The Legacy of Danaher Death Squad In BJJ

Learn about how John Danaher's revolutionary training philosophy birthed one of the most successful BJJ teams in history: the Danaher Death Squad.

Danaher Death Squad
Danaher Death Squad

The Danaher Death Squad, a formidable name that shook the world of Jiu Jitsu in the 2010s, revolutionized submission grappling with their relentless pursuit of technical precision and dominance.

Under the tutelage of mastermind John Danaher, this elite group of athletes conquered numerous No-Gi tournaments and made an indelible mark on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the history, training philosophy, techniques, impact, and controversies surrounding one of the most successful teams in martial arts.

Key Takeaways

  • The Danaher Death Squad is a renowned grappling team founded by John Danaher, consisting of elite athletes who have dominated the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) competition scene in recent years.
  • Their training philosophy prioritizes technical precision, fundamentals mastery, and submission grappling to achieve positional dominance over opponents.
  • Along with their impressive roster of accomplished martial artists and numerous titles across various competitions they have had a significant impact on modern BJJ teaching methods, techniques such as leg locks and positional dominance. However some controversy surrounding their alleged elitism and cult-like behavior cannot be ignored.

Overview of Danaher Death Squad

The Danaher Death Squad is a renowned grappling team founded by John Danaher, consisting of elite athletes who have dominated the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) competition scene in recent years.

John Danaher
John Danaher / Instagram

History and Founder: John Danaher

The Danaher Death Squad (DDS) has its roots in the teachings of John Danaher, a renowned martial arts coach from New Zealand. With a background in philosophy and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the legendary Renzo Gracie, Danaher combined his analytical mind with innovative techniques to create an entirely new approach to submission grappling.

Danaher’s influence on the formation and success of DDS is unquestionable. As their visionary leader, he handpicked each team member based on potential talent and dedication.

The original member, Eddie Cummings, started as a blue belt under Danaher’s tutelage before eventually achieving his black belt and being joined by other formidable fighters such as Nicky Ryan, Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, Craig Jones and more.

Members And Notable Accomplishments

The Danaher Death Squad boasts an impressive roster of accomplished martial artists, making significant strides in the world of Jiu Jitsu and MMA. Some of their members and achievements include:

  • Eddie Cummings: The original member of DDS, known for his exceptional leg lock game and multiple submission victories in professional grappling competitions.
  • Gordon Ryan: A dominant force in No-Gi Jiu Jitsu, with multiple ADCC gold medals and a reputation as one of the best grapplers in the world.
  • Garry Tonon: A prolific competitor with a versatile submission arsenal, Tonon has transitioned successfully to MMA, currently boasting an undefeated record in the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
  • Nicky Ryan: The younger brother of Gordon Ryan, Nicky is a rising star in the grappling community, known for his exceptional technique and consistency on the competition scene.
  • Craig Jones: An Australian black belt, Jones quickly became one of the top No-Gi competitors worldwide and is renowned for his expertise in leg locks and submission finishes.
  • Nick Rodriguez (Nicky Rod): A former Division III wrestler who rose to prominence after finishing second at ADCC 2019 despite limited experience in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

As elite athletes guided by John Danaher’s innovative coaching methods. these grapplers have solidified their place among the upper echelons of martial arts practitioners.

Training Philosophy And Approach

Under the tutelage of John Danaher, the Danaher Death Squad developed a distinct training philosophy that set them apart from other grappling camps. Central to this approach is an unwavering focus on fundamentals and technical precision, ensuring that every athlete becomes proficient in executing core techniques with utmost efficiency.

Another cornerstone of the team’s training methodology is their emphasis on submission grappling. This involves honing expertise in various submission holds and strengthening positional dominance to outperform opponents systematically.

A key aspect of this technique is creating opportunities for a wide range of submissions through continuous attack chains, keeping adversaries under constant pressure as they struggle to defend themselves.

Strategies and Techniques of Danaher Death Squad

The Danaher Death Squad’s training approach involves a focus on fundamentals and technical precision, as well as an emphasis on submission grappling and positional dominance.

Focus On Fundamentals And Technical Precision

One of the core strategies of the Danaher Death Squad is their focus on fundamentals and technical precision. Rather than relying solely on physical prowess, the team places a significant emphasis on mastering basic techniques and perfecting them through rigorous training.

John Danaher himself is known for his intricate understanding of technique, having spent decades studying martial arts theory and practice. He instills this same appreciation for precision in his athletes, emphasizing that even the smallest details can make all the difference in competition.

Utilization Of Submission Grappling

The Danaher Death Squad is renowned for their utilization of submission grappling. Submission wrestling, sometimes known as submission fighting or simply “grappling,” is a combat sport where the objective is to make your opponent submit using various techniques such as chokes and joint locks.

The DDS team has mastered the art of submission grappling by focusing on technical precision, positional dominance, and fundamental skills.

For example, Gordon Ryan’s technique in his match against Felipe Pena in 2019’s ADCC Championship demonstrated this expertise. He utilized his technical knowledge to lock Pena up in his infamous “front headlock” position before taking him down with ease and finishing the match through an armbar submission hold.

Emphasis On Positional Dominance

The Danaher Death Squad places a huge emphasis on positional dominance, which is about obtaining and maintaining the most advantageous position in a grappling match.

This approach involves achieving control over the opponent’s body by limiting their movements while maximizing one’s own strength and ability to apply submission holds. The team believes that by controlling positions, they can prevent their opponents from launching effective counter attacks while they continue to wear them down with calculated moves.

In competitions, members of DDS have frequently showcased this strategy, winning matches through their domination of key positions like mount, back control, or side control.

Impact of Danaher Death Squad On Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The Danaher Death Squad has had a massive impact on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, dominating various tournaments and influencing teaching and training methods worldwide through their focus on fundamentals, technical precision, and emphasis on positional dominance.

Dominance In Competitions And Tournaments

The Danaher Death Squad’s dominance in competitions and tournaments is unmatched. The team has produced some of the most elite athletes in the world of martial arts, MMA, and grappling.

The DDS members have won countless titles and championships in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, NoGi Jiu-Jitsu, submission fighting, and other combat sports.

Garry Tonon, a member of DDS who transitioned to mixed martial arts after his successful career in grappling tournaments; Craig Jones also achieved remarkable achievements under the banner of DDS being one of the best grapplers on earth right now.

Nicky Rod also raised many eyebrows with his impressive performances over much-experienced competitors.

Influence On Teaching And Training Methods

The Danaher Death Squad’s success in grappling competitions has had a significant impact on the way Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is taught and trained. Their focus on technical precision and fundamentals influenced coaches worldwide to prioritize the teaching of these essential skills.

For example, John Danaher developed his “Danaher Death Squad” training program, commonly referred to as DDS 2.0.

Their unique approach to grappling also inspired a shift towards submission grappling over points-based systems, with many students now valuing positional dominance more highly than traditional scorekeeping methods.

Additionally, their emphasis on constant innovation led to advancements in techniques like leg locks and back control that are now staples of modern BJJ.

Advancements In Techniques And Strategies

The Danaher Death Squad revolutionized grappling with their innovative approach to technique and training. Under the guidance of John Danaher, the DDS developed sophisticated strategies that focused on positional dominance, submission grappling, and technical precision.

One example of this was their use of leg locks. While frowned upon by traditionalists, Danaher taught his students how to effectively attack their opponent’s legs.

Gordon Ryan became particularly famous for his high percentage finishes using heel hooks, which helped cement the technique as a critical part of modern grappling.

Their innovations weren’t limited to techniques either – they also introduced new ways of thinking about jiu-jitsu strategy. For example, they encouraged fighters to focus less on specific moves and more on applying fundamental principles across different situations.

Ultimately, the advancements made by DDS have had a significant impact on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a whole.

Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding Danaher Death Squad

Critics have accused the Danaher Death Squad of elitism and cult-like behavior, personality clashes with coaches, and unfair advantages in competition.

Allegations Of Elitism And Cult-like Behavior

Despite the Danaher Death Squad’s numerous accomplishments, the team has been surrounded by allegations of elitism and cult-like behavior.

Some critics have claimed that John Danaher’s coaching style is overly controlling, leading to a toxic environment within the team.

The tension between DDS and other teams in the Jiu Jitsu community has also fueled these criticisms. While some members of DDS have spoken out against this perception, there is no denying that their dominance in competitions can create egos and foster division.

Criticisms Of Danaher’s Coaching Style

Some in the martial arts community have criticized John Danaher’s coaching style as too intense, demanding, or even abrasive. His meticulous approach to training and emphasis on technical precision has led some to label him as a perfectionist who expects nothing less than excellence from his students.

Additionally, some have accused Danaher of favoritism towards certain members of the team and neglecting others. Despite these criticisms, there is no denying that DDS has had tremendous success under his tutelage – winning numerous competitions and producing world-class grapplers like Garry Tonon, Craig Jones, and Gordon Ryan.

Response To Unfair Advantages In Competition

The Danaher Death Squad has been at the center of some controversy, particularly regarding accusations of unfair advantages in competition. Some detractors claim that the team’s training approach and techniques give them an edge over other competitors.

In fact, John Danaher himself has spoken out against such criticisms, emphasizing that his team’s success comes from a focus on fundamentals and technical precision rather than anything nefarious or unethical.

End Of The Danaher Death Squad

A few months into their new venture in Puerto Rico, the Danaher Death Squad had to call it quits. They were smacked by a series of gut punches – from the Covid-19 spread to the loss of Gordon Ryan’s dad. The travel restrictions due to the pandemic didn’t help either.

Gordon Ryan then spilled the beans on Instagram about his move to Austin to start a new gym. This spurred John Danaher to break the news about the squad’s breakup.

While they were in Puerto Rico, there was some tension brewing among the team members. They weren’t seeing eye to eye on training methods and weren’t thrilled with their performance either. They decided it was best for everyone to go their separate ways. This decision marked a sudden end to their reign in the jiu-jitsu world, a real bummer.

In an Instagram post, John Danaher announced the dissolution of the Danaher Death Squad.


1. What is the Danaher Death Squad?

The Danaher Death Squad is a group of highly skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who train under the guidance of John Danaher, a renowned instructor and former Renzo Gracie student. The team has produced numerous UFC champions such as Georges St-Pierre, Chris Weidman and Kamaru Usman.

2. How does the team approach training?

The team’s success can be attributed to their rigorous, detail-oriented approach to training that emphasizes technical proficiency over physical attributes like strength or speed. This involves breaking down complex techniques into smaller parts and perfecting each component before moving on to the next.

3. Who are some notable members of the squad?

Some notable members of the Danaher Death Squad include Gordon Ryan, Nicky Ryan, Garry Tonon and Craig Jones – all world-class grapplers in their respective weight classes.

4. Can anyone join the squad?

While it may not be possible for everyone to train with John Danaher himself due to his limited availability, many members of his team teach seminars and offer online instruction that anyone can access regardless of skill level or location. However, becoming a part of the elite core group known as “Danaher Death Squad” requires earning an invitation through years of hard work and dedication in competitions at various levels within BJJ community.


The Danaher Death Squad has left an undeniable impact on the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and combat sports.

Their unique training philosophies have paved the way for advancements in techniques and strategies that continue to influence teaching methods in BJJ.

As they split up amidst family tension and ego clashes, it is safe to say that DDS will remain a legendary name in martial arts history.

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