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Combat Jujitsu-How to gain the advantage on the ground, by Carl Cestari

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    Combat Jujitsu-How to gain the advantage on the ground, by Carl Cestari

    Okay, given the visibility of Carl Cestari and the Wolfpack in recent weeks, I was requested to review some of Carl's groundfighting material with an eye toward how it can benefit the service member in particular and the public in general.

    As for my background, I'm a white belt in Machado Jiu-Jitsu under Jamel McCurry. I've had quite a bit of exposure to the Modern Army Combatives Program, but have not gotten a slot at the schoolhouse yet. I've had a couple years experience in Japanese Jiu-jitsu while stationed in Germany and some Judo exposure (approximately one year) as a child. I am fair with a knife, but my experience comes from random exposure to instructors over the years, nothing comprehensive.

    I have, however, been in the Army for over thirteen years, with multiple foreign deployments. I've lived in field gear in its various incarnations over the years, and know what I would and would not want to have to do while wearing it.

    So, without any further ado, my take on Carl's material:

    The video opens with some words from Carl on what will be covered in the video. I should point out that he assumes some level of grappling experience from the viewer; this is not a video for someone who doesn't know an Osoto-gari from an Omoplata. This video is aimed at the person who wants to "tweak" their grappling to make it more applicable to "street" use.

    The first thing Carl gets into is chokes. He states that most people, when going for a choke, concentrate on getting the strangle, or "blood choke". He says that getting one on a fully resisting opponent can be difficult, and the idea is to put the guy out quickly. As a set-up to the strangle, which we all know can be a quick KO, he attacks the windpipe. This is not to collapse it, but to cause and capitalize on the "gag reflex". Carl uses the inside edge of his wrist in an upward, "scooping" motion against the trachea. This is a quick, inward motion designed to elicit a certain reaction from the opponent. This can cause him to drop his guard some and open a window for you to apply a full rear naked.

    Carl also makes the point of not simply wrapping your arm around the guy's throat, but "snaking" it in under the jaw. This keeps your arm close to his neck, and from there you can lever his chin up and to the side to expose the throat for the choke. If he drops his chin too quickly, you can use the inside edge of your forearm to apply pressure to the cheekbone or the philtrum immediately under the nose. These pressure points are both a method of pain compliance and mechanical advantage (both areas protrude some, so some purchase can be obtained). Either way, this can be used again to move the head where you want it to effect the choke. Carl goes on to say that he personally would use the eye sockets or the nostrils for purchase.

    From here, Carl also advocates the use of strikes to open the opponent up. Use one palm to strike the chin one way, and the other palm strikes the opposing side of the head at a higher level. This is not a "neck break", but torques the head momentarily, allowing an opening for an arm around his throat. Carl points out that the eye socket can be used for momentary purchase as well, causing damage there.

    For the next choke section, Carl switches out his live training partner for a BOB. He stresses the supplementary use of a BOB or Spar-Pro dummy because it allows full-power practice of some of these moves, such as eye gouges and neck cranks. He stresses using it almost as you would use weight training, i.e., do the techniques in sets of reps. Pick a technique and work it full power, as hard as you can for reps. The use of a dummy also allows use of the facial features as "handles" at full power.

    Next, Carl shows entries into groundfighting positions. He focuses on two positions, the mount and the scarf hold. His demonstrators then show three judo throws; osoto-gari, seoi-nage and a hip throw. These three throws are demonstrated as they all end up with tori ending up in a position to assume kesa-gatame on uke readily. His demonstrators then show a double-leg, a single-leg with inside reap and uchi-game. These are demonstrated as they put tori between uke's legs at completion, but mount can be obtained with a fast pass. Seoi-nage to scarf hold and double leg to mount are demonstrated again. These throws and takedowns are being demonstrated not on mats, but on a plywood-sheathed area on hard floor.

