied wrestling
and used to go to wrestling practice twice a week.
In Canada, they do freestyle wrestling.
They don’t use the American college style of wrestling.
Now, George’s main emphasis in wrestling training
Obviously, the whole ground element of freestyle wrestling
was of no interest to him,
like learning how to put people’s back on the ground
and turn them with leg laces and gut wrenches
was of no value in MMA.
So he devoted almost all of his study
to just the act of taking someone down.
So in pure wrestling, George is not bad.
I think he would be a very competitive match
even for a highly ranked American freestyle wrestler.
Obviously, he would lose easily on the ground
because he’s not used to the part here.
He’d probably be leg laced or gut wrenched quite easily
by a skilled opponent.
But in just a pure takedown battle,
he’d be a competitive training partner
for even a good wrestler.
But in actual MMA competition,
he could take down even the most highly credentialed
wrestlers and in some cases,
make it look almost effortless.
And that came from his unification of striking skill
So he used wrestling skills to finish the takedown
and his karate and kickboxing pedigree
to enter into the takedown.
Now, when he initiated the study of this,
this was at a time when MMA was pretty much in its infancy.
And he was one of the most impressive people
I’ve ever seen in this regard.
He was a true innovator.
He innovated this specialized area of striking
to a takedown to a greater degree
than anyone else I’m aware of.
Well, let me ask you about this innovation
because you’re one of the most innovative people
in martial arts.
There’s several major categories of innovation
that you have led.
Obviously, leg locks, body lock, now wrestling.
What’s your process of innovation?
So seeing the problems in a particular system,
the gaps, how do you identify them?
And how do you figure out systems
of how to fill those gaps?
First thing I look for is what are the current weaknesses
in a given combat sport?
So in the case of jiu-jitsu,
it was very obvious that historically,
jiu-jitsu had always been weak in leg locking.
Jiu-jitsu had always been weak in standing position,
overall, and these were things
that needed to be sorted out immediately.
In its infancy, mixed martial arts was divided
between grapplers and strikers.
And most of the emphasis in early mixed martial arts
was on the idea of specialists in a given domain
forcing the fight into their domain.
And that my early work with Georges St-Pierre
convinced me that the right approach
wasn’t increased specialization and learning
to force your athlete into that area of specialization
at the expense of the opponent,
but rather the real battles of the future
would be won and lost not with techniques per se,
specialized techniques, but rather the integration
of techniques and the overlap
between the various grappling and striking skills.
So that someone who was an inferior grappler
would have just enough grappling skills
to be able to hold a grappler off
and then defeat them with striking.
And a striker who was, if you went to fight someone
who’s superior to you in striking,
you would have just enough striking skill
to be able to hold them at bay
and then enter into grappling.
This went further and further until it got clear
that there were whole areas of the sport
that you need to change your entire mindset about them.
So that people went into early MMA
thinking in terms of grappler and striker.
What I started to think is in terms of,
okay, there are four fundamental skill areas
of mixed martial arts.
There is shoot boxing, which is the integration
of takedowns and striking.
There is clinch boxing,
which is the integration of upper body clinch skills
combined with striking.
There is fence boxing,
which the two athletes are locked up
with each other on the fence
and they have to integrate takedown,
takedown defense and striking skills.
And there is grapple boxing,
which is the merging of ground grappling with striking.
And when you broke MMA down into those four categories,
you saw that each one of those four domains
transcends the specialized martial arts
that form their components.
So for example, in clinch boxing,
you would incorporate things from judo,
Greco-Roman, freestyle, jiu-jitsu submissions,
Muay Thai, clinching techniques.
But even if you took all five of those,
the rule set that you’re operating in
required such extensive modification
that the final product of clinch boxing
transcended all five of its component martial arts
and became its own autonomous skill.
It needed to be worked autonomously.
And when we broke George’s training
down into those four areas,
that’s when real progress started to be made.
That’s when you started to see
the integration of those four phases
and the striking and grappling within each of them
was where victory was being won and lost.
So once you reframe how you see a particular combat sport,
then you could start doing these
detailed development of ideas
that actually they fit.
There’s a sense in which it had to start
with a paradigm shift
and then a research program began after that.
You don’t start with research,
you started with a paradigm shift
and then went to research.
Well, let me ask you,
I got a chance to hang out with you and Henzo Gracie at ADCC.
He keeps messaging me saying he’s gonna call me
and not calling me.
I think aside from being hilarious,
charismatic and handsome,
he is also, and wise for his young age.
He’s also one of the greatest coaches
and athletes of all time in martial arts.
So let me ask,
what have you learned about life from Henzo Gracie?
The degree of difficulty that Henzo must have encountered,
he never talked to us about it,
but I figured this out as the years went by.
The degree of difficulty that he must have experienced
when he first came to Manhattan and started teaching,
it must have just been incredible.
You’ve got to remember,
Henzo came from Brazil,
training with the best people in the world at that time,
you know, Hickson,
all the machados,
all of them were located around Gracie Baja
and that Rio de Janeiro,
they all knew each other and they all trained together.
They had internal problems, of course,
but they all knew each other well
and knew each other’s games.
So all of them had beautiful and highly developed jiu-jitsu.
So all Henzo knew from childhood on
was perfect, beautiful jiu-jitsu
and communicating with other people
who also knew perfect, beautiful jiu-jitsu.
Then he comes to New York,
where he has to teach in a language
that he at that stage barely spoke
to a bunch of fucking morons
who didn’t even,
on my first day in jiu-jitsu,
they had to explain to me the difference
between the mount and the guard
because as far as I was concerned,
yeah, you’re on top, it’s the same thing.
And they’re like, no, no, no,
mounted is different from guard.
And I’m like, no, it’s not.
Like, you’re on top of the guy.
You just hit him.
So he has to argue with you about this.
And imagine going from training with Hicks and Gracie
to having to tell some moron
that guard is different from mount.
And we were so primitive back then.
He went from the best training culture in the world
to literally the worst.
Just a bunch of guys in their mid-20s
who knew nothing about the ground,
just complete white mouth.
Luckily, he’s known for his patience.
Out of that, he molded one of the greatest gyms ever
in New York.
Yes, he did a fantastic job.
And most of it was based around the idea
that he gave us complete freedom.
We came in, we trained all day,
and I started teaching beginners classes.
And then some of his senior students,
Ricardo Almeida, Rodrigo Gracie, and Matt Serra,
opened their own schools around the tri-state area.
So they left.
There was a vacuum of teachers,
and he asked me to start teaching.
I taught for many, many years there.
And he always gave us complete freedom.
His only thing was to say, okay, do whatever you want,
just make sure it’s effective.
Prove to me it’s effective.
And that’s the best research program you can ever have.
Show me proof.
And so many times, especially in those days in jiu-jitsu,
there were so many things that were just off limits.
You couldn’t study Legos.
You couldn’t do this, you couldn’t do that.
This kind of game was for cowards.
This is the only kind of game we accept.
And Hinzo was never like that.
He was just like, okay, just do what you want.
Prove to me it works.
And if you give people that simple structure,
you give them some time, some ingenuity,
a lot of things can happen.
I gotta ask you, and by the way,
he’ll come on this podcast,
and I do feel like it’s a little bit like
riding a dragon or a bull of some kind.
It’ll be a fun journey.
I can’t, at least from my perspective,
having interacted with him, having met him,
it’s hard not to smile from his stories.
He’s easily one of the most charismatic people in jiu-jitsu.
It’s kind of fun to watch that humans can be like this too.
It’s just the love that radiates from him is incredible.
I gotta ask you, this is from Reddit.
There’s a few legends that come from that gym,
but people on Reddit kept asking
about some guy named Boris.
Apparently you coached him at Hinzo’s,
and he was a legend, and he was terrifyingly good.
What made him a legend?
Who is this Boris character?
Boris is one of my early students.
I think he was either my first or second black belt.
Boris came from Long Island.
He was a wrestler.
He was of Russian Jewish descent,
and highly intelligent.
And now he was short of stature,
but very powerfully built and compact.
Very nice, polite young man,
but also slightly eccentric,
which I always liked about him.
He would always come dressed with glasses on,
and he would leave the gym dressed like,
to use the American phrase, a complete nerd,
with his pocket protector.
Now, he was heavily muscled,
but he would dress in such a way
that it didn’t appear so when he left.
And we always used to laugh.
Imagine if some guy tried to mug Boris.
They would see him with his nerdy glasses on
and his pocket protector,
and they would literally run into
one of the most formidable human beings
in the entire New York area.
Boris started training jujitsu, I believe, in Long Island,
and then when he got a tech job in Manhattan,
started training with us in a morning class.
Now, these were relatively early days in Manhattan
and in my teaching career.
And he and a group of others, a very small group,
we used to train early in the morning,
around 6 a.m. before work.
And Boris was a legend in those days.
Now, a very young George St. Pierre
came to train with us at that time,
and he would come in at 6 a.m. to do his morning class.
And he was one of the main training partners for Boris.
And Boris, being a wrestler,
used to generally prefer top position.
And I would always encourage George
to play bottom position.
I’d say, you gotta get good in bottom position.
You never know.
I know you’re good at takedowns,
but one day someone’s gonna put you down,
so you gotta work bottom position.
And Boris had very strong guard passing.
I remember one of George’s happiest days
is finally, after like two years,
one day he swept Boris, got on top and finished him.
And I remember that was one of his biggest thrills
in all of his training career.
That was the last time that ever happened for him.
