Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Standing

Grappling, regardless of if we intend to speak of wrestling, judo, Sambo, jiu-jitsu, or others, is fundamentally about learning to move in good posture and establishing angles that permit you to more easily attack while making it more difficult for your opponent to defend and/or counter attack. When your posture is taken out of alignment, you struggle to generate power and it becomes easier to move you around. That’s why kuzushi isn’t enough, you also need to be in good position to execute a throw or takedown yourself.

There are a few skills I’d emphasize for standing

  • Falling
  • Posture/stance, and moving in stance
  • Gripping/ties/contact – this is fundamentally about not extending and building frames we can use to create and maintain angles
  • Level changing & penetration steps
  • Defenses
  • Triangle points and vectors
  • The mechanics of specific throws & takedowns

Falling is hopefully self-evident. Before I throw you, you need to know how to fall.

Posture and stance are mostly just learning about back alignment and showing people how bad posture makes for an easy takedown or throw.

Gripping is insanely nuanced, so I tend to just talk about making the initial contact with the non-dominant hand or head and preventing the power hand from forming an effective grip.

Changing levels is pretty straight forward, but requires practice so folks do it by bending their knees rather than relying on hip hinging alone. Penetration steps are essentially moving while level changing and understaning the distance we need to enter for takedowns and throws.

Defenses are hands, head, hips, and funk. Gonzalo says “tricks” instead of “funk”. I debate which term I like more, but the flashy stuff should come after an understanding of layered defenses.

Triangle points are the notion of finding a point on the ground that forms an isosceles triangle (ideally an equilateral triangle) and putting them there. This applies to every throw and takedown I’ve ever learned. The triangle point moves as they move, so it’s important to be able to track it as we move such as in a rotational motion. I’ve heard triangle points used both for where to put their center of mass and for where to point the vector you’re controlling to take them down (see Scott Sonnon’s Immovable Object, Unstoppable Force for the concept of these vectors). For beginners I think it makes more sense to stick to the center of mass, but the vectors are useful for intermediate understanding.

If you understand all of the above concepts, learning specific techniques is largely a formality of understanding the mechanics of the technique and practicing it. It doesn’t really matter what throw is taught here. Single leg takedowns, double leg takedowns, and sweep singles are the bread-and-butter we do for wrestling. Matt likes to try to teach foot sweeps, but I favor hip throws and trips for beginners as they aren’t as dependent on a good sense of timing for the most part, but can be enhanced by it as folks get more confident in their standing game and develop a sense of timing for themselves.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Closed Guard

Opening (Top)

There is no passing closed guard. You open it and then pass open guard. Standing ways of opening are more reliable than opening on the knees. Roger has talked about it, Keenan has talked about it, Danaher talks about it in Passing the Guard: BJJ Fundamentals – Go Further Faster. Yes, we all learned opening on the knees. Yes, some guys have good success with it like Saulo Ribeiro. However, I think we see more success from people who stand to open guard. That’s not to say we need to abandon opening on the knees entirely, but just that I don’t want to spend time on it in a fundamentals class.

Stacking is useful for standing up and for just generally shutting the closed guard down. I actually like the method of getting to the log splitter by stacking forward, controlling the hips to get the knee set, and then sitting back.

Offense (Bottom)

  • Side scissors (arm drag)
  • Top lock
  • Clamp

Rather than specific submissions, I’m hoping to focus on these advantage positions. Triangle, arm bar, back take, sweeps, whatever, they become almost trivial from solid advantage positions in the same way that passing open guard is easy once you’ve established an advantage. That’s not to say submissions and sweeps won’t be covered, but that they’ll be framed from these positions.

Considered But Will Not Be Done

Sao Paulo Pass – I just feel like there’s a lot to unpack with this one, and a lot of people make a lot of mistakes that give up their back. It’s high risk compared to the standing passes noted above.

Collar chokes – they work, but most of the setups are shenanigans.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Open Guard

I feel like planning these guard series is coming off as giving up because they’re not as structured as the back and mount were. The reality is, the closer you are to finishing, the more prescriptive you can be with techniques; the more you’re in the midst of grappling and in more neutral positions, the less prescriptive we can be due to the number of situations. This is where a conceptual model that allows students to react following heuristics is better as a basis – it’s not as fine tuned as having 1000 great specific answers, but it’s a much faster lesson to get people effective.


The best defense is a good offense. Guard is for attacking. Chris Haueter has a good answer to a question by slideyfoot on countering the knee cut pass – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The person on top can’t pass if they’re defending their base. Always be trying to sweep, always be trying to submit. The ABCs of BJJ are “always be choking”. The three rules of wrestling are 1. force their hands to the mat, 2. high head wins the scramble, 3. always be attacking the legs. This is also where I like to talk about the three goals of guard are sweep, submit, or stand up. Too many people forget that standing up is a goal, and get fixated with remaining on their back when they don’t have to be. You can’t get passed if you’re standing up.

I don’t think specific techniques are worthwhile here, but an understanding of base and how forcing their hands to the mat and attacking the legs compromises it in concept would be invaluable. See the drills section below.


  • Grilled Chicken

If you haven’t seen Priit’s Grilled Chicken series, I highly recommend it. Of all the styles of guard maintenance I’ve tried, it’s the most straight-forward. Having said that, it’s also a style that I feel is very defensive in nature. I find I need to chain an active, attacking open guard style with it and transition between the two as I change roles between maintaining and attacking. If you can mentally handle playing one style while on the back foot and one style while being assertive, I find it fantastic. Since most beginners generally need to learn to survive before they worry about being the aggressor, it feels like the right place to start.


  • NAC Model
  • Feet, knees, hips, consolidate
  • No such thing as a no gi guard pass

Danaher’s “NAC Model” (Negate, Advantage, Completion) is probably the most comprehensive model for guard passing I’ve encountered. There are a lot of specific passes I like, but all of them do boil down to taking away their ability to threaten your base, get into an advantageous position (or weakly advantageous position), and then execute the pass. Thinking about this in terms of not having their feet pointing at you, not having their knees pointed at you, controlling the hips, and then consolidating the top position is another way Danaher discusses this in the Go Further Faster – Passing series, and it’s helped how I think about and approach guard passing. I don’t think it’s important to teach all the myriad specific advantageous positions we could go to in a single class, but picking one per class and using it as an example does seem worthwhile.

When I went to the Reilly seminar where he talked about how people choose to concede top position in no gi and the importance of “never stop wrestling”, it was a huge change in how I passed. If the person on bottom can’t establish meaningful grips, they can’t stop you from posting. You posting may be in their best interest, but it will almost always be in your better interest than conceding bottom position. Passing in gi requires grip fighting to mitigate this, but an understanding of the no gi principle also highlights the value of grip fighting in the gi.


The bulk of an open guard class should be drills. There’s a lot to discuss, but if you’re ever talking more than the students are moving, you’re probably doing it wrong, and as discussed above, there’s not a lot of specific techniques I think are super important when compared to time spent on conceptual development.

Touch the head – similar to half guard, if tori can touch uke’s head, reset. Uke should be actively maintaining space so that can’t happen. 30 seconds in each role and then switch partners.

Hands to the mat – the person on bottom (tori for this drill) wants to make the person who’s standing (uke) touch the mat with their hands, hips, or back. Essentially, they’re trying to sweep uke, but with a broader definition of “sweep”. The example I typically show for this is pulling them forward as you spin under so they need to post to keep from face planting. Tori should be trying multi-directional attacks. This will require they figure out how to get underneath uke, which is a concept I generally don’t talk about because it’s so easily discovered during this drill. Switch roles after 1 minute, and switch partners after each person has been the person on bottom.

Positional (no subs) – The person on top wants to pass (holding side, KoB, mount, or the back for 3 seconds). The person on bottom wants to be on top or stand up. Reset if either person meets those conditions. 2 minutes each role, then switch partners.

Positional (subs) – As above, but each person can also use submissions. My intention with this isn’t just to give a greater sense of reality to the drill, but because it should start encouraging folks to use the threat of a leg lock to set up their sweep or pass.


Open guard has a LOT of stuff in it, and while the back gives us a perfect, isolated opportunity to discuss chokes, and the mount or side control gives a reasonably good opportunity to discuss arm locks; open guard is probably the best place to discuss leg locks, but it’s not really easy to do so with so much to cover. The use of straight ankle locks as a threat to establish a pass is something I feel very strongly about and I want to convey to folks, but you can only threaten what you can finish. Without spending time on the nuances of finishing a straight ankle lock, it’s not something I can confidently work in. Were I planning a four week lesson plan around open guard for a mixed skill audience, I would unquestionably spend a week in that discussing the straight ankle lock and its use in passing.

I mentioned the importance of grip fighting for a gi context. There’s no reasonable way to teach all the grips breaks, neutralizing grips, and defensive/assertive grips necessary to convey a skillset in a beginner class for this. For this reason, I consider this beyond the basics. Ideally folks would be learning grip fighting while standing to understand the relationship between grips, movement, and off-balancing/base. I don’t feel qualified or have the intentions to teach a judo class at this point. They can go to Luke at Madison Judo for a solid grip fighting class.

Because this is so open-ended and concept-oriented, there’s a good chance it could blow up in my face. As mentioned elsewhere, when folks focus too much on the concept without specific techniques that illustrate the concept and/or without teaching the base movements necessary to apply the concept, it ends up being high level garbage. I expect a lot of refinement will need to be made around the specifics of what and how to show the concepts outlined above.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Half Guard

Half-guard has a ton of options. The neck, arms, and legs are all exposed for submissions. The person on top is in a strong passing position if they can control the head and the orientation of the shoulders. The person on bottom is in a strong sweeping position and has an easy route to the back if they can control their own shoulder orientation and use their legs to stay safe from the pass attempts. It is probably the most open-ended and versatile position. To that end, specific techniques are not overly beneficial here. A discussion of the fight over the head and shoulders (often boiled down to the underhook) is the biggest gain we can give to brand new folks – techniques that illustrate that fight and what each person wants are useful, but only in so far as they help people understand that fight.

Okay, having said all of that…


  • Underhook to the back
  • Switch back

Underhook to the back means using the underhook to get past the arm and come up into a back take. The hook should be shallow for taking the back, deep for baiting a whizzer, high for many moves from the dog fight, low for a lot of wrestling-style moves. I favor starting with a shallow, high hook, pretty much just on the near-side shoulder blade. Your elbow should be at your ribs. This stops the whizzer and makes ducking and shucking to the back really easy.

Invariably, someone will misplace their hand or a strong whizzer player will get a useful whizzer somehow. This is where using the underhook to keep the person on top close and switch under their legs to toss them to the side. There are a bunch of ways to do this, but you need to pinch their arm to you so they can’t just pull the whizzer out and be in a strong passing position. This movement, to me, mirrors a lot of other patterns like entering into deep half. I want this to be a broad stroke though – they whizzer you, you toss them sideways.


Get the underhook, grab the head, get your hips high to get over their knee. This can become a knee cut, switch base out to a back step pass, switch over the body to a knee ride pass, or even become a form of float passing.


Touch their head – tori (top) wants to touch uke (bottom)’s head by any means necessary. Any part of the head – face, crown, back of the head, whatever. If tori succeeds, reset to the base half guard position and try again. Switch roles after 30 seconds. Switch partners after each person has played each role. Uke should be using their legs as frames, their hands to block, and doesn’t have to keep their legs where they are. Ryan Hall’s leg over the shoulder half guard nonsense is a totally valid solution to the problem. Tori should be trying to fill the openings in space uke leaves to get close enough to touch the head.

