Table of Contents
A Comprehensive Study of How John Danaher And His Competitors Are Innovating No Gi Grappling
It’s simple, not easy.
- Table of Contents
- A Comprehensive Study of How John Danaher And His Competitors Are Innovating No Gi Grappling
- Iterate to Innovate
- A New Wave?
- Further, Faster - The New Wave Jiu-jitsu Philosophy
- Origins With The Eddie Bravo Invitational
- Winning ADCC, Passing The Competition
- Mounting Suffocating Offense
- Where Is This New Wave Heading?
- Open the cards to study
Iterate to Innovate
John Danaher makes must watch martial arts. That is not hyperbole.
Regardless of what you think about his public persona, Danaher has played a pivotal role in the careers of legendary martial artists Georges St-Pierre, Chris Weidman, Garry Tonon, and Gordon Ryan, among others. That is one of the best collections of martial artists that any single coach has. What’s surprising is how highly everyone speaks of Danaher and his instructing abilities. I’m sure they exist, but I can’t find a single athlete that trains with Danaher regularly and has a bad thing to say about him. The athlete that speaks highest of Danaher is perhaps his most dominant, Gordon Ryan.
Ryan is on a historic submission grappling run. In just under seven years, Ryan has amassed a 92-5 record, only been submitted once, and won 3 ADCC World Championships gold medals. Since Ryan started making a name for himself everyone has been asking, “What makes Gordon Ryan so great?” There are several theories about why he has gotten so far ahead so quickly.
Many say that Ryan is simply a specialist competing against non-specialized athletes. That is true, and there is merit to that argument. But that still should not explain how he can dominate literal world champions with fundamental techniques as he did recently against Pedro Marinho.
Others claim that Ryan’s success is primarily due to performance enhancing drugs, PEDs. I think that’s laughable.
Submission grappling is essentially an untested sport. Two of the largest promotions in submission grappling, Fight2Win and ADCC, don’t test for performance enhancing drugs. At the time of writing this, bjjheroes, one of the largest jiu-jitsu websites, has an article titled, Are Steroids a Necessary Evil in Grappling? I don’t have an opinion on that. I do think that we can’t claim one athlete’s success is solely due to PEDs when they’re competing in a sport that essentially accommodates them.
Without testing to show us who is taking what, if anything at all, it’s a level playing field as far as I’m concerned. If you want a good laugh while speculating on whatever Ryan is or isn’t doing I’d suggest listening to what Derek has to say.
If you listen to Ryan he will claim his success is due to Danaher’s coaching and technical developments. Many people, Ryan especially, talk about how innovative Danaher is. I think the more accurate term is iterative.
Danaher is devoted to martial arts. He has been diligently instructing and studying for decades. Danaher himself notes studying the techniques of other athletes from all grappling sports to find what works, refining it, and ultimately putting everything together into a holistic grappling system. He then tests that system and its parts to refine it. That’s iteration. That’s what created the Danaher Death Squad, that’s what’s pushing the current team he’s leading at New Wave Jiu-jitsu ahead of the competition, and that’s what we’ll examine today; the iterations of John Danaher as expressed by his athletes.
A New Wave?
We will primarily be using Gordon Ryan as the lens to examine the Danaher Death Squad and New Wave Jiu-jitsu teams, mainly because he has trained closely with John Danaher for the vast majority of his career. We can look at how Ryan’s style has evolved over the years to better understand Danaher’s coaching, holistic grappling system, and the strategy that defines both. Since Danaher himself notes studying the top martial artists from today and years past, I will draw attention to a few martial artists that have undoubtedly shaped the techniques he chooses to iterate on.
Since Ryan came into the public eye he has been competing in a way that is simple to understand yet seemingly impossible to stop. Contrast that with a berimbolo and the first time you saw it. Berimbolos are acrobatic, mesmerizing, and a bit confusing, especially to the untrained eye. That’s not how I’d explain Ryan nor his team’s work.
