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.

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 “Kiwi” island.

John Danaher Spent His Childhood in New Zealand

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 Started Training BJJ at an Adult Age

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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 Has No Competition Experience

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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.

Danaher Is a Black Belt Under Renzo Gracie

how many degrees of black belt are there in jiu jitsu

John Danaher reached a 6th-degree black belt under the legendary Brazilian Gracie teacher. 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 Is Worldwide Known for His Unorthodox Leg Lock System

Most 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 by 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 Move Is Heel Hook

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 Broke Up In 2021

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.”

Yeah, John lost some great names, including Nicky Ryan, Gordon’s brother, and this was a stressful period, but the new team is looking more robust than ever!

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.

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

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 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 worldwide known 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 at the moment and an inspiration for young guys and athletes. So tell us, did you learn a life lesson from Danaher?