Draft:John Danaher (martial artist)

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John Danaher
Washington, D.C., United States
ResidenceManhattan, New York
NationalityAmerican-New Zealander
StyleBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu
TeamRenzo Gracie Academy
Danaher Death Squad
Rank4th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

John Danaher (born c.1967, Washington, D.C., United States) is an American-New Zealander Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts instructor. He holds a 4th degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie, and is an instructor at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan.[1] Although born in the United States, Danaher grew up in New Zealand, until arriving in the United States in 1991 to study philosophy at Columbia University. After arriving in New York, Danaher was introduced to jiu-jitsu by a friend at the university, and began taking classes at Renzo Gracie's academy in Manhattan.[2] He continued training at the academy and began to teach classes as well while Gracie was traveling for competition. Since receiving his black belt in the early 2000s, he has been an instructor for several notable jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts competitors, including Chris Weidman, Georges St-Pierre,[3] Gordon Ryan,[4] and Garry Tonon.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

John Danaher was born in Washington, D.C., United States. His father, a pilot in the New Zealand air fore, acted as an attaché to the United States military during the Vietnam War. His family later returned to Whangaparaoa, a small peninsula north of Auckland, New Zealand, where Danaher spent the remainder of his childhood.[2] He also learned kickboxing, and some karate as martial arts were becoming popular in New Zealand.[6]

After high school, Danaher attended the University of Auckland, where he earned a Bachelors, and later a Masters degree in philosophy. In 1991, he returned to the United States to pursue a Ph.D in epistemology at Columbia University in Manhattan. While attending the university, Danaher worked as a bouncer at various Manhattan night clubs.[6]

Martial arts career[edit]

While he had some striking ability from his time in New Zealand, Danaher's dedication to martial arts did not fully begin until he began training at the Renzo Gracie Academy in the early 1990s. While there, he studied under legendary jiu-jitsu practitioner Renzo Gracie, and became one of his most dedicated students, alongside Rodrigo Gracie, Matt Serra, and Ricardo Almeida.[6] As a purple belt, he began to teach some classes at the academy while Renzo was traveling to compete in mixed martial arts competitions. Over the next several years, with many his peers leaving to start their own academies, Danaher's responsibilities as an instructor at Renzo Gracie Academy grew, and Danaher became a full-time instructor at the school.[6]

Being that Danaher has suffered throughout his life from severe leg and hip problems, he has never competed professionally, and instead has devoted his time and effort to teaching. As his students have had success in competition and gained notoriety over the last several years, he has become well-known as a jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts coach, having worked closely with fighters such as Georges St-Pierre and Chris Weidman.[7][8] Additionally, he coaches a group of notable jiu-jitsu competitors at Renzo Gracie Academy, often referred to as the 'Danaher Death Squad.' The group includes athletes such as Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, Eddie Cummings, and Nicky Ryan (Gordon's younger brother), who between them hold numerous world championships, spanning multiple organizations, including IBJJF, ADCC, Eddie Bravo Invitational, and others.

Leg lock system[edit]

Danaher is also known for developing his own system of leg-locks and lower-body attacks.[9] He was first introduced to the effectiveness of leg locks when Dean Lister, an American grappler who was having success in competitions utilizing leg-based attacks, came to train at Renzo Gracie Academy for two weeks in the early 2000s.[10] With the leg lock system, Danaher was able to consolidate a large number of distinct positions and moves into a more formulaic and predictable series of procedures that could be executed by his students. Using the principles that Danaher set out in his system, his students had tremendous success utilizing leg locks in competition.[11][12][13]

Danaher is credited with helping to alter the jiu-jitsu community's opinion of leg locks, as many saw them as a non-technical and ineffective method of attack before Danaher's students demonstrated their usefulness in competition.[14] Danaher has since developed systems for various types of arm attacks, as well as back and strangle-based attacks.[15][16]

Health problems[edit]

Having been born with deformed patellas, Danaher was prone to knee injuries throughout his early years. In the 1980s, Danaher suffered a severe knee injury to his left leg while playing rugby, which required surgery.[17] The result of multiple surgeries on his left knee was artificially shortened and deformed ligaments, which drastically inhibited Danaher's ability to properly extend and retract his knee. Over the years, this imbalance proceeded to cause other problems for Danaher. Namely, an unbalanced gait caused Danaher's left hip to be subjected to undue force and strain, leading to severe osteoarthritis. The damaged hip ultimately required a replacement, which Danaher underwent in 2015.[18]


  1. ^ "Staff". Renzo Gracie. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/the-jujitsu-master-turning-an-ancient-art-into-a-modern-science
  3. ^ "Morning Report: Coach John Danaher says Georges St-Pierre's weight-gain program was a 'disaster'". MMA Fighting. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  4. ^ "MUST WATCH: Gordon Ryan Sharpens His Gi Game With John Danaher". Flograppling. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  5. ^ "How John Danaher Has Helped Garry Tonon to Martial Arts Greatness". Asia One. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/evwwpe/the-life-and-influence-of-real-life-martial-arts-monk-kiwi-john-danaher
  7. ^ "Danaher: All three of the main criticisms of St-Pierre's legacy were answered at UFC 217". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Matt Serra unable to corner Chris Weidman at UFC 162; title challenger tabs dad to replace him". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  9. ^ "I Flew Over 4000 Miles For A Private Lesson With John Danaher: Hywel Teague". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  10. ^ "This Is What John Danaher Wants You To Know About His Leg Lock System". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Video: Garry Tonon is ridiculously good at jiu-jitsu, gets heel hook in less than a minute". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Best Leg Lock Specialists in Grappling Today". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  13. ^ "William Wolk Brazilian taps to Eddie Cummings Heel Hook". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  14. ^ "Danaher Death Squad – Everything About DDS". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  15. ^ "First REVEIW: John Danaher DVD Instructional-Enter The System: Armbars". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Review: John Danaher's Back Attack System". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  17. ^ "John Danaher". Retrieved 8 July 2019.