Transitioning from Gi to No Gi – and the Heel-Hook shaped Elephant in the Room

I’ve been training for something like 15 years now. I am definitely a hobbyist black belt, but a black belt nonetheless. I can hold my own with most grapplers (or at least make them work quite hard to submit me) – unless they’re particularly focused on competition, or really young, or really strong, or just really good. This is in the gi, of course. If we’re talking no-gi, then suddenly, the proposition changes.

No gi grappling has exploded in popularity in recent years, fuelled partly by professional grappling events like EBI and Polaris, as well as the “Americanising” of Brazilian Jiujitsu (tied directly to America’s strong wrestling roots). Added to that, ADCC has gone from an obscure, ‘Han’s Island’ esque invitation only wrestling tournament to the defacto world championships in no gi grappling, thanks in no small part to the luxurious production bestowed upon it by wealthy benefactor Mo Jassim.

ADCC is the tournament to win, and heel hooks are very much a part of it. As I progressed through my training, heel hooks were a dark art that was occasionally dabbled in. We knew there were some crazy Japanese dudes that were pretty good at them, like Masakazu Imanari. We knew that you basically trapped a leg across your body, stuffed the toes under your armpit, and wrenched the heel in the opposite direction, but that was about it. I lost track of the number of bad grapplers I rolled with who had no positional awareness but a mean heel hook and they were scuppered the second you passed their guard or had a strong position on them. But gradually, that began to change. The guards became harder to pass. The entries became more effective and harder to avoid. Soon, I realised that an entirely new game was developing, and it was passing me by.

It felt like a split was developing between gi jiujitsu (which traditionally bans heel hooks) and no gi jiujitsu, which had previously just been the same jiujitsu without the gi on, basically. On training trips to Japan, Masakazu Imanari and various other legends slapped heel hook after heel hook on me. In New York City, the same thing happened. But it wasn’t until Eddie Cummings came to the UK for Polaris that my eyes were truly opened.

With most of the heel-hook focused guys, I could at least get them to break a sweat on their way to the heel hook. Not so with Eddie Cummings. Eddie was getting some pre-event training in at a secret location near the venue, and I was lucky enough to get called up to roll. Once we were suitably warm, the intensity went up just a little. Eddie was still in first gear, for sure, but I was trying a little harder. Still very safely of course – Eddie was a guest, and this was the night before competition. Still, I thought I would try to at least make an attempt to pass his guard.

Everything I tried got me heel hooked. Every move I made led me deeper and deeper into a trap. I felt like a white belt on his first day in a new art, no word of a lie. There was literally nothing I could do. Eddie’s game completely and utterly nullified almost anything I wanted to do. Although our roll was, in the grand scheme of things, very short and very light, it was truly an eye opener. Eddie got me in “double heel hook” position multiple times in a short round (where both of my legs were completely trapped and both my heels were exposed for attack.)

I am now fully of the mindset that there are two styles of jiujitsu – one that has heel hooks as a part of its arsenal, and one that just doesn’t. A black belt in traditional gi jiujitsu has a very good chance, more often than not, of being submitted by his blue or purple belt counterpart when the gi comes off and heel hooks are in play.

The IBJJF has recently announced that it will begin allowing heel hooks in its no gi competitions. Up until now, the IBJJF no gi comps have basically been just the same as their gi counterparts – the same athletes and the same rules. Now, though, with heel hooks being added, a whole new generation of athletes may be able to begin imposing their game on traditionalists. This can only be a good thing for the art itself – once the novelty of heel hooks wears off, and people become more adept at defending and countering them, then the attacks will be absorbed into the mainstream and will take their rightful place as just another tool in the toolbox – rather than a secret, black-belt-slaying weapon.

If you’re interested in getting started in the dark arts, may we recommend our best-selling instructional by Tom Halpin:

What is the greatest no-gi grappling match of all time?

Jiujitsu and grappling fans often debate this question – what is the best grappling match of all time? You could be just trying to find the best match to watch on YouTube, or looking to introduce a friend to the wonderful world of grappling but not sure if they are into 20 minutes of two guys scissoring each other in 50/50.

There are a number of possible candidates, but as we have a close connection with the professional jiujitsu show Polaris, we have a slightly biased viewpoint. However, we think we can make a strong case that Garry Tonon vs Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares, held at Polaris 3, is the greatest no-gi match of all time.

It currently stands at 1.7 million views on YouTube – an incredible feat.

The match took place in England at Polaris 3, on April 2, 2016. Garry Tonon was one of the hottest prospects in grappling at that time, submitting everyone. He asked Polaris if he could fight Palhares. Initially, the team at Polaris were hesitant. At that time, Toquinho had a reputation for injuring his opponents – wilfully. In fact, he had been let go from the UFC for exactly that reason. The man was big, strong, and dangerous. Garry had been very small for his previous Polaris outing against Imanari.

