A close examination of jiu jitsu positions and techniques based around the concept of opening the opponent's elbow away from their torso, ie the open elbow. This set includes a detailed breakdown of how the kimura lock and the omoplata, among others, work by focusing on the open elbow. Ryan Hall brings his usual high verbal output to the chapters, informing the viewer with a perhaps more conceptual led instructional set compared to his previous offerings.

DVD Review: The Open Elbow, Ryan Hall
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Cost: $124.99 for three disc box set (Disc1 1hr 2min, Disc2 1hr 37min, Disc 3 1hr 34min total: 4 hrs 13mins)

Disclosures: I have no connection with either Ryan or the DVD publishers. I bought this DVD set from All views expressed in this report are my own.

Ryan Hall is head instructor of Fifty/50 Jiu Jitsu in Virginia, USA. Notching up a string of notable tournament wins over his jiu jitsu career, Hall’s DVD instructionals have been widely hailed as some of the best on the market and dissect many of Hall’s most successful competition tested techniques.

Hall’s previous titles, such as The DeepHalf Guard, The Triangle, 50/50 guard, Back Attacks and Inverted Guard among others are known to be heavy on concept as well as actual technique but this DVD set takes the format a step further by structuring the content a lot more around a focus on a concept. Viewers who are not fans of Ryan’s talkative style may be further put off on this set as he seems to spend much more air time talking at the beginning of each chapter and throughout the timeline. Those who relish his in depth analysis (as I do) however will enjoy the copious detail he dispenses.

The open elbow is when the opponent’s elbow is positioned at a distance away from his torso. Obvious examples where the elbow is positioned far away from the side of the body would be the kimura and Americana (keylock) submissions. But of course, there are many other situations and examples where moving your opponent’s elbow far away can be useful.

Disc One - What is the Open Elbow
1. Introduction 2. What is the Open Elbow? 3. Concept: Strength 4. Concept: Leverage 5. Concept: Path to the Back 6. Concept: Submissions 7. Concept: Escapes 8. Concept: Expanding 9. Concept: Pinning 10. Strategy: Seated Guard 11. Strategy: Half Guard 1 12. Strategy: Half Guard 2 13. Strategy: Half Guard 3 14. Strategy: Side Control 1 15. Strategy: Side Control 2 16. Strategy: The Mount

Hall begins this lengthy 3 hour box set by explaining what the open elbow is and how to recognize the importance of how it affects both attack and defence for both players. Only by halfway through the first disc, does Hall introduce actual techniques (half guard, side control and top mount) but even here, Hall describes these as illustrations of the concept of opening the elbow and that viewers should try to experiment in these positions.

Disc two - the kimura
Chapters: 1. The Kimura Position 2. Proper Kimura Grip 3. Elbow Control 4. Breaking the Grip 5. Finishing the Kimura 6. Body Structure 7. Side Control Kimura 8. Half Guard Kimura 9. Backside Half Guard Kimura 10. Kimura Defense to Deep Half 11. Kimura to Ezekiel 12. Kimura to Arm Triangle 13. Kimura to the Back 14. Kimura to Armlock 15. Kimura to Reverse Triangle 16. Seated Guard Kimura 17. Guillotine to Kimura 18. Crucifix to Reverse Triangle 19. Transition Drill.

This disc is dedicated entirely to the kimura. Not as you imagine as a method of submission (which Hall does show) but mainly as a very versatile means by which you can effect a number of other moves to attack the opponent from a top game perspective. A couple of the moves hark back to Hall’s earlier DVD on the arm triangle. Towards the latter part of the disc, he covers several moves that find your way into the crucifix position, and options to attack from here. Intriguingly, he suggest the reverse triangle as a viable submission attack, again, utilizing the kimura grip to get into this position.

Disc three - the omoplata
Chapters: 1. The Bottom Position Open Elbow 2. Strategy: Forcing a Post 3. Strategy: Laying a Trap 4. Strategy: Prying 5. The Omoplata Position 6. Leverage and the Omoplata 7. Omoplata Entry: The Thread 8. Omoplata Entry: The Slap 9. Sweeping: Forward, Backward, & Sideways 10. Finishing: Lock Far Shoulder & Double Roll 11. Finishing: Far Leg & Arm Hook 12. Seated Guard Duck to Back 13. The Brabo 14. The Hippoplatamus 15. The Hippoplatamus to Top of Turtle 16. The Open Guard Hippoplatamus 17. Turtle Duck to Back 18. Turtle Duck to Double Leg 19. Roll Under Single Leg 20. Drills: Omoplata and Kimura Connection

Disc three concentrates mostly on the omoplata. Again, this submission/position is used by Ryan to illustrate his open elbow concepts, this time from a bottom game perspective. Naturally he begins this disc by covering tips on how to create an opening and then to execute the omoplata to its best advantage. Chapter 7 in particular allows Ryan to truly dissect the minutiae of the most effective way to execute omoplata, including all the ‘wrong’ things that a lot of BJJ players do. The latter half of the disc takes a look at a variety of other opportunities to explore the open elbow and he includes a number of attacks from when you are in turtle – a position not covered very often in other instructionals. By now it is clear how important it can be to recognize the open elbow as a structure with which to hang off your attacks and movements. This is illustrated very proficiently in the final chapter where Ryan and Seth flow roll, moving from one open elbow position to another.

The format of this instruction set is slightly different to the more standard practice of ‘here is a technique and this is why it works...’ Instead, Hall’s set offers us a single concept and plenty of techniques to illustrate how that concept works. Throughout, Hall offers his usual highly articulate descriptions behind the techniques. He likes to use common day analogies to highlight certain points, especially surrounding the descriptions of body structure and mechanics. 

Overall this is an in depth, analytical examination of jiu jitsu techniques seen from a structural point of view. Although centred around just two submission techniques (kimura and omoplata) the underlying concept forms the basis of so much more and easily applies to much of what makes jiu jitsu so fundamentally efficient. 

What I found following the viewing of this entire set is that instead of looking for specific defined techniques during rolling, I was now seeking ways to apply the open elbow concept. In that regard, this set has been of great benefit in giving me a deeper understanding of the fundamental nature of successful jiu jitsu technique.