Priit Mihkelson Interview

I interview Priit Mihkelson of 3D Treening in Estonia. He is a BJJ Black Belt under SBG founder Matt Thornton and has done many seminars for the BJJ Globetrotter organization. In his seminars, he teaches fundamental positions and postures that are a rework of many default positions of Jiu-Jitsu.

He has three instructionals out on BJJ fanatics, one called the grilled chicken guard, which is his guard retention system. The other two are the Turtle Position and the Panda position. 

We discuss his unique approach to teaching jiu-jitsu in a style he describes as “Functionalistic Minimalism” which looks at fundamental positions rather than the lock flows we are used to seeing demonstrated.

Listen To Priit Mihkelson



[03:11] – How his way of teaching is different from the traditional approach?

[07:28] – The Turtle position

[09:30] – Still frames and micro positions

[12:37] – Possible integration from NCAA collegiate folkstyle wrestling into Jiu-Jitsu

[13:37] – Escaping the referee position

[14:22] – IBJJF competitions are the perfect environment for turtle position to thrive

[19:45] – Jiu-Jitsu vs. boxing training

[20:40] – Fake your moves

[23:10] – Teach Jiu-Jitsu as a sport to make it interesting

[32:10] – Working with a progressively resisting opponent

[33:35] – Understanding of Darks and Anaconda

[38:55] – How to boost confidence when partnered against a black belt

[43:41] – The idea of peer teaching in Jiu-Jitsu training

[44:59] – Feedback stimulates progressive resistance

[47:00] – The social aspect of giving feedback

[48:50] – Stopping people from leaving Jiu-Jitsu or dropping out at black or blue belt

[51:08] – Teach defense to white belts to stop them from being disinterested

[52:23] – Mount is one of the worst positions in a fight

[53:05] – What to do when you’re a beginner in Jiu-Jitsu?

[55:25] – Make beginners less capable so that they have a better chance of surviving

[59:24] – Robert Whittaker’s breakdown defense

[01:01:51] – Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler fight

[01:04:09] – Dealing with exposed back


Traditional Approach VS Priit’s Approach

Being flat on your back is a terrible idea in Jiu-Jitsu. But there seem to be six positions in jiu-jitsu in a bottom game that are so-called bottom positions. And only one of them is the position that is facing the opponent. All other positions are slightly showing shoulders showing more back showing less back. Priit gives an example by saying, “Let’s say I’m facing you right now. Then I can do Running Man towards you. It’s kind of putting my chest on the math more and going to the Turtle towards you so I can have Running Man away from you. That’s the second one. It’s still like a Hawking position, but I can tilt my shoulder away from you. So that’s third. I can have Panda, and Turtle positions so that’s five and only me facing towards you is one position. That’s mostly everybody’s teaching. We have defined those five positions that also exist in Jiu-Jitsu that I know very few people spend time on getting good at. The idea is that I start with everything that is in motion, but you can’t teach it to the beginner, because it’s so complex.”

Learn Separate Moves, Then Combine Them

Priit says going very fast to Turtle Position from side control takes skill because that’s a considerable motion. You can lose or win a fight by doing that. But for a beginner, you’ve to learn separate moves and then you can combine three in a row and then the fourth one is a trench. And then you make two moves, and two postures in a row, and then you rest. As a beginner, you do one move, rest, then another move, and rest. And as a more advanced guy, you always see those scrambles. They make three to five moves in a row, and then certain stability happens. 

Environment Dictate Your Tactics

If you’re more tired, you can often use more trenches to rest. If you’re in a competition, the clock is there. You have to be faster. So move, don’t stop. But if you’re rolling around, then there’s no time limit.

Wrestling Vs. Jiu-Jitsu

He says the attitude of wrestlers towards sports is more aggressive. They’re more like fighters. And that’s why they build more MMA fighters these days because their work ethic and everything else is way bigger.    They can’t rest in that system. They work, work, and work. He says so many aspects of wrestling actually transfer it. So, the panda position would be like, sit out. And in wrestling, they practice it a lot. They do referee positions a lot, but there are statistics of escaping the referee position to stand up to neutral to gain one point is over 50%.

IBJJF Competitions As A Perfect Environment For Turtle To Thrive

Priit says that IBJJF competitions could be a perfect environment for Turtle Position to thrive. It’s because that’s one way to avoid three points. So people should figure out very fast how to avoid the guard passes called the Turtle. People get an advantage to get back to guard, and when the benefit is back, it’s easier to win an advantage back than the three points. But, weirdly, we don’t see that used in Jiu-Jitsu.

Boxing vs. Jiu-Jitsu

He says in Jiu-Jitsu, we teach too many crazy combinations that we have never seen enough in a fight happening or a mid to high-level sport. It’s because people run out of techniques very early, and the sweeps have to get crazier and crazier. He suggests keeping open guard and still doing the same move.

Work Yourself Around The Head

If you’re a black belt and training with a white belt, then basically, the right thing to do would be the armbar. You want to do a far side armbar. You would start from the nice light position, like having the ankle trap, in the legs, pulling the arm, and you have to work your leg out from knee slides and around the head and do the armbar. 

Teach Defense To White Belts To Stop Them From Being Disinterested

He supports his statement by saying that if you take boxing, from where would you start your punches? You wouldn’t go like just jab and cross. Usually, you do defence, and then you move around and throw a punch. It’s very logical in that sense. So in Jiu-Jitsu, there are two ways to start Jiu-Jitsu:

One is that you can teach people how to dominate people in mount against people who don’t know how to win and make mount escapes. And you’ll definitely have better success of keeping them there because they don’t know escapes. You have to teach them to escape to know something about defence.

Another is not to show the mount position. Because the mount is the worst position in a fight, you can end up. Somebody mounts you, and you can get out. So, the mental win is better. They don’t know that they can squeeze however they want, but you can actually escape the mount.

Priit Mihkelson Resources

Priit Mihkelson Quotes

“It’s fun to try defence when you lose.”

– Priit Mihkelson

“If you cannot survive your beginning years, then Jiu-Jitsu will be super hard because you get submitted to left and right and you’ll have no clue why.”

– Priit Mihkelson

“Teach defence to white belts to stop them from being disinterested.”

– Priit Mihkelson

Priit Mihkelson Links

Priit Mihkelson Interview