New Wave jiu-jitsu is straightforward, efficient, and overwhelmingly effective. Every grip leads to an off balance. Every off balance leads to a submission threat or a positional advancement. Eventually, athletes employing this system find themselves behind their opponent threatening for the most direct submission of all - the rear naked choke.
Further, Faster - The New Wave Jiu-jitsu Philosophy
If I had to use one word to describe New Wave Jiu-jitsu it would be direct. Bruce Lee had an idea that you should always use your longest weapon to attack the nearest target. In Lee’s Jeet Kune Do this is commonly demonstrated by the side kick to the leg.
Standing side on and extending your leg until it touches your opponent has two benefits:
- It hurts your opponent
- It creates a safe amount of distance between the two of you.
Longest weapon, shortest target - fast, direct, and illustrative of New Wave jiu-jitsu.
Obviously we don’t strike in grappling sports. We still have the ability to finish our matches instantly, we just use submission holds instead of knockout blows. Because of the amount of positions grappling exchanges can take place in, the nearest target and the longest weapon is constantly in flux. However, when the match starts there are three viable near targets that will never change: the hands, head, and feet. New Wave jiu-jitsu exploits those targets perfectly.
Standing, New Wave athletes are constantly hand fighting and pulling on their opponents to break their posture, get an angle to take the back, or secure a potentially fight ending front head lock like Ryan did here against Cornelius in the finals of the 2017 ADCC World Championships. Moments after this sequence, Cornelius was forced to submit to a guillotine choke.
Gordon Ryan vs Keenan Cornelius
Even when they opt to avoid wrestling and start beneath their opponents, New Wave athletes prioritize attacking the nearest target with their longest weapon.
Cyborg is trying to maintain distance to control the tempo and positioning of the match. Ryan is chasing Cyborg, harassing his feet with trips to disrupt Cyborg’s movement. Ryan is using his longest weapon, his feet, to attack the nearest target, Cyborg’s feet, and disrupt Cyborg’s balance. This off-balancing controls Cyborg’s movement and allows Ryan to enter a leg entanglement and secure a heel hook to finish the match.
Gordon Ryan vs Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu
Let’s go back to the question of what makes New Wave competitors so great? It’s not strictly the techniques that their team popularized. It’s just as much about what they don’t do.
An athlete’s career is a long term project. Good athletes focus on their development over decades, not the success of a single season. Good athletes innovate and bring new things to the sport. Great athletes iterate over the course of years until their techniques are laser sharp.
There’s a project management cliche that says, “Quality, scope, speed; pick two.” If you want a lot of work done (scope) and to have it done quickly (speed) the quality will go down. If you want a lot work done quickly it won’t be very good. If you want good work done quickly, you have to limit the scope.
When you start competing in jiu-jitsu, good coaches don’t try to teach you everything at once. They help you find something that works for your body type and disposition, they improve your effectiveness with those techniques, then, over time, they help you layer on techniques that work well with that initial A game. That’s where Danaher’s head is, and it is summarized by the title of his instructional series, Go Further Faster.
Danaher’s athletes succeed often because they don’t do much. What they do, they do very well. I’ll spare you the Bruce Lee quote about 1000 kicks and give you a thought experiment.
Who is commonly regarded as the most dominant MMA fighter ever? Khabib Nurmagomedov. Why? Because everything he did was about grinding his opponent down.
Everything Nurmagomedov added to his game over the course of his career took his opponents back to his area of expertise. Both the striking and the wrestling pushed you backwards until you were stuck on the fence. Not a big deal in the first few minutes, but after a whole round you would be exhausted, ready to give the fight away and end the suffering.
Nurmagomedov understood that less is more. Everything he did was designed to get you to the critical few positions that he’s better than everyone in.
So what about New Wave? What is their critical few?
The whole system is built from the end backwards. Danaher’s athletes want to be behind you choking you. Everything they do is directed towards securing a submission that requires their opponent to either tap out, turn their back, or concede a position that makes it easier to force the former two.
We’ve already looked at what happens on the feet, and we’ll examine it in greater detail later. We’ve also touched on the leg lock game as well, but, it’s worth it to point out what happens if New Wave athletes miss a leg submission. Usually not much at all, they’re already on bottom. They can simply re-guard and try again. When these submissions work New Wave athletes either win instantly, or come on top, moving them closer to taking the back or securing another submission hold in the process.
When New Wave athletes are passing on top, they constantly look to get chest to chest and lock their hands around their opponent for a body lock. Why? Because with their hands locked around their opponent they can get behind them easier, or just smother opposition until they’re exhausted.
After passing they’re using those same body locks and 2:1 grips to get behind their opponent and choke them. At that point, the very act of struggling extends a limb for a submission, or provides an angle to get to the back.
You might be thinking, that’s great but that leaves a lot of uncharted territory. What about the space between those three areas? To be frank, there isn’t much space between those three areas. More importantly, the space between the three areas have two consistent elements:
- 2:1 grips like kimuras, arm drags, double wrist grips, etc.
- Front head lock controls
These two broad gripping categories are available from nearly everywhere; standing, bottom, and top. This means that New Wave athletes are training universal control holds to direct their opponents and move rapidly around the positions of jiu-jitsu to quickly find submissions and end the match. Now we have a framework for understanding New Wave athletes.
New Wave jiu-jitsu uses a gripping style that allows athletes to attack their opponents’ nearest targets with their own longest weapons from almost every phase a grappling match can take place in, thereby ending the match instantly, or advancing through the positional hierarchy of jiu-jitsu until they are behind their opponent and the only avenue forward is strangulation.
For a brief period of time I trained with Dean Lister at Victory MMA in San Diego. Every week, if not every class, Lister would say, “It’s simple - not easy”. That summarizes New Wave Jiu-jitsu perfectly.
We’re going to use the next few sections to go deeper on the techniques that have coalesced to make jiu-jitsu look easy. We’ll see how Danaher has iterated and improved upon what he teaches to create a holistic grappling system that ends in submission more often than not.
Origins With The Eddie Bravo Invitational
The story of the Danaher Death Squad, New Wave Jiu-jitsu, and Gordon Ryan begins when the Eddie Bravo Invitational, EBI, was the most exciting show in grappling. Today, Ryan’s all time EBI record stands at 16-0. Among those wins are elite submission grapplers Vagner Rocha, Craig Jones and Yuri Simoes. That is a great run, especially considering Ryan was 22 when his last EBI match ended.
If you look at Ryan’s competition record you see a clear preference towards two submissions, the rear naked choke and the inside heel hook. Those submissions point to Ryan’s strategy and the New Wave strategy.
In Ryan’s early matches everything he does is designed to facilitate his entering a leg entanglement from the bottom, or using 2:1 grips to turn his opponent and take their back. This strategy is battle tested by one of the best submission grapplers ever, Marcelo Garcia.
Marcelo Garcia vs Renzo Gracie
- Garcia uses a 2:1 grip to elevate Gracie’s hips and enter single leg X
- Garcia pulls Gracie’s outside ankle into his armpit
- Gracie stands to hold Garcia’s head, which allows Garcia to enter X Guard
- Garcia uses X guard to sweep Gracie
Marcelo Garcia vs Vitor Ribiero
- Garcia uses an arm drag to pull Ribiero’s hands to the mat
- Garcia grabs Ribiero’s far lat to climb his back
- Garcia wraps an arm around Ribiero’s neck to start attacking a choke
- Garcia locks his hands to finish the match with a no hook rear naked choke
While Garcia used leg entanglements to elevate and sweep, Ryan and New Wave uses them to submit as well.
