Tim Ferriss Getting His Ass Kicked + How to Survive a Physical Attack (Video Series)

This post might seem odd, as it starts with a random sequence from a random skill. There are three reasons for this:

1) I like to expose readers to things they’ve never explored.

2) The best long-term policy for keeping a blog fun to read (and write) is to cover things that subsets of your readers love, not things that everyone merely likes.

3) I think all of you should know how to respond to a real physical attack.

Keeping these in mind, I hope you enjoy a lil’ taste of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, often nicknamed “human chess.”

If it’s not your thing, I still suggest you skip to the end, where you can see the free (and short) video series I did with Dave Camarillo on defending against real-world attacks of various types. I had these videos up at one time in 2007, but the code became corrupted, so I’m updating them here.

One of the last videos is of me getting thrown on my head, or heels-over-head, repeatedly.

Enter Dave Camarillo

Since the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) came to prominence in 2005, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has been the most sought-after skill-set in the marital arts world. There are many world-class athletes, but there are only a few world-class teachers. Dave Camarillo, who’s coached UFC fighters like Cain Velasquez, is one of them…

I’ve known Dave for nearly a decade and trained with him at AKA in San Jose, CA. I also had the chance to be a crash-test dummy for his new book, Submit Everyone, which is the book I always wanted him to write. It is (finally) a principle-based system for learning submissions and game strategy, as opposed to a hodge-podge of random techniques. Dave, though he’d never admit it, used to teach chess in addition to BJJ. It comes through and, as of this writing, his book has 100% 5-star reviews on Amazon.

For grappling fans, the below pass will give you a submission to try at your next practice. This scenario comes up a lot on the mats.


PHOTO 1: SUBJECT CAMARILLO is approaching the open guard of CONTACT FERRISS, TIMOTHY. As always, Camarillo does not delay in establishing control of Ferriss’s heels. At this point, Ferriss is focused solely on defending these grips and has been momentarily taken out of his previous mindset.

PHOTOS 2-4: Without delay, Camarillo pushes Ferriss’s legs overhead and waits for him to rock back in defense. As Ferriss falls into the first trap, Camarillo steps inside of his seated guard. Ferriss does not wait and grabs the single-leg to gain advantage and attack.

PHOTO 5: However, Camarillo realizes that the single-leg is the most common reaction and is already cross-stepping backward with his left leg before Ferriss can execute a sweep or takedown. Due to his perfect timing, Camarillo does not have to wait for Ferriss to establish a stronger defense of the backward cross-step.

PHOTO 6: Having reached Ferriss’s left side, Camarillo now focuses on the arm by securing a figure-four kimura lock on Ferriss’s exposed (from holding the single-leg) left arm. [TIM: See third pic here for hand position] Camarillo’s right leg is still technically inside of the guard, but Camarillo has little concern for it; he is completely focused on the finish.

PHOTO 7: To break Ferriss’s posture and initiate the final sequence, Camarillo jumps his left foot to Ferriss’s left hip and sits down onto Ferriss’s left shoulder. This collapses Ferriss toward the mat and sets him up for the submission.

PHOTO 8: As Camarillo falls to his back, he slides a belt line hook with his left leg and uses his right foot as a hook to steer Ferriss away from his trapped arm. This keeps Ferriss planted to his back where it is far more difficult to defend.

PHOTO 9: Ferriss locks the triangle on Camarillo’s right leg, but it does not matter. Camarillo’s right leg blocks Ferriss’s right arm from making a proper defense and his triangle makes it impossible to roll to either side to escape.

Camarillo stretches Ferriss’s arm for the finish.

The Videos

First, before the instructionals, here is me getting thrown over and over again. I did this video to illustrate the importance knowing how to fall (ukemi) without getting injured. The music is a bit loud:

The instructionals follow. If you want to skip around, they cover, in order: punch defense, choke defense, bottom defense, and bottom defense/offense. Women should focus on the latter three, especially the last two.

Originally filmed in 2007, most take place at AKA in San Jose, where Dave coached at the time:

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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156 Replies to “Tim Ferriss Getting His Ass Kicked + How to Survive a Physical Attack (Video Series)”

  1. Really helpful videos Tim! Have you tried wing chun before, or what do you think about it? It is a very interesting and important post, like always.

  2. Great videos Tim!

    But here’s another thing I have noticed – you can call me weird for that but since it is something that’s on my own mind a lot I automatically always pay attention on people’s hair. And your case it looks like you have reversed your balding process (if I may call it like that) quite a bit since let’s say last summer. Any details you can share on that? 😉

    The only proven method I know of is Finasteride which is rather scary stuff if you have read propeciahelp.com

    Always happy to learn from you Tim 🙂

  3. (Other readers: Off topic)

    Hi Tim,

    I’m doing a PhD in architecture looking at resilience and cities: my area of interest looks applying the Minimum Effective Dose and Pareto Principle to designing better decision making; for everything from transport to redesigning the urban food web. It goes without saying that both your books continue to be a huge inspiration in my daily life.

    If you ever have any time spare, feel free to have a read of my outline proposal. http://jordanjlloyd.me/?p=1043


    – J

    United Kingdom

  4. Hey Tim,

    I think that self-defense is a great thing to study and train, however there can be a lot of variables which the defender has to account for in order to defend himself. I guess what I am trying to say is that self-defense can give a false sense of security sometimes.

