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The 2014 Instructor of the Year Contest, Presented by Artechoke Media, Open Mat Radio, and r/BJJ


Nominations have officially closed. Please check back on Sept. 16 to read about and vote for one of the finalists.


So often the conversations occurring in BJJ communities around the world, on and offline center around competitors—who is winning what tournaments and what techniques they are using to find success. The toil of competitive jiu-jiteiros has done a lot for the technical advancement of our sport, and having these competitors to model our training after has helped to push many of us to achieve new milestones in our training.

At the same time, our focus on awarding top competitors with trophies and distinctions has taken the spotlight away from the heroes in the sport that work in a different way to grow the art of jiu-jitsu: instructors.

Many of the best instructors are not famous. They do not have highlight videos. They are not featured in documentaries or on podcasts. But they change lives. They dedicate their lives to their academies and their students, working tireless to spread the art and to better the lives that they touch.

Artechoke Media, Open Mat Radio, and r/BJJ have joined forces to help shine the spotlight on some of these heroes.

The Instructor of the Year award is designed to highlight the instructors who are going above and beyond to serve their students and their communities. The goal is not to highlight the individuals who have forged a reputation via competition—many avenues for this exist already—but rather who have inspired students to train jiu-jitsu and to become better people.

The 2014 Instructor of the Year Award includes:

  • An engraved crystal award commemorating the achievement
  • A framed award poster suitable for display
  • An interview with Open Mat Radio
  • An in-depth feature on
  • Marketing consulting for the instructor’s gym (via Artechoke)

The contest is broken into 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: Nominations
  • Phase 2: Voting

Phase 1: How to Nominate an Instructor:

Your nomination should include…

  • Your instructor’s name, rank, and affiliation
  • Your instructor’s email address and school website
  • Your own name and rank
  • Why you feel your instructor deserves the distinction of being Instructor of the Year
  • Optional: A video of your nomination, photos of you and your instructor, videos of your instructor teaching or working with students, any other media that might be relevant (newspaper clips, television appearances, etc).
  • Note: Your nomination may be shared publically if your instructor is a finalist.

Instructors can be nominated more than once (and we encourage it) as long as the nominations are unique. No copy/pasting and one nomination per person, please. Once you have collected the above information, click here to submit your nomination.  Nominations have officially closed. Please check back on Sept. 16 to read about and vote for one of the finalists.

Nominations will close at 1pm EST on Sept. 12.

Phase 2: How to Vote for a Finalist

Five instructors will advance to the finals based on the number of unique nominations that they receive, and five instructors will advance based on the evaluation of our judges, making for a total of ten Instructor of the Year finalists. Note: our judge’s instructors are not eligible to win this contest for the sake of eliminating bias.

Our judges:

From Artechoke Media:

  • Marshal D. Carper
  • Matt Kirtley

From Open Mat Radio:

  • Paul Moran

From r/bjj:

  • UncleSkippy
  • cresquin

Voting for finalists will begin on Sept. 16 and continue through Sept. 23. Winners will be announced on Sept. 25.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Artechoke Media. In the meantime, get your nominations together and share this contest with your friends to encourage them to nominate instructors as well. BJJ instructors deserve our support! Click here to get started.

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This is What Happens When a White Belt Learns the Reverse Omoplata


The reverse omoplata has a sordid reputation in the jiu-jitsu world. In one breath, jiu-jiteiros often dismiss the reverse omoplata as a technique that is too flashy, too complicated, and too dangerous to be reliably effective and therefore worth teaching to students.

But what happens when a white belt learns the reverse omoplata?

We have two case studies on that front, the first being Matt Kirtley (Aesopian). He learned the technique as a white belt, sparking the crucifix obsession that later lead to his writing his definitive crucifix instructional. While Matt’s story is interesting, the more curious story is the story of a white belt, Seiji Sugiman-Marangos that learned the reverse omoplata by reading Matt’s blog. If the reverse omoplata is as absurd and dangerous and many say it is, surely this story ends in disaster.

Here is what Seiji, who trains under Franco/Behring Jiu Jitsu, had to say:

I first came across Matt’s (Aeso) rants on the virtues of the crucifix position and reverse omoplata as a white belt with less than a year’s experience in jiujitsu. I thought that the technique looked really cool and began looking for the position during rolling. It wasn’t until I used the technique to win a match while I was still a white belt that I started taking the position seriously and began corresponding with Matt to troubleshoot the technique as well as working with my coaches: Shah Franco, Marco Costa and Richard Nancoo, on integrating it into my game. For the past few years I’ve slowly been accumulating wins by reverse omoplata in the blue and purple belt divisions of the local tournament circuit.

Here is Seiji hitting the reverse omoplata in a purple belt gi match (if you’d like to see him hitting it earlier in his career, check out this video and this video).

