Once in a generation, there comes an athlete in every sport that shifts the paradigm of how we define greatness. Through consistent training, dominant no-gi performances, and a masterful professor behind him in John Danaher, Gordon Ryan is the very definition of when nature meets nurture in the sport of submission grappling: a genetically advantaged individual with a work ethic to match, coupled with some of the finest teachers and training partners on the planet. The byproduct is a 23-year-old black belt out of New Jersey winning ADCC, IBJJF, and multiple time EBI gold and releasing arguably the most highly anticipated guard-passing DVD in history, all with under eight years of training.
In “Systematically Attacking The Guard”, Gordon Ryan takes us through an iconoclastic approach to guard passing, mixing together all styles of favored passes amongst Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in tandem with his personal developments and favorite variations into an all-in-one DVD geared at informing the viewer on how to programmatically pin your opponent’s back and pass their legs.
Before discussing my critical analysis of the DVD, immense credit must be given to Nathalia Santoro, a Renzo Gracie blue belt and uke to Gordon Ryan in this digital video that comes with over ten hours of content. Santoro comes from a body-building background and since teaming up with Gordon has acted as strength & conditioning coach, nutritionist, chef, training partner, and confidant for the ADCC champion, all while becoming a fan favorite in the process with her genuine interactions on Instagram. It is my opinion that no sentence of praise towards Gordon Ryan is complete without mentioning her name and the substantially positive influence she has had and is continuing to have on his career and life as a whole.
In his opening monologue, Gordon expresses his mission as wanting to create a resource to help the viewer become a problem-solver with regards to guard-passing rather than a simple applicator of moves. Given the DVD’s content, there can be no doubt that he accomplishes just that.
Having viewed this DVD in its entirety and practicing my biggest takeaways from it in my most recent rolls, I can attest that there is a lot to be bullish about in learning his system with regards to long-term growth and energy efficiency. The vast majority of passes he teaches in isolation may come as nothing new to the average viewer. What stands out is the ability of Gordon to tie together common passes such as the knee-slice, the over-under, the torreando, and several others into universal principles of hip redirection, footwork, and head positioning, effectively creating a mind-map for any viewer that truly invests in learning his style of passing.
For those viewers coming to the table with a good foundation in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it should come as no surprise that many of Gordon’s “common” passes might have a detail or two that will increase your success rate significantly in that particular move.
What comes as a pleasant surprise is just how succinct and direct of a teacher Gordon is. There is no fat on his statements, no hyperbole in his prose, simply unwavering mechanical discussion as to the ins and outs of guard passing. Beginning viewers need not worry that the DVD will be completely over their head. While greater incoming knowledge certainly enables the viewer to make more mental connections off-the-bat as with any jiu-jitsu instructional, Gordon clearly explains why certain moves work in certain situations, why others don’t, what might work against lower level opponents, and what has proven to work against world-class competition based on biomechanical truths. He eloquently connects his kimura, front head lock, back attack, and leg lock systems into a guard-passing focused discussion. This is an all-encompassing no-gi guard-passing DVD, taking into account various connecting submissions without steering too far off from the central scope. Experienced jiu-jitsu practitioners have a lot to be excited about if they watch between the lines of this DVD — many submission paths are opened by Gordon’s guard-passing principles, and he points out just as much, appropriately reiterating that given that the focus of the DVD is guard passing he will steer his discussion back to accomplishing that mission.
Of particular note with respect to my personal preferences are the number of passes he connects to what the 10th Planet system refers to as “twister side control,” opening up an entirely new approach to the popular subsystem of back attacks. In passing, Gordon makes constant reference to the “hip line” of the guard player as a point of focus for the passer, prioritizing hip redirection in his side control stabilization hierarchy over submission attempts or positional advancements. Back exposure is a common theme throughout — coupled with the prospect of exposing a neck or having the opponent extend a limb, there is a multilayered approach to each system he employs.
This quickly fixes the problem of having opponents effortlessly recover guard against you immediately after you pass. He makes mention of keeping your head over your opponent’s opposite shoulder to mechanically keep them pinned, as opposed to the layman’s thinking of having to develop a strong squeeze to be effective. His leg pummeling and hand-fighting is done with purpose and precision; there is no wasted movement on either his upper or lower body battles for inside position. He outlines central priorities of the guard passer emphasizing that there is no particular order in which a pin must be achieved or the hip redirected — the timing of the movements can be juxtaposed unto one another to create a limitless cascade of possibilities. He discusses preventative strategies, counters, and late responses to tricky guards like the lockdown control, ashi garami, 50/50, De La Riva, Reverse De La Riva, and deep half-guard. Everything from the initial approach to the final pin is discussed thoroughly and at length. These principles are more than driven home by the narrated commentary on his rolls. Seeing him in action while hearing him verbally break down his system ties the entire DVD together, which is something I do not recall being done in any other instructional out there.
A common question readers might ask is, “Do his passes work in the gi?” Given that the principles focus on controlling specific body parts, achieving inside hand and leg positioning, immobilizing your opponent’s hips, and biomechanical efficiency, grabbing fabric can only serve to enhance what is already stated in the DVD. Gordon includes a leg drag variation when your opponent lassos their leg a-la the classic “lasso guard” in the gi. I have since found his no-gi leg drag mechanics translate beautifully to sparring with the kimono. He discusses times when a cross-face would be more beneficial in a gi with fabric to hang on to, whereas in no-gi, it would behoove the guard passer to maintain a different arm configuration. In short, the concept of the gi is not lost upon Gordon.
About the only gripes I had with the DVD are minor quirks that are semantic in nature and have nothing to do with the actual content or utility of the information at hand. For starters, I understand John Danaher uses the term “scorpion” for lockdown control based off the original Japanese translation and this has been carried over to Gordon’s teachings. While Gordon effectively delineates that the two names are interchangeable, given the ubiquitous use of the term “lockdown” throughout the jiu-jitsu world and the virtually nonexistent use of the term “scorpion,” I found his preference curious. It was a small hiccup in the flow of the DVD as Gordon got slightly sidetracked walking Santoro through the electric chair move. The movement did not have the flow and continuity of the vast majority of the other techniques showcased, particularly the crisp entries into Ashi Garami. As a student of Eddie Bravo’s as well as someone who became highly inspired by his second fight with Royler Gracie (making famous the electric chair in the process), I was forlorn to discover that the very words of the move did not enter Gordon’s vocabulary once. Additionally, while there are not many people doing “float” passing relative to knee-slices and over-unders, I challenge Gordon’s idea that “no one in the world
is doing this type of passing.” I was in awe of how he passed Romulo Barral’s guard in ADCC 2017 using the leg weave, recalling an entire class from an old professor of mine where he discussed inside and outside passing in tandem, teaching the leg weave that has since become a staple in my game. Certainly, no one has systematized the leg weave into an intricate system of all-around guard passing skills like Gordon has — I will not deny that truth. To say that “no one” does this type of passing is what I take exception to. I will contend and agree with Gordon, however, that no individual has gotten it to work as effectively as he has at the highest levels of the sport. Lastly, he uses the term “under-over” when again, I see the term “over-under” used more commonly. Along with his use of the “scorpion”, this certainly does not detract from the quality or effectiveness of delivery of the information. It is merely a sign of a critic looking for something “negative” to write about an overwhelmingly game-changing DVD.
All that said, it is my firm belief that the value you receive from this DVD will save you years of frustration and confusion in decrypting the secrets to guard passing. When weighing the choice of signing up for a $200+ IBJJF tournament that includes one gi and one no-gi match in comparison to purchasing the coveted Gordon Ryan DVD, I implore all jiu-jitsu practitioners to ask themselves what the real goal of competition is: to improve, right?
If that is your goal, make the right choice. Buy this DVD and watch it tonight. Even 30 minutes in, you will be a completely different guard passer.
The product described in this post was provided to the Jiu-Jitsu Times in exchange for a complete and honest review.