Klaus Burton


John Will seminar technical notes

Last night at GSW we had a seminar from the legendary John Will.
He covered lots of chokes and tips from a low knee-ride position. It was really great and I think I absorbed a lot of stuff and will try to use all of it.


I’m gonna write down some of the things he taught us:

Knee ride positioning
After the warmup which involved some light judo throws, we started off with general low knee-ride positioning.
From a tight side control with head and arm control with our left arm behind their head, we grabbed their far shoulder with our left arm and pulled it towards us and used the same shoulder to force their head to tilt away from us to make it harder for them to hip escape. Then we placed our cupped right hand on their far hip with our forearm across their waist/belly, then joined the elbow of the same arm to our right knee, creating an unbroken chain from the right hand to the right foot.
Next the knee goes up to the belly and the left leg posts out, roughly a shoulder width away from their body, and roughly in line with their shoulders, with the foot pointing slightly towards them. It’s important to place as much weight onto your knee/shin as possible, and to keep the weight distributed across them with your shin instead of the point of the knee because if it’s just the point of the knee they can hip escape more easily.

Chokes from knee ride
Next was a double lapel choke that works if the opponent successfully hip escapes your knee ride. You get a four-finger grip on their right-side lapel with your right hand before they escape, then after they escape and while they are facing sideways, you maintain the grip with your right hand and grab a thumb grip with your left hand on their left lapel. To make it easier to grab their left lapel you can punch your right hand farther and upwards which will make the lapel looser for your left hand to grab. Your head should be above your hands, so all 3 parts (both hands and head) are in a vertical line. Then to finish you lift your right arm up to get the choke.

We learned that if you are going for a choke from knee ride and the person defends by grabbing your arm tightly, that’s now your arm. It doesn’t matter if they are gripping you or you are gripping them.
In the example we went through you have the knee ride and your right hand is gripping their right lapel like in the previous example. You try to grab the left one to set up the choke but they grab your arm with both of their arms. This exposes enough of their right arm for you to sit back and put your left leg over their head for the armbar.

Baseball bat choke, AKA spinning choke
The first version starts from knee ride, then you get a four finger inside grip on their left lapel with your right hand and a thumb inside grip with your left hand on their lapel near the back of their neck, like you’re holding a baseball bat. Knowing where to get that grip depends on your body and your opponent’s body, if you get sore wrists from doing it then you can try gripping either farther or nearer to you. It can help to maintain control of them if you transfer some weight to your right elbow. Move your head close to your right knee and move your elbows together on the same side as your body. At this point it can already be tight enough to choke depending on how deep your grips are so for drilling you may have to loosen your grips a lot to follow through to the end of the technique. Next your right foot should move into the place of your left foot, and your left foot should move away so you are in a semi-standing north-south position. Stay really low the whole time since if you move upwards your wrists/forearms may slide out of position of their neck and onto their jaw which reduces the chances of the choke working. So as you rotate try to keep your head on their belly to maintain that good angle while your feet do the rotating. Your head should finish on the right side of their body, which again makes the angle better than if your head was on their belly, and to make sure the choke is using both sides of muscles (lats) on your body, you should be off-center to your left in relation to them, as opposed to being in line with their body with your head tilted. If the person still hasn’t tapped you can raise your body onto your toes and squeeze your elbows tighter.

If, during the stage of bringing your elbows together, your opponent places their right hand by their right ear so their arm prevents your elbows from getting close enough (“answering the phone”) you can slide your knee from their belly to their shoulder and to the ground behind their head, taking their arm with it.

The variation on that is if they are blocking your right hand from grabbing their left lapel, you can distract them by continuing to go for it while your left hand sneaks up to grab their right lapel with your fingers on the inside, with the top of your hand towards your face. It works pretty well because that grip doesn’t feel like it’s a threat yet to them. From there you rotate around their head completely to end up in side control on the opposite side, which turns that grip into the one you want for the choke. As you’re going around you can grab the lapel at the back of their neck with your right hand and do the choke from that side.

Back take chokes from knee ride
This starts from the knee ride position, you get grips on the lapel as if to go for a choke – or just grab the gi in the shoulder/traps area – and pull towards you to make them sit up. Then your left leg goes behind them and you take the back with a seatbelt grip and hooks in.

The first version of this involves a double lapel choke. With your left arm under their left armpit and your right hand over their right shoulder, use your right arm to pry their chin away from their neck to get your wrist/forearm under their chin, then use your left hand to feed their left lapel to your right hand for a thumb-in grip. Then you grab their right lapel with your left hand positioned as close to your right arm as possible for tightness, and pull your arms back to finish the choke.

The variation on this is if you can’t get the grip with your left hand, you can remove your right leg hook and put it on the ground below their butt and prop up on your right elbow, so you are sideways facing them. Unhook your left foot and place it on the ground by their belly, then slide your right knee along the ground until it is close to their right shoulder, point your shin away from them and sit backwards while grabbing under their left knee with your left arm. This is really awkward for them and depending on how deep you got your right hand they could be tapping now. If they aren’t, you can turn it into a bow and arrow choke by putting your right leg over their right shoulder, hooking your feet together and pushing with your legs while pulling with your right arm.

Final thoughts
I’m sure I missed a bunch of great stuff, and for sure I left out his awesome and hilarious stories throughout, but that’s the main stuff that stuck with me.
Also, Pat and Phil got their brown belts last night, huge congrats to both guys! I haven’t rolled much with Phil but I’ve seen him owning, and Pat is just amazing with his level of dedication and skill.
Here’s a pic of them from John’s Facebook: