Jiu Jitsu Evolution

A Blog all about Jiu Jitsu, and how I have evolved whilst studying it.

Always look, for the underhook…

Always look, for the underhook…

Well, there have been several ‘penny dropping’ moments over the last month. I’m going to try and get them out to you guys in this entry… They have all come courtesy of my rolling sessions with Tom Hanlon, along with some help from Gary’s technical instruction and the odd video on Youtube. I mentioned to Tom today whilst at the North West Open the session that I had over a year ago. I said to him, ‘There’s something about the use of the underhook that’s really important and I don’t understand it yet…’ I remember it quite clearly, and it came from a conversation on video between Ryan Hall and Marcelo Garcia. They were talking about transitions, and how important they were in BJJ. They were saying that the person who created the most advantageous position through better placement of their controls during transition, will likely take full control of the bout (or something similar).

Now at the time I knew these words were very important because you had two heavyweights of Jiu Jitsu both agreeing with how important it was. I wasn’t however, in a position to fully appreciate it. Now, I think it is starting to trickle in, and it’s very important stuff so I am going to try and explain it.

One fighter is passing guard, the other framing, hip escaping, and trying to regain guard. The fighter passing wants to pin the person on bottom and get his points for passing guard and establishing dominant position. Now as a beginner, you struggle to use your weight properly, and then you learn how to use your hips to create pressure, and then you realise that getting the ‘underhook-cross face’ is the fast track to full control. Now – if you are like me – you accept that, and then work it into your game, accepting that controlling the spine through the cross-face and securing that control using the underhook is the best way of stopping the bottom player escaping.

So, we’ve accepted that the ‘cross-face underhook’ is important. This is the third time I have posted this video from Kurt:

Now, then a pattern begins to develop… One of the most important parts of the warm up in wrestling classes : Pummeling. What is Pummeling..? It is the automatic reaction to establish the underhook… Then I begin to really work my half guard, and what’s the most important part of the back take or sweep..? The underhook. Then Gary shows a pass in class, and it doesn’t work at all without the… You guessed it.

The underhook.

I could go on. But you will find that most butterfly sweeps require an underhook. You will also find that defence also requires the use of underhooks, and most importantly (for those of you that watch UFC regularly) it is an incredibly strong element of any escape from bottom that ends up with you standing back up. So how important is the underhook, I would go as far as to say that it is an essential element of your game. You mustuse/understand them to become proficient.

This is Marcelo rolling with Ben Askren. If you haven’t heard of Ben, he’s a highly decorated wrestler who people were willing to make the transition to MMA. He is also a fighter in Bellator who is on a pretty impressive win streak. You will see Marcelo take him to bits, but you will also see Marcelo take underhooks from everywhere! Look at 2.00, you will see Marcelo set up the pass from the very start with underhooks via a pummel. Simple, but ridiculously effective.

Tom Hanlon’s game has changed so much since our first rolling sessions. When we started he had a very strong cut pass, a massively effective butterfly sweep, and a dangerous submission set from top side control. I was – at times – literally a drill dummy for these techniques and I have been on the receiving end of hundreds of these sweeps and submissions. In many ways, I have Tom to thank for my defence 😀 But over the past 12 months, his game has become massive. He can now play half guard, deep half guard, butterfly, and many derivatives. His underhooking is so good that I literally can not control him after the pass. I have to constantly transition once I have passed in order to maintain the control position, and even then he eventually sneaks in a heat seeking underhook missile and escapes back to guard! He definitely has grasped fully the nature and use of the underhook, and he is using it constantly to control my body position. In a good way, he’s awful to roll with!

So what do you do..? How do you train this..? Do you constantly look for it..? Well the answer is no. You can’t put it just anywhere. Get double underhooks from top closed guard and you may get armbarred, and you will be stuck! In fact, taking a single underhook when in top closed guard can be dangerous, you really have to bury it. The key is searching for it during transition. So for a final example, I am cut-passing through Tom’s half guard (or vice versa – usually versa) and we are literally pummelling for the underhook, fighting the friction of the gi because I want the sweep and he wants the side control. The underhook decides those positions for us.

So, to finish on a final example of the underhook in action – and watch it, because it is what stops them taking your back, here’s the Tozi/Sao Paulo Pass as illustrated by Oli Geddes. I’ve tried this pass many times over the last few months and it is finally working! Buchecha uses it a lot, but I digress… Here it is…

To finish, well done to the Sukata guys who fought at the North West open today 🙂 You were all ace! Special well done to Dez Parker, who has just won the UCFC title at under 86kgs! And watch this space for another new gym update: Sukata Southside.

Happy training guys and gals!


4 comments on “Always look, for the underhook…

  1. Pingback: BJJ Manifesto Technique Clip – Half Guard Sweep | BJJ.ORG

  2. Pingback: Rounding Out Your Grappling Game By Utilizing Your Ground Attacks | BJJ.ORG

  3. Pingback: Escaping From Bottom Side Control Into A Back Take Attack - The Science of Skill in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  4. Larry Campbell
    January 7, 2015

    You are right about the under hook it is a key element. If you watch old Brazilian jiu jitsu videos with rickson and the instructional with ralph gracie they use the underhhook greatly. Also, the the book by Helio gracie he use the underhook posture to escape from side control. I’m very curious as to how the the techniques for escaping on bottom changed so much. I have been using the old escape system orginally presented by rickson, ralph and helio gracie and it is much more effective when dealing with bigger opponents.

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