Reguard – tori wants to pass, uke wants to establish closed guard. Uke can move through any other open guards to do this, even stand up and just pull into a closed guard, but if tori ever gets passed to side/KoB/mount/back and holds for 3 seconds, reset.

Positional – tori wants to pass to any position better than half guard (side, KoB, mount, back) or submit uke; uke wants to sweep tori to any top position (including top half) or submit tori.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Side Control


  • Spinning arm bar
  • “Triple threat” (Americana, Kimura, Ude gatame flow)

Submissions are fun, but I’d rather see students going to the back for the RNC as beginners. In my opinion, the reason to show submissions from side control in fundamentals classes is more so people understand why different arm/head placements open up different risks they’ll need to mitigate. These are more like warnings than encouraged techniques, and when they are covered they should be bonus material on top of solid positional fundamentals.

The spinning arm bar is having an underhook on their armpit, tilting them toward you, stepping over the head, and rotating in place to put your hips behind their shoulder. Again, the utility is reminding people the value of the “body armor, shield” concept so they know why leaving an elbow away from their rib poses the threat of submission.


  • Shrimp to re-guard
  • Shrimp to turtle/single
  • Ghost
  • Double-unders bridge to turtle/single
  • Turn away to turtle

Escapes, along with a conceptual model for transitions, should be the bread-and-butter of a fundamental side control lesson to me. Underpinning all of these escapes is the notion that you either need to make space via connection to the ground to get to your side to turn in, go under them (the proverbial “back door”) to get to a single, or turn away and expose your back in a controlled manner. I don’t think the last one should be frequently covered with beginners as it tends to require more nuanced turtling skills, but I do think it’s at least important that they understand that turning away is conditionally an answer.

I think all of these are basic enough that it warrants not explaining what each is. The Ghost is the only one that I think is semi-novel as I believe it comes from 10P, but I also think it’s relatively mainstream at this point. I hadn’t seen it until purple belt when Mike taught me it, but it chains really well with the more traditional escapes.


  • Side mount to Knee-on-belly
  • Side mount to scarf hold
  • Side mount to the back
  • Knee-on-belly to the mount
  • Reverse scarf to the mount

Side control is a cornucopia of positions and transitions. This is the point where a conceptual model is necessary. Around the World (covered in drills below) teaches a lot of positions and transitions at once by focusing on keeping contact throughout transitions. What I feel is really important with these is understanding how to direct the knees of uke using arms and hips to keep them in poor spinal alignment so their bad posture or reaction to correct their posture gives the transitions we’re looking for. Next to no time will be spend on the technical “how to” of these because, while generally useful, it’s not the best use of time compared to focusing on the conceptual model of why they work so students can make their own transitions.


I like to do Around the World as a warm-up for side control. At this point most, if not all, of the students have seen mount and the back, so Around the World allows us to explore almost all of the positions I consider part of side control such as scarf hold, North-South, knee-on-belly, reverse scarf, and top crucifix. The primary goal of this drill is constant pressure – tori should be moving with solid contact to uke the entire time. Each person goes through the sequence two to three times and then we switch roles. Once each person has gone through the first sequence two to three times we do the second sequence twice each.

  1. Side mount -> modified scarf hold (arm under armpit) -> top crucifix -> reverse scarf (arm in front) -> North-South -> reverse scarf (arm in front) -> top crucifix -> modified scarf hold (arm under armpit) -> side mount -> knee-on-belly -> mount -> knee on belly -> side mount
  2. Side mount -> modified scarf hold (arm under armpit) -> top crucifix -> reverse scarf (arm in front) -> North-South -> reverse scarf (arm in front) -> top crucifix -> modified scarf hold (arm under armpit) -> side mount -> reverse scarf (arm behind) -> mount -> reverse scarf (arm behind) -> side mount

Positional sparring is more interesting than the last two lessons as there are far more victory conditions. Tori wants mount, the back, or a submission. Uke wants to establish any guard or stand up. Turtle is not out until they either use it to establish a classic guard (half, butterfly, feet on hips, closed, etc.) or stand up. This is typically the point where folks start asking “what if I can submit them from the bottom”. The answer to this is always – if your partner taps you “won”, reset.