- Ryan uses his under hook to pull Arroyo on top of him
- Ryan locks his hands for a shoulder crunch
- Ryan uses the shoulder crunch and butterfly hooks to elevate Arroyo
- Ryan enters straight ashi as Arroyo turns away from him
Gordon Ryan vs Matt Arroyo
- Ryan uses an arm drag to pull Martinez into a butterfly sweep
- Ryan briefly grabs the thigh, testing a look at a leg entanglement
- Ryan doesn’t have the angle he wants so he grabs the lat instead
- Ryan follows Martinez up to take his back
Gordon Ryan vs Stephen Martinez
- Ryan stands with a leg splitting Hillebrand’s open guard
- Ryan sets up a kimura and rolls forward
- Ryan uses the threat of the kimura to maintain an angle on Hillebrand’s side
- Ryan locks his legs around Hillebrand
- Ryan grabs Hillebrand’s lat and climbs to finish taking the back
Gordon Ryan vs Mike Hillebrand
- Griffith avoids Ryan’s halfhearted leg scissor attempt
- Ryan uses his inside leg to hook Griffith’s far leg while he grabs the near ankle
- Ryan elevates his hips to start the inside ashi position
- As Griffith stands, Ryan extends his legs for the sweep and to enter cross ashi
Gordon Ryan vs Kyle Griffith
From above we should see the beginnings of the New Wave philosophy. On bottom everything is about using leg entanglements and inside hooks to end the fight or get on top. On bottom New Wave athletes use 2:1 grips to elevate and turn their opponent so they can sweep, take the back, or a combination of the two. Those 2:1 grips can be used to quickly turn opponents and transition between positions in unconventional ways.
But what about after New Wave athletes get on top?
Winning ADCC, Passing The Competition
Ryan’s early success put the jiu-jitsu world on notice. Here was a kid using a new take on familiar techniques to break the grappling meta. Countless people emulating the Danaher Death Squad’s leg locking style appeared overnight. This change in style caused Danaher and his team to iterate and improve upon a different element of professional submission grappling - guard passing.
Guard passing in no gi is fucking hard. You hardly have anything to hold onto and the longer you don’t pass the sweatier you and your opponent get, making it even harder. Repeat this for the duration of a match and you have something like a violent slip ‘n’ slide. Not to mention that in order to pass quickly you need to stand, thereby exposing your lower body for leg entanglements. How the Danaher Death Squad team solved these issues can be summarized in the gifs below.
We’re starting here because this is perhaps the most important element of the New Wave guard passing system. New Wave athletes consistently fight for inside leg position to start passing.
With a leg inside you can choose which direction you want to pass, you’re relatively safe from most of the danger of your opponents’ leg locks, and, if your opponent sucks you into guard, you’ll be sucked into a loose and sloppy de la riva or half guard.
We’ll see later how New Wave athletes eviscerate half guards.
When Ryan wants to wear his opponents out from distance, he will use a combination of floating, ankle grips, leg drags, and high steps to move around an opponent’s open guard.
Here Ryan passes on the outside from a longer distance.
- Ryan is standing over Jimenez
- Ryan is pushing on Jimenez’s feet to turn Jimenez’s body perpendicular to his own
- Ryan steps his foot to Jimenez’s near armpit
- Ryan immediately drops to knee on belly and holds Jimenez’s shoulder & hip
- Ryan slides his knee across Jimenez’s belly to take mount
Gordon Ryan vs Roberto Jimenez
Here Ryan passes up the middle from a longer distance.
- Ryan is floating above Duarte with a foot inside - his hands are heavy and his legs are free to move
- Ryan pummels his left leg on top of Duarte’s shin
- Ryan kicks his left leg back and slides straight into mount
- Duarte starts to turn
- Ryan cages Duarte’s head to slow him down and continue advancing position
Gordon Ryan vs Kaynan Duarte
When an athlete puts a foot inside they are free to put their hands on the mat and pummel their legs inside to set up passes. When it doesn’t work as smoothly in this gif competitors will often sit up or extend their limbs giving athletes other techniques to pass with. While this is a key element of Ryan’s passing system it is not where most of the success comes from.
