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.
I forgot to mention that attacking from angles, as opposed to being strictly parallel or perpendicular to your opponent's spine is the optimal setup for a successful submission attempt. I mentioned previously about attacking at an angle while in guard, but this principle applies to almost any upper body submission, whether on top or in guard, and quite a few of the lower ones.
Even the basic ankle lock from guard can be improved if you're slightly offset relative to the line formed by your partner's spine. Armbars from on top are more effective when the arm is at a forty-five degree angle either below or above the plane formed by drawing a line between the two shoulder.
I would further postulate that attacking from an angle being more effective than head on is one of the principles that extends across both the striking and the grappling realm.
i like the primary/secondary/tertiary control point description. i usually describe it a different way, but this extends the old "position before submission" saying nicely. it helps explain the importance of controlling these primary points if you want to then move down the chain and isolate a limb.
the alignment thing is very similar to kuzushi in my mind.
i saw a carlos machado video recently which i think you would like, but i can't bloody find it. it was a half guard sweep which involved only manipulating the alignment of their spine and a small adjustment of your own hips. really elegant and minimalist.
When you put it this way, it actually seems far more obvious.
Originally Posted by jnp
I like it too. Of course, it's fairly natural to feel like you don't have much control of a person if you only have hold of their wrists/ankles, but to see the whole priority system codified like this, it helps to understand what makes a high percentage submission exactly so high. (Submissions that control more primary points while attaining position, I'm lumping into this category)
Originally Posted by danno
Last edited by Colin; 4/10/2011 5:32am at .
Reason: added quote
Originally Posted by jnp
I would further postulate that attacking from an angle being more effective than head on is one of the principles that extends across both the striking and the grappling realm."
This applies in throwing skill in Judo as well, and related back to the "triangle" Judoka_UK so eloquently wrote, elbow management, etc.
Falling for Judo since 1980
"You are wrong. Why? Because you move like a pregnant yak and talk like a spazzing 'I train UFC' noob." -DCS
One of the most overlooked basics in ground grappling is the value of clamping your knees. Did you finally reach your preferred armbar position only to have your partner escape when you tried to finish? Do you continually lose ground during transitions when you previously had the better position? Odds are, a bit of judicious application of the Clamp! will go a long way toward solving this problem. The presentation of the word "Clamp!" is intended to convey that this is no ordinary clamp, but instead a concentration of force attained by squeezing your knees together to the extent that it is extremely difficult to escape.
Most intermediate and below grapplers relax their knees at some point during techniques that require clamping. The experienced grappler will be sensitive to this and will use the opportunity to escape the hold.
How to develop the Clamp!
Whenever you're drilling anything that involves clamping your knees, focus on clamping them as hard as you can. Whether it be an armbar or the mount position, focus on squeezing your knees as hard as you can continually while you are in that position.
This does two things. One, it develops your adductor, or "clamp" muscles, and two, it teaches you to keep the Clamp! engaged even if your attention is focused elsewhere. I can't tell you how advantageous this can be.
My sparring partners tell me all the time how surprised they are that they can't get away from my clamped knees. I have guys that roll me three or four times trying to escape armbars or kneebars. Not caring whether I'm up or down, I stay clamped on the joint, never releasing any pressure. I finish most of the time when I do this. When I relax and the pressure comes off, I lose the sub.
Note, you can have the strongest Clamp! muscles in the world, but if you don't know to clamp as close to the "primary level"* joint as possible, then it will do you no good.
For armbars, this means clamping as close as you can to the shoulder. For kneebars, clamp close to the hip. For any straight joint lock, you must isolate the joint above the one being attacked in order to maintain the highest level of control. Bent joint locks, such as the Kimura/Ude garami, are different from this.
Squeezing the knees in order to isolate or control a part of your opponent's body is a fundamental aspect of grappling that is all to often neglected. Fully utilized, the Clamp! can be a powerful yet basic addition to your offensive arsenal.
*see first post in thread for an explanation of "primary level" joints.
Last edited by jnp; 5/12/2011 11:22pm at .
I went to a clinic run by Jimmy Pedro. I was uke for him part of the time for his various juji gatame rolls.
He clamped so hard I was ready to to tap from that alone. I'd never felt so much pressure in my entire Judo career in that position. Once he got your arm hooked up, it was all over. In my teaching of juji gatame, this is the key point that everyone stuggles with-how use the clamping action to control uke body.
Falling for Judo since 1980
"You are wrong. Why? Because you move like a pregnant yak and talk like a spazzing 'I train UFC' noob." -DCS
Are you stagnating on the mat? Do you feel your progress has slowed?
Well my friend, I have an answer, but it requires hard work and dedication. Utilizing this method is guaranteed to bolster your game if you keep at it for more than a month or two. Interested? Wondering why the normally stoic guy that I am is selling this post like a two dollar whore?
Wonder no longer my friend. My cure for your stagnation woes is comprised of one activity you probably perform every time you train, and another you might never have experienced.
The first activity is drilling. Plain old drilling. Boring drilling. The part of class you always want to hurry through to get to the sparring, right? Wrong. You know the cliche about the geriatric Asian master admonishing his students about the discipline required to truly master his art? Drilling is at least half of what the discipline part is really all about.
The duration of this once or twice a week commitment to improvement should be at least thirty minutes. An hour is preferred.
When you're drilling a technique, merely going through the motions will get you nowhere fast. Precision must be emphasized over speed at all times. If you can do a move fast while drilling against no resistance, but are unable to pull it off while sparring, this applies to you particularly.
See, I put that part in bold because it's kind of important.
The second activity required is "flow rolling". What I mean by this is you execute a series of techniques, concentrating on being precise during both the individual techniques and the transitions between them, and then your partner gets an equivalent turn.
My training partner that taught me all this found that chaining three moves together and then switching to his partner was optimal for him. I also found this to be the case. You can experiment with anything consisting of 2 or more moves chained together. Two techniques are obviously the minimum during flow rolling since the transitions between moves are what differentiate flow rolling from mere drilling. The less experience you have, the fewer number of techniques I recommend you chain together.
It's important to note that it's not flow rolling if your partner is offering up anything more than light resistance. It quickly becomes impossible to focus on precision in a learning environment if your training partner is fighting you.
The duration should be at least thirty minutes. An hour is preferred.
Speaking personally, I have never improved at a quicker rate, after I received my blue, as I did when using this method once or twice a week. Commitment to precision repetition combined with the flow will yield noticeable improvement during sparring after little more than a month or two.
The question is, do you have the discipline as a martial artist to forego some of your sparring time to commit to long term improvement?
"Flow rolling" helps me out so much. Thankfully, I have a good number of like-minded training partners that allow me to do this, because it's hard to figure out the more intricate details of BJJ when someone is trying to pull your head off.
Case in point: I have been trying to figure out when/how it is useful to cup both hands on your opponent's opposite arm while playing half guard, in an effort to slow or stop their guard pass. I have seen this done by many, many high-level BJJ guys, and it is something that was touched on (but not elaborated) in class. About a week ago, I was playing with it, but could not figure out the details because my training partner that day was smashing my face up pretty good at the same time. Several days later, a much calmer training partner allowed me to work through it at 50-60% speed, and now I have figured out that it is a transitory position used to create space, and not a form of guard. Thus, no more giant gi rashes across my face.
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