    Scarf hold is now looked at in detail in this section. Carl stresses that if you are going to the ground with the guy, and you end up here, use your plummeting weight to drop an elbow into his face or upper chest for good measure. When you secure scarf hold, use your weight against him. Settle your body weight into his floating ribs to put him into maximum discomfort. From here, you can secure his arm that is around your torso. Using a quick, ballistic snapping motion, you attempt to secure that arm under the leg closest to his head. You can then crank the head and neck toward you to separate the shoulder. To compound this move, use a single knuckle at the side of the chin to "steer" his head so that his chin is resting over your biceps. Executing the move with the head in this position puts more pressure on the neck. The same basic effect can be had by steering his head in the other direction, with his face resting against your ribs/chest. Carl stresses feedback from your training partner as to whether or not you are managing your bodyweight correctly. Let your training partner tell you how uncomfortable he is, and how to make him more so.

    Now, from here, he may be trying to hit you in the back of the head with his other fist. To counter this, Carl uses his elbow against the pectoral, clavicle, face, neck, sternum and deltoid. Done with intent, your opponent won't be able to mount much of an offense with that hand. This is done as a setup to the preceding technique. The single-knuckle is explored further against the eye socket, under the cheekbone and the temple. This is, again, to steer the head where you want it. He also indicates where the top of the ear joins the head and the hinge of the jaw. Carl goes on to point out that if your hands are conditioned, any point can be used in this manner. (As a side note, Carl's hands were visibly heavily conditioned to the point of appearing almost gnarled)

    These "dirty tricks" are never presented as a panacea, but simply as keys to open a door to more orthodox techniques. Biting is also explored, for example if the opponent gets his hand in your face, trying to gouge YOUR eyes, Carl advocates biting off a finger, then using that opening to break the wrist, which leads to the aforementioned shoulder-lock.

    The important thing to stress here is that Carl does not slam sport grappling. He states explicitly that YOU NEED IT in order to deliver these "dirty tricks". If you don't have the delivery system, you're going to be in a world of hurt.

    From here, Carl again demonstrates the use of the BOB or Spar-Pro to drill the techniques full-force. This helps build not only muscle memory, but physically strengthening the specific techniques.

    The Scarf hold as a "rest" position is explored here. Now, if you have three other people trying to kick your head in, obviously you're not going to be doing this. However, in a one-on-one, using the arm that's under his head to catch his near arm in an Americana-like position and driving your weight forward, you can take a second to catch your breath. You can shoot your other hand through the opening afforded by his bent arm and work his face while you "rest" as well. Overall, from here Carl does not go for a choke (arm triangle, etc) but focuses on breaking the shoulder and doing damage to the face.

    Now for the other arm, the one he can nail you in the head with or go for your face with. Carl already mentioned the use of biting and small-joint manipulation against this arm, but goes on to use that as a vehicle to lock this arm in an Americana-style shoulder lock, breaking that shoulder as well. From here, Carl demonstrates various strikes to the head/neck area (fist blows, edge of hand blows and elbows). Various gouges can be used to the soft areas of the face/neck, and the forearm can be barred across his throat, immobilizing the head while the shoulder is being broken. Carl also shows how to do a modified Ezekiel choke using the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt (same basic mechanics but further up on the arms). Use of the classic chin-to-eye socket is shown.

    So as not to be too long on one post, next post will be techniques from the mount.

    Cestari groundfighting continued

    Here Carl presents the focus of techniques from the mount; namely ground-and-pound. He stresses that he has a problem with the way most untrained people do it, as not enough power is generated. He points out also that if you miss a shot on the guy, and you're on asphalt, that's what you're goint to connect with at full force with a bare fist. Not so good. Carl, showing his WWII combatives influence, advocates the edge of hand blow, focused against the clavicles and neck. After you've disabled him some with blows, Carl states that you can modify your mount to come up on one knee with your other foot pinning one of his arms to his side, or using your foot to pin that arm down.

