John Danaher: A Unique Coach Who Changed the BJJ Game

John Danaher is a legendary BJJ coach who trained many grappling and UFC stars. Therefore, he pushed their Brazilian jiu-jitsu game to the next level. He’s an MMA instructor, coach, and one of the best martial arts influencers in the game.

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Danaher is a real example of BJJ obsession – he spends endless hours in the gym and keeps looking for improvement despite his age! This article will provide facts about John Danaher’s BJJ martial art lifestyle and other incredible things. Stay tuned!

John Danaher Was Born In Washington, DC

The legendary coach came to this world in 1967 as a son of New Zealand parents. Interestingly, he’s New Zealander by nationality.

John’s father was a New Zealand army officer staged in the United States of America when the BJJ coach was born. So Danaher has dual citizenship – both USA and NZ, thanks to his ancestors and spending one chapter of his life on the “Kiwi” island.

John Danaher Childhood

After Danaher was born, John’s father moved back to New Zealand with his family, so the legendary coach spent his school days in New Zealand.

There was no BJJ activity in his early days; Danaher was just a regular kid without any interest in martial arts. But it changed when he moved back to the USA.

John Danaher BJJ Beginning

You will probably say, “I’m making this up,” but it is true! The legendary coach kicked off his BJJ voyage at 28 in New York!

John used to work as a bouncer and weighed around 250 lbs, lifting weights to stay fit. But then he saw some of his colleagues using grappling techniques to calm their opponents.

He was thrilled by the power of the legendary Brazilian martial art and decided to take a jiu-jitsu class since he was worried about his safety.

Something clicked right off the bat, and it was the beginning of one of the most legendary coaching careers in the BJJ sport’s history!

John noticed it was easier to deal with drunk guys via submissions or takedowns. So he started training even harder.

John Danaher Competition Experience

Some guys are known for outstanding results on the mats, but others have never taken part in a professional bout.

John has never competed, but his mind has never been calm. His brain couldn’t rest until he mastered every single area of coaching aspect of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

John Danaher BJJ Belt Rank

John Danaher reached a 6th-degree black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie. Of course, it is hard to get 1st dan, but Danaher’s dedication knows no limits.

Danaher is willing to spend 12-14 hours in the gym, and he’s a real jiu-jitsu masterpiece – a very skillful coach who always looks for a way to improve his teaching skills.

John Danaher Unorthodox Leg Lock System

Most of Danaher’s students are known for aggressive and tricky leg lock attacks. After Dean Lister introduced him to the excellent leg lock techniques, the revolutionary coach came to the idea of building a savage game.

His teaching methods consolidate many distinct moves, sweeps, reversals, and transitions into a series of procedures that are easy to apply to his students in combat.

Therefore, Danaher is very influential in the BJJ community thanks to his tremendous and effective BJJ systems, such as leg locks.

Before Danaher, most “experts” saw leg locks as too risky and ineffective techniques. However, Danaher’s students demonstrated the effectiveness of leg attacks in the competition.

Danaher’s Favorite Grappling Moves

John Danaher loves heel hooks!

Remember that the most significant number of Garry Tonon‘s wins (Danaher’s student) happened via the inside heel hook.

Garry learned to manipulate the opponent’s ankles, legs, and joints from his legendary coach. He is also a rare person supporting Danaher until the last dying breath!

Danaher Death Squad

Unfortunately, 2021 was one of the darkest hours of Danaher’s era. The legendary coach’s team, “Danaher Death Squad,” ceased existing due to too much tension between the growing individual brands of members and the team brand.

Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, and Oliver Taza remained loyal to their teacher, so they created a team called “New Wave Jiu-Jitsu.”

John lost some great names, including Nicky Ryan, Gordon’s brother, and Graig Jones, who formed a new team called “B-Team Jiu Jitsu.” This was a stressful period, but the new-wave BJJ team looks more robust than ever!

Related: Step into the future of BJJ training and learn about the revolutionary New Wave Jiu-Jitsu Team. This grappling club will take your game to new heights, emphasizing creative techniques and cutting-edge training. Click here to learn more!

Danaher Was Born With Deformed Patellas, Which Made Him Vulnerable to Knee Injuries

People with problems usually want to show their skills to the world. That was the case with John Danaher too. But unfortunately, the famous coach was born with patella issues, which led to more vulnerability to knee injuries.

His first surgery on his left knee while playing rugby led to a drastic shortening of the leg and John’s ability to extend and retract his knee.

As time passed, these injuries led to hip issues, and the legendary coach had to deal with severe arthritis. Danaher underwent hip surgery in 2015, but it didn’t kill his desire to improve his BJJ coaching knowledge constantly.

The Legendary Coach Appeared in TV and Film

The first appearance of John Danaher in this type of activity was seen in 2012 when he took part in The Spike TV series MMA Uncensored Live episode called “King Mo Reigns.”

In 2015, the legendary coach participated in the documentary “Jiu-Jitsu Vs. The World” alongside legendary BJJ names Eddie Bravo, Roberto Abreu, and Renzo Gracie.

John Danaher also appeared in four episodes of the Showtime series Billions. He was in the role of a BJJ instructor of Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).

John Danaher Coached Many High-Level Jiu-Jitsu Athletes

Have you ever thought of Georges St-Pierre’s BJJ background? You should blame John Danaher; he taught the French-Canadian superstar to roll like a natural on the ground!

He also coached many notable athletes as the owner of Danaher Death Squad. The most famous dudes on the list are Gordon Ryan, Eddie Cummings, and Garry Tonon, who recently lost the ONE FC title to Thanh Le.

John Danaher Made a Revolution in The World of BJJ

Most BJJ coaches teach their students to avoid leg attacks, calling them too risky. But John Danaher’s principle is “all or nothing.” and some of his leg lock techniques are similar to combat sambo.

Right off the bat, his fighters attack legs under weird angles. For example, Garry Tonon’s ankle lock and inside heel hook remind me of Sambo strikes.

This coach is ahead of his time; he is always looking for revolutionary ways to improve his fighters’ skills.

Danaher is ready to think about a specific move all day long; most of his fighters are known worldwide for leg lock submission switches. For example, you don’t see inside-to-outside heel hooks in the competition.


John Danaher is a real example of the syntax “practice makes perfect.” You don’t have to be a competitor to succeed. All you need is a strong power of will and dedication.

Despite kicking off at 28 years of age, John is one of the most successful coaches and an inspiration for young guys and athletes. So tell us, did you learn a life lesson from Danaher?

Frequently Asked Questions

When and Where Was John Danaher Born?

John Danaher was born in Washington, DC, in 1967 to New Zealand parents.

When John was born, his father was a New Zealand army officer stationed in the United States of America. As a result, Danaher has dual citizenship in the United States and New Zealand.

What Age Did John Danaher Start BJJ?

John Danaher began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at 28 in New York!

Does John Danaher Have Any Competition Experience?

John has never competed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments. Yet, his mind was never peaceful until he grasped every coaching facet of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Where Does John Danaher Teach?

John Danaher started teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Manhattan at the Renzo Gracie Academy. Later, he rose to prominence due to his innovative grappling teaching techniques.

Danaher relocated to Austin, Texas, in July 2021 to build a new school named New Wave Jiu-Jitsu with two of his most notable pupils, Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan.

Related: Austin, Texas is home to some of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu gyms and events in the United States! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner grappler, Austin’s thriving Jiu-Jitsu community offers something for you. Click here to learn more!

When Did John Danaher Get His Black Belt?

In 2002, John Danaher received his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from the great Renzo Gracie. Danaher was 35 years old at the time, and this accomplishment took him seven years of BJJ training.