However, the team at Polaris managed to make the match happen, and from the second it was signed, the banter from Garry started. People could not believe the size of that man’s testicles – understandable. Palhares was – and remains – a formidable foe.

I was, in fact, matside for that event, and my heart was in my mouth for this match, almost literally. I was sweating and my heart was pounding. I had no idea what was going to happen. Palhares had cut a lot of weight to get down to the agreed upon 83kg, whereas Garry had been eating all the burgers he could find to get up somewhere near 83. 24 hours later and Palhares was looking absolutely monstrous. When he took off his Scramble hoody, the whole place erupted in ooh’s and aaah’s.

And then, the match started. I felt as if I was holding my breath the whole time, and the match did not disappoint. While Palhares was able to dictate some of the positions using his overwhelming strength and size, Tonon was not phased in the slightest, and transitioned smoothly from defence to offence, having the big man in a lot of trouble. It was my personal opinion that, had the match continued, Garry would have ended up with a submission on the little treestump.

When speaking to Palhares afterwards, he made it clear that he was on his best behaviour during that match. He was hinting that he had ‘held back’ a little, in order to make amends for his previous bad behaviour. Whether that was true or not, it made for an incredibly entertaining match.

See for yourself!

If you’re interested in some of the techniques exchanged in this match. the video from our library currently most suited would be Tom Halpin’s exploration of leg locks and modern jiujitsu:

Plus, you could take a look at the free Masakazu Imanari ‘Master of Leglocks’ video, which unlocks as soon as you open an account here on Techniqly.

Out Now – Practical Strength for Grapplers

Just released – Practical Strength for Grapplers by William Wayland.

Techniqly is pleased to announce that our newest instructional is now live

We’ve teamed up with professional Strength and Conditioning coach; William Wayland to create an instructional designed to show you how to train safely and effectively to increase your strength and endurance on and off the mats. Filmed at the Powering Through Performance center in Essex, William walks his student; UFC Featherweight Arnold Allen through the exercises so that you can see them being performed and coached in real time.

Learn how to lift safely with expert coaching.

 

William is a BJJ Brown Belt and experienced with years of training high level athletes in a wide variety of sports. This wealth of experience and his own BJJ training has helped him select some of the best exercises that translate over to real, practical strength gains for grapplers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.

Taking inspiration from strength trainer Dan John, William classifies the 3 main strength goals for a BJJ training programme as Anaconda Strength (maximum strength), Armour Building (hypertrophy) and Mongoose Persistence (strength endurance). Focusing on these strength goals, this instructional shows how to perform exercises which fall within each of the 5 main loadable movement patterns:

Pattern 1 – Squat. 

This focuses on exercises such as the Front Squat, Zercher Squat and Trap/Hex Bar Deadlift. 

Pattern 2 – Hinge.

This section features several variations of the Romian Deadlift and Good Morning. 

Pattern 3 – Push.

Focusing on the Bench and Push Press. 

Pattern 4 – Pull.

Demonstrating the correct way to train Rows and Pull Ups.

Pattern 5 – Brace. 

The best exercises to increase the strength and stability of your core. 

Focus on the 5 main movement patterns to improve overall strength and endurance.


In addition to the video instructional, every purchase comes with a free eBook (including a black and white printer friendly version) which goes into greater detail regarding the methodology behind the training, some insight into the Bondarchuk principles, sample training regimes and advice on how to construct a workout plan to make the most out of the exercises demonstrated in the instructional.

Please note that a direct link to the accompanying eBook will be sent in the order confirmation email.

Out now! One to One With Chris Haueter: Closed Guard

We were really lucky to spend some time with BJJ OG and member of the dirty dozen; Chris Haueter recently. Chris received his black belt from Rigan Machado in 1996, a time when most of us had barely heard of Jiu Jitsu. BJJ was only just starting to rise in prominence for the first time outside of Brazil due to the popularity of the early UFC’s and the dominance of Royce Gracie and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Apart from holding the honour of being one of the first 12 non Brazilian BJJ black belts, Chris was also the first American born competitor to compete at the Mundials and also is a Masters and Pan American champion.

Founding the Combat Base academy when he moved back to the US (Chris is also widely considered to have named this position in Jiu Jitsu as well as numerous other moves) he has continued teaching and giving seminars the world over. He is also the main coach of Matt Thornton, founder of the Straight Blast Gym (SBG) affiliation. SBG Ireland is probably one of the most famous gyms in the world being the home of multiple time UFC champion Conor McGregor and his coach John Kavanagh, who is a Matt Thornton black belt.

As well as holding his black belt for near enough a quarter of a century, Chris has wrestled extensively and trained in Muay Thai/Boxing and is also a USMC veteran. ⁠

Chris is known throughout the community as an inspirational coach with an intellectual approach – his seminars are world-famous, and a truly unique experience. This instructional is not your typical instructional – think of it more like your own private lesson with Chris, a snapshot into his philosophy on one of the key positions in Jiu Jitsu, the Closed Guard. There are tidbits of advice gleaned from decades on the mats, submissions, transitions, and even a few jokes in there; all of which will contribute to improving your closed guard. ⁠

In this instructional Chris will teach you:

– His closed guard concepts and thoughts on JiuJitsu

– How to use your body and grips to control your opponent and break down their posture

– Techniques to advance your position and attack the submission

– Counters to your opponent trying to pass your guard

– Correct finishing mechanics of various submissions

Stuck on lockdown? Use the code ‘studyathome’ for 35% off!

We don’t know about you, but we miss training. To do our bit to help alleviate the boredom and lameness of being stuck inside we are offering 35% off of all our instructionals with the discount code – ‘studyathome’.

Not only that, every new customer will receive a short, free instructional from the Japanese MMA legend; Masakazu Imanari. Focusing on his famous leg locking skills this instructional will also show you how to execute the Imanari roll correctly and is a must for NoGi submission hunters.

Our paid for content is constantly growing and we have just added a double instructional from husband and wife team; Lauri and Elvira Karppinen. Lauri is one of the best kept secrets in Europe, known for his amazing coaching and holding a black belt in the tenth planet system under Eddie Bravo and a BJJ black belt under Magnus Hansson. Elvira is known for competing on high level shows including Polaris and Quintet and rose to prominence in 2017 when she defeated Mackenzie Dern at the 2017 ADCC Championships in Elvira’s home country of Finland. Elvira holds a black belt in the 10th planet system under Eddie Bravo. This double instructional focuses on Elvira’s rubber guard system and in the second half, Lauri shows us his system for gaining and attacking from the Truck.

Full content available:

Tom Halpin wins Combat Jiu-Jitsu Worlds 2020: The Featherweights

Tom Halpin submitted his way through four opponents to capture the title at the recent CJJ Featherweight tournament. All of Tom’s submissions came in regulation time via submission, with Tom even catching Japanese leglock maestro Masakazu Imanari in a heelhook in the semi-final. Tom captured the gold in just over a minute into the final, submitting Kevin Berbrich via heel hook, his third of the tournament. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Tom managed to secure all of his victories without throwing a single strike.

Check out Tom’s exclusive Techniqly instructional ‘The Modern Game – X-Guard and Leglocks’ to see his key tips on enhancing your leg lock entries and finishes. All account holders also gain access to the free Masakzu Imanari instructional ‘Master of Leglocks’, so don’t miss this opportunity to massively boost your leglock game.

Masakazu Imanari’s “Master of Leglocks” is completely free to account holders at Techniqly

We recorded an instructional with Masakazu Imanari, one of the most famous grapplers in the world. In it, he goes through some of his most deadly submissions and even shows the latest version of the Imanari Roll in great detail, step by step.

The instructional is fully subtitled in English and is available completely for free as soon as you open an account on Techniqly.

The video will show up here after you have created an account.

It’s fully worth the short amount of time it takes to sign up to Techniqly. The legendary no gi grappler and MMA fighter goes through:

Outside Heel Hook from 50/50

Imanari-style ankle lock

The Shocker

The Imanari Roll

Inside heel hook entry from standing

Inside to Outside Achilles Lock

Heel Hook from Saddle – details

Escaping the Saddle – details

This is just a taste of what’s to come, as we will be filming a full-length instructional with Masakazu Imanari later in the year.

Masakazu Imanari is one of the most well-known innovators of the leg lock game. For many years, he was a pioneer, using his ferocious and advanced leg attack game to decimate opponents in MMA who had no idea what hit them. He continues his MMA career now, but also competes regularly in professional grappling shows such as Kasai and Polaris. Now you can learn some of his best moves with this lean and mean instructional. Imanari is a man of few words, so the instructional is short, but the content is premium Japanese leg-locking goodness.

Techniqly Launches Today!

We are very excited to bring Techniqly to the world. Techniqly was started by a group of people with over 10 years in the jiujitsu business, who saw the opportunity for a technique website that allowed talented instructors from around the world to showcase their skills to a worldwide audience, and to make those instructionals affordable and produced professionally.

Stay tuned for more news on upcoming instructionals.