No, Boris was, he was a very formidable man for that time.
The funny thing about Boris is,
every time we would have a conversation,
he would say, I’m only gonna do this sport
until I’m 40 years old, and then I’m gonna stop.
And I was like, why?
Why not be like a lifelong martial artist?
You know, you got so good.
You’re good at jiu-jitsu.
You’ve got great skills.
You’ve worked hard.
Why not just keep going?
He’s like, it’s ridiculous for a man to train after 40.
There’s no need.
He never gave any reason for this.
It was just ridiculous.
So one day, now this is a guy who came in
literally every day, 6 a.m., every day.
One day, he comes in, he comes up to me at the end of training
and goes, hey, John, I just turned 40,
so I won’t be seeing you again.
And I thought, he’s joking.
So I’m like, I’ll see you tomorrow, Boris.
He’s like, no, you won’t, and walks off.
How gangster is that?
And then he never came back.
I’ve never seen Boris since.
He came in, was one of the best grapplers I ever saw,
and just, that’s it, buddy, I’m out.
And to this day.
No one to walk away.
I also got to hang out, got to meet,
hang out with Ali Abdelaziz.
He’s a Henzo Gracie black belt,
fourth degree judo black belt,
and friend and manager of Khabib Nurmagomedov,
who’s coming down to Austin soon.
We’ll do a podcast.
Hopefully, we’ll get on the mat
and have a bit of brainstorm.
Also, he’s a manager and friend
of many other amazing fighters.
I really love the guy.
The loyalty, the fact that he looks for loyalty
and has that inner, close inner circle,
and integrity and character in people,
I really like them.
I connect to them really quickly.
But any fun stories about Ali?
Did you train together?
Yes, he trained for many years in the basement, in my classes.
He’s, his story is one of the most unlikely stories.
Like, if someone wrote a movie plot about his life,
they’d be like, it’s absurd.
It’d be thrown out the door in a second.
And yet, it all happened.
You’re absolutely correct.
He has, from the unlikeliest possible starts,
created a situation where he’s,
I think it’s incontestable now to say
he’s the most successful manager
in mixed martial arts history.
He has more champions under his care
than anyone else I’m aware of.
And respected and influential, so on all dimensions, yes.
Now, many people aren’t aware of the fact
that he was actually a very good Judo player.
Jidoka first, yeah.
Yes, yeah, he had very good Nogi Judo.
He had an excellent Haraigoshi, very good Tani Itoshi.
And he, through many people
who were highly credentialed wrestlers
and back in the basement,
back in the glory days of MMA training,
he was a good example of a guy
who had very, very good Judo hips
and often used it to counter wrestling
and was a fine demonstrator of the idea that
when Judo is adapted to Nogi gripping,
it can provide a very effective foil
to many of the standard forms of wrestling attack.
And he would often use Uchimata to counter leg tackles
and do so in very, very spectacular fashion.
Well, what do you think about Khabib?
Is there something from just watching him
or is there something you can imagine
if he comes down to the gym
that you might learn from the way he moves,
the way he approaches wrestling?
He’s one of the greatest combat athletes of all time.
If you can’t learn from someone like that,
there’s something wrong with you.
So he emphasizes control.
Yes, he does.
And he’s absolutely a master of exerting control.
The amount of grappling control he was able to put over
some of the most difficult people in the world to control
was truly astounding.
He beat people from every style.
He beat wrestlers, he beat Jiu-Jitsu players,
he beat kickboxers,
and he controlled them all in more or less the same way.
He has a very underrated bottom game.
People think, oh, he’s just about stifling top control,
but people forget he was taken down on several occasions
and ended up in bottom position.
And he showed excellent guard work from bottom.
He was able to get into submission holds readily
on opponents from bottom position.
He’s got an excellent bottom game.
People say, oh, he’s just a positional guy.
No, he’s not.
He’s got great submissions.
The application of his triangle
from both top and bottom was top class.
He had a sharp arm lock from bottom position.
If you look at his Kimura finishes in MMA,
they were technically very, very well set.
Excellent breaking mechanics.
He’s a very, very fine grappler
in both submission grappling and MMA grappling.
I think we’d probably learn a ton
from moving around with him.
Is it possible to learn something about him
or about Hodger Gracie or about Gordon
by watching them or rolling around them for a little bit?
So maybe Hodger and Khabib are good examples
because they’re able to do seemingly very basic things
on everybody and dominate them with that.
I think Gordon is as well,
but Gordon seems to have more preference
and range of what he’s able to do.
It’s almost miraculous how much Hodger can do
by just the same exact thing on everybody.
Is it possible to understand why Hodger or Khabib
are so good at very basic positions?
Or do you have to feel it?
Or is it just something that’s developed over years?
I think for most people, for the vast majority of people,
it would have to be explained to them.
For a smaller group of people, if they felt it,
they could try to replicate it.
And there are a few people who could look at it
and have enough knowledge and say,
okay, I can see what he’s doing.
Like for example, Hodger could probably look
at video footage of Khabib grappling and say,
okay, I understand what he’s doing.
But the average person would probably go over their heads.
You sometimes think of like these great athletes,
like maybe they’re too narrow.
Like you might imagine they’re kind of so focused
on a particular thing,
they don’t develop in interesting ways.
He’s just a sweetheart.
Yeah, he’s a wonderful person to be around.
Yeah, he’s also visiting Austin.
But just I was so, I mean, first of all,
I’m honored just drinking a little bit too much
in Vegas with Hodger Gracie and just,
and talking about love and relationships
and life and death and all those philosophical topics
as one does in Vegas.
I’m a little bit too much to drink.
Anyway, after ADCC, it was beautiful.
And on top of that, hanging out with Rogan many days
for UFC and then ADCC.
You know, one thing,
I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to hang out
with Joe when he plays pool.
So I spent a lot of time with him when he was playing pool,
like recently on that trip to Vegas.
And there’s something Zen-like about,
first of all, just watching him,
but I’ve never seen the focus the guys got on the game
for hours, just deep focus, unshakable focus.
That was so interesting to watch
that this human being, he’s a celebrity,
he does all kinds of stuff,
that he’s able to allocate as close to 100% of his mind
as I can imagine to a particular task
and nothing can distract him.
That was really inspiring that you could still do that
on any task.
You know, pool is a game of physics.
That should be your domain.
Oh, it is.
But that wasn’t just physics.
Yeah, I would think you understand the game,
you understand the physics of it.
You also understand the fun of it
because there’s friends and laughter and so on.
I would be distracted by that a little bit.
I wouldn’t be as focused.
He literally, the closer you get to the table,
the more everything zooms in.
The jokes, there’s funny things,
you can’t get his attention on anything.
It’s that focus.
I don’t know, that really stayed with me.
That, you know, those memes,
like I wanna find somebody that looks at me
the way X looks at Y.
I wanna find somebody that looks at me
the way Joe looks at a pool cue or whatever.
The focus there.
I wanna find something in my life.
Rather, I want to attain the level of focus he has
for pool on a task that I care about.
And that focus, like fuck everything else.
This is, now it’s time to do work.
I don’t know, that was really inspiring.
I haven’t seen that kind of focus
for prolonged periods of time on a task.
You should see it sometime.
The guy is, I mean,
part of it is just being competitive with himself.
It’s the hatred of imperfection,
all those kinds of elements,
but embodied in a singular focus.
I had no idea he even played pool.
You should watch him.
He won’t, I think it could be
one of his greatest obsessions.
Like there was deep,
see, I thought pool is for like degenerates,
like gamblers and like hustlers, right?
Like the same way I see poker,
but like I saw like a wolf slash like elite athlete in Joe.
I said, I didn’t know this.
I don’t know much about pool.
I didn’t know that you could have that level of focus
while still drunk at your ass,
but extremely focused.
It was beautiful to see.
I don’t know, inspiring for me
as a person who highly values singular focus on a task.
Let me ask you from a perspective of a hobbyist,
what major practical changes can a hobbyist
who works regular nine to five job
do to improve their jiu-jitsu?
So they’re in a gym.
There’s a lot of excellent gyms
throughout the United States.
What can they do to improve their jiu-jitsu?
About the way they think about jiu-jitsu,
about the way they approach their actual schedule,
those kinds of things.
That’s a great question.
Okay, the less training time you’ve got,
the more you wanna maximize its effect.
So a question becomes, okay,
if I’m training say twice a week,
and sometimes even once a week,
what can I do to make sure
that that two hour period is used maximally?
the less training time you’ve got,
the more the onus is on you
to have a plan before you walk in the door.
If you go in just saying,
I’m gonna roll around and see what happens,
or I’ll just follow what the instructor says,
you’ll get a certain amount out of each class,
but it will never be what it could have been.
Go in with a plan and enact it.
Many people go in with a plan and don’t follow it.
Let’s say, for example,
we start with a program that goes like this.
First, try to create the most honest assessment
of yourself as a jiu-jitsu player.
It’s tough to make an honest assessment of yourself
because you never actually get to see your game.
So what I would recommend is to start
by videotaping yourself in sparring with your peers.
because we don’t even have that level of introspection,
ability to reflect of what we actually look like
Start with an assessment of yourself,
and the most honest one comes not from you,
it comes from the camera.
Have a look at what you see and start to say,
okay, many of the weaknesses in your game
are made much more apparent by looking from the outside in
rather than feeling them during the heat of a match.
Identify four or five of the biggest weaknesses
that you see and start actively attacking those weaknesses.