    As a partner drill, have your partner lay on his back with his arms folded in front of his neck, but away from his face. Use your edge of hand blows against the sides of his arms and down between the space between his elbows. This way you can practice with some power without actually blasting him in the neck/clavicles. If your opponent guards his face with his arms, you chop away at the arms until he can't hold them up any longer. Chopping away at the arms can set up an armlock as well.

    Carl demonstrates the practicality of the edge of hand blow by having his partner stick the point of his elbow out with a braced position. Carl then strikes the point of his elbow quite hard with his strikes. Having said that, Carl's edge of hand blows would be something else entirely with how heavily conditioned his hands were. Once his defense is broken down, the various gouges and rips can be used. When the head is immobilized, heavy blows can be focused on the neck/side of head. Driving the fingers into the jugular notch, c-clamping the trachea or focusing the thumbs against it are shown. The head can be bounced off the pavement like a soccer ball.

    Carl goes on to say that there is some risk of being thrown off of your mount (whether the guy knows how to upa, etc). He points out that in a "street" environment, there can be any number of things to use to stabilize yourself (parked car, curb, signpost, etc).

    Now, if you're mounted and the guy pulls you close, try to slip one arm under his neck. Ideally you go for an arm position resembling a rear naked choke, only the hand that would be on the back of his head is now on his face, able to gouge at will. You apply the "choke" as you normally would, getting your hooks in in the process. Rather than a choke, it's now a potent neck crank. This is something I saw on one of Carl's older videos, and I've done it in training against my fellow soldiers since. It universally puts them in a GREAT deal of pain, and often causes some nasty popping noises in the neck, so train with caution on this one. From here you can posture back up and commence with the aforementioned strikes, gouges and rips. The idea is to do enough damage and cause enough pain that he won't be able to go for a weapon if he has one. Carl then stresses that once you've done some damage this way, then you can go for the orthodox techniques to cause further damage.

    If he reaches up towards your face, or tries to punch you, rather than going for the juji-gatame, you secure an arm and start biting the hell out of his hand. Once you get that reaction, go for the edge of hand blows to disable him and get off him to regain your standing position. Use his head and chest to push off, and liberally apply bootheels from there to whatever's open.

    Carl goes on to state that these concepts and techniques can be used from any variation of a mount (knee on belly, etc). These are adjunct skills to use in addition to your judo, sambo, BJJ, etc.

    Next post, Carl covers cross-body positons.
    Last edited by Carpe Noctem; 12/11/2007 7:45pm, .


      Cestari groundfighting continued some more

      From side control, if your opponent tries to secure your head with his arm, you stop it and keep your head low and glued to the arm, with your arm underhooking his arm to secure it. From here, you use the forearm closest to his neck to "hacksaw" against his throat. This can cause him to turn his head. When he does, you secure his head to the ground by barring your forearm across his jaw, taking away some of his mobility. That elbow can then be used against any of the aforementioned targets on the head/neck area. These are thrown as a barrage to do as much damage as quickly as possible. Once an opening has been made, other ripping and gouging techniques can be used.

      Carl shows one here that almost made me laugh out loud. You know the "got your nose" pinch, where you pinch someone's nose between your index and middle finger? Here, you use the second knuckles of those fingers on either side of the bridge of the nose. You squeeze as hard as you can, pushing down into the head with those knuckles, into the eyes. This is yet another "dirty trick" inteded to cause a reaction and an opening to more potent techniques. For example, if he pulls that hand off his face, you come right back in and secure the neck crank from the previous post. The trick was merely a painful distraction.

      From side control you can secure an arm with an Americana, using it to separate the shoulder or as a tie-up to immobilize him while you go to work on his face and neck with blows.

      Here Carl covers North-South. He introduces it as a transitional position at best, using his chest to smother his opponent while securing himself in place by grabbing their belt/belt loops and getting his weight fully on their face. He doesn't present it as a viable position to stay in, though.

