John Danaher: “I used to spar seven days a week, and in every class”

John Danaher, a renowned figure in the world of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA instruction, recently shared his extraordinary path to becoming one of the best in the field.

Hailing from New Zealand, Danaher ventured to the United States in the early 1990s with the ambition of pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy. It was during this time that he had the opportunity to train under the tutelage of Renzo Gracie, an esteemed master in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. As his passion for the martial art grew, Danaher began attending classes at the prestigious Renzo Gracie Academy located in Manhattan.

Despite not participating in professional competitions due to significant hip and knee issues,

Danaher’s dedication to Brazilian jiu-jitsu led him to become a full-time instructor at the renowned academy by the late ’90s. However, skeptics wondered how someone who hadn’t competed could be taken seriously as an instructor.

During a recent appearance on the Take FLIGHT podcast, Danaher shed light on how he established his credibility.

He explained, “There are two ways you can do it. You can either demonstrate it, which, for me, was always an issue because I never competed. I was never a competitive student. My teacher, Renzo [Gracie], demonstrated competence by winning competitions.”

However, Danaher devised an alternative approach to showcase his skills. He engaged in regular sparring sessions with his students, utilizing these sessions as an opportunity to display his expertise.

Danaher emphasized, “I would spar with people in class every single day. I used to spar seven days a week, and in every class, I would spar. When you spar with someone, you can immediately judge their skill level. There’s no faking when you’re sparring.”

Through the medium of sparring, Danaher found the clearest means to demonstrate his skill level and expertise. This method became the cornerstone of his journey.

Throughout his illustrious career, Danaher has trained and shaped the skills of numerous accomplished UFC stars, including the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Chris Weidman. Moreover, he formed the highly regarded DDS, a group comprising esteemed combat sports athletes such as Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, and Eddie Cummings.

Danaher’s contributions to the world of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu are not limited to instruction alone. He has also revolutionized the art of marketing in BJJ by developing an systematization of information and organizing it into his comprehensive systems which Gordon Ryan would then ‘sell’ for him in competition.

In 2021, Danaher further expanded his influence by establishing a training gym named New Wave Jiu-Jitsu in Austin, Texas. This endeavor ensures that his knowledge and expertise continue to shape the future of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.