Greg Souders

I talk to Greg Souders, a Jiu-Jitsu black belt and academy owner who has found success through the ecological approach to skill development – a method backed by research confirming its efficacy in motor learning. Rather than relying on memorized techniques alone, Greg uses this innovative technique to empower his students’ growth within their practice.

He explains that this approach is based on constraints-led learning, which focuses on the learner’s environment and how it can facilitate learning. He emphasizes the importance of using this approach in a way that is effective for both beginners and advanced students.

Listen To Greg Souders



How Greg Souders Teaches Guard Passing

“So typically, we start like this. So let’s say I’m teaching guard passing to a brand new person. Typically I like to link a pin and a pass together because they’re the same thing. So we know the top player’s job is always the same. It’s to stay on top, hold the partner down, pass the legs, and pin the body to the mat. That’s the big game they’re trying to do at the top player. So we usually start the new player in the chest-to-chest half-guard. This is when the top player’s chest-to-chest is in half guard position where the bottom player has two legs wrapped around the top player’s one. And the top layer has the job of freeing their knee. They must get their leg out of that hold, but they must do it while holding the chest down.”

“So what I give them is I say, okay, guys, you’re going to stay on top and hold your partner down, and I want you to pry your leg free. I want you to get this leg out of the situation. You win the game. If you can get your knee to either side of the body, I will demonstrate what that looks like. You win the game if you get your knee out to the mounted side. You win the game if you get your knee out to the side control side. And so they start self-organizing around the tasks of staying on top, holding their partner down and freeing the trapped knee. And if you were to take a snapshot, for example, of when that knee came across the centre line into side control, it would look like a knee cut. But it wasn’t the knee cut that was learned. It was the procedure of holding somebody down and freeing a trapped leg that was learned. And that’s actually what’s happening. Calling it a knee cut is to miss the forest because the trees are in the way. We have to understand the procedure that’s underneath it.”

Information from the Coach vs The Environment

“So there’s usable information and information that’s not usable. And the information we receive is not from our coach; it’s from the environment. So the body tells us how to interact with the body, and we have to experience it in real time. So if we know the invariant properties of destabilizing the body have to do with how the attacking player attaches to and manipulates the secondary leg and how they attach to and manipulate the hips, then we give that task, and we let the person organize around that task. So we have them move their partner around and try to get that leg or the hips, and the process will emerge on its own.”

“So there’s no explanation necessary. You don’t give the student any extra information they can’t utilize. So you hear it all the time. Every student complains, oh, my coach talks too much. They give me 37 steps to this move, and I don’t remember any of them. Anyway, it just seems if I sweep out the other leg, they fall easier. Well, you’re right. That’s exactly why you should stop listening to your coach and kick out that secondary leg because that’s all that matters.”

Addressing Novelty Using The Ecological Approach

“So if you have a stable system or our current grappling culture and something novels introduced into that system, it’s going to perturb it big time. It’s going to create a ripple. So first, if you’ve never seen the pattern and it has some devastating effect to it, it’s going to work. And then people want to win. So they’re going to copy what works and what they’re going to do is they’re going to go nuts with it. The video is going to spread online; people are going to start copying the pattern. But I think the problem is that people never learn what’s behind the pattern; they only learn the pattern itself. This would be equivalent to learning how to cook from a cookbook, but never understanding the relationship between acid, oil and salt as it relates to heat and protein.”

“So if you understand the relationship of how things are added and create the specific effect, you can reorient that novelty into your whole game or change something about or even grasp it more deeply. But if you’re copying the cookbook or the procedure, you never get access to that move. That move and why it works. You’re just replicating something you don’t understand. So anyway, when we see that, we look at what it is. It has the same base structure if we’re talking about any lock on an arm or a leg.”

“You get as close to the base joint to immobilize the hips as firmly as possible. We’re going to put the limb into a state of extension to hyperextend it over its middle joint, or we’re going to bend that limb, and we’re going to twist it to cause spiralling breaking forces on the middle joint. And so it doesn’t matter what the orientation is; we know the effect. So it becomes easy to copy if you know the base function. So anyway, we like novel stuff. Novelty is great, but we’re not fooled by it, either.”


0:00:00 The Sonny Brown Breakdown: Episode 61 – Greg Souders
0:02:14 The Benefits of an Ecological Approach to Jiu-Jitsu Training
0:07:05 The Importance of Task Analysis in V Jiu Jitsu
0:09:59 The Benefits of Not Showing a Knee Cut in BJJ
0:12:12 The Importance of Teaching the Effect, Not the Process
0:14:12 The Constraints-Led Approach to Jiu-Jitsu Training
0:17:42 The Ecological Approach to Jujitsu
0:22:06 The Role of Technique Videos in BJJ Training
0:29:26 How to Solve a Problem in BJJ Training
0:34:07 Teaching the Guillotine Choke to White Belts
0:38:23 The Benefits of Intention-Based Learning in Jiu Jitsu
0:41:59 The Different Types of Grip Fighting in Jiu Jitsu
0:53:14 The Benefits of an Emergent Learning Process in Jiu Jitsu
0:57:59 The Importance of Implicit Learning in Jiu Jitsu
1:00:44 The Benefits of a Task-Based Approach to Jiujitsu Training
1:06:20 The Success of Gordon Ryan: A Discussion
1:08:05 The Impact of John Danaher’s Coaching Methods on the Jiujitsu Community
1:16:26 The Benefits of Constraints in Jiu-Jitsu Training
1:18:23 The Benefits of an Ecological Approach to Jiujitsu
1:23:35 The Importance of Information in Perception-Action Coupling

Greg Souder Resources


It’s the constraint of the human eye as it interacting with the environment. It teaches a person how to stand. We just have to find out what they are. What are we using to self organize? And time is a big one.

– Greg Souders