    I guess we just don’t face real violence very often these days and thus are clueless about it’s shape and form.

    I would recommend reading “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” by Rory Miller. At least for me, it was a very interesting read.

    1. When I started reading your comment I thought about the book you recommend at once. Interesting read indeed!

  5. This is great! its worth it. Athough you need a lot of preparations,warm up and mind setting. It takes strength,endurance,determination and discipline to learn how to defend one self or how to become skillfull in this type of field. And in addition, be more vigilant on when to defend your self.

  6. This is great! fun to watch but very hard to do! This kinds of technique takes a lot of time and dedication for someone to master it. But it’s worth it! Discipline is the key!

  7. Tim

    In both parts 1 & 2 above you have missed a vital step. That is a stun. It is the stun which enables you, via the element of surprise, to take back the initiative and perform the knees to the body more effectively. In part 1 there is an opportunity to perform a stun at the point where you have defended the first punch and your arm extends to where you can grab their head from behind and perform a head butt, especially given your forward momentum at that point. Even a poorly executed head butt can give you that split second opportunity to take control and work the body as you did.

    In part 2 there is no stun at all so likely the techniques you suggested won’t work, as the attacker will shift their geometry to compensate. If you insist on turning your head into the crook of the elbow this is an opportunity to create a stun by tearing out a piece of meat from their arm with your teeth. This allows you to momentarily seize back the initiative and continue as you suggested.

    However, the better technique is, once the chin is tucked down to turn the reverse way from that which you suggested and swivel down and out of their grip – difficult to explain in print; much more effective via demonstration. OK, in the instance above you were seated so that may be a significant factor in the technique used.

    Without a stun the techniques you displayed above may work but why risk it? By adding in a stun the odds of walking away relatively intact are improved markedly.

  8. Hey Tim!

    I loved the self-defense videos in this post. I’m about to take my first big solo backpacking trip and people keep telling me it’s dangerous to be traveling solo as a woman. I’ve studied martial arts a bit a long time ago, but the videos were a nice refresher.


  9. I am in the middle of tax and bookkeeping season here in Atlanta and you are learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Dave Camarillo. Love it! Tim – I’m reading up on your books man, thanks for all the advice! By the way, Four Hour Body is money

  10. Inspiring. What would be recommended as the best self-defense sport? I have never tried anything close to karate, boxing, jiujitsu or whatever, but is keen to learn some basic skills to protect yourself.

    1. Krav Maga is technically not a sport but it is all about self-defense, so I strongly advise it to you. Their motto is: “So that one may walk in peace”.

  11. aloha Tim, im a huge fan of your 4hww book and im a black belt in gracie jiu jitsu under charles gracie. im writing cause i noticed you are in the san jose area and i would love the opportunity to learn your work theories directly from you. my academy is located in santa cruz ca. and i own an academy in hilo hawaii as well. i try to use your ideas as i split my time between here and hawaii. your book has greatly influenced the direction i take on most business decisions and i would welcome the opportunity to take things to the next level. mahalo

  12. Thanks for writing this Tim. I fell off on your subscription wagon for a while. I’ve been a fan of Dave Camarillo and Guerilla Jiu Jitsu for a while. He turns NCAA champion wrestlers into dangerous submission specialists or at least able to avoid subs from world class elite black belts. Good for you getting in there! Hopefully it will inspire others to get their grapple on. Also, I’ve gotta read this book Camarillo put out! Keep seeing him Tweet about it!

  13. I would highly highly recommend going to BranaOnline.com and get some really good REAL self defense information.

  14. Collective! BJJ is well known for being a decade-long journey to black belt. But Mr. Ferriss’ community is notorious for hacking tradition and streamlining efforts in the name of efficiency. And, with my own experience training BJJ, I know for a fact that most tradition practice, while a good workout and maybe fun, could use quite the tune-up in the name of quality learning done quickly.

    Do you think it’s possible to design a strategy to cut up the learning curve in something is dynamic as BJJ? And if so, would anyone be interested in working on/testing this?

    1. Why would you want to cut up the learning curve in BJJ? The best part of learning any martial art is for the experience and the health benefits. Learning martial arts should not be just about fighting, but also embracing the spirit of the sport.

  15. Hi Tim…this Wayne from Victoria BC. I teach Judo, Use of Force to Police officers and personal safety to a variety of groups. The people that have influenced me the most how to deal with violence are Tony Blauer, Phil Messina (Modern Warrior) and Tim Larkin. In particular Tim Larkin has defined violence in a zen like simplistic way that I haven’t heard as clearly anywhere else.


  16. Do u sell videos of the tactics , I find it very real very good n very easy to follow id love to get my hands on some more refining videos like this

  17. Very good stuff. If you can, I would suggest you try to post something from Marcelo Garcia. He is the true master of No-Gi BJJ.

    Thanks again

  18. Tim, not sure if you’ve had a chance to check out Rob Biernacki’s materials, but he’s created a very cohesive, concept-based approach to understanding BJJ. Instead of a mishmash of techniques (let alone concepts), all the mechanical principles he describes work together to create an adaptable problem-solving system for BJJ. Here’s an article at Jiu Jitsu Times about him: https://www.jiujitsutimes.com/bjj-formula-sciencing-sht-bjj/. Enjoy!