Ask the Nail

Ask the Nail

“The secret of this sport is, while you’re the nail, hang in there, let them hit you, until the day you become the hammer, then you smash them back!”

-Renzo Gracie

From: George

Hi guys, I made a small donation last week and was hoping you could answer a question (not that that was why I made the donation, I just wanted to give something back for putting out a great show!). Anyway, my question is… (apologies if you’ve answered this before) – do you each remember your first submission? And further, did that become your “go-to” submission… and is whatever became your first “go-to” submission still your “go-to” submission? Sorry, more than one question but they’re all related 🙂 For me, it was an arm triangle against a smaller opponent and I had to squeeze like hell to get it (maybe I didn’t get it, maybe he was just bored or being nice to let me think I got it). It took some racking of my brain to remember that! My go-to sub was and still is the Americana… I practised it on my girlfriend when I first started! I’m only a 4-stripe white belt so I’m sure that might change some day (the submission, not the practising on my girlfriend!) Thanks guys.

Hi George,
Thanks for the donation, not necessary, but always appreciated!
I will never forget my first submission because it took me close to nine months of training to finally get it. I had side control and my training partner turned away from me. I did what we at my gym call collar choke B with one hand in the collar and the other snaking under the armpit and behind the head. It didn’t become my first go-to submission though. Being a small guy I always got pushed to the bottom pretty easily and the armbar from high guard became my first go-to submission. I hesitate to say that is my go-to submission now, because I am trying to work other things, but high guard is still my go-to position. You’re question made me realize I don’t really go for specific submissions anymore. Now, I try to go for certain positions and work options from there.

Thanks for the question. You helped me realize something new.
The Nail

P.S. You’re lucky your girlfriend lets you practice on her. My wife won’t let me go near her if I’ve got BJJ on the brain.

From: Gurjit

Hey my left elbow has been hurting me for a while now, i am in the
advanced class in my dojo and im the smallest guy i always get put into arm
bars. What can i do to heal it without missing to much time because im
going to be competing in a tournament in june.


Hi Gurjit,
I am the smallest guy in the advanced class at my academy too. I think there are four things that you can do that will help. Early tapping, healing, armbar prevention, and armbar escapes. I don’t know how long you’ve been training, but I vividly remember having sore elbows the first year or so I trained. For me some of that was being too stubborn to tap, not having enough experience to realize when I was caught and needed to tap, and also not having enough technical escapes. After a year or so of training my body toughened up and in general I don’t get that kind of elbow soreness just from rolling anymore. Of course if I don’t tap quickly enough I still get tweaked on occasion. Tapping is still the number one way to prevent injuries.

Next, obviously your elbow is injured right now. To heal you may need to take some time off. Nobody wants to do that especially right before a tournament, but time is the fastest way to heal injuries. If your elbow is sore after practice icing it will help. You can also take some Ibuprofen. Those will both help bring any swelling down. Another thing to try is Traumeel. Everybody in my gym swears by it. I have used it myself a couple times and it has helped. It is a topical cream that you can buy at Whole Foods or online, some pharmacies may have it too. It also comes in pill and gel form, but I prefer the cream. It is expensive, it usually goes for twenty dollars a tube, but a small amount goes a long way. If it has been a couple of days since you trained last and it still hurts you can try a heat wrap. I have worn out three heat wraps since I started training.

For armbar prevention one thing we always tell new guys is to roll with Tyrannosaurus Rex arms. Always keep your elbows tucked to your ribs and your arms tight to your body. No reaching with outstretched arms. One thing that often happens is the opponent is armbarring you and he is pulling hard on your bicep to break your grip. You may be defending properly but the pressure is on your muscle next to the elbow. Especially if you are smaller this can add up over time and lead to elbow pain that often takes a long time to heal. Avoiding being caught in armbars entirely is a good way to prevent this.

For armbar escapes the book Jiu-Jitsu University has a couple of great ones in it that I use all the time. I generally dislike instructional books and dvds but University has some fantastic basic fundamentals that I learned as a white and blue belt that I still use on the mat every day. If you don’t have it ask around at your academy. I am sure somebody is bound to have it. Or ask your instructor to give you some extra armbar defense and escape tips. I won’t go into it here because BJJ moves are difficult to describe and the book or your instructor will do a much better job demonstrating for you than I can in this space.

Last thing, if you think you are seriously injured you should reconsider competing or training until you are rested and healed. That being said, I have never been in perfect condition leading up to a tournament. Everybody trains hard leading up to a competition and inevitably shows up banged, bruised or tweaked. Toughing out the small stuff is part of training. If you are still relatively new to BJJ just know that your body will toughen up over time and it will get better. That is just part of being the nail.

Good luck at your tournament,
The Nail

From: Ilovestandup

Sorry if this is a dumb question to you, but I train Muay Thai and my
daughter trains Jiu-Jitsu so I don’t know much about Jiu-Jitsu. So my
question is my daughter is left handed does that matter in Jiu-Jitsu or
does lefties train the same as a right handed person? By the way I love the
podcast even the rambling! You guys are great to listen too.

Hi Ilovestandup,
In general, I don’t think being right or left handed makes a difference in BJJ. As time goes on it seems like most people develop a preference for doing certain moves on one side and different moves on the other side. Usually this happens after people have been training for a few years though. So my answer is no I don’t think it matters. At least not in the same way as something like basketball where a left handed person may throw defenders off by shooting lefty or driving to the left instead of the right. That happens in BJJ a little bit when someone always passes to the opposite side or armbars the left arm instead of the right and that can be a strategic move for high level competitors who want to surprise opponents. But, as far as will your daughter have trouble integrating into the class because she is left handed, I don’t think so. When I used to assistant coach kids BJJ classes we generally taught moves only on one side to keep the kids from becoming confused. Then in the advanced kids classes they developed their own preferences for which side to do things on. For me personally I am right handed but I wrestle and box southpaw and that works really well for me. When I was first starting out things would sometimes get confusing because the coaches wanted us to do everything on one side and my instinct was to do it southpaw. Now I have it simplified pretty well though. For example I like to do hip throws and single legs on the right side and guillotines and duck unders on the left side. In the guard I like to attack both arms equally depending on what they give me. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter as long as it works for you, or in this case, works for your daughter.
She will figure out what she likes to do all it takes is time on the mat.

The Nail

P.S. If there are any left handed BJJ people out there who have thoughts on how left handedness has affected your training please write in and tell us about it. We will publish any letters in a future Ask the Nail column.

One Response to “Ask the Nail”

  1. Jamie says:

    Hey guys,

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on Ryron Gracie “pulling mount” at Gracie Worlds? While it was definitely badass, if these submission only tournaments are supposed to get back to jiu-jitsu’s self defense roots, is pulling mount not as impractical on the streets as the 50/50 or berimbolo? It almost seems like awarding points for dominant positions are necessary to keep that sense of urgency to “survive” and finish the fight as quickly as possible.

    Love the show, keep up the great work.

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