Archives for posts with tag: Eduardo Rocha

I arrived at my private lesson with Eduardo Rocha with his school curriculum in hand.  I knew where my holes were, and my goal was to plug some of them up with this private.  However, he looked at the list and, to my surprise, put it aside.  “I have something better to show you.  You can learn this stuff [meaning the curriculum] by coming to class.  But, people who come from other jiujitsu schools don’t know this.”  For the next hour, I would learn that the “this” he referred to was the concepts behind his pressure game.

My Conceptual Takeaways

The very first thing I noticed when I first rolled at Prof. Rocha’s school was how heavy everyone felt – regardless of belt level and regardless of actual weight.  Being on the bottom was exhausting and discouraging.  Here are five concepts I took away from my private on how to feel crushing on top.

  1. Let your opponent carry your weight at all times.  Let gravity assist.
  2. Do not disperse or dilute the effect of your top pressure by placing any part of your body on the ground unless it is necessary to do so.
  3. Do not disperse your weight across the entirety of the opponent’s body.  Rather, focus applying pressure to the person’s hips or to the person’s shoulders to maximize pinning effectiveness.
  4. While not incorrect, do not grip your hands while in side control when possible.  While it might help you hold down your opponent, it a) fixes you to the opponent thereby limiting offensive opportunities, and b) it diminishes your ability to base should you get bucked, bumped, or rolled.
  5. Connection is vital.  When transitioning from side control to knee-on-stomach or to mount, do not allow for space or lose the connection of your hips to their hips.

An Illustration

In the video below, at 0:49 you can see the side control position Eduardo favors and teaches us at his school.  The only difference is that even the rear knee is off the ground, concentrating downward pressure from your hips to his hips.  The ensuing drill Xande teaches is identical to the drill Eduardo taught me during our private as a counter to a person’s reaction to the hip-to-hip pressure, which is to bump and try to get their knee in.


Knee-To-Elbow Connection From On Top

Knee-to-elbow is often associated with strong posture when escaping mount or side control.  However, the concept of a strong knee-to-elbow connection is important for top players to think about when passing the open or half guard.

Last night at Eduardo Rocha’s, Verne (who is a newly minted black belt) taught two strong guard passes for when you find yourself caught in half guard.  In the second pass particularly, after establishing combat base, the knee-to-elbow connection was key to preventing your opponent from re-establishing an advantageous connection point for them – their foot on your hip.  The knee-to-elbow “wall” guards against this, allowing you to initiate your pass.

The open guard tutorial by Ryron and Rener below, while not focusing on this specific concept, illustrates it as they teach the guard pass.


I never imagined myself as a West Coaster.  I was born in Brooklyn, came up with the bass of hip hop and the horns of salsa and the sea of diversity that is New York’s people.  I graduated from NYU, taught in the South Bronx, immersed myself in the world of non profit causes.  It was there, too, that my love of jiujitsu was born, on a TV screen, watching Royce Gracie in the first UFC.

The violence of the event jarred me.  It was raw and unpolished, unlike the violence of pro wrestling, my childhood passion.  I remember the first fighter’s tooth flying out of his mouth as he ate a round kick.  Bang!  My father, a lifelong boxing fan, observed: This is cheap fighting.  What man hits another man while they’re down.

And, then, Royce walks in, arms on the shoulders of his brothers. The Gracie train.  The clean white gi.  The focused eyes.  And, as everyone knows, he used technique to overcome his adversaries.  The use of technique appealed to me.  I was a nerd.  A small one at that.  And I was growing up in a section of Brooklyn where nerds were vulnerable.  The idea that technique could level the playing field was revolutionary for me, and left a deep impression.

My actual beginnings with jiujitsu were at a Jeet Kune Do academy’s grappling class I took in college.  It instantly became my favorite.  Although frowned upon, I covertly attended a class at Renzo’s with a friend.  It was a different universe.  Renzo had just come back from Pride, and his arm sported the war wound from his battle with Sakuraba.  I was star struck.  My second class, some months later, Renzo taught a simple mount escape.  I used it in that Saturday’s grappling class on a guy easily twice my size and who knows how many times my strength.  It hit me then – strong, sound technique can be an equalizer.

I eventually trained at Renzo’s for a while and had the honor and privilege of being taught by Shawn Williams and John Danaher.  My attendance and commitment were inconsistent though, and so was my growth.  At one point, I decided a clean break was needed so I could start over.  I went to Alliance and trained for a short stint with my then (and still) idol, Marcelo Garcia.  Again, my lack of commitment meant little growth.

A year or so later, I had another new start – at Ronin Athletics, a high-quality gym run by Christian Montes and whose BJJ class was instructed by Erik Ryerson.  As I neared 30, I told myself that I either treat this like a practice, like something that needs my continued and consistent attention, or I don’t love it as much as I say I do.  It was somewhat like the turning point where a man emerges from his immaturity and realizes that it’s time to commit to his woman, career, or whatever it might be.   I finally saw my game grow over the course of 2 years, incredibly thoughtful instruction, and a superb group (read: family) of teammates.

But here I am, in Oakland, a new start in my personal and professional life, and a new start with jiujitsu.  I signed up at Eduardo Rocha’s gym, which, as luck might have it, is only a 20 minute walk from my apartment.  Prof. Rocha is a 4th degree black belt under Royler Gracie and my first two classes have been better than expected, filled with a relearning of the basics and some tough pre-class circuits and post-class sparring.

I’ve always meant to start this blog, a way to track my evolution in skill level and thinking with regards to the gentle art.  It could have started when I was at Renzo’s, or Marcelo’s, or Ronin.  But, it starts now.  A new start.  I hope my sharing adds some value to your own experience of the art.

Intelligence over violence.  Technique over sheer agression.  Restraint over brutality.

Chris