I wrote last year about the impact that a week of training with Henry Akins made on me. Since then, I have been to several more of his seminars and I will be doing another week-long session with him in Costa Rica in a few months.
Over the last year I have used elements of what he taught at every open mat and sparring session. I tested the techniques, and with Henry’s continued input, I refined them to the point that I could confidently use what I learned against black belts. There are two specific aspects of what he’s taught me that have made a bigger difference to my jiu-jitsu than any other instructor was able to do at a seminar.
First, Henry taught me how to have a closed guard defense that is so good that my opponent either chooses to open their guard, they accidentally open their guard, or I force open their guard, all with minimal risk of them getting a sweep or submission. In fact, I now rarely use any of the other guard breaks I know. This is the same guard defense technique that made my white belt wife’s defense feel like I had a black belt in my guard.
Second, Henry taught me how to think about guard passing, rather than how to pass a particular guard. Of course I know many techniques to pass many different types of guard, but Henry’s thought process makes all of those techniques more efficient and easier to diagnose what can go wrong.
Henry’s instruction acts like a force multiplier for my technique, both literally and figuratively. My ability to apply weight has improved dramatically because I now think about weight distribution differently. Occasionally I’m surprised when a lower belt taps to pressure alone. I am also able to apply the thought process he teaches to enhance everything I do in jiu-jitsu. This conceptual and practical approach works well for jiu-jitsu students of all levels, and the “mind blown” phenomenon that seminar attendees have even extends to the people I have shown some of Henry’s technique to. I have actually heard people say that I was blowing their minds when I was just showing a subset of what Henry has taught me.
Of all the seminar instructors I have learned from, Henry Akins is at the top of the list for utility. I have learned countless important things about jiu-jitsu from other instructors whom I greatly admire, and I’d travel long distances to get to any of them. There are frequent scenarios where I channel what I’ve learned from each of them. That being said, Henry is the only one that I can honestly say I use what he’s taught me for every roll.
If Henry is doing a seminar within a days travel of you, go to it. It doesn’t matter if you just went to his previous seminar in another city. It doesn’t matter if the seminar topic is a duplicate of an earlier one you did with him. It doesn’t matter if you are a white belt or a black belt. After nearly a year and somewhere over 30 hours on the mat, I can easily say that any amount of time learning from Henry is worth the effort. If you have the opportunity to attend one of his seminars on guard passing and closed guard defense (or offense), do yourself a favor and make it a top priority. Any of his seminars are top-notch, but those two are crown jewels of his “Hidden Jiu-Jitsu”.
[Update: February 2018] After years of studying Henry’s material, I’m just as enthused as ever about what he teaches. Now he has an online program specifically geared towards turning white belts into quality blue belts, which is a topic near and dear to my heart. Check it out! Henry Akins’ White Belt to Blue Belt Fundamentals Course