Breakdowns and Takedowns: My Top 5 BJJ Analysis Resources
During the lead up to Nova Scotia’s Submission Series 902 Brazilian jiu jitsu event, I interviewed the headliner and my teammate, Renzo Gracie black belt Kyle Sandford. Kyle has been training martial arts since 1995, and in those early days, some practitioners’ only educational resources were magazines and videotapes.
Sandford explained, “It wasn’t until we started visiting Renzo Gracie’s, learning some strong fundamentals, and correcting many mistakes we had been making that we really began to make progress.”
In 2015, the jiu jitsu world is different. The Internet has made sharing knowledge infinitely easier, and in addition to technical instruction videos, we now have access to strategic analysis with a click of the mouse.
When we begin as white belts, we may see jiu jitsu as just a collection of moves to memorize, step-by-step. As we progress, we realize that knowing a technique isn’t enough. I recommend that beginners spend time watching BJJ analysis. Yes, the videos can be long, but five minutes on the mats getting dominated by someone who has done their homework can seem much longer.
Here are five of my favorite resources for BJJ video analysis and breakdown.
Ostap Manastyrski, a brown belt under Elliott Bayev, trains and teaches out of Open Mat Mixed Martial Arts in Toronto, Ontario. He has a channel full of insightful, detailed breakdowns on YouTube. I just watched the Jeffrey Cummings Head Grab Back Escape analysis video last night and he broke it down so well that today in class I was able to successfully use the same escape.
I contacted Ostap to ask why he thought jiu jitsu breakdowns were sometimes more valuable than a simple instructional video. He explained:
The great value of watching analysis videos is that you see techniques in their natural environment. You see what really works, the circumstances under which it works, and the nuances that may be missed in an instructional video. When competitors fight to win you see them use their A level moves and sometimes you see creative new transitions come to life. My videos aim to be accessible to all levels and guide people through the complex puzzle that is jiu jitsu.
Dan of Earth
Dan Halpin, a Carlson Gracie, Jr. purple belt and the author of Dan of Earth blog, regularly shares his BJJ findings in written, pictorial, or video form. His Passing Flexible Guards with Rodolfo Viera and Rafa Mendes analysis suggests great way to deal with those bendy guys with seemingly unpassable guards.
I asked Dan what went into creating one of these videos, and he broke it down for me:
If I want to take a look at a particular move, position or chain, say, Marcelo Garcia's Single Leg X-Guard, I look through available videos of him teaching the position and also him using it in competition. I simply look for the mechanics of what is making something work.
One of the big things is watching for the opponent’s reaction and how the practitioner responds and changes, modifies and adapts the move to make it work. That's huge in regards to discovering beautiful chains. If you look at BJJ Scouts DLR (de la Riva) Counters with Leandro Lo (life changing) that's exactly what is going. Options. Where are the feet? Hands? Knees? Elbows? Hips? What are they doing? Pulling? Pushing? Which direction? What grips and where? What changes throughout the sequence? How did he react to his opponents defenses? So many questions.
BJJ matches a lot of times are won by inches and angles, so it's important to note the finer details. A lot of times I believe we become so accustomed to doing a move that we forget a lot of the time all of the tiny details that make it work. There's a huge difference between, say, being on your elbow or being on your hand.
Anonymous analyst BJJ Scout is perhaps the most popular and respected breakdown artist in jiu jitsu. BJJ Scout’s videos are not only insightful, but they are flawlessly presented. I’ve heard countless practitioners say that watching his breakdowns changed their BJJ games, and I have visited clubs who teach classes based on his work.
Regarding his approach to analysis, BJJ Scout explained to me:
I show athletes doing the same move in different matches. I guess the point is to show, you don't need a huge arsenal to be successful, many are using just a few "tools." I think good analysis consists of "off the move" analysis. The problem with highlights is that they show the moment the sweep or a submission is hit. They miss out the moment before that lead to it. So things like movement, grips and posture, these are the key details that have to be in place leading up to the successful execution of a technique. A lot of times, elites "beat you before the move," i.e. a particular set up.
I see breakdowns in two main groups that require two different skills:
1. Actual move deconstruction - what grip used, where everything is in place - that requires knowledge of body mechanics, physics and leverage.
2. Strategy deconstruction - what behaviors repeat, which cause what reaction, which lead to the successful path to a move - that is less on leverage, but more on pattern recognition and statistics etc.
So I do more of the second, I've only made one video on a technique ever (Japanese Necktie). Most of the time I'm looking more at strategies.
In addition to his Brazilian jiu jitsu analysis videos, BJJ Scout’s MMA fight previews and analysis are also in high demand.
After UFC and other combat sports events, we can always count on the Gracie Brothers, Rener and Ryron, to break down the moves of the night. I learned so much about countering armbar defense from their breakdown of Rousey versus Carmouche. And their enthusiasm is contagious. How can you not love the Gracie Brothers?
Dan Lukehart, also known as Trumpet Dan, is a black belt under Bruno Paulista and has been training since 2006. He has become a YouTube sensation in the BJJ world, with almost four thousand subscribers to his technical instruction videos.
In addition to teaching technique, he takes the extra step and includes footage of the technique used in competition, along with his commentary, to show students how the technique fits into live rolls.
Help Them Help You
Thank you so much to BJJ Scout, Dan Halpin and Ostap Manastyrski for contributing to this article and to all of the breakdown artists for giving the jiu jitsu community such incredibly valuable resources to grow and learn from. Help them help you by subscribing to their YouTube channels and following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.