March 24, 2011

DVD Review - "Mastering Sweeps" with John Will

John Will's latest media venture "Mastering Sweeps" has just hit the market and is arguably his best DVD instructional on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu yet!   "Mastering Sweeps" is the third DVD in the Master series from Will, following in the footsteps of the excellent "Mastering Armbars" & "Mastering Chokes."  For those of you still living in the dark John Will is one of BJJ's "Dirty Dozen" representing Australia's first BJJ black belt and making him one of the most experienced martial artists still teaching.  The art of troubleshooting is nearly lost, yet Johns ability to reverse engineer and zero in on problems has earned him the moniker "The Coaches Coach."  Read on and see why...

Encompassing 24 sweeps over two hours, "Mastering Sweeps" flows like a private lesson with John.  Speaking directly at the camera  John's demeanor commands your attention, and his instruction is a lesson unto itself.  I have had the privilege and honor to train with John on a handful of occasions and I must admit he is unquestionably one of the best instructors I have ever met.  Extremely focused, John ensures that not a syllable is wasted in instructing students how to do something.  His pedagogical approach is second to none (in fact many top coaches hire him to teach them how to be better coaches!) and that zeal is not lost in digital format.

For those of you who thrive on the latest, coolest, craziest variation on a sweep are bound for disappointment with this DVD.  Ignore the rest of this review, stick to YouTube and you will be much happier....

Okay, now that I have the serious BJJ players attention...
Don't get me wrong there are plenty of sweeps and variations on themes here, my point with the above comment is that John Will is not interested in re-inventing the wheel.  He is not known for his newly developed, crazy named, ego stroking maneuvers.  Rather John takes the most basic, simplest, oldest technique and analyzes the living day lights out of it!  The logical and detailed progression is a caveat of Will's and he prides himself on ensuring the student knows WHY something works.  In other words Will details the movement down to the bio mechanical leverage that is being used, yet teaches in the most basic and simplest of ways for students to understand.  On top of all this he offers little drills throughout the DVD to get better at the particular sweep he demonstrates.

Above and beyond the WHY's of a given sweep, Will then offers the golden nugget in this DVD... common problems one can encounter when attempting such sweeps.  This is where "Mastering Sweeps" goes from average DVD instructional, to a must have DVD instructional!  A black belt under the Machado brothers (renown for their attention to detail) since 1998, John has so much mat time logged in that one would be hard pressed to stump him with a reaction to a technique.  It is this troubleshooting that has earned Will's nickname "The Coaches Coach."

Composed in 24 easy to access chapters the overall technical aspects of the DVD are solid.  Filmed with one camera, John ensures multiple angles, as well as multiple repetitions, are shown throughout the DVD with all the sweeps taught.  The audio is crisp and clear even when John is rolling and speaking into the mat (because of a certain position or transition).  He has a bit of an accent, but I notice in his DVDs he refrains from using certain Aussie colloquialisms (one seminar was rife with conversation on the subtle difference between bumper cars vs. dodge 'em cars!) and analogies.

One of the best aspects of Will's "Mastering Sweeps" is the use of an overhead angle when reviewing each sweep.  This is hardly ever used in today's instructional productions and is an excellent addition to seeing how certain sweeps are set up and executed.  More striking DVDs should take this approach as it is often quite difficult to ascertain certain head movement details from a profile.  Kudos to John for adding this little thing that makes a huge difference!

A list of the 24 sweeps taught on "Mastering Sweeps"

  • Basic / Scissor
  • Hook
  • Back
  • Front
  • Leg Grab Rollover
  • Butterfly
  • Sitting Rollover
  • Catapult 
  • Open Guard Knee Hook
  • Open Hook Leg Reap
  • Knee Pinch
  • Back Rolling Single Leg
  • Bear Hug Ankle Roll
  • Bow & Arrow
  • Reverse Scissor
  • Reverse Hooking
  • X Guard Split
  • Outside Hook
  • Cross Sleeve Cross Hook
  • Omoplata 
  • Double Leg 1/2 Guard
  • Single Leg 1/2 Guard
  • Backward Rolling 1/2 Guard
  • Arm Control Rolling 1/2 Guard

If you think you know these sweeps, I implore you to check out how John teaches them and approaches their proper usage.

Detailed instruction showing multiple angles and breaking down the mechanics of each technique in amazing detail... what else can one want from a BJJ instructional DVD?  As I mentioned earlier watching a DVD with John Will is like taking a private lesson with him.  First of all be prepared to allow the information to saturate, as their are a ton of details and subtle nuances that even the most seasoned  veteran may miss the first time through.  Secondly I would suggest writing bullet notes along with the instruction as this helps drive home the main pointers with each sweep.  John does a great job summarizing key points at the end of each chapter (perhaps a visual bullet point would be a welcomed addition to future projects).  

Relatively unknown in this hemisphere John Will is perhaps one of the most underrated grappling guru's available to the masses!  He makes one trip a year to mainland USA and the NW Jiu Jitsu Academy is one of his ONLY stops!  Teaching at one of his sole US students gym's is always a welcome visit come July each year.  Travel is tough now days so if you cannot make it out for the open seminar, make sure you pick up this DVD as I am sure it will end up on your top 10 must have BJJ training DVDs!  And if you can make it to the Emerald City you will see that this DVD is basically a carbon copy of a private lesson taught by John Will.  

Both PAL & NTSC versions are available.

Here is a direct link to John Will's BJJ store! 

Train Hard.  Train Smart.

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