Grappling, a few basic principles
Here are a few of my latest training log entries that I thought I'd share with the rest of you. I've been thinking of starting this thread for a while now, and now is as good as a time as any. Additionally, I have a few more ideas for posts that I will write later.
In previous entries, I mentioned feeling the edges of the next level. I can't say whether I've stepped up to it yet, but I can definitely see more of it now. The following is an attempt to express verbally what I've recently learned to feel on the mat. Please bear in mind that the only thing new in anything written below is my understanding of the material. Any intermediate to high level submission grappler is already well aware of what I'm about to try to conceptualize.
I have a friend who is a black belt who told me about one of his SoCal buddies who earned his black belt several years previously. This guy approached jiu-jitsu from an interesting standpoint.
He concentrated on breaking his opponent's structure/posture/skeletal alignment while striving to maintain the stability of his own structure/posture/skeletal alignment at all times. A simple example of this, when you're in side mount and your opponent is on his back, move his neck toward one of his shoulders so that his spine is no longer straight. Now he can't effectively upa.
Points of control, primary level:
a. triangle formed by left and right shoulder with the head being the third point.
b. The line formed when drawn from the right hip to the left.
Notes about primary points, when in side positions, standard control is best established by controlling both the point nearest to you and the far one, e.g., if you're on his left side you will need to control his right shoulder as well as the left one. Please note I said standard control. There are plenty of side positions involving nearside control, but these are generally positions that are difficult to maintain by beginners.
When in top position, proximity to primary points is critical.* The more advanced the grappler, the less space they need to engage in a successful defense. So when in mount, squeezing in with the knees, keeping your knees in their armpits and staying low with your upper body will go a long way in stabilizing your ability to maintain the mount position.
Points of control, secondary level:
a. the elbows, sometimes inside the joint, sometimes outside.
b. the knees, same thing as elbows, inside and outside
Notes about secondary points, eliminating defense or disrupting offense often boils down to control of secondary points. Today I overcame my partner's choke defense while I was in side mount by using the knee shrug to get inside the elbow of his primary defending hand and subsequently pin the arm down to the mat with my knee. Defense eliminated.
Points of control, tertiary level:
a. wrists and ankles.
Notes about tertiary points, Being the furthest out from the primary points, these are the hardest to control. Therefore, two on one approaches, such as the lockdown or the two on one grip typically offer the best control.
Even when pinned down to the ground by one point of control, it is often easy to rotate a wrist or ankle and retract the limb which typically overcomes the pin. An example, I use this principle as bait to allow people to pin an ankle while they try to pass. Once I retract the leg to escape the pin the triangle is often an option.
Overall, the tertiary point should be considered the least preferable points of control. All effort should be made to stay inside the primary and secondary points in order to maintain both maximum control and the ability to disrupt your opponent's skeletal alignment with the least amount of effort.
So the question becomes, how do I find the strategies and positions that afford me the most opportunities to disrupt my opponent's alignment while maintaining my own?
Alignment of the frame, offensive and defensive applications
Here is the entry I just wrote.
The human frame has positions that maximize skeletal and muscular alignment, and therefore strength, and others that minimize it. When your frame is aligned and you are contorting your opponent's frame out of said alignment, you have a decided offensive advantage. Securing positions, like mount, that entail large amounts of control over your opponent's body/frame offers you the ideal opportunity to further disrupt and isolate the alignment of one joint to achieve the submission.
An example of this is, when in mount, trapping your partner's arm next to his head. Once your elbow breaks the plane of your shoulder the strength of that arm is comprised, especially when the elbow is bent and the shoulder is pinned to the ground underneath it. Your arms are strongest when your elbows are close to your chest/ribs. (That is why should always reach up, palm down, from underneath side control while keeping your hand in contact with your chest, rather than on the outside of your body with the palm up, begging for an Americana. T-rex arms are hard to isolate away from the body, and proper limb isolation is critical to learning technically efficient submissions.) So by isolating his arm next to his head, I can minimize the limb's strength and also defensive options.
Misalignment of your opponent's frame to facilitate ideal submission conditions often involves twisting arms or legs "against the grain" or the natural motion of multiple joints. Zap's leglock game has definitely been influenced by Cambo. As his lower body submissions progressed away from what he and I learned years ago, I noticed he began to heavily favor "corkscrewing down" the entire leg before he attempted the submission. He was misaligning my leg to the fullest extent before he footlocked or heelhooked me. Later still, he began to adjust his attack position to attain better alignment for himself. These two conditions made it easier for him to maintain his position while further disrupting mine.
Another example of effective misalignment is bending the head toward one of the shoulders to bring the spine offline. You can't bridge or upa properly if your neck is crooked relative to the rest of your spine. This is the purpose of the "shoulder of justice".
Also being off at an angle, rather than being parallel under your partner is crucial to being able to launch effective attacks from the guard. Other than a few straightforward collar chokes, which honestly work better if you achieve the angle anyway, I can't think of any attacks that work optimally while being parallel to your opponent. This is why instructor's talk about being able to see into your partner's ear canal when employing the armbar or triangle from guard.
So, as I stated previously, my current goal is to deepen my understanding of maintaining proper frame alignment while effectively disrupting my training partner's structure. Doing so will maximize both my offensive opportunities and my defensive capabilities.
That's my hypothesis anyway.