Jiu-jitsu is the sport of control. Unlike most other sports, jiu-jitsu athletes can still be successful even if they aren’t gifted with speed. Jiu-jitsu is relatively unique in that not only do you have to make contact with your competition, but you have to do it for an extended amount of time. Compare that with boxing, or even wrestling. Both of these combat sports have short rounds, and there can be periods of little to no contact. In jiu-jitsu the vast majority of the sport is done from close corridors. Accordingly, if a jiu-jitsu athlete has a disproportionate amount of strength endurance and isometric control, but not a lot of speed they can still be successful if their game plan makes use of their better attributes. This next section is a perfect example of that.
- Ryan is attempting to pass Barral’s half guard
- Ryan has his hands locked beneath Barral’s lower back
- Ryan tripods up and keeps his head posted on Barral’s shoulder making him extremely heavy
- Ryan cuts his knee through Barral’s open guard to complete the pass
Gordon Ryan vs Romulo Barral
In today’s submission grappling world, the body lock is a necessary evil. Locking your hands around your opponent’s waist prevents them elevating you and attacking leg locks. It also bypasses the issue of lacking handles in no gi grappling. Lastly, even if you don’t get the pass, body locking slowly squeezes the life out of opponents.
Body locking is a bit of a misnomer. While the name implies your hands are closed around your opponent, many grapplers use “open body locks” where you use your arms to hold and control both sides of the torso. You’ll often see people use body locks to climb the spine, staring from the waist to up near the shoulders and neck. Higher on the spine, many people will opt to use their own head to control their opponent’s neck. Ryan’s best passing work comes after he gets chest to chest or secures some type of body lock.
- Ryan’s head is over Couch’s under hooking arm’s shoulder with a cross face anchored to Couch’s lat
- Ryan leans heavy over the under hook
- Ryan uses his free hands to disrupt Couch’s half guard
- Ryan spider walks an under hook up to lock his hands for head and arm control
- Ryan leg pummels to complete the pass while he stays over the under hook arm
Gordon Ryan vs Jacob Couch
I looked to find a no gi grappler that passes like Ryan does in the sequences above. They don’t really exist. No, Ryan nor Danaher did not invent any of the moves I’m discussing above. However, no one regularly and reliably cycles between these options quite like Ryan does.
New Wave passing is basically a hybrid of three distinct guard passing styles; body locking, floating and dragging, and passing up the middle from inside foot position.
If you want to see suffocating body locks and pressure, watch Yuri Simoes.
- Barral is attempting to invert and reguard
- Simoes stacks Barral and lifts his hips
- Barral comes to an elbow to try to turn away and make space
- Simoes wraps his arms around Barral’s torso for an open body lock and begins to climb up Barral’s back
Yuri Simoes vs Romulo Barral
If you want to see leg drags, floating, and passing from outside of the guard, watch Rafa Mendes.
- Mendes is standing outside of Queixinho’s guard pushing on his feet
- Mendes briefly steps inside and across Queixinho’s guard
- Mendes steps out to go to knee on belly
- Queixinho re-guards
- Mendes repeats a similar sequence but Queixinho turns over too far to his belly
- Mendes under hooks the arm to spin to the back
Rafa Mendes vs Osvaldo “Queixinho”
If you want to see pressuring and passing straight up the middle, watch Marcelo Garcia.
- Garcia is pressuring into Brennan’s knee shield
- Garcia leans his head into Brennan so his legs are free to move out of the guard
- Garcia steps over and Brennan catches his leg for a half guard
- Garcia is chest to chest and moves his weight forward to make his legs light
- Garcia steps over to mount
Marcelo Garcia vs Chris Brennan
Thanks to Danaher’s appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, many people were introduced to Ryan as Joe and Danaher discussed Ryan’s match with Cyborg that I referenced above. While that match was impressive, my favorite sequence from that tournament, and, possibly, my favorite sequence ever in the sport, came against Romulo Barral.
In the sequence below, Ryan passes Barral’s guard and manages to show all of the elements of New Wave’s passing style.
- Ryan fights for inside leg position
- Ryan floats and switches a hip over Barral’s hook
- Ryan wraps his hands around Barral for an open body lock seat belt
- Ryan throws in a back hook and rolls over Barral’s shoulder forcing him to turn
- Ryan climbs Barrals back and wraps an arm over Barral’s face to slow him down
- Ryan completes the back take with a body triangle
Gordon Ryan vs Romulo Barral
Barral is an ADCC World Champion in his own right. Barral has won the IBJJF World Championships 5 times. The man is an all time great and Ryan passed his guard multiple times before choking him in about 3 minutes in this match. Absolutely absurd.
Right now you might be asking, what makes Ryan unique? Many grapplers combine the techniques of past greats and enjoy much less success than Ryan does when he is passing the guard. Today, Ryan regularly passes high level guard players and he makes it look easy.
What is unique about Ryan and how he implements New Wave’s passing style? He’s slow. But slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Ryan is a good athlete, but he is not particularly athletic. At least, he doesn’t roll very athletically. Ryan is strong, has good endurance, and he always seems composed; but his opponents almost always have a speed advantage over him. Ryan makes up for that by using his passes to either go straight to the back, or force half guard. From half guard he can slow the pace down, grind on his opponents, and smoothly pass through their guard.
- Ryan is passing knee shield half guard
- Ryan walks his partner’s hips over until his knee is outside of their hip and his arm is framing on that same hip
- From there Ryan is free to secure an under hook and keep his head over the far shoulder to pin his partner
If you watch the sequence above in Ryan’s match with Couch, you will see a perfect example of him slowly going straight through Couch’s half guard.
Mounting Suffocating Offense
The final step in New Wave’s iteration of the submission grappling meta comes at the end of the of the previous section - putting on pressure after the guard has been passed. Ryan was already a feared back attack finisher from his days in EBI. A logical solution to avoid being submitted is to not expose your back so you can live to fight on. Recently Ryan has reinvented his top pressure to melt his opponents beneath him.
Before we examine any gifs, we need to pay homage to a man that trained significantly with Renzo Gracie, and presumably Danaher, in New York. The king of mount, Roger Gracie.
Known as a gi player, Gracie has objectively the best single ADCC performance ever with 8 wins and 8 submissions. Below we see an example of Gracie using his pressure to wear on his opponent and secure a dominant position.
Roger Gracie vs John Olav Einemo
- Gracie has an arm triangle grip on Einemo
- Gracie pressures forward to choke
- Einemo turns to turtle
- Gracie puts a hook in as he chases the back
- Einemo rolls to his back, away from Gracie’s choking hand
- Gracie cross faces and pressures forward to avoid quarter guard and end in Mount
This sequence and gripping style is similar to one we saw from a new New Wave athlete, Nicolas Meregali, in his recent match against Rafael Lovato Jr..
- Meregali locks his hands in position for an arm triangle choke on Lovato
- Meregali pressures forward, forcing Lovato to move and alleviate pressure
- Meregali pummels his legs to pass Lovato’s quarter guard
- Meregali keeps the pressure on, forcing Lovato to turn
- Meregali locks in a body triangle to take Lovato’s back.
Nicolas Meregali Rafael Lovato Jr.
Now let’s look at some ways Ryan implements the New Wave pressure to end the fight from top position
- Ryan is weighing heavy on top of Rocha’s loose half guard
- Rocha tries to turn in to wrestle up
- Ryan counters with a kimura
- Ryan sits high giving Vagner space to try to wrestle up
- Ryan uses this space to lock up a triangle and finish the match
Gordon Ryan vs Vagner Rocha
- Ryan is sitting heavy in S Mount
- Ryan grabs Jimenez’s wrist while blocking Jimenez’s hip with his free hand
- Ryan bring slides his knee across Jimenez’s face
- Jimenez tries to roll and make space but runs into Ryan’s arm
- Ryan pinches his knees while his hips follow the back of Jimenez’s elbow
- Ryan extends his hips for the finish
Gordon Ryan vs Roberto Jimenez
- Ryan has passed to mount with double under hooks and his hands locked
- Ryan lifts Couch’s shoulders with his under hooks to open space and isolate one of Couch’s arms
- Ryan sits to S Mount to attack a submission
- Ryan’s pressure is too much and Couch submits
Gordon Ryan vs Jacob Couch
- Ryan holds the back of Marinho’s neck while using the cross hand to push Marinho’s arm down
- Marinho turns to protect his shoulder
- Ryan’s knee slides high to wedge under Marinho’s back as he grabs a gift wrap
- Ryan chair sits to take the back
Ryan would go on to finish the match by rear naked choke from the straight jacket position.
Where Is This New Wave Heading?
Today Ryan and New Wave Jiu-jitsu stand ahead of the competition. If you asked me where they were going I would argue that the next iteration is already happening and it’s moving off of the floor.
In no gi grappling you aren’t severely penalized for pulling guard. This means that you can simply sit down, or grab a single leg and pull your opponent on top of you to enter into leg entanglements. Also, changing your level to shoot gives your opponent a simple look at a front head lock, so it’s not necessarily advisable to just shoot and endanger your neck. Let’s quickly look at New Wave grappler turned MMA fighter, Garry Tonon, use this idea to guide his winning strategy in an MMA fight.
- Garry changes levels for a single leg
- Garry can’t regain his posture to finish the shot
- Instead of trying to stand or staying beneath his opponent and getting head locked, Tonon sits to Single Leg X
- Nakahara tries to stand and run which extends his leg
- Garry locks in outside ashi to set up the outside heel hook and finish the fight
Garry Tonon vs Yoshiki Nakahara
I find this particular strategic iteration interesting as it pertains to Ryan.
Ryan’s best attributes are his strength endurance and his slow, methodical pressure. That makes him an excellent grappler on the ground, but makes him relatively vulnerable on the feet in wrestling exchanges. Ryan has a strong pulling and front head lock game - he famously used it to submit Keenan Cornelius in the finals of the 2017 ADCC World Championships. Ryan is not particularly good at level changing and shooting for leg attacks like singles and doubles. So, weirdly, Ryan’s lack of shooting proficiency plays right into the meta of no gi grappling and the overall tactics of New Wave grapplers.
- Pull on the opponent’s upper body
- If their posture breaks, grab a front head lock
- If the opponent gets offensive, or feels pressured to take a bad shot, grab a front head lock - we saw this above in Ryan’s match against Cornelius
- If there is little to no action on the feet, sit down or pull opponents on top and enter into X Guards and leg entanglements
While these are viable tactics that does give you a distinct disadvantage.
Grabbing a quick takedowns is one of the most reliable ways to score in grappling. If you can take your opponent down and they can’t do the same to you, you can simply get quick takedowns and avoid your opponent for the rest of the match. Or you could cook your opponent and tire them out to get a quick takedown when they’re fatigued. It’s simple, straightforward, and we see people use it at essentially every event. Moreover the rules and scoring for the ADCC World Championships benefit wrestlers that can grab quick take downs late.
Here is the situation we’re left with:
- The scoring system at the biggest event for New Wave Athletes, the ADCC World Championship, incentivizes takedowns
- Changing levels to gab a leg is relatively dangerous considering the risk of front head locks
- Everyone in the sport is now more aware of people sitting for leg entanglements, making them relatively less effective.
These conditions coalesce to something we’re seeing from Ryan and his teammates in recent matches. New Wave athletes focus on upper body wrestling into trips and throws.
- Bodoni and Barch are hand fighting
- Bodoni grabs a collar tie and wrist control to start moving Barch
- Bodoni switches to a 2:1 and uses that to pull Barch
- Barch tries to regain balance as Bodoni grabs a collar tie and elbow control
- Bodoni uses his grips to pull Barch, forcing Barch to step into Bodoni’s sweeping leg for a trip
Giancarlo Bodoni vs PJ Barch
- Meregali and Lovato are hand fighting
- Meregali sticks a foot out for a trip
- Lovato backs away to avoid being tripped
- Meregali and Lovato trade hand grips and collar ties
- Lovato’s hands are high so Meregali steps in for a double under body lock
- Meregali steps his leg in between Lovato’s legs while turning him with the body lock for the trip
Nicolas Meregali vs Rafael Lovato Jr
- Ryan uses a collar tie and wrist control to pull Marinho
- Marino tries to step the other way but Ryan sticks his foot out for the trip
- Marinho tries to stay balanced but Ryan steps behind him for a rear waist lock
- Marinho tries to turn into Ryan for a front head lock position
- Ryan tucks his chin, posts his hands, and gets a body lock to control Marinho
Gordon Ryan vs Pedro Marinho
- Bodoni is using an over hook and wrist control to break Rodriguez’s posture.
- Rodriguez reaches for an under hook
- Bodoni circles and pulls on Rodriguez’s head to avoid the under hook’s threat
- Bodoni gets double wrist control to pull and trip Rodriguez
- Rodriguez’s hands touch the mat and Bodoni jumps to his back
Giancarlo Bodoni vs Jacob Rodriguez
- Ryan is using collar ties and hand control to move Pena to Pena’s right
- Pena steps to his left as Ryan sticks his right leg out for the trip
- Pena scoots away to try to set up a guard
- Ryan follows Pena down and secures an under hook to control the scramble
Gordon Ryan vs Felipe Pena
There is a clear pattern above. New Wave’s best and brightest grapplers are not relying on doubles and singles for takedowns. These athletes are pulling on their opponents to get them moving. If their opponent over steps, they’re getting tripped. After that, New Wave’s grapplers prioritize under hooks and body locks to control the pace and direction of the match. If possible they’re going straight to the back. If the opponent is being defensive or hesitant, these athletes are stepping in to use those same body locks to score with a trip or throw, as demonstrated by Meregali.
It’s brilliantly efficient. These athletes are wasting considerably less energy than they would shooting. Also, they’re limiting their submission risk by not over extending. Least of all, throws make for awesome highlight reels.
Now we can put all of these techniques and tactics together to form a holistic outline of the New Wave grappling system.
When the match starts New Wave athletes work to break the posture, trip, and turn their opponents to get on top or directly to the back. If they don’t get on top, they will sit or pull their opponents on top of them into leg entanglements. With active leg entanglements they’ll either get a heel hook, or sweep to take top position. On top they’re generally using floating, loose passing, and leg drags to tire their opponent out and maintain inside foot position. Eventually they’ll lock their hands around their opponent, either in half guard and use it to pass, or after passing and they’ll use it to threaten an arm triangle choke or take the back.
New Wave athletes are always working to get 2:1 grips like kimuras and arm drags. These grips are nearly universal and they turn opponents to take their back, or elevate their hips for sweeps and leg entanglements. The gif below that we examined earlier is a perfect example.
Ryan goes from top to bottom before climbing all the way up to the back; all by securing a kimura grip while passing. That grip creates a submission threat, and an avenue for positional advancement.
This is outside of the norm of traditional jiu-jitsu, but it’s direct, efficient, and brilliantly effective.
On September 17th, New Wave Jiu-Jitsu will send seven athletes to the ADCC World Championships; Garry Tonon, Oliver Taza, Giancarlo Bodoni, Luke Griffith, Nicholas Meregali, Daniel Manasoiu, and Gordon Ryan. That event is the pinnacle of submission grappling. Tune in to see where the sport is headed, where it is going, and who is being left behind.