Chris Paines BJJ Progress

I talk to Chris Paines, a BJJ Black Belt under Priit Mihkelson, who recently released an instructional titled “How to Defend Against Everyone”. We discuss his thoughts on teaching and learning Jiu-Jitsu through the use of heuristics focusing on control points and how that can emphasise defensive principles as well as optimising offence. We also discuss the importance of providing context when communicating the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu to learners and how understanding your body dexterity can improve your grappling game.

Listen TO Chris Paines



The Role Of A BJJ Coach

“I remember drilling arm bars. It was how many arm bars could you do in a minute? They were awful. There were gaps everywhere, no control, and the arm bar quickly slammed on. And then you’d never hit it because it was a very specific set of circumstances where one person’s arms may be straight up in the bottom of the mount.

So I look at the people who are under me, and I think, right, well, if I teach you how I was taught, it would take you as long possibly to get to where I am, which seems inefficient. I want you to get there in five or six years. That’s my goal. Which means I can’t teach you how I was taught. There has to be an intelligent way, and that’s my job as a coach.

I read a book about coaching by Martin Rooney. I wasn’t sure if what he said was true, so I had to look it up to make sure I didn’t sound like a crazy person. I found out that the word “coach” comes from a village in Hungary called Coach. This village specialized in making wagons that could be pulled behind horses to carry people to different places. So, essentially, a coach is like a bus. That’s how the word morphed into what we now use to describe sports teachers or professors.”

Chris Paines Traffic Light Control System

“There are two types of controls: major and minor. Major controls are when I am in your armpits (side control, mount, back control). I try to avoid separating out mount, side control, and north-south because they are essentially the same. I look at it more like a rainbow than just three individual colours. I want to control your armpits, so I put something in your armpits (mount). In side control, it’s a leg and an arm. And the north-south, it’s two arms.

The red arm or green would be the space between the bottom of your ribs and your armpits. The red sons are in that space. You fucked up if you’re in that space. It’s going to suck. Like you get them out. All the most terrible things that we do in Jiu-Jitsu are typically created from us being in those places. Like a high side control with a good cross face or high mount where the arms have been pulled open.

We never want to be there. And the first thing we ever do is get them out of that red space shrimp or try and frame our elbows down T-rex arms. And then the next part is amber, where the space between your elbow and ribs is always bigger than a human wrist. So people will be able to swim their arm back into that space and reopen their armpits, and that was revolutionary.”

Giving Feedback During Sparring

“Weird things happen when people talk to each other. We should be able to say what we want. If the person we are talking to has a lot of resistance, we should ask them to lower it. If the person does not have enough resistance, we should ask them to put it up. It is like sparring with someone where one person always wins. But sometimes, we need good hard resistance so that we can work on our speed and sensitivity. Or if we don’t feel confident, we might ask for lower resistance. So it’s almost like the other person is being compliant, but they shouldn’t have to be because they are boring otherwise.”

Chris Paines Resources


I think we should look at plenty of other sports that have a much better coaching record than we do. Like to try and help my guys have competition nerves, I thought, well, there isn’t much in the Ju-Jitsu sphere explaining competition nerves. So I went further afield, and I got some books on NFL coaches and how they get their athletes to deal with nerves because I thought that is, again, a sport with a lot of money and a really deep understanding of what they’re doing.

– Chris Paines