RNC - a classic mixed martial arts finishing technique

An MMA fighter submits his opponent using a rear naked choke (aka hadakajime). Photo courtesy of Eric Langley.

Much to the chagrin of the “stand them up, ref!” sector of the MMA fanbase, the grappling arts like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, catch wrestling, and sambo are as inseparable from mixed martial arts as ugly t-shirts, ring girls, and fights in the stands over spilled beer. Some of the most spectacular wins in MMA history have been by submission and this article looks at a few of my personal favourites.

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Can't do much Brazilian jiu-jitsu without these things

The heart and lungs, a BJJ fighter’s best friends. Image courtesy of Gray’s Anatomy. Public Domain.

Breathing in BJJ is often overlooked. There’s no shortage of information about the visually exciting side of Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique… escapes, submissions, sweeps, counters… the magazines and websites are overflowing with that stuff. But breathing? Boring. Right? Not exactly. When I’m rolling with someone, one of the main things I pay attention to is their breathing pattern.

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Catch-as-catch-can wrestler Neil Melanson performs a leglock

Catch wrestling specialist Neil Melanson demonstrates a kneebar – aka “the king of leglocks”. Photo courtesy of MartialArtsNomad.

Knee injuries are very common in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, especially since it seems like heel hooks, toeholds, and other leglocks are getting more popular. Is it the Toquinho effect? The rise of the 50-50 guard? Rubber guard disasters? Maybe leglock master “Judo” Gene LeBell is to blame. At any rate, the list of high-level BJJ (and MMA) fighters who have been slowed down by knee injuries goes on and on: Kron Gracie, Xande Ribeiro, David Avellan, Dustin Hazelett, Bas Rutten, Roger Gracie, Tito Ortiz, Romulo Barral, Marco Ruas, Georges Ste-Pierre, to name a few. How to these injuries happen? And how do you treat them?

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One year of the Jiu-Jitsu Vortex

The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex turns one year old. Photo by Aih.

It’s been exactly one year since I started up The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex as a place for martial arts-related writing. Since then I’ve covered things like jiu-jitsu history, philosophy, techniques, local MMA events, etc. There were some surprises, developments, and funny bits. Here’s a snapshot of what went down.

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A writer, not a talker. Original photo courtesy of evanforester.

I tend to communicate best when empowered with the ability to backspace and retype when (not if) I say something foolish. But on Sunday I ventured out onto the trapeze without a net by joining Bin and Indy at the Rain City Podcast. We talked about a bunch of things including – but not limited to – Andre Galvao, MMA, the combined importance of the dartos reflex and cremaster muscles, life in smalltown Canada, the skateboarding / Brazilian jiu-jitsu connection, why Bin is a jerk,  the hits and misses of multiculturalism, and what constitutes “East Van cool”.

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Arthur Barkaukas pushes back Sean Kearney at Proving Grounds Muay Thai

Arthur Barkaukas lands a push kick on Sean Kearney at Proving Grounds Muay Thai at BCIT on June 2, 2012. Photo courtesy of MartialArtsNomad.

The Muay Thai Proving Grounds event at BCIT in Burnaby was killer. The day started with a modified Muay Thai tournament and four full boxing rings going simultaneously meant lots of action. When the smoke from the tournament had cleared, three of the rings were dismantled, seating was arranged, and the evening show started. Thanks to Joel Wasel from Dynamic MMA, Jason Fenton from Iron City Muay Thai, and Gerry Gionco for putting the event together; thanks to all the fighters who came out to bang – especially those who travelled from out of town; and thanks to Master John Chamkunthod for reffing the night.

Results below…

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Many athletes find inspiration and a sense of belonging in boxing gyms. Photo courtesy of fiverlocker.

There’s no shortage of interesting characters in the martial arts. It’s one of the reasons that it’s such a fun world to be a part of. A quick Youtube search for Frank Dux, Renato Laranja, Relson Gracie, Mike Tyson, Chael Sonnen, or Roger Mayweather is guaranteed to yield some gold. But there are also tons of cool and inspiring stories. Take for example the Afghani girls’ boxing team, the redemption saga of Canadian freestyle wrestling champion Khetag Pliev, and boxer Sergio Martinez’s fight against bullying and domestic violence.