Considered But Will Not Be Done

Chokes – there are chokes from side control. But as noted in the mount section, I’m terrible at teaching arm triangles. I don’t really think any choke other than variations on the North-South choke are worthwhile for beginners after having tried to teach a few and realizing that the time was better spent on more positional understanding. Beginners should focus on getting to the back to finish.

Cross-body leg locks – the cross-body ankle lock (or even the heel hook) is pretty easy as someone tries to recover guard if you keep your knee low by their hip. Having said that, if submissions are like frosting on the cupcake for this position, baiting for leg lock attempts is sprinkles at this point. Yes, it’s there, yes it’s awesome, yes, I’m invariably going to use it on them as they get better, but I don’t think it’s adding much value with limited time.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Mount


  • Arm bar
  • Cross-collar choke
  • Americana

The arm bar is classic. It was the first mount attack I learned. They press up against you to relieve the mount pressure so you take the arm. I teach a more modern version of it where we’re getting our hand under the elbow as they pray/defend more correctly, but the basics of getting into an arm bar from mount are pretty much the same – isolate the arm, get it up to a vulnerable angle so they lack the shoulder strength or angle to pull with strong lat muscles, step/spin into a seated arm bar position, profit.

Cross-collar chokes are the one gi-specific thing I think should be taught for fundamentals. They create a unique attacking opportunity with no parallel in no gi and no amount of no gi defense lessons will prepare you for them if you don’t understand them. Stopping an Ezekiel or something else just isn’t the same. Open the collar low, slide your hand inside the jacket so it’s under their arms as it makes its way to the neck, shoot the other hand far, drag your elbow across the mat to their neck and then across the jawline to get pressure right under the jaw on the neck. It’s a version Mauricio Zingano showed me back in December 2013 and I haven’t found a better version since.

The Americana is a classic way to attack the defense to the collars and praying to keep their arms safe. Press the forearm down with bodyweight to get it locked against them, then rotate hands in so your weight is pushing from the inside of the forearm out toward their shoulder. There’s limited strength in that direction and you can use your back and legs to generate more power. Once the arm is on the ground, pull everything in tight and paint the mat to finish. Javier has a stronger version he showed at the last seminar of his I went to (right before the pandemic), but since it was right before the pandemic, I haven’t gotten to play with it enough to feel comfortable teaching it to beginners.


  • Box frame Escape
  • Umpa / Bridging Escape

Both escapes should be familiar to everyone. One is based in shrimping, the other in bridging. Two fundamental movements that give us two fundamental moves.


  • Back take

You need to know how to climb the positional ladder. This uses the same arm movements we’d use to set up an arm bar or an arm triangle, but once the head is up by the arm we use our grips and body angle to cause them to turn away from us creating back exposure. Set in the seat belt and then it’s sitting to one hip to set hooks. I actually prefer this from side control, but it’s invaluable that we tie mount to the back for the purposes of illustrating our chain to the RNC.


Warm-up – tori mounts uke and tries to maintain at least 3 points of contact between uke and the ground (two hips and one shoulder or two shoulders and one hip). Reset if uke sits up, gets to a side, or gets out. Switch roles after 60 seconds. It’s hard as heck to maintain 3 points of contact without specific skills. This is to illustrate to uke that they don’t need much to start an escape and get tori thinking about what it means to hold someone down.

Positional – start in mount. Uke wants to escape. Tori wants to take the back or submit (submissions optional). Turtle is not out, keep going from there. Reset if tori gets both hooks and a seatbelt on the back or uke gets some form of guard (half, butterfly, etc.), to side control, or stands up. When in doubt, reset.

Considered But Will Not Be Done

Back Roll to Half Crab – I love this escape. It’s meme-y as all heck, it gets folks thinking about back door escapes as options, it acts as a true reversal where you were mounted – probably dead to rights – and end up with a solid submission attempt or the ability to spin around to take their back, it only requires an understanding of how to do a back roll. It’s way more beginner friendly than it should be, and it’s something I found by messing up Andrew Smith’s Goat Hook Escape too many times.

Toe Hook / Heel Drag Escape – Wade used to show these as basic. You start out with a box frame, and as you turn to your side, rather than shrimping out, you use your top leg to pull their leg in between yours so that switching your hip establishes half guard. You can use your heel to drag their leg over your bottom leg or your toes to lift their leg so your bottom leg can punch under. They’re essentially the same thing from there. Mike also uses this to go directly into lockdown. I’m a fan, but I don’t feel these are as fundamental as the others because this is built on top of the box frame.

Arm triangle – yes, it’s fundamental, but it’s something so many people struggle with, and I in particular suck at explaining it. It’s one of those moves I can do, but can’t explain the nuances of correcting. I feel that way about most arm triangles – D’Arce, Anaconda, reverse arm triangle (RAT), even this relatively simple kata gatame – the angle and pressure require a feeling for what it should be like and explaining how to line up your shoulder and bicep with their neck is rough. Most folks end up just rushing it and doing a neck crank. It’s just not worth the time for a fundamentals class in my opinion.


There’s a lot here. Six techniques is 2-3 classes minimum. But realistically I’d favor always doing the box frame escape and then two other techniques that it would likely be 3-4 minimum to get through everything. The box frame escape is that fundamental in my opinion. That makes it hard to give a single class that’s a reasonable overview of mount for new students, but it does mean there’s substantial variety to pick from as we repeat cycles with the same students over months.

This is also section 2 of 6 that I break groundwork fundamentals into (back, mount, side, half guard, open guard, closed guard). The further we go along the line, the more options there are and the more conceptual approaches need to be. This may be a place where a conceptual approach to how to hold and how to escape may be a better foundation to lay.

Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of the Back

In classical jiujitsu positional hierarchy, the back is the most dominant position. It’s worth 4 points in IBJJF, UWW Grappling, and similar rule sets and 3 in ADCC. In EBI it’s one of the overtime positions to have mastered. While the back is of little consequence in sports with pinning like judo and Sambo, submission-oriented flavors of grappling heavily reward it. The reason for this is pretty clear – the rear naked choke. Understanding this is the first fundamental to me – the primary attack from the back should be the RNC and the goal of positional advancement to the back is in service of that choke.


  • Scoop Escape
  • Hail Mary Escape
  • (Mike’s Escape)

The first escape I like to teach I generally refer to as the “Scoop Escape”, “Saulo’s Escape”, or some variation of “Submarine Escape”. It’s the escape from pages 53-55 of Jiu-Jitsu University (predicated on the Scoop position from page 20, thus why I sometimes call it the Scoop Escape). Hips toward your feet (Scoop), chamber and kick on the choking side to kill a hook, rechamber the leg to an elbow-knee position, drive into their shoulder/chest with your shoulder as you rotate over their remaining hook into top half, consolidate. This escape can be really complex for beginners, but I think it’s value is in deconstructing what makes for good back control and giving a frame for an idealized escape. This is typically where I’m talking about what the person on the back wants so it’s effective for teaching both people different skills at the same time.

The second escape I teach is one of pragmatism. I refer to it as a “Simple Escape” because it lacks a lot of nuance or detail or the “Hail Mary Escape” because if better escapes have failed you, this is the next thing to try but it won’t necessarily get you to a good place. The only goal of this escape is to get your shoulders to the mat by any means necessary. I generally show it by falling to the weak side, killing the bottom hook to allow for rotation relative to your opponent, and then getting both shoulders to the mat. This escape, as shown, almost always gives up mount. There are ways to modify it to give them top half guard or even come up on top side control instead, but as the real point for beginners in a fundamentals class is shoulders to the mat so I avoid adding too many details that would allow for better positions. To me, those are modifications to the core goal of shoulders to the mat.

The third escape is one I don’t actually like to teach as a fundamental. Mike does an escape where he establishes a baseball bat grip on the choking arm, uses that to pull the arm down toward his hips, shrugs and moves his head to get the arm to the other side and then can rotate into/onto the arm, once driving into the arm/shoulder it becomes about rotating out, killing a hook, and continuing the drive to come up into top side control. This escape is a good escape; it keeps you safe from the choke while you’re escaping, it uses the strong posterior chain for the drive, it almost always ends up as a true reversal. The reason I’m hesitant with it as a basic is because I don’t feel the discrete steps characterize back control so much as they prevent it and it’s not as dead simple as the Hail Mary Escape. That is, it’s an escape I do like to teach for regular classes, but I generally only show it as a fundamental if everyone got the first two escapes really quickly or it’s a group where almost everyone has already been through the back sequence once before.


  • Rear Naked Choke

There are myriad attacks from the back, but the goal is to choke. Yes, options like switching to an arm bar or a reverse triangle will be discussed as someone always asks. Always. However, in terms of what’s explicitly taught, I think it’s worth it to just stick to the choke for now. For one, it keeps the techniques limited – two escapes and one choke is plenty to get through in one class. Further, if you’re on someone’s back and you can’t choke them, unless they’re way ahead of you in terms of skill, some modification needs to be made to your back control or your choke.


I like to warm folks up by having them first just control with a seat belt and trying to keep their sternum connected with the triangle formed by the shoulder blades on the back. No legs as hooks. Uke’s goal is to get their shoulders to the mat, tori’s goal is to hold that control no matter how they get spun, flipped, or rotated in space. Reset if uke escapes. Switch roles after 30 seconds. Before we even get into technique this helps people understand the power of the seat belt and what we’re going to be doing. We’ll do a couple of rounds of this with different partners, and if we need further warm-ups, we do the same thing, but with hooks in to make it harder for uke.

For positional I essentially use EBI overtime rules – uke wants to get out as quickly as possible, tori wants to submit them. Since most people only know the choke this directly pins the concepts of back control that we discuss against the escapes we’ve learned and the choke as a win condition for tori. I’ve been setting up two groups of people – those comfortable with working with submissions, and those who just want to work the escapes against resistance. Folks who are in their first few weeks will generally pick the latter, but anyone who’s been around opts for submissions. Having them be separate essentially ensures folks are working to their skill level and comfort. When there aren’t enough people for two groups, we just start with rounds without chokes and then switch to chokes allowed so new folks still get the experience of trying without a choke but having full resistance before they end up getting choked every 20 seconds for the rest of class.

Considered But Will Not Be Done

As mentioned, there are a lot of other attacks from the back. I mentioned not covering transitions to things like arm bars and reverse triangles, but collar chokes have a lot of the same elements as the RNC without needing to move off the core position. Here’s my take on that – if you can do the RNC, switching to gripping the collar is trivial. I don’t think it’s worth the time to cover a sliding lapel choke, a bow-and-arrow choke, or a single wing choke in fundamentals class. They’re good things, but not all beginners have jackets and defending your collars via grip fighting is very similar to defending your neck via grip fighting. I just don’t feel beginners are missing anything critical by not covering these other than “hey, if you’re wearing a jacket, watch your collars too”.

