Nicky Ryan – He’s Got Next Pt. 1


(Part 1 of a 2 part series)

Because this particular feature falls towards the beginning of the New Year, the general vibe of our society tends to focus on resolutions and commitments, which brings us directly to our cover feature of Nicky Ryan. To see what Nicky has been doing on the competition scene is really the easy part. There’s no denying that what we are witnessing is something along the lines of a “prodigy” or phenom.  Or is there denying it? If I were to tell you that in order to succeed in anything you would have to sacrifice something out of your life and commit to that, strong chance is that many of us would agree with that statement. So, if we delve a little deeper into the word “prodigy” or “phenom”, the onus is on us to come to our own conclusion of what we feel the definition of those words mean when we acknowledge the context of how they’re being used in conjunction with the word “sacrifice” and to one Nicky Ryan. When presenting this question to Nicky, he will simply state that he is no different than anyone else. Although he realizes that he is pretty good at jiu-jitsu, he chalks it up to his total commitment to learning and training the art. He also explained that when he first started jiu-jitsu, he was actually overweight and looked far from anything resembling prodigal athletic ability.  Now, his day starts in the early morning with a commute from Jersey and make it to RGA’s famed “Blue Basement” to begin his training at the 7:30 am session. After that, Nicky will take a short break and resume his training at the 12:30 session. From there, Nicky returns back to New Jersey to “wind down” with, yes, you guessed it, another training/teaching session in the evening to end his typical day. According to John Danaher, Nicky repeats this format every day of the week and has been for the past few years. Now that’s what we would consider some serious commitment blended in with some sacrifice. We had the honor of linking up with Nicky in the “Blue Basement” and he was nice enough to share with us a few nuggets\ from all of his labor and time spent honing his craft. So with all of that said, feel free to be your own “prodigal” self with whatever you place as your goals of self-improvement. If you need a little inspiration or help, just watch how Nicky does it. Maybe people will start referring to you as a prodigy in your chosen field once you adopt this young man’s approach. Bom treino!


Entry to the Triangle  

Nicky has many methods of initiating attacks on his opponents. Nicky considers the triangle one of his favorite methods of those attacks. In this sequence, Nicky shares with us how he is able to set up his triangle attack to either secure the submission or transition to other viable options of demise on his opponents.


1a. While Ethan is on his knees, Nicky will initiate from the Sitting Guard by using his left hand…

1b. …thumb down, to grab Ethan’s right wrist.







2a. Nicky now transfers Ethan’s wrist.

2b. He arm drags Ethan’s arm across his body…

2c.  …securing Ethan’s right hand against his right hip.












3a. Nicky will now place his left foot on Ethan’s right hip…

3b. …which will allow Nicky to have a “weightless” and free right foot.







4a. Keeping his grips secure, Nicky will now lean back and shoot his free right leg over Ethan’s right shoulder.

4b. As the distance closes and clamps his right calf down on Ethan’s back, making sure to keep his hips elevated and off of the mat.







5a. Nicky will cross his ankles and feed his right arm to underhook Ethan’s left leg and…

5b. …pivot on his back bringing his head towards the underhook.







6. At this point, Nicky’s body position is perpendicular to Ethan with his legs parallel with each other. He may now lock up the triangle to catch the submission.






X-Guard Transition to Inside Sankaku (Heel Hook)  

This next technique can be considered the counter to the counter of the last technique. It is one of the multiple natural progressions that is available if your opponent recognizes and effectively stifles the initial triangle attack as explained in the previous technique.


1a. With Nicky attempting his triangle attack as previously explained.

1b. Ethan recognizes the threat he is in and postures up.

1c. As soon as Nicky feels that he’s losing the submission, he will release his left leg and pummel it underneath Ethan’s leg, resting his foot behind Ethan’s right knee.













2a. Nicky will now go to X-Guard by locking the topside of his right foot against Ethan’s right side hip…

2b. … and now shifs his position to align his own hips directly underneath Ethan’s.