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Muay Thai fights in Burnaby on June 2, 2012.

A full day of Muay Thai action comin’ up for kickboxing fans in the Vancouver area. BCIT in Burnaby will be hosting evening fights under full Muay Thai rules and an amateur modified Muay Thai tournament during the day. The day event runs from 10am to 5pm. Doors for the night show open at 6:30. It ain’t jiu-jitsu, but it will be entertaining nonetheless.

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Jeff playing hooky from Brazilian jiu-jitsu class to grind the pool coping at Bonsor skatepark. Photo by George Faulkner.

Well it’s that time of year when the skateparks begin competing for attention with Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Living in the rainy sponge that is Vancouver, Canada, it’s easy to forget about skateboarding for months at a time and focus on jiu-jitsu. But when the spring arrives and videos like Pedro’s Bowl Blowout start showing up… what’s a guy to do?

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Rafael Lovato Jr. BJJ Seminar at Dynamic MMA in Vancouver

Dave and I run some techniques at Rafael Lovato Jr.’s BJJ seminar at Dynamic MMA. Notice the notepad, no details were missed! Photo courtesy of Shawn Aisrep.

I had the privilege of kicking off Easter weekend by playing uke for the Internet’s favourite Jiu-Jitsu scientist while he shot an in-depth leg drag pass instructional. For those of you who don’t know, David Levy-Booth is responsible for one of the most detailed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blogs out there. If you aren’t reading it you’re missing out. In fact your training partners probably are, and that’s why they’re kicking your ass.
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University of Toronto Judo Club. Hart House.

The Hart House Judo Club at U of T circa 2001 – an amazing place to learn judo footsweeps.

A perfect judo footsweep is beyond satisfying. With almost no effort on your part, your sparring partner finds themselves laid out wondering what the hell happened. Incorporating judo footsweeps into your Brazilian jiu-jitsu training is well worth the time spent. They aren’t necessarily hard to learn, they just take a lot of practice and a strong understanding of happo no kuzushi (breaking balance).

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Beware the jiu-jitsu vortex. Photo couresy of ahisgett.

The name of The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex was originally inspired by the tendency for BJJ to swallow the practitioner’s life, but further investigation has unearthed deeper meanings. As it turns out, the phrase “jiu-jitsu vortex” can be used to describe the sparring style of almost any Brazilian jiu-jitsu addict.

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One of the most famous black belts in BJJ - Royce Gracie. Photo by superwebdeveloper.

Belt promotions are a hot topic in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Hang around the mats and changerooms of any BJJ academy and you’ll hear lots of talk about who does and doesn’t deserve a promotion. Stories abound of instructors who intentionally delay promotions with the intention of giving their students the edge in competitions. But what does a belt really mean? And where did the colours come from?

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The calf crush attacks the knee, fibula, and tibia. Photo courtesy of Perfect Zero.

Charles Oliveira’s calf crush (aka calf slicer or knee compression) victory over Eric Wisely during the UFC on Fox 2 prelims raised a few eyebrows in the MMA world. Those with a background in BJJ, submission grappling, catch wrestling, or (especially) sambo saw what was going on, but the “stand them up ref!” fight fans had questions – as evidenced by the ensuing Twitter storm. Why did Wisely tap just because his leg was being bent? And how did Oliveira get himself into that position? Read on.

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Judo action at the 2011 NCJA Judo National Championships. Photo courtesy of Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs.

Dave Camarillo’s Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu: Revolutionizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an excellent book for BJJ players who want to incorporate judo throwing techniques into their game. The beginning may appear overly basic to experienced judo players, but the introductory section is followed by detailed explanations of how judo techniques can be adapted to be effective in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Whether your foundation is in judo or BJJ, this book will make you better.
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