Judo Gene LeBell
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
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
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 . 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
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.)
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
||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
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
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:
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
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
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
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.