3. From here, Nicky will turn his right knee inward (towards Ethan) and extend both of his legs to break Ethan’s position, causing him to fall forward and plant his hands on the mat.








4a. With Ethan’s hand planted on the mat, Nicky places his left hand underneath Ethan’s armpit to create a frame…

4b. … and switches his right foot from Ethan’s hip underneath his left leg and underhooks it under Ethan’s thigh.







5a. Using his legs, Nicky lifts Ethan over his head, effectively feeding Nathan’s left leg into his left hand…

5b. … and grabbing Ethan’s right leg with his right hand.







6a. At this point, Nicky brings his right knee directly behind Ethan’s right knee, further breaking Ethan’s position down…

6b. … and then triangles his legs together causing Ethan to fall to the mat.







7a. Once down, Ethan’s right leg will be in position…

7b. … for Nicky to finish with the inside sankaku (inside heel hook).



X-Guard Transition to Outside Heel Hook  

In this sequence, Nicky presents another option that is available to him using the same X-Guard setup as previously explained. However, instead of going for an inside heel hook attack, Nicky will go for an outside attack.


1. Using the same setup in the 1st five steps in the previous move, Nicky breaks down Ethan’s position, causing him to plant all four limbs onto the mat.







2. From here, Nicky will use his right foot to scoop up Ethan’s right leg by placing the front side of his right ankle to the front side of Ethan’s right ankle and scoops his leg up.







3. Once Ethan’s leg has been elevated, Nicky turns his right knee inward, causing Ethan to fall to the mat, planting his right knee.







4. Nicky relinquishes his control with his right foot and wraps his leg around Ethan’s left leg, effectively exposing Ethan’s left heel.







5a. As Nicky secures his grip, Ethan will begin to roll in an attempt to relieve pressure.

5b.But Nicky will roll with him to his left, making sure to maintain his grip.







6a. As they complete the roll, Nicky will bring his own heel to his butt…

6b. … to allow Ethan’s leg to pass through…







6c. … so that he can secure his legs to the outside and secure the submission.





Pass to Kimura 

This is a pass that Nicky likes to use because it not only sets up a Kimura but also opportunities to improve his position.


1. With Ethan in a supine position, Nicky will initiate the pass from the standing position by posting both of his hands on Ethan’s shins, smashing them into his chest.







2. Nicky takes a cross body step with his right foot, placing his foot inside of Ethan’s right thigh.







3. From here, Ethan will hook Nicky’s right leg, creating a Reverse De La Riva Guard situation.







4. Nicky will now pummel his hand to Ethan’s hip while his other hand…

4b. … pushes Ethan’s DLR hook down and then driving his left knee forward.






5a. It’s likely that your opponent will frame with their left hand.

5b. When this happens, Nicky uses his left hand to push down Nathan’s framing arm.

5c. and pummels his right hand under the same arm…

5d. … securing an underhook.













6a. Nicky will now angle his right elbow across Ethan’s body.

6b. And uses his left arm to apply a reverse collar tie.







7a. Nicky slides his right knee towards an 11 o’clock direction and steps over Ethan’s head.

7b. Bringing his right knee to the mat snug against Ethan’s head.







8a. Using his established underhook, Nicky lifts Ethan’s left arm up with his right hand.

8a. Transferring his left arm under to maintain an underhook.






9. From here, Nicky establishes a keylock grip and can now crank Ethan’s arm backward to secure the submission.



In part two of this series, Nicky will show us one of his go-to methods for taking his opponent’s back, an arm trap triangle and how he creates opportunities for his vaunted triangles.


Continue to part 2


Jim Lawson is a US Marine Corps veteran, jiu-jitsu black belt under Rodrigo Teixeira, who loves to travel and teach jiu-jitsu to anyone who will listen. He has a lot of other experiences and credentials but who really cares about all that. He’d love to keep in touch with you. You can stay in touch with him either through email or on his social media (where his numbers could really use a boost).

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