When I heard that Priit Mihkelson was teaching seminars in the UK I jumped at the chance to learn from him. This seminar was at the Active Arts Gym in Stafford and hosted by Chris Paines who is a black belt under Priit. The seminar was actually a two-day workshop but I only attended day one. The seminar was five hours long, and yet the joke that Priit likes to use is that he only teaches two techniques! It was a lot more involved than that of course. Here’s my report…
In 2020 I reviewed Priit’s main instructional titles that are available on BJJ Fanatics – you can read the review here (on my old blogsite). But much has changed since 2019. Priit has continued to improve, adapt and update these positions thanks to rigorous testing by him and his students. The growth of his Defensive BJJ website, where members (myself included) can submit rolling footage for Priit to analyse and commentate on, has enabled Priit to see if there are consistent problems. According to Priit, nothing is sacred – if it ends up not working then he will discard it, but if it does work, then he will throw everything at it with a battle testing experimental approach that forms the hallmark of Priit’s methodology.
The Mini Baby Bridge
At just five months old, the Mini Baby Bridge (MBB) position is truly the newborn of the Priit defensive system. To understand the MBB it’s useful to view the original Baby Bridge not as a static position, but as a wider range of movements – from a small barely noticeable movement to the other extreme where your head is on the ground and your back is arched (see photo below). The MBB (see photo above) is positioned very much in the middle of this spectrum of postures – your shoulders align vertically, your ‘crunch’ works the side of your body facing upwards and your knees are fairly close together with active feet on the ground. The MBB appears very neutral and, frankly, not very defensive looking.
Priit broke down the MBB into small easy to learn chunks starting off with the basic structure vs an attacker who has taken our back and who has an underhook on the ground side. MBB is completely new to me so despite being an enthusiastic Defensive BJJ user when I drilled the position it felt very weird. My neck seemed like it was exposed to strangles and all my inner instincts told me to crunch up into a small ball to avoid back attacks. But then Priit added more and more details, like how to use your ‘boxer’s shoulder’ to protect against bow & arrow style chokes, how to counter armbars, rear triangles and body triangles. The MBB even gives you a very easy way to extract your arm if the attacker uses his leg to trap it. There was so much ‘invisible’ detail that it all seemed like magic – a word Priit hates, because as he explained, it’s not magic, nor is it invisible, it’s just knowledge.
It’s one thing to watch and learn from instructional videos but it’s a whole different level of learning when you attend a seminar. Although it took me a long time to kind of get the idea of how to use the MBB, it was so important for me that Priit was there to observe and correct my technique. The MBB does have to be executed with a lot of accuracy to work. I’m not sure I could have done it via video tutorial alone. One of the best things about the MBB is that you’re not stuck there, with your feet in the correct position, you can shrimp forward and backward, which is actually crucial when it comes to defending submission attacks. The MBB is so useful that I think it can stand on its own as a distinct position in addition to the original Baby Bridge. Part of the problem I suspect is that the MBB just doesn’t look like you are doing much (compared to the more visibly obvious Hawking, Panda, Turtle, Running Man postures etc). But then that’s the beauty, as you hold the position, the attacker will try more and more exaggerated movements, which then opens them up for you to transition, escape or counter attack.
I’ve been happily using the original version of Hawking as taught in Priit’s BJJ Fanatics videos but the 2.0 version updates and tweaks a few things that were catching some people out. In the new version your upper facing elbow moves further away from your own hip while on the other side of your body, the crunch and twist is much more pronounced. It’s a small change from the original Hawking position but one that denies attackers opportunities while granting the user more successful options to defend and move to another posture.
In the second half of today’s seminar, Priit showed us how to use Hawking 2.0 when the attacker has your back but with the underhook on your upward facing arm. From there, we could defend against gi chokes and nogi chokes. The trapped arm was easy to extract and grip fighting was simple to use to deny the attacker opportunities. It even stopped attacker from transitioning to Mount.
Again, as with the previous segment, being able to test the Hawking 2.0 under the watchful gaze of Priit was hugely valuable. The drills he asked us to do started off being short easy to try gentle attempts and as the seminar progressed, the drills because more and more intense as we battle tested the positions.
I hugely enjoyed the seminar and I’m sad I couldn’t attend the second day. Priit’s method of teaching might seem different to most seminars I’ve been to before – five hours is a lot of time to spend on just two techniques (!) but it genuinely flew by and I happily accept, those hours were really needed for me to absorb the information and details. Priit is a master jiu-jitsu engineer skilled at analysing, breaking apart techniques and whole systems, tinkering with the accepted methodology and reforming them into something that can be used by everyone from small to big, white belt to black. What is also clear to me and to all those who attended the seminar is that this is a continuing work in progress. I’m certain Priit will come up with more new updates and new positions for years to come.
Follow Priit on Facebook and Instagram. He lists his seminar schedules regularly. There are many videos of his on the BJJ Globetrotters youtube channel plus signing up to his Defensive BJJ website gives you access to all his new material plus a chance to send in your own footage for him to comment on.