The Self-Defeating Simple & Easy

Bullet points, step by step processes that are guaranteed to work overnight, proven shortcuts…

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Worth noting that surgeons don’t sign up for medical school because they’re told that there is a simple, easy way to do open heart surgery.

It’s not that we’re unable to handle complicated problems, it’s that we’re afraid to try. The Dummies mindset, the get-rich-quick long sales letters, the mechanistic, industrial processes aren’t on offer because they’re the best we can handle. No, they sell because they promise to reduce our fear.

It will take you less time and less effort to do it the difficult way than it will to buy and try and discard all the shortcuts.

– Seth Godin




I’ve always been of the opinion that the important thing is train with a purpose in mind, and having fun and playing around can be a great purpose too. I believe in becoming a great mediocre BJJ player/grappler, unless you are preparing for a competition so more often than not you’d see me slowly and methodically going for sweeps, passes, positional transitions and submissions at a slower than average rate. The cost / benefit analysis of this style of rolling has been that I often lost techniques because my training partner saw it coming but the ones I got where magical and in perfect timing. The cost / benefit analysis of “going hard” never made sense to me, mainly because I’m not interested in competing.

-Liam H Wandi, The Part-Time Grappler

Read the whole article here.


Review of How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent 2

A review of Brandon Mullins’ instructional video by Charles Smith.

Summary: Brandon Mullins emphasizes strategy–therefore I like it.



How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent
Series 2
by Brandon Mullins
with Stephan Kesting


DVD 1: Top Position Game Plan

DVD 1 is two and a half hours divided into 27 parts and covers a progression from standing work, through passing the guard, to top game.

The first 30 minutes or so covers a cloth oriented gripping and takedown strategy. For a matched lead, two cuff grips are used to set up Drop Sode Tsurikomigoshi, Kouchi Gari, and an arm drag to Kouchi Gake. On the unmatched lead, a cross grip two-on-one is used to set up Kouchi Gari and Sumi Gaeshi. Each of the skills connects well with the others to form a strategy that emphasizes avoiding a challenger’s strength and weight.

The middle section of this video starts with passing the close-guard and moves into passing half-guard. A low posture is used throughout to minimize the work in maintaining an upright posture against a larger challenger’s strength. Emphasis is placed on using the knee lead pass and mastering a small, well interconnected set of skills rather than a large range of techniques. There is a section on debugging the half-guard pass that answers a lot of the most common counters, and another on passing the popular Z-Guard (half-guard with a knee inserted). Brandon also notes that you’ll want to watch DVD 4: Instant Game Changers for more on passing. That video includes more on the logic behind the knee lead method.

Competition footage is used in this, and all the other videos, in the series. It really helps highlight the pacing involved with running the game plans Brandon presents. Even with the so called full-speed demonstrations, you just can’t get the sense of context, and particularly timing, that live action footage provides.

The final part of video one covers stabilizing the top position and attacking from side mount, full mount, and back mount. As with the earlier material, these are a small, well networked set of skills with a clear place within the overall strategy.

DVD 1 Chapters

– The Power of Gameplans
– Gripping and First Move Strategy
– Gripping vs Matched Lead
– Drop Sode Tsurikomigoshi
– Sode to Kouchi Gari
– Arm Drag to Kouchi Gake
– Gripping vs Unmatched Lead
– Cross Grip to Kouchi Gari
– Cross Grip to Sumi Gaeshi
– Safety Position in Closed Guard
– Knee in Middle Pass
– Passing the Half Guard
– Debugging the Half Guard Pass
– Knee cut vs Half Butterfly
– Cartwheel Pass vs Half Butterfly
– The ‘Psych’ Pass vs Half Butterfly
– Knee switch Pass vs Half Guard
– Passing the Z Guard Part 1
– Passing the Z Guard Part 2
– Finalizing the Guard pass vs Explosive Bridging
– Stabilizing the Side mount, & Best Submissions from Side mount
– Knee slide from Side mount to Mount
– Leg swing from Side mount to Mount
– Maintaining the Mount
– Rolling Armbar Attack vs Bridge and Push
– Triangle vs Hip Wrap and Bump
– Rear Mount Attacks


DVD 2: Bottom Position Game Plan

Brandon and Stephan have a bit of fun with the opening of each DVD. It’s just five seconds worth, not an overly long look-at-us-being-funny-even-though-we’re-not-really gag that we’ve all seen in too many instructional videos. It’s short, amusing and doesn’t get in the way, so I’m good with it.

DVD 2 has over two hours of material divided into 25 sections. The instruction itself starts with close guard work. Brandon says most grapplers agree that closed guard is the best guard to have someone in if you have to play bottom. I guess I’m not like most grapplers. When facing challengers bigger than me, I prefer a very open, upright, butterfly style guard. I want mobility. Check out Emily Kwok’s style of play in How to Defeat the Bigger Stronger Opponent 1 to see what I mean.

