3 min read

Have you heard of “The Danaher Death Squad”?

Learn the principles you can use from the deadliest Jiu-Jitsu crew around.

What you can learn from them about dominating your field.

The “The Danaher Death Squad” AKA The Squad, is a group of 3–5 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters that systematically obliterated the competition, being so effective that it’s reshaping Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) in a very short time. Truly remarkable feat and system!
They got so good that tournaments limit them to one fighter from the Squad (other schools aren't limited).

The master mind behind, John Danaher, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and mixed martial arts (MMA) mega-effective Sensai (coach-teacher-master).
Danaher left the academic pursuit of a Philosophy PhD for a life of studying and teaching BJJ.

The New Yorker wrote “a few” words about him, and he invented a pretty crafty and effective stranglehold known as the D’Arce choke
All the above comes to say is that his methods and system thinking abilities are proven, and that he’s a smart man worth listening to.

Guiding principles for teaching

Here’s what Danaher had to say about the core BJJ principles that were passed down to him from of his Sensai, Renzo Gracie’s (another BJJ legend) teaching guiding principles:


Below I tried to apply the above fraction of Danaher’s approach, and suggest a way, that will make a people and teams progress.

A team should operate with these themes in mind:

  1. People must have a clear sense of What We are trying to accomplish
    In Jiu Jitsu that’s a given, basically act to gain control by eliminating the greatest risk, do it again, and again, once you’re in control bring your opponent to submission, that means he says “Stop. I can’t take it any more!”, no punches, kicks and striking.¹
    What problem/challenge are you trying to solve?
  2. RESULTS OVER TRADITION — Experiment with different ways and techniques to move forward. Establish a process towards accomplishing the objective. Don't use things just because "that's the way we've always done things"
    You’re guaranteed to make mistakes, but you must have a process to learn from these mistakes, to keep the stuff that works and lose the stuff that doesn’t work.
    In the spirit of another very smart John (Doerr) (might be a bit off, I’m paraphrasing here) “The idea is to make new mistakes, not repeat old ones”
  3. LIBERALITY IN DIRECTION — Team should have the mindset of effectively charting a way towards the goal, if needed define new a goal.
  4. Joy/happiness/fun/fulfillment/sense of purpose/Camp spirit —So we keep going, with an open mind and a healthy spirit.
    We must create the space for ppl to bring from within themselves, to create, try new things, to give them courage.
  5. Communicate! Build new connections, learn from others, what efforts are they trying to accomplish and how. Same as with “sense of what we’re trying to accomplish” (article #1), In Jiu Jitsu communication is part of the way you learn, you must practice with other people. But it’s not only synchronous communication, there’s a lot of asynchronous communication and knowledge sharing going on, just do a quick search of BJJ on YouTube…
    Keep in mind Conway’s Law and how it shapes the product!

There’s much more to John Danaher, I’m building this upon one sentence, a fraction, and of course there’s always the possibility that I’m 100% wrong…

[1]: Once again John Danaher said it best. Relevant part is until 2:10, but watch the entire thing, John’s amazing+ and goes on to touch how he changed the system.

Some more about John Danaher

John Danaher (@danaherjohn) * Instagram photos and videos
203.1k Followers, 6 Following, 1,048 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from John Danaher (@danaherjohn)

I really like this interview with John Danaher, about the way he shapes the academy, but they are many more great ones, especially the Joe Rogan MMA show.

And a story to which I already linked, but I like it, so here it is again. The story of inventing the D’arce choke.