Jiu Jitsu on the brain. The best beginner guide & philosophy book

Jiu Jitsu on the Brain by Mark Johnson is the only philosophical and zen-like book on jiu jitsu I have read. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it also resembled the great classics such as the "Art of War" and "Book of Five Rings". Mark is a black belt (when the book was written, a brown belt) teaching at West Side Academy in Utah. He also teaches English in high school which probably helped to make the book a really enjoyable read.

The book is organised into sections from the "empty black bar" to 4 stripe. The black bar starts with the basics (how to put on your pants) while the fourth stripe requires some experience in order for the reader to relate to it.

The book discusses many issues including:

- Why your gi should not be a fashion statement but clean
- How you will start to appreciate a non-injured body
- Why Pit Bull is the official jiu jitsu dog
- Why smoking weed will most likely not enhance your jiu jitsu
- Why you shouldn't make tapping a higher belt a big deal or brag about it
- Why it is completely cool and even important to train in whatever academy suits you best at the time
- Why you should hunt for submissions in a tournament despite what Helio said about the importance of not losing when FIGHTING. (This was particularily interesting in the light of the previous Metamoris tournament and because the author is a Pedro Sauer student)
- Why jitsu will make you a more complete person and less of a loud mouth punk

I strongly suggest everybody reads this book as most of us including myself will have something to improve about our jiu jitsu selves. It does not matter whether it is an unhealthy gi addiction, being a meat head in sparring, immature attitude towards other teams/martial arts, getting frustrated too easily, or a lack of hygiene. If I happen to teach one day, I might make this book compulsory for beginners..

The book felt like a breath of fresh air after all the advantage wins in the worlds, shameless marketing of everybody's own brand of jiu jitsu, and all other politics. I kinda felt that the author somehow was the opposite of Eddie Bravo (no disrespect intended, there is a place for all of us). This was funny because Mark says we should get rid of all our Tapout gear and Eddie is usually sporting a Tapout rashguard.

Get the electronic book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jiu-Jitsu-on-the-Brain-ebook/dp/B006V5AFYE

If you want to read it on your laptop you need to download the free Kindle app.

More of Mark's thoughts in his blog tapordiecompany.com


Is my quest for berimbolo defense finally over?

I have gone throught this a bit in training and now have 2 phases of defense:

1. Early phase, using leg drag control push opponent's knees together when he is going to the side and grabbing your belt in order to start spinning. Opponent's leg can be either on the outside or between your own knees. This pretty much kills the inverting and allows you to grab his collar as in a leg drag and smash/leg drag pass. Sometimes you also have to push the knees together using your chest for extra pressure

2. Late phase meaning your hip is already down and opponent is inverting: With this technique, you have to keep the "upper" leg drag control on the pant leg and switch it to the inside. As he is going to try to go under you, you just circle away and wait for your moment. Then you put your weight slightly on top of him and grab the cloth around his hip. After this you somersault over him while placing the bottom of your foot on his calf/knee area next to the pant grip allowing you to force him to expose his back for the hooks.

This worked for me perhaps the third time I tried it which is more than I can say for most berimbolo defenses so far. Here is where I got this..


Examining Satoshi Souza's weapons of choice


Roberto Satoshi de Souza of Bonsai Jiu Jitsu started to appear in the jiu jitsu competition limelight a few years as a very dangerous brown belt competitor. Before this, he was already a very active and succesful competitor at lower belt levels in Japan. Satoshi's final black belt breakthrough occurred at the past European Championship where he snatched the gold right in front of favourites Michael Langhi and JT Torres. He also has a notable win over top lightweight Lucas Lepri.

"Toshi" is one of the five Souza brothers (including the also well known Marcos de Souza) and has been living in Japan for quite a while now. He is teaching and training at Bonsai Jiu Jitsu in Shizuoka. The brothers had the priviledge the learn jiu jitsu directly from their father Adilson de Souza. Bonsai Jiu Jitsu's connection to Atos Jiu Jitsu has most likely also affected his style because there has a been a number of great Atos fighters (Bruno Frazatto, Gilbert Burns and the Mendes brothers) visiting the Bonsai academy in Japan throughout the years. The brothers are also known to train with Atos to prepare for competitions.

The reason Satoshi originally caught my eye in a BJJ spirits DVD was that he has a very aggressive and crowd pleasing style that many of today's competitors lack. He also has a versatile and fast style which is very difficult to figure out the first time you see it. Unlike many competitors, he doesn't always go for the same thing which also makes what he does difficult to examine. After watching hours and hours of footage, I have been perhaps able to find 2 techniques that are very distinctive to his style for a brief technique analysis.

1. Reverse De La Riva

Satoshi's guard of choice is his reverse De La Riva guard which he often spices up with a leg lasso control. In leg lasso reverse DLR he has s traditional leg lasso and sleeve grip on the outside and a reverse De La Riva hook and an ankle grip on the inside. He often decides to pull guard in his matches and has a number of really good options from this position.

Personally I am most impressed by how good his transitions to other guards and submissions are from the reverse De La Riva. Although Satoshi seems to prefer the standard Reverse De La Riva approach which is securing the hooked ankle or pant, sometimes he abandons the ankle grip for an underhook control on the opponent's opposite leg, which is his preferred grip for the roll over sweep and the triangle.

The underhook grip is often used as a transitional position in Satoshi's game to other types of open guards and in many cases is combined with removing the De La Riva hook to look for other options. Most of the time, this other option is putting the removed De La Riva leg on his opponent's opposite hip resembling a arm bar attempt position.

Based on a ton of competition footage, some of  his most succesful techniques from the position are:
  • Coming up on a single leg sweep
  • Tripod sweep by moving the hook leg behind the other leg's ankle
  • Roll over sweep (with either underhook or wrist control)
  • Triangle from underhook control
  • Taking the back/sweeping in a scramble by inverting
Here is a quick highlight of his Reverse DLR guard work I put together:

2. Diving ankle pick single leg

When not pulling guard, Satoshi's most common take down seems to be a "diving" ankle pick single. He basically likes to shoot for his opponent's ankle like a Superman and comes of for a single leg control. I think the takedown might be so succesful because it is initiated from outside the normal range for jiu jitsu takedowns.

Here is quick compilation of his diving ankle picks:


Takedowns from Russian 2-on-1

My facebook buddy from San Francisco posted nice takedown from the 2-on-1 grip. I've been trying takedowns from this grip especially in submission wrestling after I visited Paragon jiu jitsu where I was taught about this. The control is not the 2-on-1 that Marcelo uses although the grip is the same. In the Russian, the key is how you position your head. I normally try to go for a far side double or kata kuruma on the near leg depending on the opponents stande, but here is a very simple trip from the Russian.


Combined jiu jitsu & rugby training

There is a lively rugby scene here in Cascais and our team invited the rugby guys to do a joint training session every Wednesday. The rugby guys get to train slightly different takedown & takedown defense tactics and we get some explosivity drills and physical training. For me, it has been especially fun to spar with rugby guys becayse it teaches you "Gracie style" self defense. You probably have better technique but you have to defend against athletic guys who never quit.

Last session we did some bjj + rubgy style excercises where you have for example
  • Run, dribble and break through a wall of two guys
  • Go wall against wall to push the guys to the other side (on video)

  • "fighting horse" championship where you sit on another guys shoulder and fight fight other pairs (on video)


My quest for better defensive maneuvers continues, it's leg lasso's turn

I've been recently studying defenses against things I have struggled with in the past. Particularily, I've been focusing a lot of triangle defense and berimbolo defense. I have also had problems against the leg lasso in the past. I have been able to defend against it by stalling but passing it has always been difficult for me. I've tried Andre Galvao's way from his dvd and Tony Pacenski's from his but I think I've finally found a way that suits me quite good. Here it is