Photo by Flograppling
2017 was undoubtedly the year of the Danaher Death Squad with Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonnon, Nicky Ryan and more winning major tournaments such ADCC and EBI. The “squad” is known for their leg lock system developed by John Danaher, a New Zealand born, BJJ black belt under Renzo Gracie. John Danaher is one of the instructors with the highest fight IQ and has trained and help developed strategies for UFC fighters such as George Saint Pierre and Chris Weidman. Danaher has been praised by the BJJ community as being a master and brain of the art and the leg lock game he has developed. In a Facebook massage in 2017, Danaher explaines how he developed the leg lock system:
Where do leg locks fit into that system? The answer is also simple – leg locks are to be used when the system fails. If you can’t get the system to work on a difficult opponent, try a leg lock, perhaps that will catch him by surprise and gain you victory. That is why they were seen as cheap shots – they were an admission that you could not beat your opponent within the system, so you went outside it. To use a leg lock was to admit a failure in your ability to apply the system of jiu jitsu. As such, they were to be seen as desperation moves to be pulled out of the hat when nothing else was working. This was the status of leg locks when I entered the sport.
I began an intense study of the foundation of the most high percentage leg locks – ashi garami. I developed many variations of this position that interlocked with each other in dynamic situations under the assumption that an opponent knew the main methods of escape from the standard position.
As months turned into years, I arrived at a sophisticated system of leg and hip controls based around ashi garami that I used with considerable success in the gym. None of my students at that time chose to compete (sometimes I wonder if my own decision never to compete influenced them in this regard). I was known only through my coaching of MMA fighters, where the circumstances and emphasis were very different. When my focus on MMA diminished due to the encroaching retirement of Georges St-Pierre and less involvement with Chris Weidman after he moved further out into Long Island and opened his own school, I began to focus more on pure grappling competition.
The following video is a study of the Danaher leg lock system done by Meta BJJ. The analysis is quite insightful and goes into details which explain on how Danaher’s students reach certain position. Remember that this is a study and not an instruction video and the text on the top of the video makes it hard to read, so you might want to pause the video from time to time to read it.