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Roberto Pedreira













Judo Gene LeBell

 Grappling Master


Video and Book Review

Reviewed by Roberto Pedreira

Bruce Lee's grappling instructor Gene LeBell 

teaches you how to NEVER lose a street again!


"LeBell is all about pain."

--Chris (former LeBell student)


    Former lightweight boxing champion Jackie McCoy believed he had been duped by the boxing promoter Aileen Eaton. A simple misunderstanding, it later transpired, but Jackie didn't know that at the time and he was livid. He was ready to use violence if necessary to get his point across. He couldn't control his rage at how this woman had tried to rip him off.  He entered Aileen's office and stormed over to her desk ready to raise the roof. At that instant, he recalled, "I saw her son, the 230 lb. pro wrestler Gene LeBell sitting on a chair watching. I immediately found that I could control myself very easily."

   There's a lot of wisdom contained in Jackie's story. But we'll get to that later.

Gene's Three Types of Techniques

   Gene's techniques are of three types. First are the basic moves that everyone, including Rickson Gracie and Mario Sperry does--armlocks, shoulder locks, and wrist locks (that's right, wrist locks--people are using wrist locks in competition, and at least one person that we know of (Yuki Nakai) lost in the black belt division of the 2001 Mundial by a "mão de vaca" (cow's hand) wrist lock (known in English as the "gooseneck" wristlock). And Mario Sperry teaches mão de vaca wristlocks on his "Advanced Techniques and Strategies" series with Murilo Bustamante.) But Gene is not teaching techniques for BJJ or MMA competitions, which didn't even exist when his tapes were made, but rather techniques that work in Pro Wrestling and in the street, and by this he is referring to the street of traditional self-defense theory rather than the now current "300 lb. homicidal Samoan on angel dust in a biker bar" scenario (better to motivate people to buy the tape, but a lot less likely to be a situation that you will ever actually experience). 

   These are the techniques that we all learn in BJJ and you can learn them from Gene LeBell's tapes and book too.  You can also learn them in Hapkido, Aikido, Chi-na, or the "jiu-jitsu" that Carlos Gracie supposedly learned from Mitsuyo Maeda (although it turns out that it wasn't jiu-jitsu and Maeda didn't teach him: see here for details). 

The wrist attacks don't seem to have been kept in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, possibly because they are more difficult to do on the ground. As has been said many times by many people, the difference is in the details and the set-ups. Applying these moves in a struggle, especially on the ground, is a completely different matter and for that you have to train differently. Knowing how to do an arm lock is one thing, being able to do an arm lock is another, and actually doing it on a prepared resisting opponent is something else altogether. The first two can be useful (for example, in teaching or defending), but the third is where the rubber meets the road.

    The second type are what you might find in a Sambo school. In fact, you'll find them in Gokor's school because Gene taught them to Gokor [1]. You won't learn them in a BJJ academy because they are too dangerous. One case in point is the "opposite leg step-over toe hold and knee lock" (page 126 of the book), which is also taught in Silat, at least in the Dan Inosanto Maphilindo Silat system (it's not impossible that Dan learned it from his student Erik Paulson, who learned it from Larry Hartsell, who learned it from Gene.) I would be extremely careful about playing open guard against an opponent who knows how to do these leg locks well. (I would also be cautious about kicking mid level with the shin.) Obviously, you can defend the lock, but you first have to understand how the lock works before you can defend it. (This is a great self defense move incidentally, apart from the fact that you will leave your adversary crippled (in case you care), in that you have to keep your back and head straight up to do it. You can quickly break his leg and then pop back up to take on the other four guys--or you can beat cheeks before they get there, if that's your preference.)

  Igor and Cristiano Kamenishi  demonstrate the LeBell Toe Hold and Step over Knee Lock. (Use extreme care when attempting!) 

Wrong way to catch the kick. Never do this unless you like being knocked out.
Right way to catch the kick.
Easy way to put opponent on floor.
One view of the lock. The step over prevents opponent from rolling.
Opposite side view. Opponent's knee is now history.


  Some of the leg techniques however, require the opponent to let you do them. Don't count on that happening in a street fight. (Gene has something to say about that however.)

   On the other hand, someone with enough time and ingenuity might very well be able to find ways to set them up without the opponent's help. The "Indian Lock" on page 128 looks potentially serviceable against the half-guard. As of this moment I'm not sure how I would apply it, but I am sure that there are much better grapplers than me who probably could. The same goes for a lot of the other moves. (In fact, I discovered a few days later that Gracie Japan purple belt Cristiano Kaminishi is already familiar with this position. Cristiano hasn't read Gene's book or seen his videos, but he has trained extensively with the Brazilian Top Team. We know that the Top Team is open to anything that will work in MMA--anything, and from any source, which might very well include books and videos.) 

  We know that Judo Gene hooked up with the Machado Brothers early on, being the open-minded guy that he is. Obviously he wanted to learn what the Brazilians knew. But I wonder if in return Gene didn't teach them a thing or two. BJJ became what it is today by absorbing anything that would work and Gene's techniques definitely work. The only question mark is whether they can be applied, and I think the answer is that it depends on who is doing them. 

   The third type are what Gene calls "show off" moves. While they "work",  and they don't require the opponent to cooperate, you'd have to be a lot better than your opponent to be able to apply them--which Gene himself admits--and in which case, you could have beaten him with the simpler moves.  (Every style has such "show off" moves, like Bolo punches and flying armlocks, and crocodile whips tail kicks, and good fighters sometimes use them when they feel confident and want to give the fans something extra for their money--Sakuraba is a good example, and by no coincidence, Sakuraba started his MMA career with a Pro-Wrestling organization). 


    All of Judo Gene's techniques are devastatingly destructive and hideously disfiguring--if you can get yourself and your opponent in the right positions to do them. This obviously is the hard part. The place to start is with a handle--any body part that you can grab that will let you move the rest of the body. Some are better than others, but as Judo Gene says, "everything is a handle".  One good handle is the wrist. If the man is grabbing you, then there won't be a problem grabbing his wrist. If he isn't, there probably will be a problem, especially if he knows what you have in mind. 

Of course, clothes reduce the difficulty of grabbing handles considerably, and also let you generate a lot more leverage. It isn't easy to grab someone's hand if they don't want you to grab it. That is, it isn't easy if you haven't learned the technique Gene teaches, which is simple and often works (nothing always works except the Ninja remote death touch). Gene calls it the "the LeBell slap and catch" and that describes how it is done. You reach for the man's hand. He will probably jerk it away. But instead of actually trying to grab it, you slap it into your other hand that is waiting to catch it. The idea is simple and was used by Paleolithic hunters to catch rabbits. If you knew where his hand was going, you could easily catch it by reaching for where it will be rather than were it is now. The problem is that you usually don't know. Gene's technique makes it predictable, because you are sending it to where you want it to be. Simple but effective.  

Biting and Gouging

   Gene teaches some useful techniques for the street. A few of them you can experiment with in the academy, and I have seen Rickson use one or two of them. Many are dangerous. The neck cranks for example can cause serious cervical spine damage--which means you should know how to avoid them. Others are somewhat obvious--eye gouging and biting but even here, there is a right way and a wrong way and Gene teaches the right way. 

Biting and eye gouging is not a substitute for BJJ or anything else, but since other people might try to do it to me, I want to know how to defend. I do in fact know someone who is missing an ear. Lost it in a bar fight on the Hill, in Itaewon, in Seoul, (at Stomper, to be precise).


