John Danaher is one of the most successful BJJ coaches in the modern era and one of the most frequent things that he mentions is the concept of dilemmas. Danaher is responsible for coaching several elite athletes in both BJJ and MMA, perhaps most notably Gordon Ryan and Georges St-Pierre; who have both dominated their respective sports. Alongside his coaching career, Danaher has also released a number of instructionals that allow people to learn from him without ever having to travel to Austin, Texas. Anyone who’s ever seen one of his instructionals has undoubtedly come across the concept of dilemmas, but might not be completely clear on how they work.
It’s actually a relative simple idea, but it’s one that often takes new starters years to fully come to grips with and be able to execute in a live scenario. Not only that, but the ability to present an opponent with a dilemma is something that is absolutely vital to success in high-level grappling and the concept can be applied to every single position in the sport. Every competitor at a major event like the IBJJF world championship or ADCC will be using this concept constantly and from a wide variety of different positions.
Dilemmas, as John Danaher uses the term, are situations where an attacker has two options available to them that connect with one another based on the opponent’s reactions. The easiest way to understand the concept is to look at sweeps, because attempting to send an opponent to their left will often mean that they balance to their right and open themselves up to being swept in that direction. Because both attacks work better when set up with the other, it means that grapplers can work on both at the same time and eventually force the opponent to over-commit or make a mistake.
John Danaher broke down the idea of dilemmas in a recent post to his official Instagram account: