If you follow the competitive scene in BJJ, especially the no-gi sphere – then you will have undoubtedly heard about the by now notorious Danaher Death Squad. The fact of the matter is that this term has become a staple in the field of no-gi BJJ. Why is this the case? Who are the people behind this team? And why are they so well known?
John Danaher leg lock mastermind
Well, the Danaher Death Squad bears the name of one John Danaher, a person of almost mythical qualities. People that know him say that he lives in a basement and that doesn’t socialize a lot – but that he spends his days refining his BJJ skills. He’s especially known for his leglock submissions and he has taught some of the best BJJ practitioners in the world. But he doesn’t only work with BJJ, he studies whatever he could get his hands on – including MMA, Judo, wrestling, kickboxing, and anything in between. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to leglocks.
How did it all start
So, the story of the Danaher Death Squad begins somewhere around 2011, when a BJJ practitioner and student came to Renzo Gracie’s academy to train BJJ. His name was Eddie Cummings, and right off the bat, he became a regular visitor of the morning classes of John Danaher himself.
He had a background in the ground game that he learned in other schools around the world, but now he had the chance to refine it with the help of some of the black belt practitioners that also trained under John Danaher, specifically Aaron Milam. Aaron Milam is a person that has had a huge influence on some of the best leg lockers in BJJ, and especially on Eddie Cummings.
Shohin Ghaffari is another of the people that influenced Eddie Cummings in the sense that he was proficient in heel-hooks, and he was baiting opponent successfully into his unpredictable leg attacks long before people made these moves famous.
Eddie Cummins met future teammate Garry Tonnon at Gianni Grippo’s competition class. Tonnon was known at the time for winning the world title at IBJJF. Tonnon and Cummins would start to train together soon enough after this at the Renzo Gracie Academy.
Eventually, Tonnon started to come to class with a student of his, Gordon Ryan – who showed great promise. He won local tournaments left and right and quickly rose through the ranks at the RGA. These three people form the core of the Danaher Death Squad. One of their teammates used this name for a post on Reddit and it quickly caught up. Now, these people are known for their deadly heel hook and leglock attacks that they can perform from most any position in BJJ.
The DDS legacy
The DDS has made some groundbreaking progress in learning more about the potential that leglocks have and in implementing this aspect into an overall BJJ gameplan. Moreover, they have promoted this approach to great lengths and they made leglocks and heel hooks famous in the eyes of the novice and expert BJJ practitioners alike.