It’s time to continue my review of How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent, the latest BJJ instructional DVD set by Emily Kwok and Stephan Kesting. We now move on to DVD 2, “Compensating for Strength.”
That vague title doesn’t give any hints to its contents, so I’ll spoil it for you: Emily teaches 1) open and half guard, 2) guard passing, and 3) escapes from side control and mount. At nearly 2½ hours long, this is the longest of the 5 discs, and it is crammed full of techniques.
To start the DVD, Emily shows her guard gameplan that includes butterfly guard, one legged x-guard (AKA leglock guard), x-guard and half guard. She presents a good primer on each of these guards, explaining its core strategy and teaching 3-4 solid sweeps. Like always, Emily’s technique is crisp, and her explanations are clear and detailed.
Her one legged x-guard material is especially interesting because you can’t find this guard covered in much depth outside of some Marcelo Garcia’s videos. I picked up new details on it that I’m excited to put into practice.
Speaking of Marcelo, you can see the mark he’s left on Emily’s style, and she points this out herself. The lists of guards above could easily have been taken from Marcelo, and if you are familiar with Marcelo’s game and philosophy, you can see parallels in what Emily teaches throughout this set. More than the individual techniques, I enjoyed hearing about Emily’s attitude towards jiu-jitsu practice and competition.
This next point will help you decide if this DVD is for you or not. You can find more in-depth instruction on most of these guards in other DVDs, which may be good or bad for you.
If you don’t already own instructionals like Kesting’s butterfly and x-guard DVD or half guard DVD, then you’ll be happy with Emily’s condensed explanation of these guards and how she lays out a cohesive gameplan where every move is high percentage and dovetails into the next.
But if you already own DVDs on these guards (by Kesting or another BJJ black belt), then you’ll be familiar with most of this material, which may be disappointing if you are looking for new techniques.
That said, there is a danger to always seeking “new” techniques and not being happy with the old faithful ones that work. And it’s also not as if Emily is teaching boring closed guard and cross collar chokes circa 1995—she shows modern, advanced open guards. It’s just that other DVDs have taught them too.
The sections on guard passing and escapes follow the same story: the quality of instruction is very good, all of the techniques are high percentage, and if you don’t have the time or money to watch a bunch of instructionals, this is a smart buy because it packages a lot of good material in one place. If you are experienced or watch a lot of instructionals, you’ll likely have seen most of the moves already and may wish for more.
To be fair to Stephan and Emily and their intention for making these DVDs, their target market is clearly beginners who are still struggling with the fundamental problem presented in the set’s title: “How do I beat someone bigger and stronger than me?” As a brown belt who has seen dozens and dozens of BJJ DVDs, I’m not who this set was created to help.
That’s not to say it’s worthless if you have seen most of the moves before. Higher belts can benefit from seeing techniques explained by a skilled teacher with lots of tips and tricks, and it’s valuable to hear an experienced black belt explain their mindset and why they choose certain moves and strategies. There are certainly techniques I want to drill again thanks to Emily, even if I have seen them elsewhere in the past.
My overall opinion of this DVD is the same as the first disc. It’s a very good resource for beginners, especially white and blue belts, and I’d recommend it to them with no reservations. Experienced guys may want to take a look over the chapters first to see if enough of it catches their interest. There is no faulting the quality of the instruction, so it simply comes down to how much you need what Emily and Stephan offer.
Next time, we’ll review “DVD 3: Top Five Moves.”
I humbly disagree with your assessment of the technique levels and usefulness of the DVD. The techniques are the foundation of Marcelo’s game and philosophy, and Emily has done a terrific job putting it forth in a manner which is accessible to anyone with more than a year’s training without in any way “dumbing it down.” Judging it by how useful it is to you, isn’t a fair evaluation – as you indicate, you are a brown belt and have watched a ton of instructional DVD’s (not to mention having done some very good instructionals of your own while still only a blue belt).
I really get the feeling that Emily has poured the heart and soul of her beginner’s curriculum into this set. As you say, she isn’t teaching the straightforward stuff you can get anywhere – the best collar chokes and arm bar set ups, or triangles – she is teaching a different way of looking at jiu jitsu that is good for the beginning, middle and end – the high percentage submissions (stuff that will work, if you are good enough, even against large fighters), how to really, truly break grips and why you need to always think about breaking grips (“I used to leave the collar grip in place and try to work around it, but that doesn’t work well in the end.”)
The fact that you consider this white and blue belt level material (what’s your idea of purple belt level – berimbolo and 50/50?) is probably more the result of the clarity of her instruction and not leaving out the “obvious” than because these techniques are run of the mill or ordinary. Sitting guard itself is far from ordinary!
Are we reading the same review? I don’t really see what you’re disagreeing with me on. I’ve been giving this set an honest review, and overall it is positive. I never complained about the quality of the techniques or Emily’s teaching ability, because there’s nothing to complain about. You’ll only see praise from me there.
But I do feel that most purple belts and up would already be familiar with a lot of this material, and that if they were looking for “new” moves they would be disappointed (especially if they already own DVDs on the topic), but that they would be satisfied if they watched it for her mindset and strategies.
Do you disagree that there aren’t already DVDs that teach grappling drills, grip breaking, sitting guard, half guard and x-guard, guard passing and positional escapes? (I know the set covers more than that, but that’s all I have reviewed so far.) Kesting himself has in-depth DVDs on many of these topics. Emily is a great teacher, which is why I said to get her DVDs if you don’t already have ones on the topic (or they don’t teach it well enough.)
Keep in mind that we are also only talking about 1 DVD out of 5 here. I’m in the middle of disc 3 and I am finding it much more interesting than 1 and 2. The real question to answer is if the entire set is worth getting, since you can’t get it any other way, and that will come at the end.
Aesopian you are a little jaded!
Plus you learned kinda quickly when you started out, and I think as a result you may underestimate the hurdles most beginning students face, especially sub 150 lb grapplers (almost all women and a lot of guys, it would be even more guys but smaller guys have a terrible start/drop out rate).
I think this is a really helpful set for its stated target audience, grapplers who routinely face bigger, stronger opponents, and has value as an alternative approach when medios face pesados and supers (that was why MG developed this approach, to deal with absolutes).
I’m not sure how its going to work for the average grappler – stuff like the single leg x and regular x seem harder to apply than people want to believe – and seated guard isn’t an instant cure, takes a lot of practice – but the “top 5” submissions is an interesting concept, and I’m going to try to use the guillotine more often as a result.
Problem with Marcelo’s stuff – and Emily is essentially channeling Marcelo in this set – is that it looks easy when Marcelo does it, but it’s not widely adopted in practice because if you don’t work it a lot, your classmates get the hang of it and choke your growth curve.
But at least Emily has the guts to put a different approach out there – maybe not completely new in terms of individual techniques, but when put together into a fairly complete “game” is definitely not your ordinary bjj.
So what are you actually disagreeing with me on?