“Why Ignore 50% Of The Human Body?” | Dean Lister & John Danaher’s Leg Lock Breakthough

“Why Ignore 50% Of The Human Body?” | Dean Lister & John Danaher’s Leg Lock Breakthough

In the article titled “‘Why Ignore 50% Of The Human Body?’ | Dean Lister & John Danaher’s Leg Lock Breakthrough”, Dean Lister discusses a conversation he had with John Danaher that had a significant impact on the world of leg locks in jiu jitsu. Lister recalls the time he was training in New York with Gracie’s Academy and had success using leg locks against black belts. When he questioned why leg locks were ignored, it caused Danaher to contemplate the importance of this neglected aspect of martial arts. Lister also reflects on the influence of other individuals such as Boss Ruten and Jeff Hanks, who contributed to his development as a fighter. Overall, the article delves into the significance of leg locks and highlights the role these conversations played in shaping Lister’s career.

Dean Lister & John Danaher’s Leg Lock Breakthrough

Why Ignore 50% Of The Human Body? | Dean Lister  John Danahers Leg Lock Breakthough


In the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are certain techniques and strategies that have the power to revolutionize the sport. One such breakthrough came from the collaboration between renowned grapplers Dean Lister and John Danaher. Their exploration and mastery of leg locks not only influenced a generation of practitioners but also brought about a shift in the way jiu-jitsu competitors approached their training and matches. This article delves into the conversation between Lister and Danaher, the impact it had on the minds of both men, and the subsequent evolution of leg locks in the sport.

The Conversation with John Danaher

The meeting between Dean Lister and John Danaher took place in the year 2000 at the famed Gracie Academy in New York. Lister, a purple belt at the time, had been having success with leg locks against higher-ranked black belts. Intrigued by Lister’s approach, Danaher engaged in a philosophical conversation with him. Lister pointed out that leg locks target a significant portion of the human body and questioned why they had been largely ignored by traditional jiu-jitsu practitioners. The impact of this conversation on Danaher’s mind was profound, as it forced him to reconsider the strategic importance of leg attacks in jiu-jitsu.

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Impact on the Mind

The conversation with Lister sparked a shift in John Danaher’s thinking, making him recognize the critical role leg locks play in the effectiveness of jiu-jitsu as a martial art. This newfound understanding of the human body’s vulnerability to leg attacks had a profound impact on both Lister and Danaher’s careers. Lister’s mention of his encounter with renowned fighter Boss Ruuten further solidified his conviction. Ruuten advised Lister to keep his elbows in during training, which significantly improved Lister’s technique and performance.

The Old School Gracie Academy

The conversation between Lister and Danaher took place at the old school Gracie Academy in downtown New York. This academy, situated near Penn Station, served as a hub for jiu-jitsu enthusiasts seeking to learn the art from the Gracie family. While no specific techniques were discussed during the conversation between Lister and Danaher, the significance of the experience lies in the exchange of ideas and the new paths it opened up for both fighters.

Influence from Boss Ruuten

Dean Lister’s interaction with Boss Ruuten, a respected figure in the martial arts world, also influenced his approach to leg locks. Ruuten pointed out the importance of keeping the elbows in, leading Lister to understand the significant impact this advice could have on his fighting style. Lister’s commitment to incorporating Ruuten’s advice into his training regimen ultimately led to improvements in his technique and performance.

Discussion at Fabio Santos’ Gym

Lister’s friend and fellow black belt, Jeff Hanks, further reinforced Lister’s belief in the significance of leg locks. During a discussion at Fabio Santos’ gym in San Diego, Hanks emphasized the importance of understanding and utilizing leg locks, especially when facing tough competitors like the Armenian team known for their proficiency in foot locks. Lister’s training partner and coach held a rivalry with an Armenian instructor, intensifying the need to develop effective strategies against foot locks.

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Facing Tough Armenian Competitors

The rivalry between Lister’s gym and the Armenian competitors in Los Angeles provided valuable opportunities for Lister to put his leg lock knowledge and skills to the test. These Armenian competitors were known for their physical strength and relentless pursuit of foot locks. Lister’s commitment to learning and adapting allowed him to counter their attacks and emerge victorious in these challenging encounters.

Embracing Elbows, Leg Locks, and Throws

Lister’s open-mindedness and eagerness to embrace challenges led him to recognize the importance of mastering various techniques beyond traditional jiu-jitsu. He understood the intimidation factor associated with elbows, leg locks, and throws and sought to harness their power rather than avoid them. Lister’s motivation and goals revolved around becoming a well-rounded grappler capable of utilizing all aspects of jiu-jitsu effectively.

The Significance of 50% of the Human Body

Lister’s statement, “Why ignore 50% of the human body?” resonated deeply with both him and Danaher. This recognition of the potential locked within the legs led to a widespread exploration of leg locks by practitioners around the world. Lister’s friend, Jeff Hanks, perceptively highlighted the importance of considering the legs as a critical component of jiu-jitsu techniques. This shift in mindset has forever changed the landscape of the sport.

Recognition from John Danaher

Over a decade after their initial conversation, John Danaher is widely regarded as one of the best coaches and practitioners in the jiu-jitsu world. His recognition of Dean Lister’s contribution to the leg lock breakthrough speaks to the impact their conversation had on both men’s careers. Lister’s innovation and willingness to challenge traditional approaches to jiu-jitsu have left an indelible mark on the sport.


Dean Lister and John Danaher’s conversation on the significance of leg locks in jiu-jitsu has forever changed the way the sport is approached. Their open-mindedness, willingness to embrace new techniques, and challenge traditional thinking have ushered in a new era of exploration and innovation. Lister’s journey and accomplishments serve as a testament to the power of questioning the status quo and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in jiu-jitsu. As the sport continues to evolve, the exploration of the human body’s potential in jiu-jitsu techniques will undoubtedly remain a focal point for future generations of grapplers.

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Hi there! My name is Jesse Hull and I am the author behind the Jiu-Jitsu FC website. With a passion for Jiu-Jitsu, I've created this platform to share my love for the sport, along with valuable insights and techniques. At Jiu-Jitsu FC, we believe in the power of this martial art to transform lives and foster resilience. Through our blog, we aim to inspire and motivate others to discover their true potential. So join me on this journey of self-discovery and let's unlock the incredible power of Jiu-Jitsu together. Remember, Discover power. Discover resilience. Discover yourself.