Thursday, May 30, 2013

Meeting John Danaher

One of the upsides of now training at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Holmdel is that I get to drop in at the Manhattan school at no extra cost. My work schedule allowed me to take the 1pm class today, which was taught by John Danaher. For those who don't know, John is a highly sought after BJJ instructor, and coaches many MMA greats like Georges St. Pierre and has a unique background. He came to American from New Zealand to get his Masters degree in philosophy from Columbia University. This gives him a really unique way of explaining techniques and understanding BJJ.

John explained the takedowns and techniques we did in class very clearly, but looked around as the class did them as opposed to walking around. However, this doesn't mean he wasn't carefully observing us; after class ended, I came over and spoke to him and he pointed out a couple of things he noticed I was doing. He asked a little bit about myself, and I explained that I was one of Rolles' students from Holmdel, but worked in the city. We discussed what I did at work, and I explained that I'm a program coordinator at Fordham Law School. It was then that I saw that John and I see things in a similar light. We got in depth about how my boss helped write the constitutional amendment for Presidential succession, and how brilliant you have to be to understand the law at that level. While he referenced my boss's likely "encyclopedic knowledge" we agreed that at the highest level is where the application, understanding, and dissemination of that knowledge is what separates the elite from just the smart.

And that's where I began speaking about my journey in jiu jitsu. I explained my rut to him; that I hadn't won a gi match since December 2011, and he immediately asked if I felt any turning points. I thought for a second and then explained that I am starting to learn how to set up moves instead of forcing them. Throughout 2012, I tried to force moves in competition instead of looking for openings. Now with every pass, sweep, and submission I learn, I try and learn it in context; what to look for, how to set it up, and what to watch out for.

I also mentioned how I am no longer intimidated by my opponents. How I used to obsessively check the registration list, how I would freak out if I saw a big name like Alliance/Gracie Barra/CheckMat, etc. on the list and immediately defeat myself. He made the point that you are "fighting a person, not their reputation".

He thanked me for speaking with him and said he looked forward to seeing me at future classes. It was reassuring to know that the way I approach jiu jitsu now has been used effectively by someone else and isn't as overly analytic as others have led me to believe. Too bad his private lessons run at 150/hour!


  1. If I manage to get to black belt, at some point after that I'm planning to save up for a good while, then fly over to the US and get a bunch of privates with Danaher, Henry Akins and Carlos Machado. That's a looooong way off though. :)

  2. I am moving to NYC in August and id love to train with John do you know if he still teaches regularly at the NYC academy?