Ask yourself, let’s say, for example,
in the course of watching the videotape of yourself,
you observe yourself losing three triangles.
You attempted three triangle strangleholds,
you failed all three.
You could start by saying, okay, let me ask myself,
who are the people I look up to the most
with regards a triangle strangle?
Who are the guys who have the best triangle strangles
Then ask yourselves, of those people,
who are the ones whose body type and personality
most closely mirrors my own?
And that would be a good example
of taking a problem in your game,
contrasting it with elite level performance
in people whose body type roughly matches your own,
and then try to take lessons you learned
by observing the best people
and bringing them into your own game in one specific area.
As time goes by, you do this with more and more elements
of your game, you will undoubtedly improve.
You will also have to make sure that you take time
during class to actively work on these things.
Now, sometimes in class, you don’t get a choice.
The instructor sometimes says, okay,
today we’re working this, this, and this.
But there’s always time after and before class
where you can do your own drilling,
where you can make your own inquiries.
And during sparring, there’s no rigorous control
over what you do.
You can try to work the game into the area of focus.
So for example, if you want to work on front triangles,
it would be wise for you to do most of your sparring
from bottom guard positions.
That’ll give you the most opportunity.
And in this sense, it always begins with
an accurate assessment of your current skill level.
You gotta start there.
Then, I always encourage people to use video camera
to make the most honest appraisal you can
because your own mind is not dishonest,
but it’s understandably inaccurate.
You tend to feel things rather than see them
when you’re performing jiu-jitsu.
Then, make a program for yourself
based around what you see as excellence.
Look at the people in the sport who’s in the area
that you wanna work on,
people who are renowned for skill in that area.
If possible, narrow it down to people
who have excellence in that area
and their body type corresponds with your own.
And then, try to take lessons learned
from observing the excellence in these elite athletes
and bring elements of them into your game.
Never try to bring an elite athlete’s entire game
to your game.
That will create an inauthentic game on your part,
which will always be a poor copy
of what you’re trying to watch.
Rather, bring very specific areas and skills that you see
and import them from different people
until eventually you find something for yourself.
Experiment a lot, okay?
And so, don’t see the video research as the final word.
See video research the way a writer will see a muse.
As someone who initiates discussion,
opens inquiries for your own research.
The most powerful moments you will have on the mat
come from making discoveries for yourself.
Not being told what to do,
not observing someone else doing something,
Those are the ones that will last inside you.
So, use video research
not as the definitive answer to your problems,
but as initiating research for yourself on the mat.
And as time goes by and you do this more and more often
in more and more areas of the sport,
I promise you, you’ll improve.
Yeah, and I guess when you have the plan,
have a plan that carries across many training sessions.
So, I just remember, I know this is perhaps dumb,
but I saw in my own game early on a lot of growth
is by self-identifying a problem
and coming up by myself with a solution
by watching, in that case, Marcel Garcia.
I just thought my butterfly guard was very weak.
And so, I thought, okay, what’s the solution here?
I thought maybe this X guard thing, double X guard.
Okay, so I watched a bunch of video.
Let me try to work on this.
And then all I did, just this is self,
but when I could get time by myself,
meaning like not instructor-guided classes,
but in training, I would just,
everything I would put myself into butterfly and X guard.
And then just let go.
Like, don’t progress.
Sweep and figure out a way to get swept
to get right back to it and everything.
It was annoying probably to train with me
because that’s all I did and that’s all I thought about.
I bet you learned quickly.
Yeah, I learned it’s the most progress I’ve ever made.
Now, you could say that X guard
wasn’t the right solution for me,
that maybe that wasn’t the weakest point for me to work on.
If I were to look back now, it’s still to this day, sadly,
the obvious weakest point for me
is escapes from much worse positions.
That should be worked on.
That should have been worked on from the very beginning.
That’s still, today, if I were to say
what’s the weakest thing that I should work on,
absolutely, is even with one day a week is escapes.
But yeah, a lot of that has to do with just carrying,
like focusing on the one thing over and over and over
and over across training sessions.
Now, it also, I would write down on a sheet of paper
the number of times I would get an X guard sweep.
And I would set a rule that I have to get
whatever it was, like 500 sweeps a week.
So I have to, and then the closer you get
to the end of the week, the more you just pick up
a small wipeout.
500 in a week?
Your training partners must suck, bro.
No, you start with good ones,
and then you just get more and more desperate.
You start finding the kid, right,
that you can just sweep over and over.
For me, the numbers, for some reason,
it set a goal to pull off a technique.
It enforced, like we’re staying with this for a while.
This is a journey we’re doing.
And then for some reason, for me,
that helped me focus the study
to understand the deep complexities of this thing.
That, at least for me, other people,
like nobody at the gym was doing X guard
or anything of that.
So you had to kind of figure everything out yourself.
I’m sure there’s better ways to do that,
but at least that focus helps from a hobbyist perspective.
What’s the day, what’s the perfect day
in the life of John Donner?
If we’re talking about a basic non-ADCC,
now you’re, I’m really grateful
that you sit down with me on a Sunday, late at night,
but it all starts again for you tomorrow.
So three training sessions a day.
What time do you wake up?
Do you do like a mantra in the morning?
Do you listen to like some Zen music?
What do you eat in the morning?
What’s the perfect day look like?
When you sacrifice a small animal?
To the gods.
when you say a perfect day,
what I think you really mean is an average day.
Perfectly productive average day.
So let’s take Monday morning.
For you watching this video,
we’re filming this late on a Sunday night.
So after this, I’ll drive home.
We just had ADCC.
It was two weeks ago.
It was one of the longest training camps.
It was the longest training camp I’ve ever run,
because of the fact that we had to go
through three different matches
for Gordon Ryan leading up to it.
So immediately after ADCC,
I cut the training down for the competitive athletes
to one session per day for the first week after ADCC
to give their bodies a bit of a break.
I still have to teach two classes in addition to that,
two recreational classes.
So my teaching schedule went down to three classes per day.
After one week of relative break,
we go back to two competition classes per day,
plus two recreational classes,
plus an MMA class for Gary Tonin and his friends.
The first class requires me to get up around 6 a.m.
I’m still a student driver,
so I’m not very good at driving.
So I have to spend a little extra time
to get to the destination on time.
Just for the record,
John pulled in in a red Lamborghini with a, no.
You’re the worst liar I’ve ever met.
My day typically starts pretty early.
I don’t eat in the morning.
I just get up and go to work.
And I teach through the day.
My last class finishes usually around 8 p.m.
During that time, I coach jiu-jitsu.
I try to find time for one Instagram post per day,
which usually describes some basic theme of jiu-jitsu
in most cases, unless we’ve just had a competition,
in which case I’ll talk about upcoming competitions
or what happens after a competition.
But most of them just express a simple jiu-jitsu theme.
I try to do a short workout for myself.
And then I go home.
At the end of the day, I always start by asking myself,
what do my students need from me tomorrow,
based on what I’ve seen today?
What do the recreational students need?
And what do the competitive students need?
This is always done in the light of
what are the upcoming competitions.
But throughout the day,
you’re doing a lot of really in-depth classes.
So how do you either prepare for them
or think through them as they’re happening?
Think through the material that you’re teaching.
I can look at a class.
I’ve been doing this a long time.
So I can just look at a class and be like,
okay, these guys need this, this, and this.
And then I make reflections at the end of the day.
Then I’ll take care of things that we all do.
Talk to family.
Occasionally go out for dinner with friends.
Dates, things like that.
Yeah, Henzo had to really harass you,
to drag you out to hang out.
And he was very convincing.
I eat once a day.
Eat once a day.
Yeah, at the end of the day,
I usually stop off at a place like a supermarket,
like Whole Foods or some equivalent to that,
and buy something simple and eat.
The internet wants to know the details.
Did you end up getting Wi-Fi for your apartment?
I’m still thinking about it.
What are the pros and cons?
There’s no cons, lots of pros,
but I just don’t put much importance to it.
Things that are unimportant, I just ignore.
Yeah, there’s a lot of things in life
that have a lot of pros,
but they’re lower on the priority list.
Why, because of the 5G already?
5G’s got it covered.
Do you watch much video?
Do you watch video?
Do you watch footage?
Video footage, quite often, yeah.
Especially things from freestyle wrestling,
Greco-Roman wrestling, judo,
and mixed martial arts.
Also, subsidiary sports to mixed martial arts,
like boxing, Muay Thai, and European kickboxing.
Just for long-term idea generation?
Like a plant, a seed, an idea.
Yeah, this is an interesting thing.
How could this be incorporated in the context
in which we use it, MMA or jiu-jitsu?
Maybe it’s immediately obvious,
or it might become obvious in a few weeks or months.
Is there some aspect to the way you approach life
and training and martial arts
that amends itself to minimalism?
It seems like you live a pretty stoic life.
Or is that just a symptom of a focused existence?
My life wasn’t always like this.
I’ve gone through different phases in my life.
I was a university student and teacher at university.
I was a nightclub bouncer for more than a decade.
I’ve been through different areas of life.
I’ve seen most things.
I’ve experienced a lot.
I’ve traveled the world.
At this point in my life,
people think I live some kind of monk-like existence,
but I have a private life.
I like to go out and have fun like everyone else.
I’m not some kind of monk who just sits under a waterfall
and meditates or anything crazy like that.
Well, I’m currently going through that stage of my life,
the monk-like existence.
So I would be amiss not to ask you
one of the most important questions
one can possibly ask John Donahar,
which is on the topic of animal combat.
Who wins in a fight to the death?
Or maybe in a sport competition setting,
but let’s go with a fight to the death.
A grizzly bear, a silverback gorilla,
and maybe a lion or tiger, an African lion,
or one of the flavors of tiger.
I don’t know who you think is more ferocious.
What are the parameters to consider here?
Maybe I can throw a few out
and maybe you can give me some thoughts
about how much of these parameters matter.
So first of all, intelligence.
I do believe the gorilla is the most intelligent.
I’ve did research for this, as you can imagine.
Solo or with Joe Rogan?
The expert advisor to this very podcast
on this very topic is indeed Joe Rogan, yes.
So in captivity, gorillas have been documented
to show complex emotions, form family bonds,
the ability to use tools,
and to be able to reason about the past and the future.
So that’s something that, at least in captivity,
the other animals have not been able to do.
They already sound much more advanced than I am.
Yeah, so that’s intelligence.
Then there is weight.
I think that’s something that you think of at first.
The lion, let’s go with the big ones.
I took notes here.
550 pounds for a big lion.
That’s exceptionally large.
Most male lions are around 450 pounds.
That’s an exceptional beast then.
The tiger can be larger than that.
Yeah, much, much larger.
So we got the grizzly bear,
which is probably the biggest of the bunch.
The large ones get to 1,500 pounds.
Correct me if some of these numbers are-
I believe most grizzlies are around 1,000 pound mark.
It’s a big, big beast.
I was looking up the biggest,
but I didn’t want to do the biggest ever.
Just what are the big, like the top of the range,
because there’s always a range.
You can put it in at roughly double
that of even a very big lion.
Of course, how that weight is used is very important.
So there’s also things,
which I find as interesting as anaconda,
which just, let me throw that in there,
because it’s 200 pounds.
What I really like about that is it’s not just the weight,
it’s the form factor.
And I think out of all of these,
the anaconda is the most non-standard form factor.
I totally agree with that.
It’s like the knight on the chessboard.
It comes in from a completely different angle.
So we got that.
We got also strength in,
which could be measured in ability to carry stuff.
So this was surprising to me.
I did look into this carefully.
The grizzly bear at 1,000 or 1,500 pounds
can only carry at most its body weight, which is a lot.
But a gorilla can carry 10 times its body weight.
A gorilla can lift over 2,000 kilograms,
so that’s over 4,000 pounds.
And gorillas themselves, an adult male,
weighs in around 350 to 400.
400 pounds, yes.
So I like how in this particular place
where I found this, 2,000 kilograms
is as heavy as 30 average humans.
So a gorilla can carry 30 humans.
So that’s carrying strength.
And then of course, bite force,
because that’s one of the weapons in question here.
So now this is really surprising to me.
The gorilla has won me over through this, by the way.
Intelligence, I’m a sucker for intelligence,
but the gorilla bite force is the highest of all these,
with 1,300 PSI.
Bear is second with 1,200 PSI.
Tiger is a third.
I think tiger and lion is third with 1,000 PSI.
And a bear is anywhere from 900 to 1,000 PSI.
They’re close, but gorilla, I would not have expected.
Now, a gorilla is not a carnivore,
but apparently it chews.
It mostly eats grassy stuff, but it like-
It’s difficult to explain why it has such a powerful bite.
And it also, of course, has very large incisor teeth
as well as chewing teeth.
Also, no neck.
So its neck begins at the top of its head
and this goes down to the shoulders.
Well, a lot of the way they use their teeth,
all of these animals,
the ultimate kill is to go for the neck.
I don’t know exactly why that is.
Probably has to do…
Why is that?
Because it’s a very strong controlling position,
not just that it’s a…
Is it the same as jiu-jitsu, you think?
Because they get to also choke them out?
It’s very much in line with jiu-jitsu.
Lions are famous for using strangulation
as their primary method of killing.
They get a hold of the neck
and hold it until the animal drops.
I believe the tiger and the bear use their claws.
And the lion too.
The lion, right.
And the lion.
This is something that the gorilla doesn’t do.
And anaconda obviously doesn’t do.
So what do you think?
How do we think about this?
Also, there is…
I’m just not letting you talk, apparently.
There’s levels of aggression in terms of-
These are also very important considerations.
What is most important to you?
All the considerations you’ve raised are very important
and we would have to address them
if we’re gonna go through this topic.
First things first,
whenever you go into a discussion of this kind,
there’s a kind of natural impression that we all have
as to which one would be the most formidable.
And it’s important that you become rather skeptical
of your first intuitions
because they’re often very misleading.
Just as every boy thinks his father
is the strongest man in the world.
And then when he grows up into adulthood,
he realizes his father was not even close
to being the strongest man in the world.
It’s not because of anything other than inexperience.
To a boy, his father seems overwhelmingly strong.
He literally can’t even imagine
anyone else being stronger than that.
So naively, he thinks his father
is the strongest man in the world.
So too in our relationship with animals.
When we look at a silverback gorilla,
it just looks overwhelmingly strong to us
to a degree which is almost absurd.
You picture the greatest combat athletes
that humanity has ever produced.
Prime Mike Tyson, Gordon Ryan for grappling.
They would literally be torn limb from limb
by an angry gorilla.
It wouldn’t even be remotely competitive.
And so there’s a sense in which we look at them in awe
because of what they could do to us.
But that can be very misleading.
And just as a boy looks at his father
as like the pinnacle of strength,
you can’t necessarily,
from a position of inexperience and weakness,
look at a given animal and say,
oh, that must be the toughest animal in the animal kingdom.
There’s levels to this game.
And I think we can point out that the gorilla
ultimately would be pretty low on those levels
despite the fearsome appearance.
I have some pushback to this analysis
because the data, we don’t have much data on this.
We don’t have.
We actually have slightly more than you think, I believe.
Well, it’s anecdotal.
I feel like it’s out of context.
So these species don’t use, this is not MMA.
They don’t do interspecies fighting often.
Yeah, but there are some ways of looking at this
which can take this already interesting question
and make it a lot more interesting.
First, we’ve seen that intuitions aren’t to be trusted.
So if intuitions aren’t to be trusted,
well, what is to be trusted here?
Well, I’ve always believed that there are three
general elements that determine
what level of success or failure
anyone will experience in combat.
And this is true both for individuals and for groups
and even all the way up to nations.
The first is what are your skills?
The second is what are your physical and mental attributes?
So it’s skills, attributes.
Those are the two primary ones.
And there’s a third, which is your experience
in using those skills and attributes
in real world scenarios, okay?
So whenever two, we’ll start with two humans.
When two humans get into a fight, ask yourself,
what is their skillset?
What are their physical and mental attributes?
And what is their experience
in using those in real world applications?
And that will give you your first look at,
okay, who’s gonna be the more successful?
Then in addition to those three general elements,
there’s also four more specific elements.
What is the ability of the combatants to initiate combat?
Because initiation is a big deal in fighting.
The one who sees the enemy first
and can create ambush conditions
or initiate combat in an area or a terrain
which is favorable to them,
this is huge in determining the outcome of battles.
Second, not only is initiation important,
but disengagement is important.
A lot of battles don’t go according to plan.
And so your ability to disengage at will
and break off and away from a battle is key to success.
So initiation and disengagement are big.
The third big element,
what is your ability to end a fight?
Okay, do you have an efficient method of ending conflict?
Without that, the conflict could go on to a point
where you no longer have the ability to continue it.
If you have some succinct method of finishing,
this is huge in combat in determining winner or loser.
So both from a winning and a losing position?
Yes, if you don’t have one,
there’s a much higher chance you’ll lose.
But if you have an ability to finish an opponent
in the conflict reliably,
this is very, very important
in determining success or failure.
And third, is your ability to endure a conflict
longer than the person you’re engaged in?
Okay, engaged with, sorry.
And so you get these four more specific elements now.
Do you have the ability to initiate contact at will?
Do you have the ability to break contact
and disengage at will?
Do you have the ability to finish your opponent efficiently?
And do you have the ability to endure
longer than your opponent does?
If you have all four of those,
that’s huge for combat.
That probably applies to human-on-human.
Everything, even all the way up to nations.
Also ask yourself,
what are the most efficient
methods of combat
across the globe, across all species,
all times, et cetera, et cetera.
And you’ll see that ultimately,
they always come down to
The first is concentration of force.
One of the most successful combat strategies of all time
is the ability to take concentrated force
against the zone of weakness in your opponent.
And if you can do this,
you will often break through to a point of vulnerability,
attack that vulnerability in a way
where your opponent cannot respond
and cannot recover from that vulnerable point being broken.
Do a high amount of damage with precision.
So this is one of the great combat strategies
across the animal kingdom,
across human history, et cetera.
The second would be ambush tactics.
If you can ambush an opponent with the element of surprise,
this is huge for success in combat.
Almost all of the truly successful predators
on this planet are ambush predators.
The ability to get off to a good start
in a way where opponents simply can’t recover
is huge for combat.
Are we allowing ambush in our discussion?
Because humans would call this cheating, perhaps.
Yes, we would.
And humans are pretty damn good at it, too, so.
And then the third is endurance, okay?
Some species, some people,
humans actually are pretty good at this,
use endurance as a weapon.
And they simply wear an opponent down over time
and break them.
Internationally, this can be done economically
through numbers, et cetera, et cetera.
And you can destroy someone with your sheer endurance.