Stomper, Itaewon, Seoul, Korea, c. 1990



 He wasn't a BJJ guy, just an English teacher, but even so, if he had studied Gene's tape he might still have his original two ears today. And here is a true and relevant story about biting and ears. One night long ago, it might have been 1991 or thereabouts, Roberto was standing on the same Hill in the "Won", discussing something with BJJSeoul. Two guys from the British Navy stopped by and began talking about Taekwondo. BJJSeoul (or maybe it was Roberto) invited them to train boxing with us the next day at Trent Gym on "Post".  One of the guys said, "I have something better than boxing--teeth" and he leaned over and took and big chomp very close to Roberto's left ear. Which disturbed Roberto, because he realized that the guy had actually practiced this bizarre "technique" and probably really could have bitten off Roberto's ear--or nose or some other part of his face--if he had wanted to. (For more amazing true tales of Itaewon, see Hardcore Combat Hapkido Training in the ROK.). 

LeBell's Ultimate Street Fight Strategy

   Grappling has many merits, but it isn't always the best first response to every potential conflict situation. An elbow in the teeth, or a hook to the jaw (hopefully, breaking or dislocating it), can work well. Being polite and getting the hell out are other useful strategies. 

   Gene has the ultimate strategy for street fighting. It is devastatingly brilliant and superbly effective. Gene's solution is, "never fight for free". 

   If you adopt the LeBell Strategy, you will never lose a street fight again.


The book basically is the same as the videos, minus the comedy (some of which is pretty funny). Here is a partial list of what you will find in them:


Tape 1


Bear Hug

Boston Crab

Figure Four Double Duce

Gori's Siamese Twin

Forward Neck Crank

Knee in the Back Chin Lift

Reverse Full Nelson and Back Breaker

Hair Grab and Rib Crush with Knee

Should Hold and Neck Choke

Chin Lift and Thumb Gouge

Behind Nose Rip and Throat Claw


Tape 2

Deadly Cobra Grip

Wrist Flex and Elbow Lift

Outside Squeeze with Scissor

Figure Four Straight Arm

Four Fingers around Finger Crush

Palm to Palm Wrist Twist and Flex

Single Leg over Arm Bar

Abdominal Body Leg Scissor


Tape 3

Front Elbow Crank

Top Wrist lock using one leg

Forearm hammerlock into Turkey wing

Standing upper arm crank

Short arm scissor

Single leg grapevine and leg stretch

Step over the face, downward hammerlock and shoulder crank

Inside and outside double leg grapevine and knee spread

Forearm hammerlock with nose lift




Chp. 1 Grapping your own hands for squeezing

Chp. 2 LeBell slap and catch

Chp. 3 Pressure against the back

Chp. 4 Neck locks and cranks

Chp. 5 Rib crushing

Chp. 6 Chokes and neck holds

Chp. 7 Wrist and finger locks

Chp. 8 Abdominal pressure

Chp. 9 Head lock varieties

Chp. 10 Arm, elbow, and shoulder locks

Chp. 11 Ankle, knee, groin stretches and hip locks

Chp. 12 Grab bag.


You can get the book here:




These might be interesting too.




(c) 2002, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved. 

Revised October 31, 2009.

Revised February, 12, 2013.

Revised July 8, 2016.

Revised and corrected, April 8, 2019.



More advanced grappling secrets from Gene LeBell here:




Cristiano eventually earned a black belt, training at BTT in Rio. 

. Randomization Strategies. The rabbits had a simple escape strategy. They simply jumped randomly to one side or the other. The hunters eventually figured this out and responded by always jumping to a predetermined side just before the startled rabbit made his move. This let them catch 50% of the rabbits they found, whereas if they had tried to catch the rabbit where he was before he jumped, they would have caught approximately zero. The rabbits' strategy is also used by flies, mosquitoes, and small animals of many kinds--and boxers. And it works--no one can anticipate your movements if they are truly random. They can only try to find a strategy that will maximize their chances of sometimes being in the right place at the right time. Thomas Schelling discussed randomization strategies in The Strategy of Conflict (he later won a Nobel Prize; he was also the one who thought up the idea of having a direct line of communication between the White House and the Kremlin. Anyone involved in activities that combine competition and communication needs to read Schelling.)

. Ricardo Liborio offered similar  advice: "Call the police."

. The LeBell Toe Hold and Step over Knee Lock is apparently not a Lebell invention (he never said it was), but rather goes back to at least 1912. Check out the video below, at about 1:30: