Danaher’s Kimura System: Like Using a Sharper Knife

Quality beats luxury, and the difference is obvious.

Apr 24, 2019 · 4 min read

I’m not the kind of man who values newness for its own sake. I’d much rather eat a sandwich in the ruins of an Imperial Palace than spend the night in Shanghai’s most expensive hotel. I slept on a sheet on top of a hardwood floor from 2009–2017 because I felt that a dedicated “sleeping platform” was an affectation.

On the other hand, I appreciate the aesthetics of efficiency. Well ordered furniture and a purposefully decorated room create an environment conducive to happiness and productivity. About a year ago, I saw a friend’s newly painted living room and well-organized desk on social media, and realized it was time to stop living like the guy from “The Professional”. I got married, and if we ever decide to start living together, I’m sure her greater appreciation for orderliness will elevate my life. Until then, that role falls to John Danaher.

Elbow to elbow, hand to wrist, head side arm covers the back of your hand. Why didn’t I know this!

Danaher’s six-part approach to submissions is a profound improvement over what I was doing before. Qualitatively, it’s the difference between a sheet over a hardwood floor and a futon in a tatami room. Danaher has found a way of breaking down techniques into a series of problems presented by the opponent and provides the most efficient answers to those problems. I thought we were all doing this, but after studying his materials I realized that it’s a unique approach to Jiu Jitsu. By way of example: He’s turned my Kimura into an ergonomic tool that’s a joy to work with rather than something which simply gets the job done.

I’d always thought of “the Kimura” as an archetype. I knew what the finished position was like, and I simply willed my body into that configuration whenever I sensed the possibility. This kind of “scrambling ability” is an important aspect of martial arts, but as a primary approach, it’s fundamentally flawed. The intuitive approach to technique only works “sometimes” and whether it does or doesn’t the only way to improve one’s performance is to attempt more attacks. This leads to years of oscillations in progress until the systems of intuition of habit build up a serviceable approach based on positive and negative reinforcement during submission attempts. Needless to say, the results of such progress are doomed to be sub-optimal.

Danaher gives this position a name (Dorsal Kimura) and troubleshoots it thoroughly. This has spared me a lot of pain and disappointment in the coming years!

The intuitive approach is also open to the criticism that the line where the memorized technique stops and intuition begins is arbitrary. Most coaches teach students a vague outline of each technique and then feed them “details” as they see the student progress through various phases of competence. These details feel like gems of revealed wisdom, but strictly speaking, they are simply methods increasing mechanical efficiency, things the student ideally would have done on each attempt from the very beginning. Danaher’s tutorials do an impressive job of finding a rational starting point where the technique begins and provides a detailed description of the entire process.

Typically, when one purchases an instructional, one picks out the portions of it that can be most readily implemented in one’s “game” and then sets the rest aside. Viewed as a compendium of tips and details for improving submissions the Danaher Kimura System instructional can seem repetitive and wordy. However, if one commits to implementing an entire system exactly as Danaher describes, the results are highly rewarding.

Recently, I mentally discarded my entire approach to the Kimura submission in favor of Danaher’s instructional. The result was that my ability to finish Kimuras from every position went from an uneven patchwork of strong and weak positions to overall confidence that I could finish from any position as long as I met specific technical requirements. Far from leading me to over-rely on memory, this approach reduced my cognitive load and made the overall flow of the action easier to predict.

When you take the back from here, the chin must be lower than the elbow. Seriously!

Instead of an archetype reinforced by intuition, I now have an HD video in my mind of how to approach Kimura Locks and Kimura related situations. It’s the largest monthly improvement in my game since my first year training. I highly recommend Danaher’s instructionals to beginners, advanced practitioners, and especially to instructors. Danaher’s approach can and should become the basis of a solid curriculum of systematized technique which imparts the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu efficiently. There is plenty of room for artistic self-expression after people have mastered the technical aspects of the art, and work is always more fun when undertaken with efficient tools.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium