Lex Fridman Podcast - #328 - John Danaher: Submission Grappling, ADCC, Animal Combat, and Knives

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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,

Mo Jassim.

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

changed significantly.

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.

Yeah, yeah.

As a little tree that had to grow up under a bigger tree.

Yeah, so-

Fuck the big tree.

My God.

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.

So I-

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.

Yeah, yeah.

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,

possibly permanently.

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,

have patience.

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

than anyone.

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.

And retired.


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,

Pedro Mourinho.

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.

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.

Yes, yes.

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.

And sometimes,

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,

each other.

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?

Absolutely not.

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?

Yeah, periodically.

Periodically, rarely.

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-

It can.

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

and accessible,

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.

Very nice.

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.

That’s correct.

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.

That’s naive.

There’s two.

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?

Probably not.

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.

Very little.


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?

I know.

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

left-hand side.

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.

Yeah, yeah.

He knew that late would be a big problem.

Got it.

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.

So like-

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,

you’re unconscious.

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?

Great question.

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.

Ah, yes.

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 so.

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,

rotates through,

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.

It’s fine.

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

from this-

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,

is great.

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

chest-to-chest contact.

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.

And yeah.

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?

Again, confidence.

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.

Yeah, and-

Still chasing.

Still chasing.

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.

Arm drag.

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?

With a-

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.

Look at.

And that’s just a beautiful, beautiful takedown.

That’s beautiful judo.

And then-

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.

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.

Staying calm.

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.

Beautiful Kosarigake.

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.

At all.

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,

transitioning here.

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.

Beautifully done.

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.

That’s Saturday.

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

from Ireland.

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

like Gordon.

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 incredible.

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.

Oh no.

And again, you get that same kind of pressure.

Oh no.

Oh, right.

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,

Nicholas Meragali,

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.


I’m like,

I’m like,


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?

A degree.

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,

something memorable.

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.

No, no.

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?

Yeah, absolutely.

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.

It’s interesting.

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.

Yes, strangleholds.

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

on bottom.

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.

Like a-


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.

It’s weird.


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

do takedowns.

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

was takedowns.

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

with wrestling.

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.

Yeah, yeah.

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.

He had-

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?

Oh, absolutely.

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.

Excellent Kimura.

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.

It’s interesting.

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.

That’s fascinating,

because we don’t even have that level of introspection,

ability to reflect of what we actually look like

in grappling.

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

out there?

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?

Everyone’s different.

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,

but self-discoveries.

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.

It’s good.

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?

Yeah, sometimes.

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.

I usually,

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.

to drive.

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.

And food-wise?

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.

That’s impressive.

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.

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.

Thank you.

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.

It’s comparable.

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.

Plus, claws.

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.

Yeah, yeah.

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.

Oh boy.

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.


Military conflict.

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

three things.

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.


So, yeah.

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.

We’re asking.

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.

Fair enough.

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.

No impact.

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’s that?

That’s fear?

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.

Exactly, exactly.

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.

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.

Wolves, wolves.

What’s good practice for a bear?

Who attacks a bear?

That’s my point.

Bears don’t really live in a competitive environment.

Lions do.

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?


Other bears.

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,

championship rounds?

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?

Not good.

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.

100%, yeah.

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?

Shaken off?

He’ll get torn off.

With what?

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?


Yeah, morons.


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 awesome.

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-

Doesn’t matter.

Different perspectives.

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.

I see.

So it’s a pretty simple explanation.

Nothing too fraught in there.

Are you sure?

Quite 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?

Walk away.

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.

I’m good.

Animal combat.

I’m good.

You’re pretty good at.

And then different grappling arts,

judo, sambo, jiu-jitsu.


Wrestling, MMA, so fighting and so on.

Romantic love.

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.

Yes, yes.

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.

No, no.

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,

it’s unclear.

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

is steel.

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.