      Last position; Carl covers guard position, with him in his partner's guard. Carl suggests trying to steer your opponent into some large stationary object, like a wall or parked car to help prevent him from shrimping out or having too much mobility period. You then secure a hold in his clothes at his belt line with one hand, and brace firmly to pin him down and keep him from moving you around too much. From here, rather than an orthodox guard pass, he advocates using the elbows against the thighs, both as strikes and levers to force his guard open. Carl also advocates some conditioning of the elbows/arms to toughen them up for this purpose. He doesn't advocate punching the groin, as your opponent can do too much to stuff your attempt before you can really do much. Carl advocates the clasped-hands blow as a setup to the elbows; using your hands clasped together to strike the bladder or ribs and get a reaction and go immediately for the thighs with elbows. Once you've opened his guard up, then a groin shot can be entertained, ensuring to drive up into the body rather than coming straight down "onto" the groin (greater chance of hitting the pubic bone that way). Once his guard is opened up, the idea is to stand back up as quickly as possible and stomp and kick whatever you can get to. Carl stresses to cater to your own strengths and also apply whatever YOU think is applicable to the situation.

      An interesting point here (pun not intended) as Carl demonstrates what happens when you bring a knife into play. All of a sudden these fist blows are now opening up arteries in the guy's legs. In a civilian situation, you had better have your ducks in a row regarding use of force. You'd damn well better be able to justify it. In a military situation, it's a suitable force multiplier that you can use until your battle buddy gets over there and shoots him in the head.
      In all fairness, Carl also points out that this is something that you have to be aware of if you're involved in a fight. The other guy might have some concealed nastiness to use against you, so, be cognizant of that fact. In an earlier video of Carl's, he demonstrates how several knives can be concealed on the body. This presentation is no different, as Carl produces a push dagger and a Gerber Guardian from within his shirt.

      For safety considerations, in your training, leave all live steel off the mat. Make sure you have dull trainers to work with!

      Carl closes with the admonition that these techniques are not meant to replace your current training, but can be added to it. They are not a cure-all, they are meant to be used with your EXISTING, HARD TRAINING. He stresses also to be cognizant of the difference in mindset between competition and "the street". In competition you're not trying to kill your opponent; in "the street" you may well have to.

      His bottom line is to train for the worst-case scenario (bigger, stronger opponent, armed opponent, greater numbers, etc) and work with the highest-percentage techniques you can. In this manner, you'll have a more functional "toolbox" to draw from if something does go down. Don't over-think and over-analyze, train HARD, and keep an open mind.


        My thoughts as a soldier:

        Carl's material passes what I call my "battle rattle" test. That is, I feel confident using most of it wearing my full combat loadout (which I did train in while deployed, just for shits and giggles). The grappling stuff is not so different.

        Grappling, as it applies to our mission, can of course be used in detainee handling, etc. If, however, I had to use it out in the marketplace in East Baghdad (where I have done dismounted patrols) it has to be fast and dirty, either taking the guy down and out quick or holding him until a teammate can run over and shoot him.

        The ways to "tweak" existing techniques that Carl showed will certainly add a lot more potential damage. As far as the ground techniques, considering the amount of shit we wear, I'm spending as little time on the ground as possible. If I have to take the guy out on the ground, I'm stabbing the shit out of him and getting up with a quickness so I can shoot him. The extra weight of the armor and gear would be hell on a guy if you had him in a scarf hold, but in my worst case (in a marketplace, under fire or both) I'm going to try to stab him or shoot him first.

        Now, in a non-tactical environment, more of this is applicable. In a one on one "street" fight I can see a lot of this working for me, I've had prior grappling training. But then, that's the exact point Carl makes. You need to already be training hard for this to be of maximum benefit.

        So, yes, I think most of this would be of great use to a soldier, and to a civilian in extremity.

        I want to thank Ralph Grasso for supplying me with the material to review, and trusting my judgement of the techniques and ideas presented.

        Mods, if this is in the wrong section, please feel free to relocate it.


          This is a good review. I find "dirty jiujitsu" to be an interesting topic, and I like to bring it up whenever I see "nut grab your way out of side control" type anti-grappling nonsense. The parts about biting your opponent's hands if he reaches up from under mount seemed particularly innovative to me.
          The one thing that I might disagree with - and perhaps you would have a different opinion than I on this - is advocating scarfhold for self-defense. The problem with a scarfhold, to me at least, is that it leaves you completely blind to one of your opponent's hands. Thus, if he is going to produce a knife or grab a rock off the ground to hit you in the back of the head with a la every action movie, your chances of seeing it coming are very slim. Positions like mount, knee on belly, north-south, etc. all seem to give you a clearer view of what both your opponent's hands are doing, and give a chance to restrain him if you see him going for his pockets.
          The fool thinks himself immortal,
          If he hold back from battle;
          But old age will grant him no truce,
          Even if spears spare him.


            A great review.

            I'm a little curious though about bottom positions in streetfights. Some of my friends and I spar MMA style, occasionally voicing in opinions about dirty moves and whatnot. What about things like if someone tackles you and you have to pull guard, or somehow you end up mounted?
            My main concern right now are when I pull closed guard, being slammed and shots to my groin. First, are there any mentions on the video? And second, does anyone have any particular advice?
            (I have an instructor whom I plan on asking. I just felt like asking here too)


              Well in regards to slamming it's the same as MMA but with more consequences for getting slammed, the solution is fairly simple but as all things in fighting are, easier said than done.

              In order to slam you he has to stand up first, DO NOT FOLLOW HIM UP when he does this. I would advocate opening the guard and attempting the basic ankle grab sweep (depending on the skill of your opponent) and failing that put your feet on his hips and kick him away from you so you can get up to either continue the fight or run away.

              As regards punching the groin... its far more likely he'd be striking to the head than the groin from that position, and you can avoid both by controlling his posture and attacking with submission and sweep attempts.


                First, a big thumbs up for taking care of business as one of our nations finest! :thumbsup:

                Second, great review! It almost felt more like a summary with commentary, but even better. Some good ideas were presented clear enough to understand. Next best thing to watching it.

                I like the spirit of these materials, and I think that real practical self defense minded people who train in arts like BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, etc. have to consider "dirty tactics" along with proper mindset to make their arsenal complete. I know that I've put some thought into it. I've also gone on the mat thinking about "What could I do here, and what if he does that?" I've even gone thru the motions of some of the dirty tricks with my training partners so we could work these ideas in.

                I also agree with kesa gatame being dangerous. If you can get it, kata gatame is a better choice. It's much harder for your opponent to reach you if he's in kata gatame, and if you get it right, it's a possible fight ender.

                Dirty fighting has it's place, but it doesn't replace good training in REAL grappling skills. That is definitely where the anti grappling crowd is dead wrong.


                  As far as the opponent's free hand during kesa gatame, Carl advocates taking care of it immediately once the near side arm is immobilized. The idea is to put the guy through so much punishment that he can't think of mounting a coherent defense. That's the idea, anyway. That's also why he throws so many downward elbows to the face/sternum/deltoid area.


                    That RNC from the top Neck Crank is what I got tapped with at NAGA in my third match. Sneaky bastards...


                      Oh, that one's pure hell if it's sunk in.


                        Yeah, I had no idea he was setting it up, had never seen it before. He had me mounted, I was getting ready to bridge and roll him, just as I bridge he hits that thing and I literally saw stars, the room spun for a second, it was nasty. I now pay a lot more attention when people start putting their arm under my head.


                          And you can go right from that to an Ezekiel, or vice-versa. Options are great, aren't they?


                            Excellent review. This should probably be in the Reviews section, though.

                            Just sayin'.


                              Yeah, sorry. I'm a dumbass. First review and all...



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