A collection of Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique videos by Henry Akins, the third American to receive a BJJ black belt from Rickson Gracie. Jiu-jitsu has a wide appeal because it’s adaptable to different aptitudes and body types. Early on I was enamoured by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza because of his ADCC 2005 performance, but quickly realized that my physical attributes (ie. slowness) weren’t in line. Ditto for Royler Gracie, Genki Sudo, Carlos Newton, Dave Camarillo, Buchecha, Ryan Hall, the Mendes brothers, etc. I’ve ended up with a slower, methodical BJJ game. It’s built around judo ashi-waza and top control, or closed and half guard from the bottom, and influenced by watching jiu-jitsu in MMA more often than sport BJJ. Henry Akins is right up my alley.
Characteristics of Henry Akins’s Jiu-Jitsu Game
Henry Akins is one of the most intriguing characters in North American jiu-jitsu. As an Oklahoma teenager in the mid ’90s, he left his life behind to seek out Rickson Gracie and in 2004 became Rickson’s third American black belt. There are a number of reasons that Henry’s style of Brazilian jiu-jitsu works for me – someone who isn’t all that fast, spends a long time clunking his way through new techniques, and has a preference for BJJ as a martial art rather than a competitive sport.
- Built around fundamental techniques
- Focus on control
- Preference for finishing in mobile, top positions
- Awareness of potential for strikes
- Using small movements of large muscle groups
- Streamlining techniques by combining steps whenever possible
The following is a collection of Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique videos from the guy who Hollywood BJJ head instructor Sean Patrick Flanery calls “the closest living thing to Rickson Gracie.”
Henry Akins Sandy Hook Benefit Webinar
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, Dynamix Mixed Martial Arts, Paragon Hollywood BJJ, and Scotty Nelson from On The Mat organized a whack of black belts (Eddie Bravo, Felicia Oh, Jeff Glover, Gazzy Parman, Sean Apperson, Steve Cardenas…) to hold a by-donation webinar as a benefit for children affected. Henry starts his 30-minute segment by explaining the reasoning behind his basics-oriented Brazilian jiu-jitsu game, then leads through four sections:
- Basic takedown from the over-under clinch leading to a kneeling armbar submission. There are some subtle details that will help you complete the submission with minimal energy while blocking your partner’s escape.
- Closed guard sweep vs. an opponent using the knee-in-the-tailbone guard break.
- Henry’s version of that Brazilian jiu-jitsu classic – the armbar (jujigatame) from closed guard. Details include streamlining your entry to the submission and using your legs properly to avoid the stack. The key line: “I never want to take what I want. I always want to make him give me what I want.”
- Technical details for finishing the triangle choke submission (sankakujime).
Side Control Escape
A basic escape that will come in handy almost every time you get on the jiu-jitsu mats. Emphasis is on establishing a good position, capitalizing on the openings your partner provides, and using small motions to create space rather than wasting energy by forcing things that won’t work.
Arm Triangle Choke from Mount
This has Rickson Gracie’s jiu-jitsu fingerprints stamped all over it. Mount, mount, mount. Don’t give up the mount. Henry Akins teaches how to finish the arm triangle choke from mount because, “at least if he gets out, I’m still mounted.” Emphasis is on maintaining a low centre of gravity, using body weight, and harnessing the power of the large muscle groups. Henry also explains how this version of the arm triangle choke kills the “answer the phone” defense.
Kimura from Side Control
A nice breakdown of the kimura (aka udegarami, double wrist lock), a fundamental submission technique. Details: trapping their bottom arm with your legs, the thumbless grip, engaging core muscles rather than relying on arm strength, and why Dan Hardy survived GSP’s armlock attempt at UFC 111.
Open Guard Armlock vs Overhand Punch
Henry Akins teaches an MMA / self defense application of a classic armlock. Details: using the knees to control space, and ensuring that you’re using hip power to finish the submission.
Backtake from Mounted “Giftwrap” Position
Again, this reeks of the MMA / self-defense BJJ style of Rickson Gracie. Key details: moving yourself rather than trying to move your opponent, establishing the position using body weight, then rolling the opponent over in a way that traps his arms and kills his rear naked choke defense.
Legbar from Top Half Guard
The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex loves leglocks and this is a nasty one, practice with care! The title reminded me of The Contenders show when Frank Shamrock submitted Dan Henderson with what Dan referred to as an “ankle bar.”
Cross Side Armlock
Some judo-style Brazilian jiu-jitsu. What do you do when your opponent turns into your side control? Switch your hips to kesagatame and lock on a step-over armbar.
Standing Footlock Against Open Guard
See an opening to attack your opponent’s open guard with a straight ankle lock? Don’t sit down to finish the submission if you don’t have to.
More Henry Akins Reading and Watching
If you enjoyed Henry’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques and want to know more about Henry Akins the person:
- The Passion for MMA: Henry Akins short documentary
- Henry Akins on the Fightworks Podcast
- Henry Akins on Inside BJJ
- Gumby from On The Mat interviews Henry Akins
- Georgette Oden’s review of the Henry Akins seminars
Referred to as a “jiu-jitsu super computer”, the “West Coast John Danaher”, and the “closest living thing to Rickson,” Henry continues to fly under the radar, teaching a style of Brazilian jiu-jitsu that’s kind of like taking a step back in time.