John Danaher: Grappling, Jiu Jitsu, ADCC, and Animal Combat | Lex Fridman Podcast #328 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "John Danaher: Grappling, Jiu Jitsu, ADCC, and Animal Combat | Lex Fridman Podcast #328".
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And Mayo, chimp is more than enough to kill any human on the planet, including Gordon Ryan. So Gordon Ryan fighting a chimp. I did size dead. 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? No. OK. Do you think anyone will disagree? Anyone? Yeah, more on. The following is a conversation with John Donner. His third time in this podcast, he's widely considered to be one of the greatest minds in martial arts history. This is a Lex Friedman podcast. The supported police check out our sponsors in the description. And now, dear friends, here's John Donner.
Journey And Progressions Of Gordon Ryan
Renzo Gracie split (00:47)
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. There was a difficult decision for me to make as I 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, New Yorkers. So I thought, you know, these guys have been unstained 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 officials of ADCC, Mo Jassum. 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 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, or 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 as 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.
Mike Tyson story (05:05)
So there was some unhappiness and as a younger brother, I can understand. Yeah, yeah, as a little tree, they had to grow up under a bigger tree. Yeah. So fuck the big tree. There's a lot of aggression. I'm sorry. I'm a result family. He's just coming out here. That's the chair. I'm just kidding. I love you. He does and 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 to get that point. You're starting to, you know, once training takes a hit, then you got us out to address these. The attempts at reconciliation. Fell through and a decision was made to 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 moved to Texas. Let's just go there and keep unity. If some people don't want to 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. The 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.
The Team Unifies (06:41)
But let's hold this stay together until ADCC 2022 was a unified team. Go out, prepare yourselves as best you can. And 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 hear 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. But yeah, yeah. So that was a time when it was like, man, this is 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 tuned the group had initially bonded was seemingly out of action, possibly permanently. Where was your mind?
Time Cures Most Ills (08:26)
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 experiences, whenever things seem dark, have patients, 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. I can produce magic, but it's going to take time. So that conference 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, um, to, to even attempt to get into ADCC. So things looked at a little grim, but I was confident, you know, given enough time, I get in a new group of students and work. Um, as it turns out, uh, one of the demonstration partners that, uh, I used during filming for instructional videos, who listened Boston, uh, John Carla Padoni 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 way class who were already there and he felt it would be awkward. Um, 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, um, uh, Austin, Texas. I began teaching at a local school. It was rather like going back into my earliest days in Judasu. I went from teaching at the Big Hensow 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. Um, 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, uh, they would stay and build their skills as time went by. Um, 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. Uh, he had lost in the European trials, uh, 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, I, uh, feeling bad about his performance in his future. He came in and I thought he was a lovely kid who worked hard and trained well. Um, so he became one of the main training partners. He was similar size to Gordon. So I encouraged him to train with, with Gordon whenever he could. And, uh, it, more and more people started coming into the train under that kind of basis. Um, one day I got a text from, uh, Gordon who was filming an instructional video on Boston. He said, Hey, you know, Nicholas Merigali was training at the, he was, uh, shooting video at the same time as me. And we, we just did some grappling. He's a really nice guy and, uh, he's literally never trained with without a gee before. He's, uh, for those of you who don't know Nicholas Merigali is a, uh, one of the outstanding gee judits who competitive is of his generation. Um, has an amazing, uh, game and is a superstar with, with the, uh, the gee side of the sport, but it never, never even trained without a gee once in his life. So it was first ever no gee training session is with Gordon Ryan, the best no gee competitor of all time. And, uh, I remember Gordon texting me saying he's really talented.
New Training Starts to Arrive in Austin (12:19)
He's a nice guy and, um, he wants to come down to Texas and train. So, so yeah, sounds great. So over time, just more and more people started coming in and, um, uh, 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. Or, uh, Dan Manasoy, he, he failed at trials and needed to get a win to even get into ADCC.
Gordon Takes on a New Doctor and Things Start to Look up Physically (12:47)
So around this time, a doctor suggested by, uh, Mo Jazim who had himself had stomach issues earlier in his life, began working with, uh, Gordon Ryan and, and most the organizer of ADCC. Yes. You probably people, no, no. Yeah. He's the, the head organizer. Um, he was able to get Gordon Ryan, not cured, but significantly better than he was before. Uh, and to a level where Gordon could, 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, uh, training at a local gym, um, which was very, very generously offered to us by, uh, uh, the head manager of Roca Sunglasses, a company here in, um, 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 going to have to train harder than you've ever trained in your lives. Cause you got less time to get ready for this than anyone. And, uh, you're going to be going up against people potentially who know exactly what I teach cause I've been teaching them a lot longer than I've been teaching you, um, in addition to the other best people in the world. So it was a, uh, 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, um, we had a crazy training schedule as many as three classes per day. I know that sounds easy, you know, three classes a day, right? But try doing it sometime with these classes and not your average classes.
Giant Effrt in Gaining ADCC Spots in Trials (14:42)
These are preparation for ADCC. They're both mentally and physically very, very hard. And, um, uh, 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. Um, I gave a very abbreviated set of, uh, skills for the athletes. I chopped everything down to what I believe were the, the most essential skills. Um, uh, anything that wasn't essential to ADCC preparation was just pushed aside. And, um, they had to focus almost entirely on ADCC with one exception. I'll come to that soon. Um, over the period of their training here in Austin. So it was compacted by time and also by, uh, uh, the breadth of skill that I taught. Everything was just purely for ADCC preparation in a very short period of time. Uh, Dan Manasoyo and Luke Griffith and Oliver Tarza all one European trials and got into ADCC. Nicholas Merigale 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, uh, no game matches. Um, and with each match, you could see progress being made. And so that convinced the ADCC people, okay, he's good enough to, to compete. Um, he ended up winning decisively a match against one of the greatest American grapples of all time, Rafael Lavata. And this was like a clear sign that his skill level and no-ghee was sufficient to, to justify and invite. And by the way, Lavato in an incredible, uh, set of matches in this ADCC. Yes, that was actually very impressive. And retired. Yeah. Which is, uh, really impressive and heartbreaking as well.
The 14-Week Battle Camp (16:43)
But if you go out, that's a good way to go out. Indeed. So there was this, um, uh, long and, and tough preparation and it was compounded by the fact that his Gordon felt better. He felt a need to build up his own competitive record prior to ADCC. Um, because he'd been inactive for so long with this stomach issue. So he proposed one of the most ambitious fight camps that I've ever heard of and grappling, which was he would take on the current WNO champion, Pedro marina, whose number one is WNO. And also I believe the current, uh, no, no-ghee world champion and IBJ if as a tune up match as a warm up match, then he would fight his old nemesis, uh, Felipe Pena, um, 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 going to be three big high profile matches back to back and, uh, and very different rule sets. So WNO was a 15 minute match. Uh, 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. Um, in addition to the previous year that they had been working hard. Um, there was a further complication in the midst of all this. Nicholas Merigali had to go to the Ghee world championships and we had to throw an extra morning class for that to help him get ready. Um, Nicholas went on to win the open weight gold medal in the Ghee competition. And then the next day had to come back to Texas and begin his ADCC preparation. It was a crazy, crazy time. Um, but they all came through it so well. I'm, I'm immensely part 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. Um, uh, it was in fact the most successful team performance of the event and it's tested only to how hard those, those young men, uh, worked in, uh, in the course of less than a year to prepare themselves. If we can just linger on the low point, is it heartbreaking to you that the, uh, so called down her death squad split or the team as it was originally called split.
Splitting w/ Death Squad (19:20)
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. Um, it was, uh, you know, I'm not a particularly emotional person, um, but it was a, it was an emotional time for everyone. It was, I 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. Um, I do believe that in time, uh, even the most intense family breakup skin 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. Um, it's so easy to let a minute of anger destroy 10 years of, of, uh, of friendship. So, but there's also the weight of those 10 years, like, um, 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. That's a house on fire is a good thing. Yes. Sorry. That's a New Zealand expression.
Generational Issues (20:57)
Um, uh, yeah, they're like definitely good. We've gone the other way, right? Um, so only in New Zealander would say that is a good thing. Yeah. Um, so there's this, I, I still believe, you know, in, in time things will be fine, but, um, there was an element where, you know, youngsters need to grow. And, um, uh, sometimes, think, think about this way from the athlete's perspective. There's a definitely a generational problem. I'm much older than my students. Okay. And the, the, the years and the viewpoint that I have is the reflection of the time in which I grew up and, uh, they've from a completely different generation with a completely different world view. Um, it's, it's got to be hard from the athlete's perspective when you're training seven days a week and you, you're getting very, very good. You're beating everyone that's getting, getting put in front of you and 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, 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, well, man, you're incredible. You submit me so easily do this. And then this old guys are saying that you got to get better. You got to work more. You're not working hard enough. At some point you're going to be like, you know what? Fuck this old guy. Like it's tough. You know, I get, you know, 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 got to work that little bit harder. No, your skillset's not complete. You still need distance in 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 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. It's always a choice in life. You can be the best you possibly can or you can go around 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 want to try the 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. It's so interesting that incredibly good is the hard thing to deal with. It's all like when Kayla Harrison won her first gold medal and the Olympics, you know, you go back to the gym and to trust again, the, maybe the old man, you're being, you question yourself, but to trust the old man. So Jimmy Page, your, Jimmy Page, your senior in that case to say, okay, we're going to 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 the stepping stone to, to, to, to greatness. That's really tough for athletes. Like, you know, 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. 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 one of my chasing? Is it just winning or is it some bigger picture of excellence that's beyond just winning? So that that's all, 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. Yeah. Do you think the team ever gets back together? I think there's, you know, 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, 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've really nice merch to the t-shirts. They're 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? Yeah. The ego is a part of superpower too. So you don't want to. Yeah, you don't want to suppress egos. I always laugh when people say leave your ego at the door. What do you think drives competition? If you want to be good at anything in life, you've got to 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 going to be looking at their training partners and thinking like, I'm going to have to fight this guy one day. They're training next to each other. Of course, there's going to be tension. There's always going to be disagreements about what's the right way to act around certain people, certain issues. People are going to come into conflict. Everyone's been programmed to be an alpha competitor. You get a room full of people like that. There's going to be conflict. 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. There's also a tipping point where things can flare out of control and there will be periodic breakups. You're not the first students I had that left. I've been coaching a lot longer than I've been coaching the squad. 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.
Mental Preparation (27:59)
Let me ask you about leading up the preparation for the athletes. 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. 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. It always ends up being the same kind of cheesy motivational speeches, highlight video reels where they try to pump artificial confidence into people. I've never been impressed by this nor have I seen it have any 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. If you accumulate enough of these, your confidence rises.
The importance of skill progression through sustainable physical training (30:32)
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 them 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. To end you did it, you don't take a brand new move and say, "Okay, do it on Gordon Ryan. Never going to 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. I put them with highly competitive athletes at the start so they can see, "Okay, there is a problem here." Then even in defense, they start off with lower belts and build up their confidence over time. This is a weightlifter builds up, his ability to lift weight over time so to a Jiu-Ditsu player does it by gradually increasing resistance. In Jiu-Ditsu resistance is not done by weight, it's done by skill level. 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, Luke Griffith will do a full power match with Gordon Ryan. They're fully aware that there's no one better in the world than Gordon Ryan. If you have a competitive match with Gordon Ryan, that's a very, very healthy sign. 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-Ditsu. Their goal is not to win, obviously, but their goal is to provide a competitive match. Gordon doesn't have any confidence issues. For him, it's just good, hard, competitive training against people that are in some ways better than those you'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. 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. By this method, confidence starts to grow. The mental preparation came out of those physical underpinnings. The idea of progressive resistance increasing over time for both offense and defense, building up to a peak where they're going against the best athlete in the world so they can get an accurate assessment of where they stand. Once you're giving 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 and terrible positions and you have to claw your way out and 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 is not very different at all, then step forward with confidence. And do we 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 Don Dhanar, Don Dhanar, John on Instagram because you have nuggets or large buckets of nuggets of wisdom often, which is quite profound, even bigger than Jiu Jitsu. But anyway, so there's some aspect where you want to mimic the conditions of your daily training in intensity and in what force of physical to that of the actual matches. You asked the question about mental training.
Strategies And Techniques
Visualizing actual competition as part of a progression vs. special event (36:10)
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 is two different things. Training is normal activity that you do every day and competition is the exception. 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 Galvaugh. Do they just come out on the mat and fight each other? Absolutely not. There's violence. There's magic. There's pageantry. There's fireballs. They're literally shooting fireballs. Some dude in a tie sitting with Joe Rogan. I heard about that. Meathead, podcaster, comedian, whatever. If one was the meathead. Well played. John Nada, 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 ruleset. 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. 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. 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 ruleset." That's it. Everything else you see, the smoke, the fire, the music is an illusion. It's put there intentionally to make you feel a certain kind of way. 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 grabbed 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 mat and you're aware of it, I always have them.
Physical intensity (38:34)
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 is, "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, "Hmm, it's not that special." And when you explain to people this idea of the pageantry is 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 book. 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 the twice as strong at NADCC as they are in the IBGA World Championships, they? The physical intensity is always pretty much the same. They experience it every day in the gym. And if you go out and you grab a Gordon Ryan, it's not like the next guy you grab, it's going to be twice as strong as him or twice as fast. It's going to be a little stronger, a little faster, but not so much so that it completely changes your approach to the game. There's not that much difference between the human bodies out there on stage. So if you've felt intensity before, you're not going to 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 false. You'd be 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, which training seven days a week, a minimum of twice a day. You've got to 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 going to break bodies. And the full power is just a reminder of... It's more about skill development for us. It always goes back to skill development. But what about matching the feeling of the intensity of competition? Periodically. Periodically. It can't be real single time. Not really. It's not rare. Meaning like out of three hours of hard sparring per day, like 15 minutes might be like 100 percent full power. That way you... 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. There is... Competition doesn't have that extra level of animosity. It's a little bit more conflict than it is. It can. Sometimes there's personality differences. Like, 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 match-up where there's more intensity.
Biiiiiiiiiig thank you to @FlowGrappling, @flowwrestling, @MoeJassim @ADCC_Official (41:44)
But then there's other match-ups 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. First of all, helping the sport of grappling and jiu-jitsu in general by having organized footage and tournaments that sort of show this sport and its best light to the world. And they do an incredible job with 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 out. 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 doing 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, you want to be able to pull it up super quickly. Want to 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 Mo Jasim, as we said. He's the organizer of ADCC. The next one is in 2024. It should be 2024. Well, you should follow ADCC_official on Instagram and just send as much love towards Mo and ADCC in general. It's the, like I said, the most prestigious. It's like where the best grapples in the world show up. And the magic happens.
Setting the stage for Gordon Ryan's ADCC 2022 performance. (43:57)
It's like some of the most historic matches in grappling and jiu-jitsu ever happened on that stage. Anyway, if I can 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. New stars shown 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 have never saw 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." I think Gordon responded, "All this is true besides the credit that sits with you. Thank you and a heart emoji." Very nice. Anyway, that's as a way of introduction to Gordon Ryan. Can you take me through his set of performances? It may be any matches that stand out. He competed in his division, which is the plus 99 kilos, and in the Super Fight against Andre Gova. 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 in 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 and a qualification process, or you can be invited. Many 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. You can have very small people fighting very large people. 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 for very tough fights in a row and get exhausted so that you are ineffective during the main event of the show, the Super Fight. Throughout its history, ADCC has always resisted the idea of an athlete being allowed to do both weight category and Super Fight. It has 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 and 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 Openweight Champion, Felipe Pena, who had defeated him in the past and a completely different rule set. And then previously that against the current world champion. So there had been a buildup to this. So he had been very active coming up to the event. And then he went in to fight, arguably the greatest ADCC champion of all time, Andre Galvaugh, 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 Superfight. 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 Jezem, must have had the same concern, so 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 and 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.
Gordon Ryan expands on strategies for fighting bigger, stronger opponents. (49:36)
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. It'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 why I mean, so if I open plus 99 kilos. Everyone looks like the incredible Hulk. 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 we're going for submissions. And we should also mention that the ADCC rule set is 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, 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. And depending on how you compete in it, that can have a huge tall. Absolutely. You can get to the finals and this be absolutely spent. So our whole thing is, okay, Gordon's got to not only get to the finals, he's got to fight the toughest ADCC grab ever, 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 opponents 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 mount a position instead. And so he was able to go through his weight division with an 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, 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 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's a relaxed aspect to the whole thing. So maybe you 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 to you. First you'll see that Gordon elected to sit to the bottom position.
Most energy used transitioning from standing to side control (53:34)
The hardest work in submission grappling is when two athletes take the standing position and just for takedowns. That's where most of the energy gets burned up. So working on the idea of energy efficiency, let's go out. We chose to sit into guard position and then start looking to access our opponents back. Because if our opponents hit 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 going to 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, make the other guy work harder than us. So Gordon did the arm drag to the back and now he's 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 demarcate. Sorry, a 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?
In-Depth Match Analyses
Turtle Position Is Acceptable (54:52)
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 you. Many people only associate guard position with bottom position and you did that's naive. 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. It might be. I mean, I personally think against Gordon Ryan, I mean, I admire the fellows 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 is 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 is there? Are you happy with where it is? At this point, it just started to dawn on me at this point. 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, and I was now excited 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 and vertical, freeze it there. Do you see how he's taking his elbows off the mat in turtle position? In Juditsu, there's only one reason you take your elbows off the mat from turtle position. That's the stand up. So now it's clear at this point what his actual strategy is. It's to get up for sustaining confrontation when it take down battle and be 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. Gordon's so heavy. Yeah. 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 demand strategy is. So I'm calling to go on to break him down to a hip. You put a man on the 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 total position that he's in. His opponent stays down on his shoulder. Now Gordon's responsibilities start looking for the strangle hold. His opponent has basic defensive structure. His discipline with his chin keeps the chin down. 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. No advanced grips were required. It was just a spontaneous trap. This is the penetration of the neck. So the arm was trapped with a leg. Yep. 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 battle.
Anatomy of a win: Gordon vs. Victor Hugo (II) (58:39)
Very vital. Yeah. So that's a, as the tournament got off to a very smooth start. No 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 any incorrect interpretation? Yes. Okay. 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 a Gordon's face had a like a vulnerability to it. Almost like when you go to judge confidence, don't look at the face. Look at the extremities of the body. Yeah. 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 in the hands. What they were, I mean, that's when you see people nervous or not. It was very relaxed in the extremities. That's true. See, you look more confident in this, this than anything. What are you thinking about? What's going through your head here? Is the same stuff? Are you intimidated by the two meat heads? Are you thinking about it in a suit and tie? Or are you not thinking about that at all? No. 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 of taking them through an extensive fight camp that prepared them for every conceivable situation that they're in. I've run an efficient warm up. 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 you but imprinted into you. Remember there's 15,000 people on that crowd. For half of the match, you're not going to 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 their program know what to do. 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. In part, you're there to have a front row seat to analyze what happened so you can take that to the next match.
avoiding tunnel vision while training (01:02:05)
Biggest danger an athlete faces is tunnel vision. Sometimes they will hit upon a certain move or strategy and just say, "I'm going to 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 on you 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. To alleviate problems associated with tunnel vision, you're doing this. But if you just did this, it would be so much easier. That's the main goal. This was one of several anticipated matches against the second one against Victor Hugo, he's a very tough opponent. This was a situation where Gordon was considerably outweighed by his opponent. The main thing here was efficiency. His opponent elected to avoid the standing position by jumping into guard. Now, Gordon would be in top position this time. He has a very good closed guard. But unfortunately, Gordon has very good guard passing. He's an excellent guard play, very talented, but Gordon is renowned as the imminent guard passer in the world today. It's a total 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 here. He eventually passes to mount, I believe, in a very... Why do you run through the sequence where he gets mounted? I believe he gets mounted twice. I'll just back this a little bit further. So he's trying to one arm under. Yeah, this is a stacking position.
Passing from open guard. (01:04:00)
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. Getting the length of his legs means that he can play very, very wide with his legs. So getting an advantageous angle might be difficult. And 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 say, "Okay, I'm going to show the 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 to 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 opponents' defensive frames are built on his opponents' 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 opponents 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, switches back. That's a world champion right there on bottom. He does a good job of recovering from the first danger. But unfortunately, Gordon has been here a thousand times and just searches 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 as the 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 it's just a half second ahead of every decision. So that going up in the elbow, Gordon makes it look so easy here. It almost seems like Victor is out. But this turning of the hips with the arm over the opponent's back, he's able to bring him back down and Gordon takes mount. Notice how Gordon has 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? Right? There's a little bit of relief. No, that's the look of a man who's just proved a point. This is very Michael Jordan, like Styx is tongue out. So yeah, I mean there's no points at this stage. He really is going for submission. And then this happens again.
The only match he played tactically. (01:07:24)
Is this the match that Gordon was in the eye? This was the only match where Gordon didn't finish his opponent by submission. Was this very frustrating for him? Was there... It's actually interesting that when he came off the mat, 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. And so this is Gordon's third match against Suza, Roosevelt Suza.
Should I go for a moderate win? (01:08:17)
Now this is different because now we're on to 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 then, 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. 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 Ashigurami and cross Ashigurami. In the last five years, cross Ashigurami has proven to be statistically the more important of the two. And as a result, many people have forgotten the value of straight Ashigurami based 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 Ashigurami, left the right leg undefended for far too long. And as a result, Gordon goes into a very classical Ashigurami you would normally expect to see from five or six years ago and gets a very, very quick finish. So lifts as opponent. There's the Ashigurami, the entanglement of one of his opponent's legs with two of his. Now he's got a turn and exposes 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 leg being broken here. Gordon has an absolutely ferocious outside heel hook. Until you've felt it, it's quite different. So the opponent, probably before he even felt the heel hook felt the control and that it's ski. Yeah. He's screwed there. He doesn't even want to. Yeah, 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. And there's a sense in which you almost tap and got a couple of taps almost like this if they're early. Because the opponent knows. People came up to us obviously, this guy tapped early. He knew. Yeah, he knew that late would be a big problem. Got it. So this is within 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 going to conserve energy with a short match. I'm not just going to go down into a neutral position. I'm going to 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 got to go to the final match of Gordon's within his division, which I think as opposed to facing Felipe Pena who lost to Nicki Rod. Nicki 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.
Competing Against Notable Opponents
Gordon Track: Avoiding Gordons Strengths (01:12:03)
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 Craig Jones sort of interview summarizing what happened to ADCC and he briefly mentioned that Nicki Rod might have the best body lock pass that he's ever felt. So like the way to face Nicki Rod is don't let him get the body lock. But 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 Nicki Rod, Gordon Ryan here chooses to... Yeah, if you look at the limbs, there's a relaxation there.
The Grips at the Start (01:12:58)
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 Galvaugh, who's fresh and ready to maul him? And the top of that is two former teammates who know each other's game very well. So there was a high likelihood of 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 Nicki Rod is that his body lock guy passing game, which is his main weapon on the ground, was taught to him by us. So it's not like we're going to be taken by surprise by it. So that must have been figuring in his mind. Do you think a psychological for Gordon and a psychological for Nicki Rod is tough? So for him, would 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 going to beat him in competition. Can you shut all that off? Because it's tough. I mean, memory is memory. You can't lie to yourself. Well, what do you think about competition? There's been a lot of Olympics bringing 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 it 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 you're two shoulders hit the mat from the momentum, it's over. It's done. In Juditsu, 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. 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. Juditsu 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 and boxing, you're unconscious. There's the blunder case, but there's also been just people where it's their day. Again, maybe it's romanticized in 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 all Japan and all that kind of stuff, but the Olympics, he destroyed everybody on this path to the Olympic gold medal. That's when Teddy Venero was also competing. He got the bronze. I mean, that, you could say he was at that time, the best in the world also, but he just saw people. I think it would be very fair to say he was the best in the world. He think about the people. He beat the win three old Japan championships. He beat Jose Inoue. He beat Kijis Suzuki. They were Olympic champions. He was already. 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. 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. Then he will fall below someone who is technically lower on the skill scale than he is.
No Free Will in Competition, No Confidence Issues Either? (01:17:15)
That can happen, but you can't just magically acquire skills. All of us are able to fall in confidence. Yes. The question becomes, who manages that fall best? That can create upsets, absolutely. You don't think Gordon could have fallen in confidence against the 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." 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 going to be a psychological dissonance between his experience, his recent experience, and what he believes. If you believe you have based on the world, you just lost 20 matches. Some point, reality is going to break in. 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?
Gordon Ryan and his genius skillset (01:18:28)
Why is Gordon Ryan so good? 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. There's an obvious elephant in the room. Okay, 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. 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. He will hate himself when there is imperfection. 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. Can I just linger on that? Absolutely. There's a few times where he gets a little bit of an advantage and he just chases it to get a big, like Andre Gaval. You get, 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. Is that the trigger that you're referring to? Yes. It runs deeper than that too. It's the idea that good athletes are greedy athletes. When they see a small opportunity, they try and get as big a bite of it as possible. The manager of the wheel is Evan Train. If you can see the back, you can take the back. If Gordon sees an inch of your back, you know that's the duration he's going to be going. If your far shoulder is within an inch of the floor, he's going to be mounting you. If your shoulder comes off the floor, he'll 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." 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 conference 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 got to be the best possible outcome. And the fifth element, which I believe is very, very important, is extraordinary depth in his technical prowess, in particular with regards to his defensive acumen. Everyone looks at Gordon and focuses on his offensive prowess because they see him dominate other athletes. 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 Jujigitami armbar. In a complete pin, mounted with Gordon's two arms stretched out over his head in what looks like a hopeless position. Gordon will work in these positions. Of course, because it's such a bad position, sometimes he'll have to tap. And 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. That means there's no obvious weak point where you can just say, "Okay, I'm going to 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. 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. He puts himself in that situation. He's so defensively sound that it translates into his offensive confidence.
Gordon Ryan vs. 9x World Champion, Nicholas Meregali (01:24:40)
When you talk about memory recall, which is interesting, I can't help but see parallels between him and Magnus Carlson, who's a chess player, who's the number one in the world. The arguably the best ever, certainly the best ever, if you just look at absolute numbers, chess has the luxury of having a rating, which you can't have it, 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 is the highest Elo rating ever and he's maintained that rating. He can, without competing against the number two in the world, he can just prove that he's the number one in the world for many years. Anyway, there's a 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 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 gram master, 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 I don't know if you're paying attention, but he stepped away. He's not going to defend his world championship because he hates the anxiety of playing people worse than him. Interesting. He figures they would somehow make him look bad. No, just for him, at least the language he uses is 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 many hours, 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 a single digit number of games. He says it's a low sample. So I would like to play 20, 30, 40, 50 games if we're going to do it this way. But then they're too long. It's going to take too long. So he 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 Ryan's out there. Imagine a world where there's multiple Gordon Ryan's or something like that. It's a different dimension. But you have like sharks everywhere. And so there, 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. Fascinating.
ADCC Finals: Nikki Rod (01:28:26)
That takes us back to the final. Ah, yes. So here Gordon is facing Nicki 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 ADCC grappler of all time in a few hours after this. So what we're looking for is a quick resolution. Um, still the shortest possible match. Now there's a complicating factor here. Nicki 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 going to be able to, um, submit Gordon Ryan and he's not going to be able to pass his guard. So he has to win by wrestling. In the ADCC finals, you cannot set the guard. So the, 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, uh, Gordon and I were talking and we had discussions obviously during the camp. What's the appropriate thing to do here? And there had been some matches earlier in the event where it was becoming obvious that Storling 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. There are no, there are no means of scoring the first 10 minutes, but you can't set the guard. That will be, that will award you a negative point. So I said, just let Nikki Rod take you down. And he's like, Nikki Rod's not going to take the bait. And I said, if he doesn't, I'll call on for Storling. And so, and then Craig Jones also commented after the fact is, I don't know why Nikki Rod took the bait. Um, 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, Nikki Rod is smart. He knows what's happening here. And what's he going to do? Store for 10 minutes and get like five Storling calls put against them. So Gordon gives them 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 Nikki Rod appears to be trying to keep his hips away from Gordon's legs. Yes. The big, Nikki 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 going to get my body weight underneath them? 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 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 working in position. It's very, very hard for his opponent to access his waist. That shoulder is always either across the hip or in front of the shoulder. Sorry, his knee is either in front of the shoulder 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 Nicki Rada 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 to the use against his first opponent earlier in the tournament. And there's the leg. Spins underneath it. Go circular, rotates through, gets his body weight underneath his opponent. He's going to trip him down to the mat. Now, I believe Nicki Rada tries to pull out his foot here. And Craig also said that Nicki Rada's gotten used to be able to pull that foot out from anybody. And then 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.
Mental Mastery In Competition
Gordon Ryan has passed Nick's guard (01:34:36)
Yeah. Also, it's very early in the match. It'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, Schulez. 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 the Gordon was able to hold onto the knot, which is interesting.
Superfight: Gordan Ryan vs. Andre Galvao (01:35:05)
Now that was a brilliant day's work by Gordon Ryan. He said 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, you know, really, really up there, just a practitioner as competitors, grappling, no-geek competitors of all time, which is Andre Gavar. Yes. And that was 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 Gavar 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 Gavar, and you go on to sing in praises. So that introduces this match.
Mastering the mental game (01:36:49)
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 Haju Gracie, there was this fascinating moment before the match. I can't believe Gordon is sufficiently relaxed to do this, but he walked up to Haju Gracie and had a discussion. What do you think? You faced Hunter Gahla before. What are your suggestions? They've talked to back and forth. They brainstormed ideas like minutes before the match. It was just a beautiful moment of like, I don't know, like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan talking to each other or something like that. I wonder how much brainstorming there really was and how much was it just kind of spiritual inspiration or something like that? I think it's more spiritual inspiration. He looks after Haju as a very close friend and mentor of mine. So I always tell my athletes, "Look to Haju 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, made him who he was. I always try to have my athletes emulate him. So what was the strategy going into this match? What were you thinking? For Andre Galvaughn, there's a sense in which Andre Galvaughn had to fight literally the perfect match to win this. This is a match. It's going to be 20 minutes long and potentially 40 minutes long. Andre Galvaughn 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 Galvaughn, 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 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 restoring 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 Galvaughn can play this tactical game of forcing Gordon to pull guard and then stay in 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? Or are these athletes already beyond that? When you say intimidation, be more precise. Do you think there are some degree, if you're just to empathize with Andre Galvaughn, do you think there's some degree in which Gordon was in his head? Because of the trash talk leading up to a certain events, because of the level of dominance that Gordon has shown in this competition in months and years leading up to it, also the fact that Andre Galvaughn is also a coach of a large team. So there's some pressure to demonstrate to the team that the old lines still got it. 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 this end, there's literally no way the sky can finish me. And there's no way the sky 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 my tactical game.
Slap recognition skill (01:41:49)
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 part of victory is standing grappling. That would require him to take Gordon down presumably multiple times after the first ten 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 Nicki Rod. And that's where things get interesting. I must say that I loved what Andre Gavon 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 finding got available. But people just listen, there's a bit of hard slapping. Yeah, 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 going to try and stall this out. I'm just going to bang." There it is. So he's like, "Okay, let's see what you got, kid." They say, "You 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.
Why is Stewart impressed with Andre Galvao's performance? (01:43:43)
What happened there real quick? Because that was very... Gordon immediately went into Ashi Grami. Not just any Ashi Grami, but ashi Grami was holding both legs. So there's an 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 Ashi Grami here. He splits the knees against Andre Gavao, like effortlessly right there. Wow. 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. He does a good job of monitoring defeat 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. And the match is going to be 20 minutes in Gordon's realm. That's going to be a very, very tall order. Was there a moment here? Again, Gordon's on the legs. Are you impressed that Andre was able to get out from this? Andre, I would expect this. Andre's been preparing for this for two years. And remember, Andre's gone against some of the greatest leg lockers in grappling before and prevailed. So he's not naive. He knows how to defend himself. The big problem is that he's going to create defensive reactions, which lead into other aspects of Gordon's game, in particular back exposure. So here, Ashigarami goes to a single leg type of position where Gordon runs to Andre's back. Now, he has to return to the mat. The most efficient way to do so is always courtesy of foot sweeping. So he pulls out a diashe from the back to sweeping down to the mat. And now Gordon's on top. And this is a serious problem for any grab her in the world. Once Gordon gets top position, he's just relentless. But just getting Andre Gavaz 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 going to be awfully, awfully difficult for an opponent to recover.
Gordon Ryan's modified triangle from the back: tips. (01:46:19)
What is he waiting for here? Is there pressure here? The time is as far as you are. It's part of a campaign of attrition, of pressure over time. Now he's creating a situation where he's either going to get back exposure or mount exposure. And either way, it's 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 there's one physical problem here that Andre Gavaz has a neck, like a ball. And he's 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 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 to bite towards the strangle. And here it's still difficult. It's still difficult, but things are looking good. There's still considerable amount of time left on the clock, Gordon as 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.
Lines Of Attack And Defense Techniques
Strangles & Scissors (01:48:07)
Now Gordon the legs for a one-handed strangle. Wow. Andre, foot 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 is that the fulcrum is like a one-handed joke? There's a sense in which once you get underneath, you know the inevitable. So it's again the inevitable, you're feeling the inevitable. It's like to go back to your chest analogy, it's like resigning in chest. Yeah. And chest is 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 that the end of most grappling matches. So if we could talk about John Carlo who had an incredible performance. I mean, there's a lot of things we can say we can probably go through his matches.
Giancarlos ADCC Performance (01:49:57)
But if we could just talk without that about some of the most impressive things that 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? That's all I should give you some background. John Carlo Badoni was a strong local black belt in Boston. Teaching at Benadev 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 Gee training, which is the majority of his competitive background into No Gee. 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 how it would periodically come to the gym in New York City and come 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 it 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, "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 would 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 it 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 guy passing which weren't part of his experience. This is all a year out from ADCC. Yes. And also maybe give the spoiler which is he wins his division in a dominant fashion. He also does incredibly well at the absolute. It was an amazing thing. To give you an idea, when he first moved to Austin, he competed in a WNO event. And I don't think he scored a single point, lost a couple of matches. Including matches to people who were in this ADCC. So he came out of that looking very depressed. And he lost the Kenan Duarte. He lost to Mason Fowler. So John Carter always struck me as someone who was positionally sound. He had good guard retention, things like this. But he had no offense.
How to cultivate confidence in BJJ and turn weakness into strength (01:53:17)
He had no leg lock defense. And he just wasn't able to assert authority on matches. He was always going to be tough to be because it's hard to pass his guard, that kind of thing. But he wasn't dangerous. Can I ask you a question on that? Yeah. Because my interaction with him early on when you 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 not connection? You can say again, confidence. Killers can be nice too. Absolutely. Confidence comes from skill level. And confidence is a much more rational thing than most people describe 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 at 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 this personality does better in competition or that personality. Ultimately, it's going to come down to your skills and your confidence will be a reflection of your accumulation of skills. So what was this 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, you would be taught, okay, this is where you put your feet. This is where you position your knees. Your point you need 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. 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 look at that? So what's the experience of those early training sessions like a former athlete? 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? Yeah. Like, you think about it, he's an established player who's been an IBAJ of competition. I believe he's a Brown Belt World Champion in the G. And suddenly, a group of kids that he's never even seen before repeatedly submitting them with leg locks in the gym. And he's like, man, this is terrible. A year from now, I suppose to fight ADCC against people like Craig Jones, like some of the best leg lockers in the world. It must have been hard, you know? 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 showing 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 going to make it because you'll always stay at whatever skill set 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 it. But then a very short period of time, it came very hard to leg lock. And even the best leg lockers in the room had a hard time with them. 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, demean, all the arm locks, things like this. And in particular, he put very, very hard work on his strangle holds. It always been someone who was positionally strong, he would get to the back, but he could never finish from the back. And then suddenly in the journey started finishing from the back. And then as gym performance against the lesser students increased, then 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 was significant increases in performance and success began 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. He said, "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.
The amazing performance at the ADCC North American trials rank of 1st (01:59:22)
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 and 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, Izake, 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." And up on point six, nothing. And still chasing. 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, Matteo De Nius. This was the guy who was the favorite to win.
Matheus Diniz Match (02:00:49)
So you have a relatively unknown John Carlo fighting the man who defeated Craig Jones in the previous ADCC. What do you remember what stood out to you about this match? Matteo De Nius is good wrestling, he's got everything. He's got all the wrong grammar. He's got it by Judas Ustan as 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. On drag. And took him down with a simple drag and pick. 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 Matteo De Nius is very, very good at standing up from bottom position. If we just go back to the step. Okay, now here we have something interesting. Matteo comes up from bottom, sees his leg and John Carlo defends the wrestling move and then goes immediately into it. With a foot. With a... It's kind of a mix of society and Diashi Harai. That was beautiful. I didn't even notice that. That's really nice. Look at that. From defending a single, threatening a Gaetian. One of the big themes of our ADCC camp was that most of our opponents now 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 Galvall with a foot sweep. And here you have John Carlo using the same technique, not from the back but from the front. And the Nova Hook. Lovely input. He catches the foot mid-air. Look at that. And that's just a beautiful, beautiful takedown. That's beautiful, De Nius. And then later on the match you'll use a Cusaragake, another classical De Niusagake down to get top position. Not one point John Carlo was in trouble. He got his back exposed with this situation. Good. Double leg to an EPIC. 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 as coming through. His defensively sound shuts out the hook, prevents the score. He 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. Oops, and there's the body lock. Now there's some controversy here, but you can clearly see it. The hands were locked. So it shouldn't really be as controversial as people are saying. Now watch for the right leg, Cusaragake here. Pulls in the hips, exposes the leg, boom, and down. Beautiful Cusaragake. It's probably a lesson that complaining to a ref does not protect you from a good takedown. Yeah, that's why they're saying combat sports defend yourself at all times. But now the great advantage of judo takedowns over wrestling leg tackles is they can throw 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 John Carlos 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 Matias 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 going to set up the pressure. Now it's tactical pressure. It's not physical pressure. It's tactical. Matias has to turn away. And that's going to create back exposure. The most dangerous kind of exposure in ADCC. Oh, there it is. So Mount DeBack. And John Carlos capitalizes. Matias 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. So what's and he seems to just power through all of it. What how much of it? How much of the calculations, how to survive the cardio, the grueling cardio aspect of all of this? That's a great question. And the truth of the matter is you can't afford to pace yourself. Because if you say, I'm going to hold myself back for this match, an expectation of the others, you could end up losing your first match. So he didn't pace himself at all. Or any of the matches. You have to just be in good shape. And that's what the camp is. Some of the number one. 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 from whatever the heck that position was, 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 the mount points.
Triangle Application (02:07:01)
So as back exposure starts, okay, he turns in. The right hand arm lock. Yeah. But you can see what's happening here. The left foot goes under. It's going to create a beautiful triangle entry. The left foot penetrates through underneath the neck. And now he's locking a triangle, it's in Kaku, 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. Beautiful. Done. Still chasing the submission. Yes. 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 Coler 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 being leg locks.
Challenges And Overcoming Losses
Coleman Bolda semifinals (02:08:12)
Now bear in mind that a year ago, John Coler was losing to local blue belt competitors via leg lock. Yeah. So in my mind, I'm thinking, okay, how's he going to handle this? With the leg lock training kick in and you'll see the result. Jack Holler is on top passing an open guard. So you can see his legs away from any attacks. Yes. 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 untangle the legs. He's kind of playing that game. So John Coler is obviously used to this from training the gym. So he's doing a good job of preventing untangle, controlling his opponent 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 Coler wants to get outside the line of his legs. At some point your opponent is going to untangle. If he's determined to untangle, at some point it's going to happen. So John Coler decides, okay, let's let it happen and let's see where his feet go and see how disciplined he is with his feet. And the opponent is inverted. Here it is a good job getting behind John Coler's knee. So now they're fully locked in. So John Coler moves away to protect the heel, rotates out, controls his shoelaces. Now at this point the Irishman is 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 Coler will be able to take advantage of. So he's threatening the sort of North-South pass here. Like he's not putting too much pressure on the pass because we're still pretty early in the match. 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 Coler sees it, identifies it, locks up a wrist-to-wrest toehold and breaks his foot. So 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 body. His opponent is holding his own body in place with his own legs. So he's the root of his own problem here. So he got sloppy, well done, well done. And a little smile from John Coler. 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.
The fall and rise of John Danaher's leglockas (02:11:32)
And so you can see in that compressed moment, that's the look of a man who's recognized how much progress he's made and what was once a weakness in roughly 10 months was the time it took. So he faces Lucas Hulk by Bosa in the final here. These two have a history. Hulk has beaten John Coler many times. And so for John Coler, it's a question of, okay, here I'm matched up against a guy who's repeatedly beaten me. How am I going to turn this around now? And in terms of, we talked earlier about confidence. If confidence was just a mental thing, John Coler never would have won this fight. When you've lost all those times to an athlete, words aren't going to change anything. But you can see right from the start when they get into the hand fight, John Coler 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 realized he's fighting a very different person. And this goes, this goes a long time. Again, another super grueling match, wrestling that eventually leads to a back take here, a back triangle, body triangle, I guess. Here you can see the same tactics utilized by Gordon Ryan, back control based around the body triangle. Many attempts to try and trap 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 difficult. And so John Coler will switch to a palm-to-palm strength 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 Coler 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 Coler would still be a hit on points. So the question now is not whether John Coler will get the gold medal, but whether John Coler 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 walks for palm-to-palm instead. There's the submission. Now, what a journey. What a journey. John Coler is a relatively unemotional man, but you can see there's a motion. That's not fake. That's genuine. The emotions of a man who, 10 months ago, couldn't have done that. And then, 10 months later, by the end of his own hard work and dedication, and his ability to actively attack his weaknesses and turn them into strength, and then develop an ability to finish. That was a truly, truly remarkable achievement. Let me ask you about Gary Tonen. So he is one of the, in my opinion, greatest submission grappers of all time. There's a lot of components to that, but he lost in his first match.
What Happened? Gary's Unremarkable Loss At Semi Finals (02:15:12)
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 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. He has a very modern look to his Jiu Jitsu. And he did a fantastic job against Gary Tonen. I think tactically Gary perhaps got a little far away from his true nature and 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. I feel that worked very well for all of the athletes except Gary Tonen. Interesting. So you have to acknowledge the nature of the athletes. 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. Here's another comment as maybe I'm over-valuing that it's just the physical aspect of this. But it seemed like Gary was skinny. Is the weight cut? Yeah, he did. This is the first time he ever went down to the 66 kilos. So it wasn't critical. These other guys who were 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 athletes, the physical and the mental aspect of the weight cut? It is a thing, con 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 Tonen. 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 that blamed 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.
Infighting Between Hybrids About Movement vs Pressure (02:18:26)
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. And I'm the person who promulgates this idea that there's two broad ways you can go on 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 Tonen or the Rulotolo brothers. Their game is based around the idea of promoting their own movement to create opportunity. Whereas someone like Gordon Ryan or Roger 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 will begin, as I took the more hyperscentage approach of, okay, let's focus primarily on controlling the other fella's movement. But Gary is a unique individual. I feel like I let him down by not giving him special attention in regards to what he does. The fact that you mentioned this now like four times in the span of a few minutes, just I love that all of this stuff weighs so heavy on you.
How Gary Lost His Match at ADCC Go against Sam Macnally (15m Youtube video of match) (02:20:45)
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 it. I think it 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 hocks. He just frees it right there. So there's a minute and a half left and typically in ADCC if you get the back, you score three points. So this is a huge score. For Gary to win here, it's got to 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 back, but he really attacks well from the back. And let's look at the depth of Gary Toner's defensive acumen here. And we should say leading up to this, his defense is incredible. Yeah, he's escaping every position. Our nickname for Gary is the slippery salmon because it's like trying to hold a goddamn salmon on the road thing, trying to hold on to this kid. So he gets into position, which looks absolutely hopeless here. It gets worse. This is already bad. But it's one of the most fun things to watch while Gary's the skill in the escapes. It's incredible. It's beautiful to watch. So the guy has an excellent opportunity to transition off here into a rare triangle, which is one of the hardest things in the world to get out of. And from here, if this was anyone but Gary Toner, and I think it would have been curtains. But you see, Gary just extends, keeps his arm at the right angle, 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 Toner 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, that's hard to watch. But to his credit, the kid is smart. He's like, you know what, let me, he just let me take some time. Boy, there are weakness to that. Like, well, he turned his hips. Yeah, it's unclear from the video where the Gary's arm slipped up. There's considerable breaking pressure. Oh, it's slipped. Yeah. Yeah, it's unclear. Even before sometimes a 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. 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. But 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 Toner. So I admired his internal fortitude. But now Gary knows he's lost it. So there's a sensor 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 it's an unrewarding uncompromising sport. One mistake can be fatal.
When to Tap, Quit, and Give Up (02:24:31)
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 choker escapes and the question came up but once you're an athlete, not tap and risk that 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 wanted 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 of all, in training, you should be tapping very early because you know, 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 and 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 where you get to the final. There's 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. But your students, yes. Yeah, I would expect them to tap. I also think that if you're in a strangle hole, it doesn't make a lot of sense and not tapping because you're going to pass out. It's like you said in chess, it's kind of impolite to make the guy take it through to its 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 going to 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 have 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. Winning ADCC is for a grab for at least life changing. You're a world champion forever. 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 that he saw with Gary Turner. It was in a dreadful situation and got out within five seconds. 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 out 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 an emotional thing. Now sometimes you get emotional or you fight a guy you just don't like and you just don't want to 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 out 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.
Nicholas Merigali'S Training And Performance
Joey D's Unparalleled Discipline (02:28:51)
So one of the other incredible stories here is, as you mentioned, Nicholas Merigali, one of the incredible GEE athletes in Jiu Jitsu World, not ever having done no GEE 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 Golden name, like, okay, Nicholas wants to come down and train, wants to move to Austin. So he came down, it was funny, I remember the first day Nicholas came in, Nicholas Merigali, as you can see, he's just 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, I go, buddy, what the fuck are you doing here?
Nicholas Merigali: 6 months of Nogi jiu jitsu training (02:29:47)
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 God. And 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 was 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 had 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 the 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 involved the gi from guard. Absolutely. 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, it's, he looked like a fish out of water. In addition, he had no experience of leg locking.
Nicholais Voice (02:31:41)
So one of the most significant parts of the modern game, he just had nothing. Yeah. Plus 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 Judas, 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 want to be the first guy to win gi open weight and ADCC open weight in the same year. Yeah. I'm like, I'm like, yeah. Now, in my mind, I'm thinking, yeah, that's never going to happen. You're fucking weirdo. Do you think there was a degree to which he actually believed that? It's a degree. He thought it was like a certainty. So he's looking at me like, yeah, I'm going to do this. So I'm like, you know, well, Nicholas, this is, 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 going to do it. In all seriousness, it is incredible that Nicholas Merigali had the gusts 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. It's absolutely crazy. When he mentioned the goal to me, I was, as I said, just looking at him and almost like disbelief. I didn't want to 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 a gi and got to the finals and lost a tight decision in the finals and to take a silver medal. He wanted two goals. He got a gold in the silver. And there's a sense in which the sheer audaciousness of the goal set seemed ludicrous when it first happened. 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. 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. He said on a dacious 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 say such a goal? Maybe even just forget athletes, human nature. That's a great question. There's a sense in which you don't want to make people delusional that's sad. But I do believe that if people are sufficiently embedded in a given project, if they're committed 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 Merigali, I almost frowned used the word failure because if this is failure, give me more of it. Falling slightly short, 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 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.
Nicks Story Fall Year 2019 (02:36:23)
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 no-ghee 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 one 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 thing with John Carla, first you got to learn how to defend a leg lock. So initially, as John Carla struggled, he struggled. Then he had to learn not just takedowns, but just how to set up a take. He had to learn basics like stance and motion and how to fight with the hands, etc. 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. There was two strengths coming into the no-ghee training. And those trends lacked pretty well between ghee and no-ghee. But he had no guillotine. He had no strangles from the back where 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 we've got to get ready for the ghee. So we had to switch his training to ghee training. And that took out a couple of months. And he went back briefly to Brazil and got a terrible rib injury right before the world championships and came back like 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 going to do? So I'm going to 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. And 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 and goes, well, I got the first of them. He wanted ghee open weight and now ADCC. And now we can barely move. He's 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 ghee competition. He fights two opponents of good quality, but not like world beating quality. And then as his game starts improving, we're getting close and close. 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 ghee to adapt to leg no ghee 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 up and going like, who is this guy? He's literally transformed. He's like a different person.
ADCC Championships 2019 (02:40:38)
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 bond burning battle where at one point Nicholas 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 he's ruling matches. Yeah, tough, tough match. Now Yuri Simoy at that stage was two time gold medalist in ADCC. Nicholas 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 Nicholas to get leg locked very easily by Craig. Nicholas showed the degree to which he had improved his leg lock defense in a six month period.
Tom's thoughts on Nicholas Meregali vs. Craig Jones (02:41:32)
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 Nicholas was ahead on points and then Craig had one last takedown which sat Nicholas down to a hip. Didn't score, but it was the most aggressive takedown of that last period. And so Nicholas got the nod and won a narrow victory. Yeah. Craig commented afterwards, he said that I really wanted the submission and he said Nicholas seemed to really want the submission, but it ended up being a grueling match and took everything like 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 both competent and wrestling. And it became physically very, very tough. Then Nicholas went on to win the bronze medal in his weight division. So the next day when we get called for the open weight, obviously John Carlo won a gold medal. Everyone agreed that he should go into open weight and a John Carlo agree. Of course. I mean, because he didn't have an easy format. You don't order people until you ask them. No, no. 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. No. But he had very, very long tough matches. But he's used to it. He's a good athlete. So Nicholas and John Carlo went out and John Carlo had a spectacular submission victory against his first opponent. Nicholas had some firework matches. And one of the toughest opponents he came up against was the brilliant Ty Ruhr Tolow. They had an absolute bond burner. It was a very, very close match. And Ty had 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 Ty. So if Ty to win that match, even by a guard pole, was deeply impressive. It was an action match that went back and forth. Very, very impressive.
Approach And Tactics For Jiu-Jitsu Takedowns
The riding room twins and Ty Ryan and Kade Ruotolo (02:44:16)
Can't skip us on a small tangent. Both are our total brothers and an incredible performance. What do you think makes them so good if you were to analyze their game sort of outside of you and just this specific match? There's a range of factors. One is that they started the sport very, very young. Probably the first example in American grappling of American students who started at age four or five. Most people when I began Juditsu started Juditsu 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, Nikki Ryan started when I think when he was 12. But the rule told us 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 had been in the sport. So you're dealing with a kid who's 19 years old but he's been grappling for 15 years. What counts is not your age but your mat age and quality. Now they were very young in years but they were very old and 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.
Early exposure and setting the scene, with lots of training (02:45:59)
It's interesting. No, there's a lot more to it than that. It's just the first setting 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 rule told us 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 young sisters also. Nikki Ryan and Ethan Kroneston. 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."
A recent focus on adapting their game and strengths, and their longevity in the sport (02:47:17)
I love the way they did that. And focusing on the weakness to let that guide you to the thing you're working on. But 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 katikatame in particular dasas and econters are going to be much easier for them and their weight division than for most people. These are all chokes. Yes, strangle holds. 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 strangle holds that they use. Traditionally when we looked at the root holes 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 katikatame using the legs done from diseventages positions on bottom. And they both make brilliant use of that to not so much as a strangle weapon. Occasionally they'll strangle some of them but they mostly use it to create pressure to make people back off. And as a result they're able to 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 hit that really impressive sense in which they identified their weaknesses and leg locks in 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 strangle holds. I deeply admire what they've done. These two young men have a huge future ahead of them. So here one of the brothers faces in the absolute Nicholas Merigali and Ty 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 Ty fighting open weight against three monsters in a row.
Nicholas Meregali vs. Ty Ryan at the Open Weight Divisions (02:49:59)
Now Ty 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 diastranical hold. They're very competent at counter attacking single legs with diastranical. And 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 base takedowns rather than wrestling takedowns. And you see here a fine example of Nicholas's gathering skill and Uchimata one of the great throws of judo. Set up with a there's a bit of a foot sweep. Like good. The nice thing is he starts off with what it looks like it says 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 that he changes direction with the 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 Thai rule total is one of the best scramblers in the sport as to stop scrambling here and just go back to guard position and enable Nicholas to hold top position.
Single Leg vs Judo TschiMata (02:51:13)
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 root holders also have a good Uchimata. I think they're very familiar with it. How often do you think are there in the receiving hand of Uchimata? That's a good point. 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. 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. You're a judo man. You'll back me up and say Uchimata is not an easy throw to learn. Take some time. You're hopping on one foot with both of your body weight. You're counting on two of them. You have to really... 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. Uchimata is like this. It's weird. What? I'm on one foot. I'm hopping around. This makes no sense. But it works. Foot sweeps are also weird in that way. It's 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, "I try to teach him a single leg," which is traditionally most... A high single leg is one of the easier takedowns to perform in terms of mechanical difficulty. Nicholas always struggles with it. And I teach him one of the more difficult takedowns Uchimata. And he does it florally. Yeah, you never know. 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 say Nagi 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've released a new instructional takedowns and standing skills for jiu-jitsu just at a high level. I mean, Nicholas is an example. What are some key ideas about takedowns?
Takedowns for JiuJitsu (02:54:11)
Okay, first, whenever people talk about standing position 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. Then 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 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. We 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 factory was able to do so in six months. It's just incredible. Can you comment on the upward posture that seems to work for jiu-jitsu?
Teaching Evolution And Influences
How to Stance (02:55:21)
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 bento of a crouch and be exhausted. There's also problems associated with submission holds. There are many forms of submission hold, guillotines, dasas, 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 slower. So these are obvious differences. The biggest difference, however, has nothing to do with that. Has it or 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 based 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 on 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 on the ADCC rules.
How Georges St-Pierre Innovated Takedowns (02:58:15)
What makes GSB so good at takedowns? I got into this even recently watching them do takedowns. Within this framework that you're teaching, what stands out to you about him that you draw lessons from? Yeah. 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 through 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. 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 no interest to him. 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. He devoted almost all of his studies to just the act of taking someone down. And 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 partier. He'd probably be leg laces or gut wrench quite easily by a skilled opponent. But in just a pure takedown barrel, he would 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, it would 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 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 his infancy.
Five Fundamental Areas of MMA Contests (03:01:22)
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-Ditsu, it was very obvious that historically, Jiu-Ditsu had always been weak in leg locking. Jiu-Ditsu 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 George 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 without a whole grappler off and then defeat them with striking. And a striker who was, if you went to fight someone who's superior to you on 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 needed, 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 have locked up with each other on the fence. And they have to integrate 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, judo, submissions, moi tai, clenching 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 needed to be worked autonomously. And when we broke Georgia'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 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.
Carlos' experience with John teaching. (03:06:45)
Well, let me ask you, I got a chance to hang out with you and Hanzo Gracie at ADCC. He keeps messaging me saying he's going to 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 Hanzo Gracie? The degree of difficulty that Hanzo 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, Hanzo came from Brazil, training with the best people in the world at that time. And Hixen, all the Michados, all of them were located around Gracie Baja and that Rio de Janeiro set. They all knew each other and they all trained together.
Everything changed in Jon's teaching after ADCC 2011. (03:07:59)
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 units. So all Hanzo knew from childhood on was perfect, beautiful Juditsu and communicating with other people who also knew perfect, beautiful Juditsu. 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 Juditsu, they had to explain to me the difference between the mount and the guard. Because as far as I was considering, "Hey, you're on top." It's the same thing. And they're like, "No, no, no. Mounted is different from God." 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.
Filtration lead to focus. (03:08:56)
And machine going from training with Hixen Gracie to having to tell some moron that God 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 well luckily he's known for his patience. But 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, made a Horego Gracie and Matt Sarah, 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. He always gave us complete freedom. His only thing was to say, "Okay, do whatever you want. Just make sure it's effective. Prove me it's effective." And that's the best research program you can ever get. Show me proof. And so many times, especially in those days in Judetsu, 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 cow. This is the only kind of game we accept. And Hinsa 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 got to ask you, and by the way, he'll come on this podcast and I do feel like it's a little bit like writing a dragon or a bull or some kind. It'll be a fun journey. I can't, at least from my perspective, interact with him or having met him, it's hard not to smile from his story. He's easily one of the most charismatic people in Judetsu. 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 got to ask you, this is from Reddit. There's a few legends that come from that gym. People on Reddit kept asking about some guy named Boris. Apparently, you coached him at Hinsa's and he was a legend. And he was terrifyingly good.
Outer Interests And Work Focus
What Jon learned from Brazilian teachers. (03:11:31)
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, do you see American phrase, a complete nerd with his pocket protector? Now, he was heavily muscled but he would dress in such a way that he didn't appear so when he left. We always used to laugh. You imagine some guy tried to mug Boris. They would see him with his nerdy glasses on and his pocket protector. They would literally run into one of the most formidable human beings in the entire New York area. Boris started training Juditsu, 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 my teaching career. He and a group of others, a very small group, he 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, he used to generally prefer top position. And I would always encourage George to play bottom position. I'd say, you've got to get good in bottom position. You never know. I know you're good at takedowns but one day someone's going to put you down. So you've got to work bottom position. And Boris had very strong guard paths. And I remember one of George's happiest days was finally after like two years, one day he swept Boris, got on top and finished him. And I remember he was, that was one of his biggest thrills in all of his training career. That was the last time that ever happened. Now Boris was, he was a very formal man for that time. The funny thing about Boris is every time we would have a conversation, he would say, I'm only going to do the sport until I'm 40 years old and then I'm going to stop. And I would say, why? Why not be like a lifelong martial artist? You got so good. You're good at your good 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. You never give any reason for this. It was just ridiculous. So one day, now this is the guy who came in literally every day, 6 a.m. every day. One day he comes in, he comes up to be at the industry and he goes, hey John, I just turned 40.
Ali Abdelaziz (03:14:46)
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 and walks off. I'll gangster. And then he never came back. I've never seen Boris since. He came in with one of the best crappers I ever saw. And that's it buddy. I'm out. And to this day. No one to walk away. Yeah. I also got to hang out. Got to meet Hang out with Ali Abdulaziz. He's a Hanzo Gracey Black belt, fourth degree judo Black belt. And friend and manager of could be Nirmangamera, who's coming down to Austin soon. We'll do a podcast. Hopefully you 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 close inner circle and integrity and character and people I really like them. I connect them really quickly. But any fun stories about Ali? Did you train together? See, he trained for many years in the basement of my classes. His story is one of the most unlikely stories. Like if someone wrote a movie plot about his life, they'd be like this absurd. We throw another door in a second and yet it all happened. You're absolutely correct. He is from the unlikely as possible starts created a situation where he's, I think it's incandescent one now. So 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 Judoka first. Yes. Very good no-guito. He had an excellent hari goshi, very good taniyotoshi. And he threw many people who were highly credentialed wrestlers in 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 no-guit 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.
Khabib Nurmagomedovs grappling (03:17:37)
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? 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 is truly astounding. He beat people from every style. He beat wrestlers. He beat jiu-jitsu players. He beat kickboxes. 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 he 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. Kimor, if you look at his Kimor 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 Haja Gracie or about Gordon by watching them or rolling around them for a little bit? So maybe Haja and Kabiba 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 Haja can do by just the same exact thing on everybody. Is it possible to understand why Haja or Kabiba are so good at very basic positions? Do you have to feel it or do you have to, or is it just something that's developed over years and years and 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. There were 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, Haja could probably look at video footage if he could be grappling and say, "Okay, I understand what he's doing." But the average person would probably go over the heads. You sometimes think of these great athletes, like maybe they're too narrow.
How Other Interests Can Help You (03:20:52)
You might imagine they're so focused on a particular thing. They don't develop in interesting ways. He's just a sweetheart. He's a wonderful person to be around. Yeah, he's also visiting Austin. First of all, I'm honored just drinking a little bit too much in Vegas with Haja Gracie and talking about love and relationships and life and death and all those philosophical topics. I don't know if you've gotten a chance to hang out with Joe when he plays pool. I spent a lot of time with him when he was playing pool, recently on that trip to Vegas. 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. You could still do that on any task. The pool is the game of physics. That should be your domain. It is, but that wasn't just physics. 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 not Joe. He literally, as close as 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 stuck with me. Those memes, I want to find somebody that looks at me the way X looks at Y. I want to find somebody that looks at me the way Joe looks at a pool queue or whatever. The focus there. I want to 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. That focus, 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 some time. The guy is part of it 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 even play pool. We should watch him. I think it could be one of his greatest obsessions. There's deep, see I thought pool is for degenerates. Like gamblers and hustlers. The same way I see poker. I saw a wolf slash elite athlete in Joe. I didn't know this. I didn'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.
Focused on Work (03:24:35)
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? 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? They think about the way they approach, they're actual schedule, those kinds of things. That's a great question. The less training time you've got, the more you want to maximize its effect. A question becomes, "Okay, if I'm training 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 to saying, "I'm going to 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. What I would recommend is to start by videotaping yourself inspiring 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. The most honest one comes not from you, 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 end 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 video tip of yourself, you observe yourself losing three triangles. You attempt a three triangle string, hold your 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?" That would be a good example of taking a problem in your game, contrasting it with a lead level performance in people whose body type roughly matches your own, and then try to take lessons you learn 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 of what you do. You can try to work the game into the area of focus. 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 will give you the most opportunity.
Intricacies Of Animal-Like Combat
The most powerful moments (03:29:08)
And in this sense, it always begins with an accurate assessment of your current skill level. You've got to 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 due to it soon. 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 you want to 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. Everyone's different. So, you 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. As time goes by and you do this more and more often and more and more areas of the sport, I promise you you'll improve. Yeah, and I guess when you 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 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. So I thought, okay, what's the solution here? I thought maybe this X-card thing, double X-card. 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 by myself, meaning like not instructor guided classes, but in training, I would just, everything I would put myself into a butterfly and X-card. And then just let go, like don't progress, sweep and figure out a way to get swept, to get right back to it, 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 paid you a little quickly. Yeah, I learned it's the most progress I've ever made. Now you could say that X-card 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, 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-card sweep. And I would set a rule that I have to get whatever it was, 500 sweeps a week. And the closer you get to the end of the week, the more you just pick up a small white belt. 500 in a week? Yeah, something like that. Your training partners must suck bro. No, you start with good ones and then you get more and more desperate. Start finding the kid, you can just sweep over and over. But that number, for me, the number is for some reason, it's 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 for some reason, for me, that helped me focus the study to understand the deep complexities of this thing. At least for me, other people, like nobody at the gym was doing X-card or anything of that. So you have 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.
Perfect day (03:34:38)
What's the perfect day in the life of John Donner? If we're talking about a basic non-ADCC, now, 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 a mantra in the morning? Do you listen to some Zen music? What do you eat in the morning? What's the perfect day look like? When you say, "If I was 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.
Daily Life (03:35:36)
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 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. So one week of relative break, we go back to two competition classes per day, plus two recreational classes, plus an MMA class for Gary Toner and his friends. The first class requires me to get up around 6am 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 through the destination on time. Just for the record, John pulled in in a red Lamborghini with the... 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 8pm. During that time, I coached Jiu-Ditsu. I try to find time for one Instagram post per day, which usually describes some basic theme of Jiu-Ditsu 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-Ditsu 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 for 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 distance in this." And then I make reflections at the end of the day. And 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, hands-on, I had to really harass you to drag you out and to hang out. And he was very convincing. And food-wise... Once a day. 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?
No. I'm still thinking about it. I think it's a 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, record Roman wrestling, judo and mixed martial arts. And subsidiary sports to mixed martial arts like boxing, Muay Thai and European kickboxing. Just for long term idea generation. Yes. Like a plant seed. What could, yeah, this is an interesting thing. How could this be incorporated in the context in which we use it? MMA or Judas? 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 the symptom of a focus? 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 like monk like existence. But I have a private life. I like to go out and have fun like everyone else. I'm not like some kind of monk who just sits under a waterfall and meditates for anything crazy like that. Well, that's what I'm currently going through that stage in 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.
Animal Combat Experts (03:41:28)
Who wins in a fight to the death? Or maybe in a sport competition setting, but let's go with the fight to the death. A grizzly bear, a silverback gorilla, and maybe a lion or a 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 could imagine. 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 saw much more advanced than I am. So that's intelligence. Then there is weight. I think that's something that you think of at first. The lion, let's go with the big ones. I took notes here. 550 pounds for big lion. That's exceptionally large. Male lines are around 450 pounds. That's an exceptional beast then. Thank you. The tiger can be larger than that. Much larger. So we got the grizzly bear, which is probably the biggest of the bunch. The large ones get to 1500 pounds. Correct me, some of the numbers. I believe most grizzlies around 1,000 pound mong. It's a big, big beast. I was looking up the biggest, but I didn't want to do the biggest ever. Just the top of the range, because there's always a range. You can put it in a roughly double, even a very big lion. Of course, how that weight is used is very important. There's also things which I find is interesting is anaconda, which is, 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. 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 night on the chess board. It comes from a completely different angle. So we got that. We got also strength in which could be measured in ability to carry stuff. 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, that's over 4,000 pounds. And gorillas themselves and they're all mayo-waysing around 350 to 400 or 400 pounds. Yes, yes. I like how in this particular place where I found this 2,000 kilograms is as heavy as 30 average humans. So 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. Now, this is really surprising to me. The gorilla has won me over through this, by the way. Intelligence, some of this is a sucker for intelligence, but the gorilla bite force is the highest of all these with 1,300 psi. Bear a second with 1,200 psi. Tiger is a third, I think tiger and lion is a 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. That gorilla is not a carnivore, but apparently it's mostly its grassy stuff. But it's difficult to explain why it has such a powerful bite. It also, of course, has very large and size of teeth, as well as chewing teeth. So also known neck. So it's 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, the bite in the neck. I don't know exactly why that is probably has to do. Why is that? It's a strong, controlled position, not just that it's a... Is it the same as you just do you think? Because they get to also joke them all. It's very much in line with you. Like lions are famous for using strangulation as their primary method of killing. They get a hold of the neck and hold until the animal drops. Plus claws leave 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 a condom out. It doesn't do different.
Cases of Misleading Intuitions (03:46:57)
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 this important to you? All the considerations you've raised are very important and we would have to address them if we're going to go through this topic. This 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 an experience. To a boy, his father seemed to have a world mainly 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 to 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. They 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 and 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 inexperienced 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 to see if the fish might have some pushback to this analysis because the data we don't have much data on this. 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.
Reflections And Learnings From Combat
Do Intuitions Work in Combat? (03:49:42)
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 out 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 is the third, which is your experience in using those skills and attributes and 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 skill set? What are their physical and mental attributes? And what is their experience in using those and real world applications? And that will give you your first look at, okay, who's going to 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 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? Not 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 win or a loser. So both from a winning and a losing position? Yes. If you don't have one, there's a high, 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 conflict longer than the person you're engaged in. Okay. Engage 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 and human. Everything. Really, very conflict.
What Determines a Winner in Combat (03:53:04)
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. Okay. 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. Yes. 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. And then the third is endurance. 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 sheer endurance. Yeah, a lot of wars throughout human history have 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 success or 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 in 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. Yes. They don't engage in killing things. They scare rival males away in order to gain ownership of females. But there is almost no interest 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 in regards to what they actually eat. I think, well, no, I think even the presence of canines doesn't make a lot of sense. They're not going to use them. It comes down to this idea. Their big thing is intimidation. Because of the show, you want to fake it and don't care if you ever make it because fake is good enough given that pretty good 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. 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 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, for my extensive watching videos on YouTube, they seem to play with each other for fun a lot. And I guess with the gorillas 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. Yeah. 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 depths 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 to fight for his own life. It's to 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.
Defending the Gorilla (04:00:37)
Most male lions have very short runs at the top to get killed or run off by other lions. And 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, their, 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 to, 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 a 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. There's 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 risk to go to a certain level and stop. In fact, it pushed back. So that's, 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 they use tools, I've 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, like the force, the power and the capabilities to do a lot of damage. It doesn't have the practice. It doesn't have the experience. But don't you think if, if a gorilla's back is to the wall, so you put them in a situation of it is life and death. We're both the lion and the gorilla. Don't you, don't you value intelligence at least a little bit here? There's a reason why humans, this is like evidence that, you know, humans have spread all across the world while being kind of weak. Why? 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 was humans can ask knowledge. 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 evidence. There's a bunch of bitch ass gorillas walking around. We know this. We're asking 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 have 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 berymbolo, 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 that 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 go about concentration of force. A lion has the quintessential concentration of force, which is fangs and claws. The gorilla is the exact opposite. It can't even make it fist. It can only throw open-handed slaps and grab things. It has no ability with its arms to concentrate force in any kind of efficient way. When a lion or a tiger, a soy, or a bear for that matter swings that 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 in the part of the cat is far, far greater. And also mobility on to feed the bipedal nature of a gorilla. The temporary bipedal. This is the bear has the same. It has no impact. So bipedal and lions kill 240 humans a year on average.
Bear Strength (04:06:03)
So okay. Okay. What about bear? Now, bear is a difference for 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 bet. They 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 in the practice. Yeah. Also, they have a much more limited set of animals that they prey upon. So I'm pretty sure grizzly is going to be tough to beat as far as top bear goes. A grizzly bear, I believe, would be a formidable adversary. They're going for a male lion. They're literally twice their size. They have an ability to get away from strangle holes 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 of much more humane than the way they kill. What I see is the primary problem is that neither one would be able to kill the other. That finishing thing, the image. They both fail on the finishing criteria. The lion would not be able to strangle a bear, even in a 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 hold it down and slowly maul it over time the way it can with an elk or a caribou. I don't believe either would be able to finish the other. It 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. And it's 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 that have 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. If it came down to endurance, it 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. Now what's that? That's fear. What does that mean? Chased off. If they fight over meat, which say, for example, a cougar is killed something and the bear wants to meet, the cougar will marry chase off. The bear has a risk aversion. Exactly. Exactly. The bear is a 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. A bull moose is a formidable animal, but it's nothing like a cape buffalo. It's nothing like an elephant or a hippopotamus. What I would suggest is this. In the wild, I don't believe either one is capable of killing any 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, when neither one could back away, I would slightly favor the bear based on the fact that neither one can kill each other would come down to endurance. You mean like an octagon? Yeah. That's got to be the next UFC, by the way. Bear versus the mind. 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. They, for example, had several incidents where they wrote about tiger versus lion conflict. 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, then cougar is weak compared with a male lion. Well, listen to you draw from that, by the way. I would suggest that... Is it about the bears?
In Memoriam And Tributes
Big Bear Backs Down (04:11:56)
Yeah, it's more about the bear. In theory, a bear should be out of crush at cougar, but it seems to be the bear is just saying, "This thing could hurt me." So I'm not going to risk injury and back away. I think it would back away in the wild from a lion, but put them in a cage, and I slightly favor them grisly based on endurance. So the final conclusion, if you had to just bet everything you own.
Conclusion / Best Conclusion (04:12:20)
So you got, let's say, we got the octagon. We're bringing a bear. Now this is like legendary bear. Okay. Full-grown grisly. Full-grown grisly, but not only that, that grisly has seen some shit. What's the most it could have seen? A bull moose? A caribou? That's the toughest opponent he's ever had. It once... No, no, no. This one once ran into a pack of other grislies and had to defend. He's got scars. Where are you? A pack of grislies. There's no pack of grislies. It's solitary. Wolves. Wolves. Good practice for a bear. Who attacks a bear? That's my point. They just 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. That's nothing. All right, fine. Lions deal with packs of hyenas. What was the... Just imagine, over the past 100 years, what do you think is the hardest fight that a grisly 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 didn't really... There's nothing that doesn't come. No, there's got to have been something. Humans have killed... They run away from cougars and wolverines. No, that's anecdotal evidence. There's got to be one bear. There's video footage over. You can watch it. Yes, they'll hold 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. Moose. The 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. Interesting. All right, so you're... See, you're already saying... My point is that bears are just... They don't want to get their feet wet. You're giving no credit for gorillas. You're saying lion wins. Your money's on the line. 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 going to be out of 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 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 going to 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, quitting the cage. 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 going to injure it, tear it up, and do immediate damage. Like I 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 going to, and endurance is going to have an effect. I'll bring up shortly somebody that's going to 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 we would eat first, who would look scarier, more delicious, I'm not sure. The black and white could either piss them off. You would think you were a penguin. Is that a good thing or not? No, good.
Fighting a Wild Animal (04:16:15)
If it was a polar bear, maybe it's different. Do you care? I'm going to the North Pole. Deeply about athletes you coached about people in your life. So I have to ask this question. If one of those athletes, I say Gordon Ryan, I was the dictator of the world and this would entertain me. But 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. What's up to you? Okay. Advice will 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? What is this? This is not a question about audacious goals. This is a question of minimizing pain. So you coach your athletes to quit before the battle has been fought. 100%. Yeah. What do you think of the chance? You don't think there's a chance. How? What's he going to do? You don't think there's a technique, first of all intelligence. So technical side. What's he going to do? He'll hook? No, nay. Well, first of all, maybe. You kind of do a double. He's got four fucking legs. Okay. What if Gordon gets any starting position he wants? Ooh. Yeah. That's going to be really useful. You don't think he can have back control? On a thousand pound bear. Yeah. What good, back control? Do you get shaken off? Shaken off. He'll get torn off. With what? Like, that reaches back. He's got four, six inches. It's hard to, oh, okay. I wonder what is the reach. What have he taught you? He's got 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, bar and bowl, like from underneath? Nothing. This discussion is so insane. I didn't even know where to begin criticism. I don't think you're open-minded. 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 gorilla. Or about the aggression. Yeah, the aggressive. And male chimp is more than enough to kill any human on the planet, including Gordon Ryan. So Gordon Ryan fighting a chimp. A good size. Dead. 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? No. Okay. Do you think anyone will disagree? Anyone? Yeah, moron. Okay. Somebody that I think you might know is a famous actor, Tom Hardy, but he's also doing quite a bit of jiu-jitsu. The reason this makes sense to bring up now is he's also, I saw a 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 killing and all that kind of stuff.
New Original Series Predators on Sky (04:19:18)
And he's doing that. He's like Morgan. It's like Morgan Freeman from March of the Penguin. 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 they think they were talking about, I don't know if it's a hyena, but something like that, like pack animals. Yeah. That attack and- Hyena is a formidable, formidable animal. So it's not all about size. It's about like strategy. Yeah. 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 100% 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, it's not about these like artificial matchups. It's about giving your environment how you succeed and all that kind of stuff. Maybe we could do Gordon Ryan versus a house cat. He, Gordon might have a small chance against a house cat, maybe. Maybe. See now I know you're just trolling me. I, I think Gordon has a chance against, well, 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. The internet is correct every single one. So there's a, oh, it's funny enough. I'm looking at Tom's Instagram. He has a picture with him. So he's computer recently, which is very cool in Jiu Jitsu. That's, that's tough to do for a celebrity to step up. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.
John Danaher, Eddies friend of the pod & Jujitsu's impact (04:21:11)
He, he used to consult with me a little bit on moves when he was starting out. He's a very, very nice person. Oh, Baji Jitsu? Yeah. Ask questions about Jiu Jitsu. He struck me as being a very, very nice person. I would love to be a fly in that while. He, he made a post on Instagram, which I'd love to get your opinion on. It has very much like a John Donner hairstyle of digging into the philosophy of the impact of Jiu Jitsu on one's life. Is his Instagram post 18 pages long? Yes. He's got potential then. Yes. With a profound deep picture of somebody practicing the art of Jiu Jitsu.
RDJ's tribute to Eddies good friend who Just recently passed away (04:21:50)
I think, I think he's at least a trainee in this art. Of the Donner hairstyle of communication. If Mio Motomosashi 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 and my team, reorg, and the great work they do supporting the mental health and well-being of veterans of service, military and first responders through the therapeutic benefits of Jiu Jitsu, a 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 well-being. I can't stress the importance it has had and the impact of my life and my fellow teammates. He goes on to talk about this organization, reorg, that uses Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to form a therapy to overcome physical and mental challenges, strengthen social connections, and improve overall health and well-being.
Unconventional Insights And Philosophies
Reorg App: For vets recovery & mental health using BJJ training (04:22:53)
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 Hispanic 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, the effects of Jiu Jitsu on folks who have gone through some really difficult things in their life? First of all, I think this is 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 coming and training with us for a week or two, and when you talk to them, the overwhelming sentiment I get when the conversation is over and we go our separate ways is I'm always asking myself the transition from military life, especially the more extreme military life, special forces and 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. 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 changed forever and then suddenly you get thrown into a life where people are arguing over who are in line to buy a coffee. The intensity of camaraderie and love the youth and the more. 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. They don't even, how do you talk to your new girlfriend about watching one of your friends' legs get taken off? There's no conversation you could have with them. 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 Judas' schools have something like a kind of military barracks demeanour to them. 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, want of a better word of rust that can primitive sense of humour and a kind of soldierly way of talking to each other and disparaging self-deprecating sense of humour. 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 Judas who was 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 jits or duets of technique working and not. And there is a final, there is simulated death, it's not real death, it's simulated death on the mat. And there is 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 skill than themselves, something to aspire to so too. And Judas, the thing that we esteem most on the Judas who met a 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 Judas 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 their degree to which Judas who 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. 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. Indeed it is. And also to step on the mat and show the kind of jiu-jitsu you would probably be proud of with chasing submissions. You got a normal walk, you got a straight foot walk. We're not going to analyze the techniques because there could be different perspectives. Different perspectives. It finishes the finish. 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 students. It's good to see Hanzo smiling face next to him. I can only imagine the conversations.
Is there something hidden about John point a hug emoji (04:30:43)
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? It's kind of like sending a heart. A little bit more. It's gender neutral. When jiu-jitsu players meet each other they often shake hands and give a quick hug. I thought it was the most appropriate emoji for jiu-jitsu players. I see. It's a pretty simple explanation. Nothing too fraudy in there. Are you sure? Quite sure. Okay. Have you really asked yourself deeply? Because you're really lean on an emoji. Is there something behind it? Tomorrow I'm never going to use that emoji again. Walk away. I'll shock you tomorrow and meet you with three. It's almost always two. I think maybe you're a creature of habit in communication. There's a creature of habit in almost every aspect of my life. Even emojis. Yeah. You fall into these little pockets of how you communicate, how you show affection towards others. 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 about to interview. I'll send a heart. I don't give a damn. They'll probably just like, "Look, what is this?" 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 have 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 Nada, how about love? What do you think is the role of love in the human condition at the highest philosophical level in me for a task?
Whats is the role of love in the human condition? (04:33:22)
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. Pretty good at. And then different grappling arts, judo, sombre, 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 think? 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 you've, once you develop an expertise about something, you can start to predict how things are going to 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 want to 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 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? Like, what would it mean? Would it be good? I didn'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 didn'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. So there's communities of people called pick up 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. 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. Yeah. 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. It also justifies the fact that I sell Garen. I think it also justifies, and it would sell very well, the John Donner, I should write a book on dating. And that would be chapter one, embrace being a beginner. Check the two, we bear versus lion. Pivot quickly to violence. By the way, we totally skipped over anaconda. I assumed the implied... I'll put it to this way. One video, you can watch Puma. And similar size cats, Jaguar destroy anacondas, even in water, which is anacondas 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 anacondas. So it's probably good that we did skip over it. And I think going back to the original thought that you had about this, don't trust your first instinct. We'll say think about the other elements. Anacond has no ability to disengage from the fight. Once the fight's on, it's got to 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, lion and bear, it's going to 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 going to leave it at that. Another fan of Nye's, there's guys like Miyamoto Masashi who, instead of doing whose number one type of tournaments, when both competitors walk away, only one competitor walks away.
Miyamoto Musashi; Fighting to the Death (04:38:46)
Miyamoto Masashi is known for somebody having John Donner, her like philosophical skills, but also is known for having fought 61 duels to the death. And one of 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. 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 it a definitive statement of his prowess, but his writings are fascinating and deeply insightful as to what actually happened out there in his duels. But there is, with guys like that, you almost certainly know that they were people like the character he projects that have existed. Yeah. Whether it's 61, whether it's 20, but people really put their life in 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 honour, things that are so foreign to our modern society. Imagine we criticize people for something as simple as like road rage. And yet you can imagine someone who has a sufficiently developed sense of honour. 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 smallest acts of honour. 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.
The Fanny Pack; Perfect Killing Machine (04:40:52)
You often wear a fanny pack. I'm not going to 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? 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. But in a fanny pack, is it anyway? Has to be a very compact weapon.
Meaning, Power, and Art of the Knife (04:41:42)
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 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't in chess and in poker, so you could put one of those vibrating devices in your fanny pack for Jiu Jitsu would not help you. Any idea what kind of weapon? To fit in a fanny pack? Do your fanny knives, where's the interesting 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. It would 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 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 and so far 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 two are the skills of martial arts. And when I give a gift of a knife to a student, these metaphorical elements start to emerge. They say, "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. That can also be used for murder, for the worst possible purposes. Juditsu is the same way. Juditsu can make you a better person. It can make you a worse person. Juditsu 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 to that Juditsu would 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 if 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 three 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 Juditsu, your task and 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 on 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 Juditsu 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.
Mentoring In Martial Arts
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.
Closing Remarks (04:47:58)
So thank you for making that happen. And thank you for talking today. Thank you, Lakes. Thanks for listening to this conversation with John Donner. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, let me leave you 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.