John Danaher: The Wizard in Oz!

After a very insightful private lesson with the Wizard, John Danaher
After a very insightful private lesson with the Wizard, John Danaher

Now while the various leg submissions are not new in Jiu Jitsu, a certain team of exciting and submission hungry competitors have really stamped their authority in this area with some really dominant wins over many high level grapplers! Names like Gary Tonon, Eddie Cummings and now Gordon Ryan are a new breed of submission grapplers all with extremely technical and devastating leg lock games. They have become known as the “Danaher Death Squad”! Now while these great grapplers have phenomenal leg lock games, it would be a huge mistake to think that they were one dimensional… Each of these great athletes have amazing Jiu Jitsu skills but the reason they have become known for their leg submission game comes from the Wizard himself, John Danaher.

Now before you smirk at the title of this post as a play on words, let’s take a look at the definition of a wizard. “A man who is skilled in magic or who has magical powers” or “a person who is very good at something”. The control and positional dominance leading to the finish sure makes it feel like he has magical powers and I am sure anyone who has been on the receiving end of the Danaher death squad leg lock game agree! So I think both definitions fit very well for the reclusive super coach known as John Danaher.

John Danaher was recently in Australia teaching some of his amazing Leg Lock system to sold out seminars in a couple of states to a very interested and responsive audience! John’s approach to teaching is fascinating as he began with a group discussion on the strategy of Jiu Jitsu and it’s application to real fights. From there he discussed where leg locks have traditionally fit into the system of Jiu Jitsu and the direction he is hoping to steer Jiu Jitsu in through the addition of his meticulously thought out system for controlling and attacking the legs! And as an 18 year veteran of the art myself, I was fascinated by his scientific and systematic approach to attacking the legs! (I am sure I would be equally impressed learning any of his systems but the subject of the seminar I attended was the Heel Hook and the private lesson I was fortunate enough to take with him was on the inside heel hook).

The “Ashi Garami” or “leg entanglement” control series that John teaches is extremely efficient and highly effective towards entering the leg control position, setting up and controlling the heel hook and finishing even against various resistance and escape methods. Each movement or transition leads to deeper control and increased danger for your opponent leading to higher percentage finishing positions and follow up attacks. I have only been drilling and experimenting with the controls and finishes for a couple of weeks and I feel that my whole game has improved dramatically!

What has been extremely interesting and unexpected is how much other parts of my guard, passing and transition game have improved as well not just my leg attacks! I wish I could write more and explain in more depth but out of respect for John Danaher I don’t want to say too much and you really do have to feel it to believe it!

That and I am not sure that I could do it justice in my explanation so I will leave you with this parting thought, stop watching all the YouTube breakdowns and get to one of his classes, seminars or the classes or seminars of his students! What you think you see and learn in the various game breakdowns etc are not even scratching the surface of the depth of knowledge, understanding and strategy involved in the system… I should know, I have been studying various breakdowns and matches for the last four to six months and realise only now how little I really knew! Sure my knowledge of leg locks improved but with a little technical guidance on the right path I would be at least ten times further down the track so get to one of his classes or seminars and learn this game!


Felipe Grez