What is it? The BJJ Back Attacks Formula is an iPad/iPhone/Google Play app from GrappleArts that costs £19.99/$19.99, and takes up a whopping 1.4GB of storage on your device.

Woah! That’s a lot of coin, not to mention footprint. It is, and they haven’t done much to optimise the file size. With everybody buying 16GB/32GB phones these days to save cash, it’s an issue.

I recognise the bald guy, but who is the lanky one? Ahem, by “bald guy” I think you mean the esteemed and honourable Mr. Stephan Kesting of Grapplearts.com, and by “lanky one”, you must surely mean the gracious and eloquent Mr. Rob Biernacki of Island Top Team?

Sure, Beer Nappies or whatever. Who is he? I admit I hadn’t heard of him either, before these videos, since he’s not known on the international competition scene, or a world champion, but he’s a black belt and a very good teacher. Very good. Rob is a proponent of his own brand of “conceptual Jiujitsu”. In the app Rob is the teacher and Stephan is the demo partner.

Conceptual Jiujitsu? Oh, so, he’s like Kit Dale? No, not really. He’s more like a Kit Dale who has swallowed a dissertation on human body mechanics, done a physics major and memorised every single Jiujitsu technique in the universe before breaking them down so he can do them forwards, backwards and sideways, too. Rob isn’t here to just teach you Jiujitsu as a series of techniques. Oh no, he wants to do it using this own special formula (hence the name), which includes the concepts of Frames, Levers, Posture and Base, until he’s blue in the face, whether you like it or not.

Ok, this sounds confusing… I’ll be honest – it is at first, but you get used to it. This app is part of a series. The first in the series (BJJ Concepts) goes into the most detail on the theory behind the rest of it, so you’re a little “in at the deep end” if you start with the Back Attacks one, but he does give explanations of things as he’s going along, so it’s not impossible to pick up on his nomenclature. There are also BJJ Guard Game and BJJ Top Game apps available as part of the series.

So why have you picked the Back Attacks one? Honestly, I thought it was the best of a good bunch, and at £20 a pop, you want to pick the best one. Of all of them, Back Attacks is the app I find myself coming back to the most often, just to check out that one little detail that I’m missing on a technique, and it’s also the one I can ‘discover’ new things in the most, when watching it over again.

What has this got to do with trucks? Oh, yes. The Truck is a position made popular by Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet JiuJitsu system, which is very handy to get into as part of the pathway to taking the back from other positions, so Rob touches on it quite a few times in the instructional. It’s a bit modern and funky, like a lot of the material here – for instance, he also shows the Mendez Brothers’ Back Take, the Berimbolo (3 versions) and the Rolling Back Take.

I don’t like all that modern Jiujitsu stuff. What else can I learn? Pretty much everything about attacking the back! All the basic attacks are here too, like the chair sit, breaking down the turtle position, controlling rear mount, the Judo roll, the spiral ride, the arm drag, etc… The list just goes on and on. He also covers how to defend the back, including defending the turtle position.

Ok, I agree, that sounds pretty comprehensive! It is, but it’s the inclusion of all the ‘cool and trendy’ modern Jiujtisu techniques that makes it a complete package.

Can I see what it’s like? Sure – here are a couple of clips:



So it’s all perfect then? I wouldn’t say that – he puts so much of the instructional’s time into securing the rear mount that once he’s there it’s all over too quickly, for me. I wish he had spent longer talking about finishing the submission and done more detail on arm trapping and how to secure the choke. I’d have been happy with less of the earlier material if we could have had more in this area in the app.

(To be fair, Rob and Stephan have added more videos that cover these details on Stephan’s YouTube channel, including one about trapping the arm – check out their Rear Mount Playlist)

Oh, and there’s still Stephan’s insistence on using filler rock music and swirling graphics as an intro to every single chapter – not only does it grate having to listen to it every time you want to jump to a new section, but if he’d removed all these intros I’m sure he could have saved about 2 minutes off the length of the whole thing, and reduced file size.

Should I buy it? Yes, absolutely. If you want to become a master of securing the back in increasingly elaborate and dazzling ways, then this is the app for you.

Rating: 4/5

tl;dr version: “This instructional has pretty much everything you could ever want to know about defending, attacking and taking the back like a Ninja! It’s the best of the, already great, ‘BJJ Formula’ apps in the series, so if you can only buy one of them, make it this one.”

Edit: On the exact same day I release this review the chaps put up a new video that’s an hour long and contains all the things I criticised it for not containing in the first place. What are the chances? Anyway, enjoy the video: