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John Danaher

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John Danaher Instructionals

John Danaher is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt under Renzo Gracie and who is widely regarded by the grappling community as one of the best coaches his generation produced. Praised by some of the prime figures in combat sports such as mixed martial arts (MMA) guru Greg Jackson and jiu-jitsu legend Vinícius Draculino for his knowledge and teaching capabilities, Danaher is best known for his work with athletes such as George Saint Pierre (GSP), Garry Tonon, Gordon Ryan, and Eddie Cummings a sporting workgroup fans labeled as the Danaher Death Squad (DDS).

John Danaher Jiu-Jitsu

Full Name: John Danaher

Nickname: n/a

Lineage:  Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Carlos Gracie Jr > Renzo Gracie > John Danaher

Main Achievements: n/a

Favorite Position/Technique:  Heel-hook

Weight Division: n/a

Team/Association: Renzo Gracie Academy

John Danaher Instructionals

John Danaher Biography

John Danaher was born in 1967, in Washington, DC, United States of America, and is the son of New Zealand parents. John’s father was in the NZ military and was stationed in the USA for a short period in which Danaher was born. His parents returned to their home country with their son, and it was in New Zealand that Danaher spent his childhood and formative years, therefore he has dual citizenship (USA-NZ).

Danaher started grappling late in life when compared to other successful black belts. He was 28 years old, with his initiation taking place in New York City while working his way through grad school (later finishing a Masters’s Degree in Philosophy at Columbia University). During this time, Danaher worked part-time as a club bouncer, while lifting weights to stay fit. He weighed around 250lbs (113kg) at the time of his first jiu-jitsu experience.

Having seen how some of his bouncer colleagues handled fights on the job by using their grappling experience, John saw the potential those techniques carried for his own safety and decided to take a class. One of his friends already trained jiu-jitsu at the time and took Danaher to his first lesson.

Hearly days coaching at RGA

After the trial class, jiu-jitsu’s potential as a self-defense mechanism was even clearer to Danaher who believed it to be a good tool to fend off drunken degenerates at his doorman job. He had little or no real idea of how grappling worked at the time, in fact, he mentioned when interviewed by the “Renzo Gracie Cape Town” website 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 helped John push through his training sessions, never truly enjoying it. It wasn’t until RGA was depleted from two of its most prominent instructors, Matt Serra and Ricardo Almeida that Danaher truly embraced the sport. Danaher was invited to coach and help replace the two aforementioned standouts, he was a purple belt at the time and took it upon himself to be the best instructor he could possibly be. Although he had no competitive experience, his highly inquisitive mind did not rest until he mastered the coaching aspect of BJJ.

His obsession with grappling placed him on the mat 12-14 hours per day, Renzo Gracie said about Danaher’s behavior: “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.” His hard work paid off as Danaher received his black belt on 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 JD 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 told the story of how John Danaher had come to his wedding wearing a rash guard.

In working at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, Danaher also helped the development of MMA fighters such as George St. Pierre, which shed some light on his persona to the broader spectrum of fans involved in cage combat, however, it would be his creative approach to the leg-locking game that gained him notoriety among the grappling community. His innovative system helped Danaher generate a group of outstanding pro-athletes such as Eddie Cummings, Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, Oliver Taza, Craig Jones, Nicky Ryan, to name a few. These competitors reached great success in submission-grappling and jiu-jitsu, while their outspoken personalities helped them amass a strong legion of fans – arguably the biggest following ever experienced in the sport – who labeled John’s workgroup as the “Danaher Death Squad” due to their efficacy when looking for submissions on the competitive arena.


On July 2021, coach John Danaher announced the end of the Danaher Death Squad as a unified training and competition team, alluding to “the physical location of a future school, personality conflicts, conflicting values and an inevitable tension between the team brand and the growing individual brands of members” as the main factors for the split (original statement here).

Later that month, John and his student Gordon Ryan announced the name of their new team: New Wave Jiu-Jitsu. Although the squad lost a few key players at the time, such as Gordon’s brother, Nicky Ryan, Craig Jones, Ethan Crelinsten, and Nicky Rodriguez (all of whom went on to form the “B-Team” workgroup), New Wave kept Garry Tonon and Oliver Taza from the remaining Danaher Death Squad.

John Danaher “Understanding Jiu-Jitsu”


John Danaher BJJ Escapes


  • I watched john escalate in juijitsu since he was a purple belt …he is a true professor in all aspects! …and I miss training with him big time!….his friend Tim

  • Mac's MMA says:

    I had the opportunity to chat with John just the other day and he is a kind, self-effacing and interesting fellow.

