Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Case Study: Marcelo Garcia's Crab Ride (Plus Another Bonus Video from Marcelo)

I am a bit of an instructional junkie, and I have been that way since I started jiu-jitsu.  After spending hundreds of dollars on books and DVDs and after watching hours of YouTube videos, two questions occupy my mind each time I read or view an instructional: "Would this material actually work and will it work for me?"

Many times, there is video proof of certain techniques working in competition, even consistently, but often there are certain prerequisites that I do not meet.  Size.  Strength.  Speed.  Flexibility.  For example, I used to play rubber guard religiously, a position that I discuss in The Cauliflower Chronicles, but multiple knee injuries have made it impossible for me to execute even the most basic rubber guard tactics.  Other techniques do not suit my weak arms, and any attack that relies on explosiveness is out of my reach.

I am not physically blessed, but that's why I started training jiu-jitsu in the first place, and I suspect that many of my readers are like me in that respect.

When I had the opportunity to write Marcelo Garcia's next book, I was stoked.  I could finally get an insider's perspective on a world champion's style, and I could test every aspect of his game.  I could see if Marcelo's jiu-jitsu could translate to other grapplers or if it was the product of some genetic fortune.

Enter Will Dwyer
Will started taking private lessons with me not long after I began working on Marcelo's new book.  When Will and I began to train together, he was already an experienced Judo player and jiu-jitsu fighter.  He was taking weekly privates with a jiu-jitsu black belt, with a 10th Planet coach, and with a wrestling coach.  His closet was full of belts and swords and medals, won in competitions across the United States, and he was consistently ranked in the top three fighters of his NAGA division.  He last competed a few months ago at the Midwest NAGA Grappling Championship in the no-gi expert division... of 10-12 year olds weighing 80-89.9 pounds.

Yes, Will is a young grappler, but his dedication and learning ability outpace that of myself and of many of the adults with which I train.  When his father mentioned that Will was one of the smaller fighters in his weight class and that he was often forced to fight up a weight class, I had an idea: Will was going to become an experiment, a case study.  I would take the techniques that I was learning and drilling from Marcelo and teach them to Will.  If Will could use them effectively in competition and in the gym, where he rolled with more adults than kids, I would know that this book was going to be something special.  His father agreed to the experiment and we got to work completing two hours of private lessons every week and rolling at weekly open mats.  We drilled arm drags, back attacks, butterfly sweeps, and guard passes.

And the crab ride.  Will loved the crab ride and used it constantly.

The Crab Ride and the Back Body Lock
A major component of Marcelo's arm drag system is the back body lock.  If you are working the arm drag from standing or against a standing opponent when you are butt scooting, it can often be difficult to jump on to their back and establish seatbelt control, especially if your opponent is much taller than you.  The back body lock, a position where you are standing behind your opponent with your arms wrapped around his waist, serves as a staging position between the arm drag and back control.  With the back body lock established, you can set up a more controlled back take or set up a takedown all while using a few simple tricks to keep your opponent off balance and from attacking your wrists.

If your opponent is much much larger than you, forcing him to the mat with a traditional takedown from the back body lock or jumping on to his back can be risky and ineffective.  In these situations, Marcelo uses the crab ride.  While maintaining the back body lock, he jumps both of his feet into the backs of his opponent's knees, pulling backward with his arms as he straightens his legs to buckle his opponent's base.  It's a quick maneuver that beautifully capitalizes on the leverage of your body weight and the power of exploiting key weaknesses in the bio-mechanics of the human body.

Here is a video of Marcelo hitting the crab ride in the ADCC (virtually every other technique in this highlight is in the book as well):

Will, being younger and lighter than most of his training partners and opponents, often found himself in the back body lock position.  His Judo game and his growing wrestling ability often took him there.  If he was unable to complete a takedown, the ensuing scramble ended with him behind his opponent, locked on to their waist.  The position frustrated him because he could not drag larger opponents to the mat, and it was just a matter of time before they used their superior strength to strip his arms and escape the position.

I did not know that Will struggled with the back body lock until we were rolling.  I was in his open guard and began to stand, creating distance as I backed out of his guard.  Will sat up and exploded into a single leg.  With a hundred pound advantage on my side, I managed to maintain my balance and began pushing his head to the outside.  Instinctively, Will spun to my back and established the back body lock.  He began tugging at my waist, trying to drag me to the mat.  I grabbed one of his wrists and snaked me free hand to my own wrist, establishing a figure four to break his grip and threaten a kimura.

I stopped the match at this point and told Will to return to the back body lock position.  He did.  I controlled his wrist again, with a single grip not a figure four, and told him to take me down.  He attempted to attack with a single leg, but couldn't because I had his wrist controlled.  He attempted to drag me backward, but I was too heavy.  I then told him to take my back.

"I can't," Will said.
"Why not?"
"My arm is trapped, and you're too tall."

Then I showed him the crab ride.

"That is so cool!" Will exclaimed.
"What was that?" His dad, watching from the edge of the mat, asked.

We spent another five minutes discussing the finer points of the crab ride and when was appropriate to use the attack.  I expected it to be a novelty move for Will, a for-fun technique that he used when he was rolling with friends, but I was wrong.  The crab ride became his go-to move from the back body lock, and he used it on everyone in the gym, especially the adults.  Then, he took it into competition. Look at the situation that Will finds himself in (and how plays it out) in this video and compare it to the action from the Marcelo video from before:

Seeing Will put Marcelo technique after Marcelo technique into action quickly and effectively helped to make me a believer.  I knew that the knowledge from Marcelo's book was making me a better grappler, but knowing that someone as young and as small as Will could use the same strategies and principles in the gym and in competition removed any doubt as to just how practical and useful Marcelo's style of jiu-jitsu really is.  When you begin to drill the same techniques, you will become a believer as well.  Below is a video of Marcelo discussing the crab ride in a behind the scenes video of the Victory Belt photo shoot.  Enjoy:

To purchase Marcelo's new book: Advanced Brazilian Jiujitsu Techniques


  1. I have MG's Advanced BJJ book as well as the Xguard book. Very well written and organized. Hope he updates the Xguard book one day to show his 1leg xguard game.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the Advanced BJJ book. :)

      His one leg x-guard game is pretty cool, and Marcelo is always evolving, so there's got to be a chance that he does another book.