John Danaher is one of the best kept secrets in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This New Zeland born, BJJ black belt under Renzo Gracie, has been praised by many major personalities in the fighting world. People like MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) guru Greg Jackson and BJJ personality “Draculino”, from Gracie Barra, for his grappling prowess. He is also the submission coach of none other then UFC Welterweight Champion George Saint Pierre. Danaher trains at Renzo Gracie’s Academy in New York where he also teaches Jiu jitsu. In 2003 John Danaher published a book in partnership with Renzo Gracie entitled Mastering JuJitsu.
John Danaher Jiu Jitsu & MMA
Full Name: John Danaher
Main Competitive Achievements: No Record
Weight Division: n/a
Favourite Technique/Position: n/a
Team/Association: Renzo Gracie Academy
John Danaher Biography
John Danaher started training late in life (he was 28 years old). He was working his way through grad school (he later finished a Masters Degree in Philosophy at Columbia University) as a club bouncer. Lifting weights was his hobby and he weighed around 250lbs (113kg) at the time. One day he decided to try a BJJ class with a friend who already had a few classes. Danaher had seen how some of his bouncer colleagues that had previous grappling experience handled fights and thought it might be useful for his job. The mentioned friend who took him to the classe was half Danaher’s size but ended up almost choking him out in the first lesson.
Danaher saw the potential of Jiu Jitsu as a self defence mechanism he could use to fend off drunken degenerates at his bouncing job. He had little or no real idea of how grappling worked at the time, in fact he mentioned when interviewed by Renzo Gracie Cape Town’s website (www.renzogracie.co.za) that he didn’t have a very flattering perspective of wrestling:
“I’d seen wrestling in the Olympic Games, and I had a very low opinion of it, It was kind of like a homoerotic sport where guys just grab each other, whereas in a real fight, a guy would just punch the other guy and knock him out and it would be over, right? Bruce Lee would just sock him in the head.”
Acknowledging Jiu Jitsu’s value he persisted with training, never really enjoying it thoroughly. It wasn’t until RGA was depleted from two of it’s most prominent instructors, Matt Serra and Ricardo Almeida that Danaher truly embraced the sport. Having been invited to coach at the academy when he was still a purple belt he took it upon himself to be the best instructor he could possibly be, and his highly inquisitive mind did not rest until he mastered BJJ. His almost obsession with BJJ has him on the mat 12-14 hours per day, Renzo Gracie had to say about Danaher’s behaviour: “he (Danaher) does jiu-jitsu every day; we can’t get him out of here. I think he would come in on Christmas if we would let him.” This hard work paid off as Danaher received his black belt on the April 2nd, 2002 together with his friend and training partner Shawn Williams.
John Danaher is also known for his eccentric side, a self-diagnosed obsessive-compulsive, he seems to rarely leave his Jiu Jitsu rash guard in the closet. In one episode of Matt Serra’s video blog for UFC 109, Serra (who is also a Renzo Gracie black belt) told the story of how John Danaher had come to his wedding wearing his rash guard.
Today John Danaher teaches at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, he also helps MMA fighter George St. Pierre every time he has a fight, helping prepare both his ground game and his fight strategy.
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)