The whole match is pretty good, and you can watch it here. What this match helps to illustrate is that the reverse omoplata, and crucifix in general, is not an outlandish move. The opportunity to use it is open any time you are in side ride attacking the turtle. Sometimes your opponent makes a mistake and gives it to you quickly, and sometimes you need to slowly and steadily work your way into the set-up just like you would any other submission. In this particular match, Seiji catches the crucifix in a scramble probably because his opponent wasn’t used to having to protect his arms from being trapped when he turtles.

But Seiji hasn’t just used the reverse omoplata in jiu-jitsu tournaments. He’s used it in professional MMA as well, showing both the versatility and practicality of the reverse omoplata. Here’s what he said about it:

Ever since I had my first professional MMA bout last year I’ve had the thought in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to finish a fight by reverse omoplata. During my most recent fight, hitting the technique was the furthest thing from my mind, but when I felt my opponent’s arm grab my leg I went to the position instinctively. After executing the technique I think I was probably as surprised as my opponent as well as everyone else in attendance.

Here it is in action (and this is the full video if you’re interested):

In this match, Seiji’s opponent again makes a crucial mistake, and Seiji has the instincts to instantly trap and isolate the arm, protecting him from a takedown while setting him up for the finishing rolling. If he had not been drilling the crucifix for much of his career, the opportunity to end the fight may have passed him by. In reality, the mistake that Seiji’s opponent makes nears the level of leaving a head and arm between your opponent’s legs. With a quick shift of the hips, Seiji has multiple attacks at his disposal, the reverse omoplata being one of them.

And that’s really what the crucifix game is about. It fills a hole in your game that you may not know you have. Suddenly, you find yourself having options that you never noticed before, making you a more effective, more dangerous grappler. It’s not a gimmick, and Seiji agrees:

The reverse omoplata is not a complicated or gimmicky move (most people learn how to front roll in their first BJJ class). Although it may appear risky, I find that the most difficult part of the technique is the initial arm trap and not the roll-through, which is where you risk losing dominant position. I wouldn’t advocate giving up back control with hooks (although I have been tempted in the past) but the reverse omoplata has been one of my main options from side-ride for almost as long as I have been training.

Don’t pass up on a position just because it looks unusual, especially if legitimate grapplers and instructors have made it a regular part of the game. In the case of the crucifix, if Matt’s word is not enough to sway you, don’t forget that competitors like Marcelo Garcia and Baret Yoshida are crucifix enthusiasts as well.

Whether you’re a new student or a veteran grappler, the crucifix and reverse omoplata has a place in your jiu-jitsu education.


Mastering the CrucifixMastering the Crucifix by Matt Kirtley captures a complete system for the crucifix and reverse omoplata, fully integrating this under-used position into a well-rounded arsenal. Read all of Chapter 2 for free. You can decide to purchase after studying over 20 techniques delivered using the unique Artechoke model that combines the best features of books, DVDs, and apps into a singular instructional. No sleazy sales tricks or gimmicks. Buy the complete product for $39.95.
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One of My Students Got in a Fight

teaching a class

I know that we’re in the heat of promoting Mastering the Crucifix by Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley, and that’s still important. You should definitely read the free chapter and then buy the full book. That said, one of my students got into a fight recently. I want to talk about that.

The context: Jenko (not his real name) trained with me for about three years in the off and on way that students at a University club do. He was one of the most consistent students I had, but summer and winter breaks interrupted his training. Regardless, Jenko would come back every semester eager to learn and ready to work. Near the end of his undergraduate career, he enrolled in a police internship program, went through the academy, and is now working full-time as a police officer.

When I say that Jenko got in a fight, he was on duty. He wasn’t dojo-storming or defending the honor of spilled beer at a dive bar. His fight was mostly unavoidable, an occupational hazard, but Jenko is a young guy, and he is relatively new to the force. An actual fight with a drug addict is a scary thing in this context.

Here is the first text that Jenko sent me:

I got in a scuffle last night at work, and I walked away without a scratch, and the other guy went to the hospital. I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate the time and effort you put into teaching all of us. The little bit of self-defense training we got at the academy down here was completely worthless. If I went in there with just what the department taught us I probably would get my ass kicked and have hepatitis.”

Jenko is a bit of a comedian at times, but I asked him to tell me more because while I’ve had a few students use their jiu-jitsu to defend themselves, none of those instances were as serious as the situation Jenko had been in. Jenko was breaking up a parking lot fight and the aggressor turned his rage on him. Jenko subdued him and pinned him with a “knee on back” position while the offender continued trying to flail and spit blood at Jenko and his partner.

I asked Jenko if he was scared (because I am a touchy feely emotional guy like that). His response:

I feel like I’ve been able to handle myself in these situations with more confidence, and as a result I’ve been able to keep a little cooler head than some of the other guys, which means I’ve probably done less physical damage to the offenders I’ve come in contact with than maybe someone else would have.”

