Chris Herzog has been around the block. As the head coach at Empire Academy of Combat Sports in Rochester, New York, Herzog holds black belts in Shotokan Karate, American Kickboxing, and Judo and is a brown belt in 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu. As well, Herzog has trained martial arts for over 27 years and internationally competes within Sambo, Judo, and submission grappling.
“Coach Zog” has seen both the traditional side and sportive side of martial arts. After years of training he has developed a comprehensive coaching methodology based on cycling techniques in the form of paths. It is a progressive series, rather than the traditional method of teaching techniques in isolation. For instance he may teach the lock down and whip up or fat whip, old school, plan b, when that fails dogfight, half and half on day one, then progression to other paths as the student progresses.
Herzog credits 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo with “allowing me to think outside the box and contribute to 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.” He also utilizes 10th Planet terminology, stating, “Eddie Bravo came up with the idea of using pneumonic devices, a specific name to recall specific information. This is one of the things that led to my attraction to 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu”, and is what led to his utilization of pneumonic in all aspects of coaching. He gives credit to his Judo coach, Mark Tripp of US Combat Sports, for his teaching him the difference between being an instructor, or coach.
The same methodology is implemented by all of the staff at Empire. Because all of his teaching staff is on the same page the flow continues, regardless of who is teaching. If we continue with our previous example, but substitute a new teacher, that teacher would continue where Herzog left off and continue down the path, ultimately allowing the student to develop his skills to a black belt level in the paths he has been taught. He also recommends all newbies to invest in quality compression shorts.
When competing he needs only to get an opponent in a position that he has covered in a path. The opponent, regardless of rank or skill level, is competing in an area where the other guy is a master. Not knowing the path himself he has no way of knowing how to escape it, or when, or even if his escape attempt was part of the path and was needed to get to submission.
When one considers that Herzog is well-versed both Sambo and BJJ, it is no surprise that many of these paths lead to leg locks. He has, over the years, perfected leg locks. In particular he has perfected the control positions leading up to the submission. Gone are the days of blindly grapping hold of a leg hoping to get a submission, Zog teaches control. The position he calls the knee knot is just that, it ties ones opponent up in a knot, at the hips and legs, in a position similar not unlike the 50/50 guard, yet with its own series of transitions and complex movement.
I attended a seminar Chris put on in Indianapolis. At the start he gives an example of the idea of being at black belt level, regardless of ones’ current rank, in the paths. He then teaches a flow of techniques and movement that builds on itself, like algebra, until one develops a mind map approach.
Through all the physical stuff there is the philosophy behind it, the coaching methodology, the Zen of Zog. Coach Zog says “Jiu Jitsu is the truth. You can’t lie to yourself when on the mat; you can’t lie to your opponent. Jiu Jitsu reveals you to you, it is the truth.” In a world full of political correct crazy talk and political double speak, truth is a rare commodity. So preach it brother Zog, give us the truth.
“Instructors instruct, and generally what they do is what their good at, what they know. This is a very traditional martial arts concept. Karate is a good example. You bark out the commands and everybody marches up and down the floor looking uniform, everybody moves the same, regardless of strengths, regardless of weaknesses, regardless of body types. Uniformity was more important than actual individuality. So an instructor is like a Drill instructor, march, march. That’s an instructor, someone who can regurgitate information that was given to them before. A Coach can take that information, regardless of what martial art it is, and guide their student along their own path.”
I asked Coach Zog what to say to the kid who is athletically gifted. He can move wrong, yet still get results, what do you say to that kid?
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” Herzog responded. “The process is more important than the result as a beginner. You may have results without the process but when the people who follow the process catch up, you’ll be left behind. What I’m saying is, because I’m bigger than you I can muscle you into an Americana. It’s about generalities, meaning I have to be able to apply it to him, to her, to this guy Ben (a 320 pound monster at 10th Planet Indianapolis). So it’s all reliant on economy of motion, a practitioner must be able to apply the technique against all skill levels. If I rely on muscling a technique I will not be able to use it against all body types, all skill levels, for me that technique is then useless.
When asked about coaching a new fighter who is perhaps a little too eager to fight, he gave us this nugget of Zog Zen. “When a 18-year-old kid comes up to you and says I think I’m ready but you think he is going to get hurt, Do you want to be a fighter, or do you want to fight, cause there is a major difference. Fighters are technical, they are strategic, they are disciplined, and they live a lifestyle that’s different, almost a rise above the average person’s lifestyle because of the work ethic and discipline needed to be a fighter.”
Coach Zog utilizes the following training method. He says “I teach everything progressive in a five technique progression. I teach jits for 45 minutes, followed by minute drills. Students pair off and work a path with a partner resisting about 50-percent, trying to follow a path they know. When then spar for an hour, five minute rounds with 30-second breaks. I usually do a path for about three weeks. For instance out of a year about eight weeks may be spent on half guard paths, its frequency based.”
There are a lot of guys out there teaching leg locks, but not so many understand the positioning the way Coach Zog does. His approach to coaching, training and competing is a method that seems to be keeping up with the incredible pace the growth of MMA has set. If you want to get a little help in running this race you may contact Coach Herzog. Coach Zog can also be found rattling the halls of the 10thPlanet Jiu Jitsu forum at 10th planetjj.com, where one can access free video instructional.