  • Mikail Riva says:

    I was working out at FightSchool in NYC with Fred Alluso and Matt Hughes – they both swear by John Danaher's abilities. They saw him speaking and demonstrating at Renzo Gracies during some recent presentations. He appears to be the perfect match for GSP. The temperament, the thoughts preceding very decisive execution. I guess that's what decades of dedication and focus buys you.

  • roger says:

    give me 2 minutes with him. his palm will be sore from tapping! his flaw is his vanity

    • you must be a complete asshole. You know they call this guy the encyclopedia of Jiu Jitsu. I mean seriously, I trained with Professor Danaher once and I was floored by his well of knowledge. I mean what the hell man. Have you even attended his training????? Probably not. Probably some internet troll.

    • Kylan says:

      Well if this is Roger GRACIE then I wouldn't be surprised. But yea right. Roger Gracie

    • regie toussaint says:

      there is no way that you are a martial artist are you for real ? I don't even know Mr Danaher and I respect the man, for George St pierre to seek the man for his BJJ coach says a lot about the man . I think that you are the one that their palm would be sore from tapping. Why am I waisting my time answering this, cause I know that you really don't believe the senselies words that are filtering out of your mouth. Oh let me guess you never had a lesson your a weekend MMA guys that watched Utube now your an expert . GET A LIFE. why don't you tex him and tell him that.

  • yanni says:

    John Danaher- It is a truly amazing individual. He is just AMAZING. I guess it is never too late to be a black belt. Yanni

  • Tyson says:

    shave your head already

  • John Danaher says:

    Yes I am really THAT good….but too bad I’m too old to compete in the UFC. I would kick ass in the welter and middleweight divisions, along with perks like having Arianny Celeste and Brittany Palmer at my place overnight for some private BJJ lessons!

    • Serge Verne says:

      John you are a stud. Although it’s too late for UFC, it’s never too late to have the girls over.
      God Bless

  • KEITH says:

    Your amazing Sir!

  • Bad Haircut Detector says:


  • Andre Rozado says:

    John Danaher is the most respectful professor of this days. Any jiu jitsu student should have a opportunity to be in his training sections. He incorporate a very combative stand up and the floor part is solid. He can simplify complex movements and make useful in real combat. I was at his trainings for couple of years and I wish I could never stop.
    He is the best no question.

  • Kiwi says:

    I wish he would bring some off that bjj knowledge back to New Zealand!!!!

  • Weidman says:

    Better BJJ than Randy Savage.

  • Raffy says:

    I train at Renzo's in NYC. We call Prof. John the "Mad Scientist." Everybody wants to get in his class. When he teaches, he demonstrates a long series of techniques starting from a takedown (he's also a judo black belt). What's really amazing is the level of detail of how he explains the idea behind every technique, and also the thought process of your opponent on why he reacts a certain way, etc. And yes, I've never seen him without a rash guard even outside the academy.

  • CB3 says:

    I would really like to know what year he began training in addition to just the year he got his black belt. That would be so interesting in all of these profiles. Thanks

  • Jerry Siller says:

    Sounds like an interesting fellow. I saw him speaking on Joe R. Podcast and became interested in him. The way he was questioning Roagan on the 4 steps was fascinating to see . I Immediately said to my fiancé Angie Myers, ” This man is an intellectual,and found out the following day that he has a masters degree in philosophy.” I wish that I can meet him and engage in philosophy discussions .

  • camillako says:

    Guys check out the exceptional podcast with joe rogan he did, it really shows the man behind the name. its available on youtube

  • A. doyle says:

    never competed though…….not even once,no coach in any other sport has never competed.only in bjj does this happen

    • Paolo says:

      Cus D’amato

    • Ryan Tobin says:

      I wonder if there’s been an amazingly successful NFL football coach who never played in the NFL and played at a low-rated college program?

    • Clarence Everett says:

      Bela Károlyi has coached nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, sixteen European medalists and six U.S. national champions. Béla Károlyi was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.

      Bela is one of the greatest Women’s Gymnastics coaches ever, and he is Not a gymnast, Nor a woman.

      He is imbued with great Cognitive Ability and Coaching Ability, just like John Danaher is in his particular field.

    • Craig says:

      He’s the Bill Belichick. He sees the game the same way a master military tactician sees a battlefield. It’s a rare perspective and I am sure he could have applied it to many other things in life. We should be lucky he chose jiu jitsu.

  • David O. says:

    @ A. Doyle why does he have to had competed to be a good teacher? The success of his students should be a determining factor on how well he teaches. Not how well he would have done had he competed. Apples to Oranges in my opinion.

  • Luke big boy says:

    @A.Doyle Lol, he produces world class competitors though haha…the proof is in the pudding i’m afraid. His products are also fantastic. Quality trumps all. 😀

  • Andrew says:

    The pride of New Zealand! Love listening to/reading Danaher’s talks about jiu jitsu. One of the best minds in the sport.

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