School Closures

This spring has been atypical to say the least. At the time of drafting this over 258,000 people have died of the coronavirus, almost 74,000 in the US alone. We’re socially distancing which is why I’m watching more videos than normal. All the gyms are closed. In the US, whether you support the lockdown to keep people safe or oppose it due to the economic damage it’s doing is becoming a political topic. Gross misinformation is spreading; people are comparing this to influenza, and whether they mean the 1918 Flu Epidemic or just seasonal influenza outbreaks largely depends which side of the political aisle they’re on. All at once we’re seeing a pandemic on the scale we haven’t in a century and a looming financial crash that’s looking more and more like another major recession if not a full on depression.

Calling for all academies to close has a strong foot in the science of the situation. About 25% of cases seem to be asymptomatic for the full duration of infection and even those who show symptoms tend not to for 5-6 days after being infected but can still spread the disease during that time. As young, healthy adults we’re individually unlikely to feel the truly negative effects of the virus, requiring hospitalization or even passing away from the complications. Rather, we’re likely the invisible carriers, the folks risking spreading the disease without a trace as we pass people in the supermarket or at work for those who have “essential” jobs. Congregating is of minimal risk to our health, but it poses a great risk to the vulnerable populations around us, including those we may not interact with directly as we may spread the disease to someone who spreads the disease to someone who interacts with a member of the at-risk population. This is the fundamental reason states and the community at large are calling for closures of non-essential businesses, especially places like jiu-jitsu gyms where close contact is a defining characteristic of the activities we would be participating in.

Given the concern for the community it’s easy to lose sight of the reality many are facing though. Gyms may not be around to open up when this is all over. Rents are still being collected. Bills still exist. In some cases owning or working at a gym is the principle livelihood of the head instructor. If those people have families they may be fearing for their finances, feeding their kids, even keeping their homes. There is an indisputable economic impact to this and the sad reality is capital-C Capitalism would see those folks choose between downplaying the risk to the community to eat or to accept that they are unessential and force them to find new work at a time where unemployment is higher than I think it’s ever been while I’ve been alive. The community is dismissing the concerns of these individuals as them being selfish or uncaring assholes. The reality is, they have legitimate concerns that we need to think about how to resolve as a society. Small business loans and unemployment are failing all around us, and yet we wouldn’t dismiss the folks who wish they could get back to other jobs but we do dismiss gym owners because some portion of gyms are able to be hobbies rather than full time jobs. The only crime these folks committed was following their passions rather than falling in line and getting employment that would be stable even in a crisis.

I don’t think, given the current body of evidence, that it’s safe for gyms to be open, but I think we as a community need to be better about understanding why there are people desperate to open back up. When someone says they miss rolling, yeah it sucks, but the safety of the community comes first. When someone says their business won’t last and they’ll be without income, that’s not something we should be dismissing so carelessly. Again, gyms should be closed, but we should be more compassionate in our discussions of why it’s the bullet we’re biting for some people to lose their businesses to potentially save tens of thousands of lives.

Planning What To Teach

The benefits of a curriculum are two fold:

  1. Students have a resource to review what has and will be shown
  2. Instructors have a defined guide for what to show that they can use for class planning

Historically I haven’t really taught to a curriculum. The basics have been the basics in terms of fundamentals class and I fundamentally believe a competition class should be geared toward positional drills rather than rote technique practice. As I review all of this instructional content, I’m starting to feel like I need more guidance for both of these classes though. I’m starting to put together a curriculum for fundamentals class that I’ll post here as I work through it, and I’m going to try to do better planning of comp class based on USA Wrestling’s practice planning tools. That’s further off, but I’ll probably post some practice plans with evaluations of how they went once we can get back on the mats.

I’m also thinking of finding videos or filming videos of the basics that I can use to make reference material for new students. Enumerated techniques can have specific video links so that they can see the details I show to remind themselves or even catch up on a missed class if they have the frame of reference for what I showed already. I’m not a black belt, I don’t expect to provide top of the line content covering all of the nuances, but I think having a freely available curriculum with videos would be good for fundamentals.