In one sentence, Jenko summed up one of my favorite things about jiu-jitsu: you get used to the stress of someone actively trying to harm you, making it easier for you to remain rational and in control. For me, this has extended into my personal and professional life. I am much slower to anger in all cases and am thus better equipped to make the smarter, strategic decision where the pre-jiu-jitsu version of me would have acted out of anger or fear. Whether you’re a cop, a bouncer, or a librarian, this is a valuable skill.

I can’t explain how happy I am that Jenko has been able to stay safe, and I hope that his story will help to motivate other people to train as well.

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Sherdog User Gambledub Praises Mastering the Crucifix

SherdogLogoLargerImageWith review copies of Mastering the Crucifix still en route to jiu-jitsu bloggers, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Sherdog user Gambledub took the time to write an extensive, in-depth review of Mastering the Crucifix. While we recommend reading the review in full, here are some highlights.

About our use of looped GIFs:

The GIF’s are brilliant, I like how multiple angles are shown, and how Matt and Marshal also show troubleshooting (failing) aspects as well. This makes it a really handy feature as a skim through to show you how to do the technique, while reinforcing the critical aspects of the technique. I could see it being really handy in situations at the gym if I had it on my phone for quickly getting the important points ingrained before drilling/rolling etc. I also like how GIF’s focusing on different positions such as in the side ride section; the last frame has been extended to clearly show the emphasis on the final position.

Regarding the Artechoke model as a whole:

The format Matt and Marshal have gone for, has worked far better than I expected. You have the instructional videos, but chaptered like a book so there is no guessing times on DVD players or VLC etc. However unlike a book there are GIF’s and videos rather than comic book strips of techniques which are difficult to extract timing and subtle movements from. I really hope Artechoke have set a trend for the future of BJJ instructionals. I really believe they have set a new benchmark! Add that to the fact its online and I can access it anywhere from my phone, this is next level stuff!

Sherdog user DocSooner chimes in about our price-point:

I’ve only started working through it last night but will agree that so far this is an excellent product, and ridiculous at the price.

And HEAVY GRAPPLER commented about the format as well:

I am just looking through the free materials and that gif format is rad. That’s how i want all instructionals to look. I am always the guy asking to see the technique one more time.

Seeing this feedback is incredibly humbling. Artechoke has been a labor of love and passion, and nothing makes us happier than seeing jiu-jiteiros enjoy our content. We’re looking forward to refining our product with each release and pushing the instructional envelope further and further. Special thanks to Gambledub for starting this conversation.

Read the full thread or skip right to purchasing your copy of Mastering the Crucifix.

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Beating the Near Arm in Side Control


Maintaining top position in jiu-jitsu is very much a dynamic process. You constantly have to adjust and maneuver to account for your opponent’s attempts to escape. Your movements may not be big ones. They may even be invisible to the naked eye. But movement matters. If you get stiff and static, your opponent will find an opening and escape.

In this class, we focused on dealing with a near-arm frame. If you have achieved side control, this arm will typically frame against your hip to create space for a re-guard or to reduce your pressure to the point that they can turn and escape to their knees. If you aren’t aggressive and diligent about neutralizing this threat, your opponent will use it against you to weaken your position. Technically, there are four ways to beat this arm.

  1. Turn your hips toward the head to drop under your opponent’s elbow, assuming a kesa gatame position.
  2. Turn your hips toward the legs, dropping your hips in the groove between their shoulder and chin, assuming a north-south position.
  3. Turn your hips toward the legs, dropping in front of the hips, assuming a reverse kesa gatame position.
  4. Elevate your hips and assume a knee on belly position.

In this class, for the sake of simplicity, we look at the first two options and tie them to two basic submissions, the Americana and the Kimura. The idea here is to keep your hips active, to never let your opponent establish and exert control over your hips with his arm. Basically, you rock your hips side to side until you find a weakness in your opponent’s frame. Given his position on the bottom, it’s difficult for him to cover all fronts at once, so you have to learn to feel the openings with your weight.

When you transition into a kesa gatame position, the Americana is one of the basic submissions that will pop up. There are other options, of course, but I wanted to get my students to couple maintaining control with hunting for a submission in their minds, specifically with a simple submission that would not compromise their position if they missed it.

In the second technique, we drop into a north-south position. As you watch this, note the positioning of my hips, how I keep myself low and spread my weight out. I use my ribs to create pressure on my opponent’s chin and commit my control to one shoulder rather than both. Once I am in this position, I immediately look for a Kimura.

Admittedly, this transition to the Kimura is a bit tricky, and it took me a while to get it down. Once you are confident with it, it becomes a high-percentage, reliable attack. If you can get your hand under their elbow to wrap their arm, you should feel like you are about to finish the match because you are that close to a submission.

Next week, we are going to look at the other two options and work to develop a fluid top game, where you swivel and dig your hips until you find a dominate top position where your opponent’s framing arm is out of the game.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.