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Bloody Elbow DVD review - Dean Lister’s Worry Free Escapes

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The Boogeyman delivers with a remarkably helpful series.

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Dean Lister Heel Hook escape sample

Very few martial artists have the kind of reputation that Dean Lister has. Competing since the 1990s, he’s been known for being a formidable grappler and a pioneer in the American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu scene as well as in Mixed Martial Arts.

Mostly known for his leglock game, he established a degree of notoriety on the grappling circuit for having an aggressive attack style. Over time he developed a series of fundamentals to make the leglock game more accessible to others, and now he’s got a new DVD series dedicated exclusively to defensive techniques.

The new Worry Free Escapes series delivers in a big way, and is suitable for anyone that’s been itching for a comprehensive compendium for grappling defense. Lister does a great job of deconstructing attacks and providing pathways not only for escapes, but for excellent counterattacks as well.

Throughout the series, Lister’s oratory style is something akin to thinking out loud. That’s not necessarily a problem, it just illustrates that he’s walking through the scenario with the viewer and gives a bit of insight to his thinking process. The video quality is very good, and the demonstration area is mostly blue and black with enough space for clarity during instruction. It’s the same gym space used for other series produced by and distributed through The audio quality is decent, although there are some minor hiccups as with any grappling instructional where lapel microphones are used. Basic presentation and graphics are pretty basic without much flash. That’s fine - we’re here for the substance, after all.

The first and second discs deal mostly with counters and escapes for attacks that Lister himself is famous for using. Disc 1 starts with kneebar escapes off the bat. From there he moves on to an escape for the infamous heel hook setup that Rousimar Palhares favors. Lister goes into great detail in explaining how and why that setup works and how he taught UFC veteran Alan Belcher to deal with it. From there he moves on to variations off of different kneebar situations and conventional footlock escapes. Disc 1 ends with defensive tactics against the kind of footlock popularized by Masakazu Imanari, and disc 2 starts by covering legal IBJJF footlock attacks. The disc continues with outside footlock escapes and on to the 50/50 position. The second disc concludes with thigh compression attacks and how to defend against them.

Throughout the series, there’s never really any content that isn’t interesting. Lister remains self-deprecating at some times, and playfully tooting his own horn at others. So during the periods where there isn’t as much variety, he keeps things light and brisk with plenty of emphasis on detail.

Disc 3 continues with knee compression escape variations, toe holds, special drills for overall leglock defense and finishes off with guillotine choke escapes. The guillotine section is largely dedicated to standing guillotines off of failed single or double-leg takedown attempts. While it doesn’t seem like much content for a single disc, it’s done in a comprehensive manner to cover a lot of basic mistakes that are commonly made.

Finally, disc 4 starts off with armbar defense details, including some quirks that saved his hide in the past. The armbar section is almost all about timing and small adjustments, and may take some time to implementing in real time. The disc is rounded out by a set of side control escapes as well as defending against the kimura while in an opponent’s guard.

One of the best things about Lister’s style is his constant explanation of the consequences of executing techniques poorly or not timing things correctly. It seems minor, and most good grappling instructors dedicate time and effort into pointing out these things to their students. It shows that a lot of care was put into this series, and it’s an immensely helpful series for anyone looking to elevate their defensive game.

Dean Lister’s Worry Free Escapes is available via with DVD and digital and on-demand. It’s also available via