Yeah, a lot of wars throughout human history
has been siege warfare.
Yeah, and so when you ask yourself,
okay, which one of these animals
are going to be the most successful in combat?
Ask yourself, well, there’s these three elements
which tend to determine successful failure in warfare.
Which animals exhibit these three principles the best?
And we’ll discuss this.
But as far as generalities go,
whenever you ask a question,
who will win between A and B?
Ask yourself in terms of the light
of what we’ve just discussed.
What is their skill set?
What are their attributes, both mental and physical?
What is their experience in utilizing these
in real-world situations?
And then the four more tactical elements,
who gets to initiate contact?
Can you break off contact at any given time?
What is your endurance?
Can you keep going longer than your opponent does?
So a skill set, I wonder if a big component of that,
of how much practice there is off the battlefield.
So how much, quote unquote,
you would probably call it play, like play fighting.
Let’s start going through our animals, okay?
When you look at the gorilla,
you will see immediately that almost every experience
a gorilla has of combat is theatrical.
They don’t engage in killing things.
They scare rival males away
in order to gain ownership of females.
But there is almost no intra-species death
in those conflicts.
They’re almost entirely theatrical.
They have, for example, enormous canine teeth,
but there is no record of them ever being used in combat.
They appear to be used purely for intimidation purposes.
There’s a sense in which they have
this tremendous appearance,
and they have tremendous potential.
They really do have freakish levels of strength
in many different ways.
And yet, the actual track record of using it is negligible.
So strange that evolution would develop
such a powerful killing machine.
Like their bite force just makes no sense
with regard to what they actually eat.
I think, well, no, I think they have like-
Even the presence of canines doesn’t make a lot of sense.
They’re not gonna use them.
What are they?
It comes down to this idea
of their big thing is intimidation.
So as a show, you wanna fake it
and don’t care if you ever make it,
because fake it is good enough
given that particular dynamic.
Now, let’s contrast that with a male lion.
Lions take on the biggest, meanest, toughest animals
in the most competitive killing war on planet Earth,
which is continental Africa.
And they literally just take,
I mean, occasionally they lose,
but it’s rare.
And they take out everything.
Just in order to eat,
they have to take down wildebeest, Cape buffalo.
Like Cape buffalo are incredibly dangerous beasts
just by themselves.
And yet, lions regularly take them down.
Occasionally, large numbers of lions
will even swarm elephant
and over 12-hour periods
take down elephant on some occasions.
This is all on video.
This is not just speculation.
So they just have a level of combat experience,
which no other animal can do.
If I were to also project,
so the Eastern European style of wrestling,
where they spend so many hours on the mat,
they really value the number of hours on the mat
at play from childhood.
The lions probably,
from my extensive watching videos on YouTube,
they seem to play with each other for fun a lot.
And I guess with the gorilla-
Even as cubs, you see it.
You don’t interact,
you don’t play with other gorillas.
You’re more spending a lot more time
around the opposite sex.
I mean, even lions,
when they fight each other,
the mortality rate when lions fight each other,
male lions, for ownership of a pride,
is very, very high.
Much, much higher than, I believe,
any other species on Earth.
They almost always fights to the death,
for the simple reason that
when a male lion loses control of a pride,
the first act the new lion does
is to kill the genetic offspring of the previous male lion.
So when a lion fights another male lion,
when one male lion fights another,
it’s not just a fight for his own life,
it’s a fight for his genetic offspring.
And failure means not only does he die,
all his offspring dies.
And so when they fight,
the implications are so deep.
It’s like a fight for your,
not just you, but your DNA.
Most male lions have very short runs at the top.
They get killed or run off by other lions.
Now, this kind of harsh combat experience,
no other animal can claim to have this.
Between what they kill to eat
and what they have to do to defend their stake in a pride,
no other animal fights like that.
They just bring a level of depth to combat
which is unmatched in the animal kingdom.
They also have some other elements too,
that they get the luxury because of their social nature
of taking more risks than other animals.
Like a tiger hunts alone.
So if it gets injured, it’s a big problem.
It can die if it’s injured.
A lion can fight Cape Buffalo,
get injured and be covered by the other lions for food
until it recovers.
So it learns to take risks
and it’s not afraid to go out and fight very, very hard.
Whereas other animals tend to shy away from risk
because they’re solitary.
Bears are solitary, tigers are solitary.
So they learn from an early age
not to take the big risks,
to go up to a certain level and stop.
If I could push back.
So that’s aggression and risk-taking.
That’s a plus for the lion.
But to defend the gorilla,
because you said skillset,
they are of all of those,
the only ones that use tools,
have shown to use tools.
We didn’t say anything about weapons.
A gorilla could in theory pick up a rock
and it does have the force, the power,
and the capabilities to do a lot of damage.
So it doesn’t have the practice.
It doesn’t have the experience.
But don’t you think if a gorilla’s back is to the wall,
so you put them in a situation of it is life and death
for both the lion and the gorilla.
Don’t you value intelligence at least a little bit here?
There’s a reason why humans,
this is like evidence that humans have spread
all across the world while being kind of weak.
Okay, intelligence is a huge, huge asset.
Humanity is positive proof
that it is the most important asset.
But it takes time in order to work its magic.
It took humans 200,000 years
to go from the bottom of the food chain
to the top of the food chain.
And gorillas have a lot of work to do
before they get to that level.
There is, you said in theory, gorillas could do this.
But let’s talk about practice now.
First off, there are many documented incidents
of leopards killing gorillas.
That’s anecdotal evidence.
No, it’s not anecdotal.
There’s a bunch of bitch ass gorillas walking around.
We know this.
It’s not anecdotal.
It was observed by a group of people
who specialized in observing gorillas
over a 12-year period.
They regularly found gorilla toes in leopard defecation.
They also saw that over a certain period,
some 36 gorillas had been killed.
And evidence strongly suggested
leopard predation was the reason.
Apparently, leopards had figured out
that there was a femoral artery in gorillas’ legs
and were doing a move which,
from the sounds of it, sounds a lot like a Barambolo,
where they were spinning underneath gorillas
and biting the femoral artery and then disengaging
and watching them bleed out and die and then eating them.
Now, a leopard is no match for a lion.
The only defense it has to a lion is to run up a tree.
It cannot engage with a lion
on anything close to equal terms.
It may seem like we’re going on tangents, but we’re not,
just because of the foot,
the attack of the artery on the foot.
Is there weaknesses that the lion might have of that?
What I’m saying is, I know it’s not equivalent,
but the fact that a leopard does so well
against even fully grown male gorillas
should make you rather suspicious
of a gorilla’s ability to fight a lion.
Let’s also go further into this.
Let’s talk about concentration of force.
A lion has the quintessential concentration of force,
which is fangs and claws.
Now, the gorilla is the exact opposite.
It can’t even make a fist.
And so it can only throw open-handed slaps and grab things.
So it has no ability with its arms to concentrate force
in any kind of efficient way.
When a lion or a tiger, or a bear for that matter,
swings at you, it’s got four claws
from four to six inches long.
That’s like four blades going into you.
They can retract their claws, so they’re always sharp.
But the reach is significantly longer for the gorilla.
The length of the-
The ability to engage with speed
on the part of the cats is far, far greater.
And also mobility on two feet,
the bipedal nature of a gorilla, the temporary bipedal.
The bear has the same, I don’t know.
Humans are bipedal,
and lions kill 240 humans a year on average.
So, okay, okay, okay.
What about bear?
Now, bear is a different proposition.
Has all the same things that a lion has.
The claws, the teeth, has more weight,
has more strength, has more power.
Okay, now this is an interesting question.
Okay, you get a fully grown North American grizzly
versus an African lion.
This is an interesting battle.
I also have questions about polar bears.
It’s unclear to me,
because they’re bigger in every way than a grizzly.
But they probably don’t get the experience
and the practice.
Yeah, also they have a much more limited set of animals
that they prey upon.
So I’m pretty sure grizzly is gonna be tough to beat
as far as top bear goes.
A grizzly bear, I believe, would be a formidable adversary,
even for a male lion.
They’re literally twice their size.
They have an ability to get away from strangleholds
by standing up on two legs.
So the lion’s primary method of killing,
which is to strangle,
would be very difficult for them to employ upon a bear.
Interestingly, the bear’s primary method of killing
is to pin.
It pins animals and then just slowly eats them
while they’re still alive.
They have a rather barbaric means of killing.
Lions are much more humane in the way they kill.
So what I see as the primary problem
is that neither one would be able to kill the other.
That finishing thing that you mentioned.
Yeah, they would both fail on the finishing criteria.
The lion would not be able to strangle a bear.
Even in the best case scenario
where he got his teeth into the neck,
the bear can stand up and presumably shake him off.
The bear would never be able to pin a lion
for long enough to be able to hold it down
and slowly maul it over time
the way it can with an elk or a caribou.
So I don’t believe either would be able to finish the other.
They would just become exhausted.
It would come down to endurance.
Now that’s where things get interesting
because the bear is much more of an endurance hunter
and the lion is much more of an ambush hunter.
Lions, quick, explosive, much higher top speed.
They’ve got a top speed of 45 to 50 miles an hour.
A bear can do up to 35, but it can run for long periods
at up to 25 miles an hour, very long periods.
They’re mostly an endurance hunter.
They just run elk and moose down until they’re exhausted
and then pin them and kill them.
So if it came down to endurance,
might go the way of the bear
if they were caged up together.
However, there is very strong evidence
from both hunters and video,
which shows on many occasions,
bears being chased off by cougar and wolverines.
What is that?
What do you mean chased off?
If they fight over meat,
and say that, for example, a cougar has killed something
and the bear wants the meat,
the cougar will-
The bear has risk aversion.
The bears are risk averse.
What I would say is this,
the bears are very, very powerful in their domain,
but they don’t have the battle experience of a lion.
They don’t take on animals as tough as a Cape buffalo.
They don’t take on elephant.
The toughest thing it would probably take on
would probably be a bull moose.
And a bull moose is a formidable animal,
but it’s nothing like a Cape buffalo.
It’s nothing like an elephant or a hippopotamus.
So what I would suggest is this,
in the wild, I don’t believe either one
is capable of killing the other,
but I do believe based on video evidence
of cougars and wolverines chasing off bears,
that a lion would provide enough threat
in a brief fight that a bear would back away.
If you put them in a cage, however,
where neither one could back away,
I would slightly favor the bear
based on the fact that neither one can kill each other,
it would come down to endurance.
You mean like an octagon?
Yeah, that’s gotta be the next UFC, by the way,
bear versus lion.
But things change.
Joe Rogan is a big fan of the idea of fighting in a stadium,
for humans fighting in a stadium.
So in a stadium, a bear-
I would slightly favor a bear.
Now, I still think that the lion would have a chance,
but I would favor the bear in a betting match.
Some of the best evidence we have
for animal versus animal fights
come from the ancient Romans,
who actually used to put animals in gladiatorial combat.
And they, for example, had several incidents
where they wrote about tiger versus lion conflict.
And in one famous passage,
they described a lion getting destroyed by a female tiger.
So there’s some evidence to suggest
that they had more expertise of this than we do,
because they had a big population of wild animals,
which they just put to fight each other.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that they wrote
about bears versus lion.
They did talk about bears versus bulls,
they did talk about lions versus tigers,
but they never mentioned bear versus lion,
so we don’t have any evidence for that.
So we have to be a little bit more speculative.
Now, given that bears do get chased off by cougar,
and cougar is weak compared with a male lion.
Well, what do you draw from that, by the way?
I would suggest that-
Is it about the bear, or is it about the cougar?
It’s more about the bear.
Like, in theory, a bear should be able to crush a cougar.
But it seems to be, the bear is just saying,
this thing could hurt me,
so I’m not gonna risk injury, and backs away.
I think it would back away in the wild from a lion,
but put him in a cage,
and I slightly favor the grizzly, based on endurance.
So the final conclusion,
if you had to just bet everything you own,
so you got, let’s say, we got the octagon,
we bring in a bear.
Now, this is, like, legendary bear, okay?
Full-grown grizzly, but not only that,
that grizzly has seen some shit.
What’s the most it could have seen?
A bull moose, a caribou?
It’s the toughest opponent it’s ever had.
It once, no, no, no, no.
No, this one once ran into a pack of other grizzlies,
and had to fend, and he’s got scars.
A pack of grizzlies?
This isn’t a pack of grizzlies, it’s solitary.
What’s good practice for a bear?
Who attacks a bear?
That’s my point.
Bears don’t really live in a competitive environment.
But sometimes it can get desperate,
as it was a pack of wolves.
But a pack of wolves is nothing.
All right, fine.
Lions deal with packs of hyenas.
Okay, what was the, just imagine,
over the past hundred years,
what do you think is the hardest fight
that a grizzly bear has been in?
Like, somewhere in Alaska, we never heard,
all of a sudden, in the middle of the night,
all you hear is the bear just.
Yeah, they don’t really, there’s nothing that tough.
No, there’s gotta been something.
Humans have killed tens of millions of people in wars.
They run away from cougars and wolverines.
No, that’s anecdotal evidence.
There’s gotta be one bear.
There’s video footage of it.
You can watch it yourself.
That’s called anecdotal evidence.
There’s got, I guarantee you, in the dark of the night,
there was an epic battle, of which there’s still legend
amongst the bears in that part of Canada.
Who did it battle in Canada?
You don’t think they’d go at it.
Yeah, bears fight each other,
but it’s largely theatrical.
They never kill each other.
When lions fight each other,
they kill each other all the time.
Someone would have seen it by now.
All right, so.
So you’re, my point is that bears,
it just, they wanna get their feet wet.
You’re giving no credit for gorillas,
so you’re saying lion wins.
Your money’s on the lion.
No, I’m saying lion would win in the wild
because they can’t kill each other.
They can’t end the fight.
That’s one of our most important criteria.
But lions can almost always initiate the action
because they have much better ability
to see at night, for example.
Bears have very average night vision.
Lions have superb night vision.
So at nighttime, they can always initiate the fight.
Lions are natural ambush predators,
so it’s always gonna have the advantage of ambush.
The great advantage that bears have is endurance.
But bears are very risk-averse
and they’re not used to fighting
like the toughest, toughest animals.
The toughest animal they fight is a moose or a caribou.
These are not even close to the animals
that lions have to go up against on a regular basis.
So if somebody wins, it’s gonna be the lion for you.
I still think that the size and endurance of the bear,
if they were locked in a cage together,
I would still favor the bear under those circumstances.
But in the wild, I believe the bear will back away
quickly from the lion.
No time limit, you favor the bear.
What if it’s five rounds or five minutes,
Then I would go with the lion
because the lion has a huge speed advantage.
So it’s gonna-
It’s gonna injure it, tear it up, and do immediate damage.
Like, I’ll put it this way.
If lion and bear fight, first 15 minutes,
I favor the lion 100%.
But then as time goes by, that size and weight is gonna,
and endurance is gonna have an effect.
I’ll bring up shortly somebody
that’s gonna probably disagree with you about some things.
Hopefully it’s a grizzly bear
and he comes in and just eats me.
Oh, that would be so epic.
Make a hell of a podcast.
I wonder who he would eat first,
who would look scarier, more delicious.
I’m not sure.
The black and white could either piss him off.
He would think you were a penguin.
Is that a good thing or not?
If it was a polar bear, maybe it’s different.
Do you care-
If there’s no penguins in the North Pole.
Deeply about your, about athletes you coached,
about people in your life.
So I have to ask this question.
If one of those athletes, let’s say Gordon Ryan,
now I was the dictator of the world
and this would entertain me,
so I force you and Gordon to do this,
to fight a bear or a lion, Gordon has to,
how would you coach him to do it,
to have any chance of winning?
He goes in empty-handed.
You can choose stadium or cage.
Gordon Ryan, empty-handed versus a lion.
You get to choose, lion versus bear.
It’s up to you.
My advice would be very simple.
I would say, Gordon, you’re fucked.
You’re going to die badly.
Choose the lion,
because it will strangle you to death
rather than pin you down and maul you to death.
Didn’t we just talk about audacious goals?
With Nicholas Mergoff.
This is not a question of audacious goals.
This is a question of minimizing pain.
So you coach your athletes to quit
before the battle has been fought.
You don’t think he has a chance?
You don’t think he has a chance?
What’s he going to do?
You don’t think there’s a technical,
first of all, intelligence.
So technical strategy.
What’s he going to do, a heel hook?
No, well, first of all, maybe.
He can’t do a double A.
He’s got four fucking legs.
Okay, what if Gordon gets any starting position he wants?
Oh, yeah, that’s going to be really useful.
You don’t think he can have back control?
On a thousand pound beer?
Yeah, he’ll get shaken off?
He’ll get torn off.
Reach his back.
He’s got four six inch claws.
It’s hard to, oh, okay.
I wonder what is the reach?
Whatever he touches, he’s going to destroy it.
What if it’s not a flexible bear?
So you think there’s no control?
What about like a low,
like some kind of controlling position from,
yeah, like you said, Brambo, like from underneath?
This discussion is so insane
that I don’t even know where to begin criticism.
I don’t think you’re open-minded enough.
We could turn this down.
Forget about Gordon fighting a lion or a bear.
That’s completely impossible.
An adult male chimp will destroy Gordon.
So not even a gorilla?
What about the aggression?
Yeah, the aggression.
A male chimp is more than enough
to kill any human on the planet, including Gordon Ryan.
So Gordon Ryan fighting a chimp, a good-sized.
No, a thousand times.
How many times does he win?
He loses a thousand times.
It’s not even competitive.
It’s not even remotely competitive.
Do you think he will disagree?
Do you think anyone will disagree?
Somebody that I think you might know
is a famous actor, Tom Hardy,
but he’s also doing quite a bit of jujitsu.
The reason this makes sense to bring up now
is he’s also, I saw, narrating a new Sky original series
called Predators coming out in December
where they follow five different predators
and tell their full story about all the fighting
and the killing and all that kind of stuff.
And he’s doing that.
He’s like, it’s like Morgan Freeman
from March of the Penguins.
It’s Tom Hardy for the Predators.
So I don’t, I saw a bear and a lion in the trailer,
but they also had something,
I didn’t watch it too careful,
but they had something like a hyena.
So I think they were talking about,
I don’t know if it’s a hyena, but something like that,
like pack animals that attack and-
Hyenas are formidable, formidable animals.
So it’s not all about size.
It’s about like strategy.
The most important thing in nature is numbers.
Like, you know, a pack of animals
will always destroy a single animal.
And I think that show in particular
is not a hundred percent about who wins or so on.
It’s about the fascinating stories
of how these predators sort of dominate
their particular environment.
Because it’s not about these like artificial matchups.
It’s about giving your environment how to succeed
and all that kind of stuff.
Maybe we could do Gordon Ryan versus a house cat.
Gordon might have a small chance
against the house cat, maybe.
See, now I know you’re just trolling me.
I think Gordon has a chance against,
definitely against the smaller apes,
but I have no way of proving it.
And the internet will say I’m an idiot.
So there you go.
Yeah, the internet is correct every so often.
So there’s a, oh, that’s funny enough.
I’m looking at Tom’s Instagram.
Here’s a picture with Hanzo.
He’s competed recently, which is very cool in jujitsu.
That’s tough to do for a celebrity to step up.
Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah.
He used to consult with me a little bit
on moves when he was starting out.
He’s a very, very nice person.
Oh, about jujitsu?
Yeah, he asked questions about jujitsu.
He struck me as being a very, very nice person.
I would love to be a fly on that wall,
but he made a post on Instagram,
which I’d love to get your opinion on.
It’s very much like a John Donahue style
of digging into the philosophy
of the impact of jujitsu on one’s life.
Is his Instagram post 18 pages long?
Oh, he’s got potential then.
With a profound, deep picture
of somebody practicing the art of jujitsu.
I think he’s at least a trainee in this art
of the Donahue style of communication.
If Miyamoto Musashi would be alive today,
he would probably be doing these five page
Instagram posts like you do.
Addiction, writes Tom Hardy.
Addiction is difficult and complex stuff
to navigate as is mental health.
Subjects which are both deeply personal for me
and extremely close to my heart.
It is an honor to be able to represent the charity
of my team, RE-ORG, and the great work they do
supporting the mental health and wellbeing
of veterans of service, military and first responders
through the therapeutic benefits of jujitsu
and fitness training.
He represented them in this competition
that he competed in.
Simple training for me as a hobby
and a private love has been fundamentally key
to further develop a deeper sense of inner resilience,
calm and wellbeing.
I can’t stress the importance it has had
and the impact of my life and my fellow teammates.
And he goes on to talk about this organization,
RE-ORG that uses Brazilian jujitsu to form a therapy
to overcome physical and mental challenges,
strengthen social connections
and improve overall health and wellbeing.
This is for veterans, for people going through PTSD.
They have saved lives around the world
by not only providing an effective and positive means
for navigating and managing
the challenging psychological aspects
of military and first responder careers,
but also has allowed many to find
a renewed sense of purpose, identity and community
that’s often lost when transitioning to civilian life.
Do you have thoughts about that?
Sort of the effects of jujitsu on folks
who’ve gone through some really difficult
things in their life.
First off, I think that’s just a beautiful statement
by Mr. Hardy, I must give him a phone call after this
and talk to him, that was beautiful to read.
One thing that’s always struck me
when I train people who either have a military background
or on more than a few occasions,
we have special forces soldiers come in
and train with us for a week or two.
And when you talk to them,
the overwhelming sentiment I get
when the conversation’s over and we go our separate ways
is I’m always asking myself,
the transition from military life,
especially the more extreme military lives
of special forces soldiers back to civilian life,
it must be the craziest experience of all.
You’ve got people who are fighting and dying
alongside their comrades in the most extreme circumstances
that any human being can go through.
And then they’re pulled back into a life
where people are arguing with them over parking spots.
Just like the average person’s day-to-day life
is so mundane that imagine
what must be going through a man’s head
who a few weeks or months ago was literally fighting
for his life and his comrades lives,
watching people that he loved die
or get mutilated in front of him.
Things that in a matter of seconds,
people’s lives can be torn apart and change forever.
And then suddenly you get thrown into a life
where people are arguing over who’s cut who off,
who in line to buy a coffee.
The intensity of camaraderie and love
that you have for each other.
And then you go from incredible intensity in war
to just mundane, boring life.
And going from one to the other
where people are yelling at you or nagging you
over issues that just seem so inconsequential
compared to what you’ve been through.
And you’re supposed to take these people seriously
and listen to them.
But not only that, you do have trauma visions
of dead brothers and sisters.
And you feel like you can’t really talk
to these civilians about it.
There’s nothing in their experience
that would enable you to have a conversation with them.
Like they don’t even,
how do you talk to your new girlfriend
about watching one of your friend’s legs get taken off?
Like there’s no conversation you could have with them.
So I find that typically they do best
when they hang out with each other
because they have shared experience
and they can talk about these things.
But I do find that most jiu-jitsu schools
have something like a kind of military barracks
demeanor to them of like camaraderie,
hard work, shared hard work, teamwork,
building towards a goal over time,
the acquisition of skills.
Usually along with that, a kind of,
for want of a better word,
rustic and primitive sense of humor
and a kind of soldierly way of talking to each other
and disparaging self-deprecating sense of humor.
And it’s something that most people with military service
kind of naturally come into
because it’s part of what they were in.
And so it’s like a toned down version of it
which enables them to form a stepping stone
between the military life that they were in
all the way down to civilian life.
And jiu-jitsu is kind of like a bridge between those two.
And also the honesty.
So you said like the skill acquisition,
the honesty of really testing that skill.
There is a deep honesty to war in a distant way,
but in a way there is an honesty to jiu-jitsu too,
of technique, working and not.
And there’s a final, there is simulated death.
It’s not real death, it’s simulated death on the mat.
And there’s a similar kind of honesty there.
And there’s also a similar kind of esteem towards skill
just as regular soldiers look up to special forces soldiers
because they see them as people who have
greater skills than themselves, something to aspire to.
So too in jiu-jitsu,
the thing that we esteem most on a jiu-jitsu mat is skill.
No one gives a damn what you look like
or what you think that you judge mostly by your skill level.
And so they tend to identify with that.
I do think that most people from a military background
kind of find a natural gravitation
towards the atmosphere of jiu-jitsu learning.
And if it proves to be a positive way for them
to rehabilitate and come back into civilian lives,
then that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.
I know we’re linked with We Defy,
which is an organization which caters to former soldiers
who were badly injured in combat
and many of whom lost limbs
and always suffered mental trauma.
And they come in and train,
and they often speak very, very highly
of the degree to which jiu-jitsu has helped them
come back into civilian life.
And for them, it’s even worse
because they come back not only mentally
but physically disadvantaged after war.
And I’ve always been proud to be associated with We Defy.
And I’m very happy to see Tom working with this organization.
Is this an organization based in England
for English veterans or is it international?
That’s a good question.
I’d have to look into it.
It certainly is based in England,
but it could be international.
But it’s just nice to see somebody use that large platform
for that kind of message.
And also to step on the mat
and show the kind of jiu-jitsu you would probably be proud of
when you’re chasing submissions.
You got an arm lock, you got a straight foot lock.
We’re not gonna analyze the techniques
because there could be-
It’s the intent that counts.
The finish is the finish.
Yeah, no, that’s impressive.
He’s actually quite an athlete.
He’s in great shape and strong and flexible.
And I’m glad he’s doing well with his jiu-jitsu.
And it’s good to see Henzo’s smiling face next to him.
I can only imagine the conversations.
I have to ask you a deep and important question.
You often, when we text back and forth,
send me two hugging emojis.
Can we psychoanalyze the reason
why that’s your favorite emoji of the hugging face?
Is that, it’s kind of like sending a heart,
but a little bit more gender neutral.
When jiu-jitsu players meet each other,
they often shake hands and then give a quick hug.
So I thought it was the most appropriate emoji
for jiu-jitsu players.
So it’s a pretty simple explanation.
Nothing too fraught in there.
Are you sure?
Have you really asked yourself deeply?
Because you really lean on that emoji.
Is there something behind it?
Tomorrow I’m never gonna use that emoji again.
Why is there two of them?
I’ll shock you tomorrow and hit you with three.
It’s almost always two.
I think maybe you’re a creature of habit in communication.
I’m a creature of habit in almost every aspect of my life.
So even emojis.
Yeah, you fall into these little pockets
of how you communicate,
how you show affection towards others.
I send, I say love a lot.
I send hearts.
And don’t give a fuck if it’s too like,
me sending a message to a CEO I’m about to interview,
I’ll send a heart.
I don’t give a damn.
They’ll probably just look, ugh, what is this?
But I think people are too afraid
of simple communication of affection.
It could be in any form,
but there’s a hesitance to that
because I think underneath it,
in order to show affection,
you’re taking a risk and you’re showing vulnerability.
Because if you show affection
and the other person rejects that affection,
you’ve now placed yourself in a hierarchy,
going back to lions, of like, oh, this person,
you’re just like the silly, weak person
and they’re the strong person.
I think that’s how you might see it, I guess.
But I don’t.
To me, the display of vulnerability
is a display of strength, not weakness,
at least in human society, at least at this time.
I don’t know.
Let me ask you about love.
I must ask John Donahy about love.
What do you think is the role of love in the human condition
at the highest philosophical level, let me first ask?
Like romantic love?
Romantic love, let’s say romantic love.
I have one or two areas of apparent expertise in my life.
Romantic love, definitely not one of them.
So like lions versus bears.
You’re pretty good at.
And then different grappling arts,
judo, sambo, jiu-jitsu.
Wrestling, MMA, so fighting and so on.
You don’t see them as similar?
It’s a kind of fight.
It’s a kind of dance.
By the way, do you?
There’s a sense in which I’m kind of glad
I’m not an expert on that.
Imagine what it would be to be an expert on romantic love.
You would take the one thing in life
that’s actually interesting and make it boring.
Because once you develop an expertise about something,
you can start to predict how things are gonna unfold.
You get answers before events even occur.
You see, you can read into the future of everything.
I think there are certain parts of human life
where you want to be a beginner at all times.
And you don’t wanna gain expertise.
So excellence and systematizing something
in order to achieve excellence
might destroy the very magic of the thing.
And I think that the magic of romantic love
is the fact that we’re all beginners at it.
And the minute you try to gain expertise in it,
what does that even mean?
What would it mean?
And would it be good?
I don’t think it would.
I think you’re better off just having fun with it
and plowing through and making dumb mistakes
and looking like a fool.
And then whatever success, whatever that means,
comes in a kind of lighthearted, frivolous kind of way.
And that, I think, is over the course of a lifetime
far more desirable than having expertise
and affairs of love.
So I don’t think it’s even a good thing to study too much.
And I think if you did,
you would actually take something good out of your life.
Yeah, there’s communities of people called pickup artists
that try to optimize this particular aspect,
which is of dating, of guys picking up girls,
and turning that into a system
and seeing what’s the most successful.
Yeah, I think that would be,
I mean, maybe the first few months would be good.
And then after that, I think it would be a disaster.
I mean, given that humans are fairly easy to study
from the standpoint of psychology,
I’m sure it’s not that difficult to gain expertise
in things like picking people up,
the same way advertisers can pick up your attention
to sell a product.
You can do the same thing, presumably, with romance and sex.
But I don’t know.
I feel like if you became very good at it,
you would end up being very disappointed by the results.
And so as I said, I think there’s some things in life
where it’s better to be a beginner.
And this is one of those.
Enjoy the chaos, the push and pull of being a beginner
and make that a lifelong journey.
That’s really inspiring to hear you say that.
And there’s a deep truth to that.
That also justifies the fact that I suck at it.
I think it also justifies, and it would sell very well,
that John Donahue should write a book on dating.
And that would be chapter one.
Embrace being a beginner.
Chapter two will be bear versus lion.
Pivot quickly to violence.
By the way, we totally skipped over anaconda.
I assumed the implied.
I’ll put it to you this way.
On video, you can watch Puma.
And similar sized cats,
jaguar, destroy anacondas.
Even in water, which is anaconda’s preferred domain.
So given that Puma and jaguar
are several orders below lion,
you have to go with the idea
that lion would utterly decimate anaconda.
So it’s probably good that we did skip over it.
Going back to the original thought that you had about this,
don’t trust your first instinct.
Also think about the other elements.
An anaconda has no ability to disengage from the fight.
Once the fight’s on, it’s gotta go until the end.
It has no ability to disengage and get away.
Its only hope would be ambush.
And it’s got a tiny, tiny chance
against a truly formidable animal.
And the fact that if we look at
actual concrete real world results,
when Puma and jaguar are kicking your ass,
you know, lion and bear is gonna be a lot worse.
Science is not to be found on YouTube,
or rather YouTube is not science.
I bet you there’s a bear somewhere in Canada
that has seen some shit.
I’m just gonna leave it at that.
You’re a fan of knives.
There’s guys like Miyamoto Musashi who,
instead of doing who’s number one type of tournaments,
when both competitors walk away,
only one competitor walks away.
Miyamoto Musashi is known for somebody having
John Donahue-like philosophical skills,
but also is known for having fought 61 times
in duels to the death, and won them, obviously.
What do you think made him so good?
I don’t feel qualified to talk about him
because I haven’t made an in-depth study
of his life and times.
And we also don’t know how much truth there is
to his recollections,
and there’s a lot of controversy over this.
So I don’t feel like you can give a definitive statement of,
and certainly I can’t give a definitive statement
of his prowess, but his writings are fascinating
and deeply insightful.
But as to what actually happened out there in his duels,
But there is, with guys like that,
you almost certainly know that there were people
like the character he projects that have existed,
whether it’s 61, whether it’s 20,
but people really put their life on the line
in a different time in human history.
Is there something compelling to you
about fighting to the death?
I think it’s not just compelling to me, but to anyone.
I mean, there’s nothing we value more than our lives.
And to be able to say, I’m prepared to die
for a sense of honor,
things that are so foreign to our modern society.
Imagine, we criticize people
for something as simple as road rage,
and yet you can imagine someone
who has a sufficiently developed sense of honor.
If you took them out of the 17th century
and put them in a modern car,
they might be killing people on the side of the road
on a regular basis, just over the smallest acts of honor.
To say that your sense of self overwhelms
your sense of self-preservation,
it’s a very unusual thing in the modern age,
and yet it appears to have been quite common back then.
You often wear a fanny pack.
I’m not gonna ask you what’s inside the fanny pack,
but if you were to design a perfect killing machine
that also wore a fanny pack,
what would you put in that fanny pack?
Would it be something mundane and practical,
or would it be something surprising and hilarious?
Would it be something of philosophical significance,
or maybe sentimental significance,
or would it be empty as a troll on human civilization?
But if it was a perfect killing machine,
it would have to be some kind of weapon.
Put in a fanny pack.
Does it have to be a very compact weapon?
We mentioned offline that there’s also things
in the chess world where there is a different kind
of vibrating devices that could be used
to communicate information in communication
with the AI systems that can help you
in your particular pursuit.
I don’t think in jiu-jitsu you need,
it’s possible for a machine to give you information
that gives you advantage.
You can in chess and in poker.
So you could put one of those vibrating devices
in your fanny pack, but in jiu-jitsu it would not help you.
Any idea what kind of weapon?
To fit in a fanny pack?
So you’re a fan of knives.
Where’s the interest in knives come from, by the way?
That’s more metaphorical.
The truth is that in the modern world,
a knife is not an efficient weapon.
Easily be overwhelmed by firearms.
My fascination with knives comes more in the sense
that they convey a spirit to my students
where a knife is made of steel
and steel begins as ore in the ground.
It’s an ugly, unfinished product,
which through the enactment of knowledge,
time and discipline can be transformed
into beautiful, shining steel.
It can have something which,
it begins as something which has no real function
and becomes one of the most functional
and important tools in all of human history,
without which human civilization
could never have even begun.
It’s what separated humans and took us
from the bottom of the food chain
and began our gradual rise towards the top
of the food chain.
So it has immense historical and cultural value,
but it has this metaphorical value
insofar as the martial artist begins
as a white belt like iron ore,
but over time transforms into some beautiful,
shining steel, which can have immense value.
In addition, there’s a sense of maintenance.
As remarkable as steel is,
it is in need of constant maintenance.
It will fall apart through rust
and neglect will destroy a blade,
both in terms of rust and the edge falling apart.
And so just as the martial artist,
it’s not good enough just to learn the techniques,
you need to maintain them over time.
And just as steel is perishable,
so too are the skills of martial arts.
And that when I give a gift of a knife to a student,
these metaphorical elements start to emerge.
Okay, I began as iron ore
and I want to become the finished blade.
There’s another sense in which a knife is morally neutral.
A knife can be used to save a life.
It can be used to cook a meal,
but it can also be used for murder
for the worst possible purposes.
Jiu-Jitsu is the same way.
Jiu-Jitsu can make you a better person.
It can make you a worse person.
Jiu-Jitsu is just a power.
It’s not a particularly great power, but it is a power.
And like all power, it can be used for both good and bad.
It’s morally neutral in itself.
And it’s up to us to make sure
that just as the knife gets used
for good purposes rather than bad,
so too that Jiu-Jitsu be used
for good purposes rather than bad.
There’s also an element where the basis of the knife
And historically, there’s always been a riddle of steel,
which is steel has the property
of both hardness and suppleness.
The harder you make steel,
the better its edge retention becomes.
The longer that edge will stay sharp.
This is good, but it comes at a price.
The harder you make steel, the more brittle it becomes.
And now that edge can be damaged easily.
So the solution is to make the steel softer, more malleable.
That will prevent breakage of the blade
and chipping of the edge.
But when you make the steel softer, that comes at a price.
And that price is now the edge loses
its sharpness very easily.
And so the riddle of steel is how to work
with these two to the greatest degree possible
and create an edge which is hard enough
to stay sharp for long periods of time,
but without making the steel so brittle
that the blade overall is compromised.
So too in Jiu-Jitsu, your task in training
is to make the training competitive enough
that you actually get used to the rigors of real combat.
But on the other hand, it can’t be so brutal
that the athletes get broken down in the gym
to a point where they’re no longer effective.
And so this duality of hardness and softness,
which we see in the case of blades,
is there in the training of the Jiu-Jitsu athlete.
So I often give a gift of a knife to a student
when they’ve done something significant
because it demonstrates in a metaphorical way
these key themes of the sport.
Well, I’ve been honored to be a student of yours.
I’ve been plagued by injury,
but I hope to one day earn one such knife.
And I think that’s a really powerful metaphor.
I’m really honored that you would spend any time with me
in any context, but especially on the mat
and especially today in conversation, John,
you’re an incredible person.
Thank you for everything you do.
Congratulations for historic accomplishment.
It’s always beautiful and inspiring to see greatness.
And what I saw, what we saw at ADCC was greatness,
rare greatness, and it’s beautiful to see
that humans can achieve that kind of thing.
So thank you for making that happen.
And thank you for talking today.
Thank you, Lex.
Thanks for listening to this conversation
with John Donahuer.
To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now let me leave you with some words
from Miyamoto Musashi.
The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight.
And the only reason a warrior fights is to win.
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.