More Funks in BJJ: The Merkle (Mechanics, Set ups and Funks)

Is BJJ Inbreeding itself to Death?

I recently posted a video on one of the latest innovations to hit sport BJJ – the use of the belt to lock on the Worm guard:

*No idea what Worm Guard is? Watch my Study on it here.

Now nothing against the Worm, it is simply the logical consequence of the rules. If judo allowed entwining with the belt, there would probably be crazy throws involving lassoing at the Olympics. Competitors are simply pushing the rule sets and that’s something which is up to the organizing body to do something about if they feel these evolutions do nothing for the art. ie don’t hate the player, hate the game…esp if BJJ eventually evolves into something that ends up killing interest in the sport. In comparison, the IBJJF has made/continues to make changes to the Judo rules to sustain interest in the sport, you may disagree with them (btw leg grab rules are changed in 2017/next Olympic cycle) but the regulating body is showing leadership on this front at least.

Another Way to Evolve BJJ

Another way to look for ideas to push BJJs boundaries is to borrow from other martial arts. For example, Sambo’s leg locks have been making their way into BJJ in recent years and wrestling has been spliced successfully into BJJ as well, ie Twister (the “Guillotine” in wrestling) and the Funk Roll, as seen my study:

Btw here’s a Funk Roll off a failed Omaplata by Nicholas Merengali, and one off a front headlock by Jon Jones here. FYI: My IG has a bunch of mini-studies so follow me there.

Does the Merkle have a place in BJJ?

The Lucas Leite halfguard sequence as it has now come to be known (seminar here on it) is a very potent chain of events that happens when your leg gets grapevined in half guard.  If you get trapped with the underhook and grapevine in the dogfight position you are essentially doomed. The funny thing though, in BJJ sometimes the same poison that is killing you (ie grapevine), could well become poison for your opponent if there is a replacement of the mechanics somewhere (ie underhook becomes a seatbelt). Specifically, there is a move in wrestling that mimics the mechanics of the Lucas Leite halfguard sequence: The Merkle

This is the Merkle:

Some other instructionals can be found here and here. To go full Merkle (mad), watch this highlight here.

The Merkle is a very versatile move that can be used as a counter to “dogfight” (ie the staging point of many Lucas Leite Sweep attacks), as a “sweep”/turn, to attack turtle, as a throw, and even as a funk.

The potential applications of the Merkle are unexplored and while I would like to provide you with all the answers, I am limited by available footage of which there is almost none in BJJ. So if you hit the Merkle live in competition in the future, please do let me know! In the meantime, please watch my study, start brainstorming with your friends on the mats and let the evolution of BJJ continue!


Finally, the Inspiration for this Study: Cory Clark, 2017 NCAA 133 lbs Champ

This study was originally a focus piece on Iowa’s sole champ in 2017, Cory Clark, who is a big user of the Merkle. Cory tore his wrist ligaments and dislocated his shoulder in the same arm about 3 months before the the NCAAs and looked like a longshot coming in. 2x Runner up before this, he was ranked no.1 but dropped to no.4 seed going into the NCAAs. He had also lost to the no.1 seed a few weeks prior.

Fighting essentially one handed, Cory was unable to to shoot or even clinch properly. Amazingly he adjusted his technique to pressure his opponents with Russian Ties, short offence (re-shots) and top game (riding) since shooting from the outside would risk getting caught under sprawls. Being able to adjust his game to win gold at such a high level is worthy of a study in itself but his mental strength to fight through the injuries is what makes his story truly inspirational. Including his story in depth would have made the video too long (my initial script is here if you are interested) so please do listen to his pre-match interviews to get an idea of the mental strength he displayed enroute to his gold:

Before Finals (Talks about the Merkle)

Post Fight (Talks about his injuries and overcoming adversity)

This semis match against Tomasello, who beat him in the finals of the Big 10s just before the NCAAs, was where he hit 2 funky Merkles:

A nice highlight of Cory can be found here.


I’m mainly a video person but I also realize that gifs are a great way to study martial arts. So please do beta test my new project It’s a website to crowdsource bjj flow charts from gifs/videos. I have always believed studying moves in isolation without context is limiting. With this, hopefully the community can collectively organize BJJ’s “flow”, from something as straightforward as mount attack options, to mapping out the skill tree of an elite BJJ player. Some sample trees have already been kindly provided by various early volunteers to get you started.It’s a work in progress so please do let me know if you want to test the mapping functionality.

Let’s show the world how to do grappling flow right! No one should hold dominion over knowledge, there should be no secrets.


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