Being under someone with a weight advantage leaves me feeling like a grape under an elephant’s foot. Of course, we all end up in close guard and need a solid game plan, but it’s not a way I would play intentionally. Brandon’s statement really interested me then, because purposefully playing under a bigger challenger is the opposite of what I would have expected.

The instruction begins with grip fighting. While I’ve seen most of this material before there were a number of details that stuck out. I think I may already use the wonderfully wrist-twisting angles Brandon demonstrates, but have not been consciously aware of it. Now, with the mechanics articulated, I can go back and accentuate them to make sure I’m getting everything. One of the things I haven’t seen in any detail before is what Brandon calls the Gringo Grip. I’ve seen it as the X-Grip, but not known what to do with it.


Brandon builds up from the Gringo, and other grips as well, into triangle guard, guard with overhook, or the hip sweep. The most time is spent on the overhook (whizzer), how to set up various sweeps and submissions from it, and especially how to work the triangle submissions or the omoplata (shoulder lock). Particular emphasis is placed on the interchangeability of the two. Brandon makes the point that, generally speaking, the triangle is for grapplers with longer legs, and the omoplata for those with shorter.

This second DVD rounds things out very nicely with a detailed section on the pendulum (spinning, flower) sweep and a collection of recounters to handle challenger’s defenses.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable playing close guard under a bigger challenger myself, but this is certainly a well put together game plan.

DVD 2 Chapters

– Guard Game / Bottom Strategy Intro
– Stripping Lapel Grips
– Stripping Belt Grips
– Stripping Sleeve Grips
– Dealing with Bicep Control
– Breaking Posture from Closed Guard
– Intro to Triangle Chokes
– Gringo Grip to Triangle Choke
– Gringo Grip to Omoplata
– Hip Bump Sweep
– Hip Bump Sweep Variation
– Whizzer to Triangle Choke
– Wrist Pin Triangle Choke
– Whizzer to Omoplata
– Omoplata as Sprawl Counter
– Whizzer to Straight Armbar
– Double Arm Trap to Triangle Choke
– Double Arm Trap to Sweep
– Advanced Pendulum Sweep
– Pendulum Sweep Recounters
– Double Underhook and Leg Bind
– Kimura vs Defensive Posture
– Belt Drag vs Defensive Posture
– Guillotine/Triangle vs Defensive Posture
– Defending the Barbosa/San Paulo Pass


DVD 3: Defense and Escape Game Plan

The defense and escape game plan has 20 parts and includes a dynamic strategy for breaking the various mount positions apart and dealing with the inevitable contingencies.

Brandon and Stephan start out with an overview of escaping from full mount. While the instruction is detailed it’s not something most first year grapplers haven’t seen before. What you may not have seen is escaping the technical mount, and the transitions from side, to full, to technical mount, to turtle. A bit of North-n-South is in there too. If you want to go beyond just a first year level of expertise, you’ve got to play in the transitions.

The technical mount often turns into back mount and Brandon covers a methodical approach for escaping there as well. Again, not something you probably haven’t seen before, but Brandon goes on to deal with the (much dreaded) figure four body lock (of doom!) as well. A lot of grapplers will be glad to see this.

I had a nice surprise in the second half of the video, which includes escaping side mount. Royce Gracie used to use a simple method for catching people as they swung their leg over to take full mount. It was a technique he made look easy and I made look like haggis gone bad. Well now, I think I’ve found the little (frakking) detail that might just get it working for me. And only a decade after first seeing it!

The video rounds out with a fun arm bar from under side mount and a few good tips for Upholding The Honor Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by dealing with a challenger trying to submit you from inside your closed guard.

DVD 3 Chapters

– Defense and Escape Game plan
– Advanced Elbow-Knee Escape vs Mount
– Foot Drag Escape
– Double-Unders Escape vs Technical Mount
– Shrimp and Lift vs Technical Mount
– Reguarding from the Quarter Guard
– Following the Hand Escape vs Rear Mount
– Slow Motion Seoi Nage vs Rear Mount
– Escaping Rear Mount in Transition
– Somersault Escape vs Rear Body Triangle
– Scarola Roll vs Rear Body Triangle
– Crossing the Arm Escape vs Rear Body Triangle
– Transitional Foot Drag vs Side Mount
– Granby Roll vs Side Mount
– Other Transitional Escapes vs Side Mount
– Bumping to an Armbar vs Side Mount
– Pummel Escape vs Side Mount
– Turtle Escapes
– Escaping in Transition vs North-South
– Defending Big Guy Attacks


DVD 4: Instant BJJ Game Changers

The forth DVD in the series contains a diverse collection of 24 techniques, each of which might have been included in one of the previous videos, but highlights a more general, conceptual point that might otherwise get lost in the details. Whether or not these change your game overnight depends on whether you’ve already seen then–and generalized them into principles.

Looking at the chapter listing below, you’ll see a number of defenses. Brandon makes a nice point that I find particularly true when defending: Positioning is everything. You’ll also see a number of sections, the omoplata (shoulder lock) for example, that connect to segments in the other videos. So while this DVD is a kind of technical grab bag, it is not random. What’s here fits in with the context of the earlier instruction.

After a few decades on the mat I saw a few things in this video that I’ll definitely be taking a second look at. I’ve seen most of these techniques, but I don’t think I’ve fully understood their underlying principles. I haven’t generalized their mechanics into other areas. Yet.

DVD 4 wraps up with a quick pitch for Brandon’s company I’ve ordered a pair of pants and we’ll see how the modern, white, rip-stop version works on the mat.

DVD 4 Chapters

– MMA Kick pass
– Carlos Machado Repummel vs Half Guard
– Submission-Proof Guard Passing & Taking the Back
– Draculino Double Grip Pass
– The Step Out Defense
– Best Mount Attacks
– Total Control Rear mount
– The Kimura Back take
– Knee on Belly Arm Trap
– The Draculino Bump
– Roger Sweep Guard Defense
– Leg Scissor Omoplata Finish
– Rolling Omoplata Finish
– Defeating the Over-Under Pass 1
– Defeating the Over-Under Pass 2
– Russian Roll Armbar
– Defeating Double Underhooks
– Clock Choke Defense
– Bow and Arrow Choke Defense
– Sperry Choke Defense
– Brabo/Anaconda Choke Defense
– Kneebar Defense
– Wrap Up


DVD 5: No-Gi Strategy and Tactics

This video has more than an hour of instruction arranged in a question and answer format. The DVD chapters aren’t listed in the navigation menu, but I listed the sections, along with their approximate starting times, below.

As you can see from the list, there’s a little bit of everything: mount game, guard game, passing game, submissions, and so on. The underlying theme for them all is that without the cloth there is more action, more transitions. As grapplers slip out of grips more easily the natural consequence is that more happens during those transitions. Less cloth means fewer strong grips, which leads to faster paced play.

Brandon makes a nice point about no-gi training, basically saying that few grapplers seem to really try developing techniques that take advantage of the main characteristic of rolling without the cloth: slipperiness. Instead, people seem to be “re-evolving the gi”, as he says. We’re wearing shirts with longer and longer sleeves, longer shorts, more knee pads, ankle pads and so on. We’re adding as much cloth back on as we can. The more cloth, the better traction we can get. I’m certainly guilty.

In keeping with his thesis, Brandon demonstrates a way to start the double-under pass that works especially well for no-gi. He also makes the point that it’s easier to stand up when passing because it’s harder for challenger to cling on to your sleeves and collars. Each of the chapters covers a similar shift in thinking.


– 0:00 Introduction, Transitioning From Gi to No-Gi
– 0:08 No-Gi Gripping Strategy
– 0:14 Gripping Details
– 0:20 Taking Advantage of Slipperiness
– 0:22 Pinning the Nek
– 0:24 Double Start to Double Under Pass
– 0:29 Taking the Back
– 0:33 Z Guard Offense and Defense
– 0:40 D’Arce, Anaconda and Guillotine Chokes
– 0:43 Arm Triangle Finishes
– 0:48 Training Outside of Class
– 0:53 Defending the Knee Cut / Margarida Pass No-Gi
– 0:57 Open Guard Offense, Reverse De Le Riva
– 1:02 Finishing from North-South
– 1:05 Opening the Stubborn Closed Guard
– 1:09 Advice for New Competitors
— I just want to have fun. You know what’s fun? Winning.
— Develop a strategy…
— …and drill it.
– 1:13 Wrap Up

In both of the How to Defeat the Bigger Stronger Opponent series I felt like the final video was an add-on. Not in a bad way, just something outside of the main thrust of the other videos. In series 1, Emily Kwok covers some basic body structure work. It’s interesting from an athletics point of view, but not directly related to grappling. In series two things are closer, but Brandon has four videos that deal with the cloth and one, in a loose format, that doesn’t.

DVD 5 might best be described as an extension. The series is on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the gi, but we also get good advice on transferring those skills to no-gi. Now, if only we had another video series that covered no-gi in detail. Maybe they could call it How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent 3: No-Gi with Emily Kwok.

How to Defeat the Smaller, Weaker Opponent

Finally, I want to close with a link to a fun video Stephan did in response to questions he received from viewers.