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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Breaking down positions

    Zapruder voted for this to be a new topic and so here it is. It touches on a lot of issues like what is basic or advanced, how we think about positions and techniques, and how new ones are developed, reinvented and refined.

    Rickson once said he admires Nino Schembri for "how he looks at positions in new ways". (He also might not have said that. The quote is probably inaccurate since I read it years ago and can't find the source any more.)

    That idea stuck with me. AS a beginner at the time it stuck me, "How many ways can you think about a position? When is mount not just mount? When is guard not guard?" Those questions have become a kind of mind-clearing Zen koans. It opened me up to thinking about a lot of things in new ways and a lot of good has come from it.

    What happens when I think of mount as "guard from the top?" I get omoplatas.

    What happens if I think of leglocks as a part of open guard? I use them as sweeps and don't sacrifice position to get them.

    What if I look for the harness grip and not just rear mount and two hooks? I can attack the back from everywhere.

    What if I see how long I can hold on to an armbar or triangle position without finishing the submission? I learn more about how people try to escape while learning how to control them and transition to other moves.

    It is true about Nino, even if I got the Rickson quote wrong (or made it up in a fever dream). You see this in his DVD. Nino isn't content to simply use the omoplata as a sweep or submission like the rest of us. He camps out there. He meets the locals and takes in the sights. He can maintain it and control them despite their efforts to escape. He's got a array of alternative ways to finish them. Sometimes he treats it like the crucifix and attacks the neck. Other times he attacks the far arm, simply using omoplata as his basecamp to launch attacks. Hanging off them with his leg tangled around an arm is a desirable and perfectly normal spot for him.

    Look at other innovators and you'll see something similar. They found a position (or a few) that they liked. It could have been part of something we already know, something they invented, or something they stole from wrestling or baguazhang. It worked for them and so they kept at it and figured out the elements that made it tick. They reduced these down to concepts and principles (or at least absorbed an understanding of these into their head somewhere). They learn the control points, where to grip, how to adjust, the leverage and so on. They find how to get to it from other positions and fit it into their game. And maybe this new positions leads them to more new ones and so it goes.

    (That process is what people were missing when they were complaining that having names for all the different guards would confuse people. Someone develops something new and has success with it then we want to talk about it. They don't get names just because we find them cute. The problem would be if you just wanted to learn something because it had a new name, or if you're making up names first then trying to invent moves to go with them. And I haven't seen that happen yet.)

    My personal pet project has been the reverse omoplata. Take a look at my teacher doing it here:

    People complain that it's too complicated and hard and has too many steps, that it only works no-gi (or gi, depending on who you ask), that you couldn't get it on someone experienced, that it doesn't work on someone bigger or stronger, that you have to rely on speed and surprise... Et cetera.

    They're all wrong.

    But they are a little less wrong if they don't really take the time to get good at it and learn how to deal with those potential issues, which is like saying the secret to success is success, but let me explain.

    I learned the reverse omoplata on my first no-gi class ever. That was about 4 weeks into training. My instructor gave a little talk as people huffed and shook their heads while he was demonstrating it. "I know you're all looking at this and thinking it'd never work," he said. "But ask any of the brown belts and they'll tell you I get this on them all the time."

    Being the naive and pure hearted white belt I was, I took it on good faith and drilled it like any other technique. It wasn't any more confusing than anything else at the time since I was still trying to wrap my head around the upa and scissors sweep. It was just another technique to learn and drill and try out.

    While doing so, I ran into all of the complaints people had about it.

    Is it really too hard? Well, each step makes sense by itself so it also makes sense that they stay good when you string them together.

    It is complicated and has a lot of steps. How will I remember them all? If each step makes sense and I drill it enough to have them down smooth, it's not an issue.

    Does it work on a bigger, stronger guy? Yes, you just need to make sure you are doing everything right and know a few ways to deal with their attempts to power out.

    Can they slip out no-gi? Yes, they're always slippier no-gi, but there are ways to keep it tight.

    Can they use the gi to defend it? Yes, but you can still deal with that.

    Does it rely on speed? Can I do it slowly? Yes, I can break down each part of the technique, each moment in the roll, and pause there and know what to grip and how to control them. In fact, doing it slower is often the better way to do it, since you have more control and can force it on a big guy.

    Can I keep getting someone with it even after they've seen it a few times and been taught how to avoid it? Yes, if my timing, position, strategy and technique are good.

    Can I get it on experienced guys? After all that work, I've gotten it on people of every skill level that I've gone with. In fact, I often get it on experienced guys who know to defend the standard positions and submissions but don't know how to deal with me somersaulting around one of their arms instead of taking their back.

    What I did wasn't any special process. I just drilled and trained and thought about it a lot. I went for it in sparring and experimented with good training partners who wanted to learn it too. I went to my instructor for advice and to ask questions when I had problems. I checked out how other people do it and tried to figure out why they changed parts. I looked for the concepts and principles that make it work. I simplified how I think and talk about it till I could teach it to a white belt and have him doing it in a minute or two.

    And now it's one of my best moves.

    The moral is nothing earth-shattering, but it's a good one: Think of things in new ways and see where it gets you.
    Last edited by Aesopian; 10/17/2008 12:19pm at .

  2. #2
    1point2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    BJJ blue, judo ikkyu
    I believe that the distinction is between Breadth and Depth. This characterizes the process as you describe it: "think of things in NEW ways" as opposed to "think of NEW things".

    Your approach is Depth into a technique or position--examining all of a topic's facets rigorously.

    To approach positions with the goal of Breadth, in contrast, is to gather positions and submissions like baseball cards. This is a bad approach to training whether it's basic positions/techniques (americana, omoplata, armbar, knee mount) or so-called "advanced" ones (reverse omoplata). Good training is situational alive drilling and progressive study of details in a technique (whatever that technique is), not gathering moves.

    The only legitimate criticism of your argument that I see is that a self-defense oriented curriculum could legitimately value learning some techniques over others. I don't believe this criticism holds water A) for serious practitioners who have significant self-defense skills no matter what techniques they start with (which is one of the benefits of alive training), or B) for people who don't train for self-defense (of which there are many).

    EDIT: also, pushups for our Aesopian overlord.
    Last edited by 1point2; 10/17/2008 12:08pm at .

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Orlando, Florida
    Quote Originally Posted by 1point2
    The only legitimate criticism of your argument that I see is that a self-defense oriented curriculum could legitimately value learning some techniques over others. I don't believe this criticism holds water A) for serious practitioners who have significant self-defense skills no matter what techniques they start with (which is one of the benefits of alive training), or B) for people who don't train for self-defense (of which there are many).
    An the only legitimate critisism of your critisism is that we are NOT talking about a RBSD program; we are talking about analysis and understanding of common, and some not so common, positions that you end up in when grappling. The students willingness to dissect a particular movement or position, say Turtle Guard, down to the essential minutia that makes that position work for Eduardo Telles can help that student make that position work for them.

    However, it takes time, proper instruction, patience and a willingness to sacrifice your pride for a bit while you work the position under full resistance and adapt to different opponents.

    Hell, I've drilled the reverse omoplata a few times and can hit it under drilling conditions but there is no way I could hit it under live circumstances...I just don't practice it enough or understand the mechanics of the technique well enough to make it useful to me. There are many other transitions and set-ups from turtle control (and I know you can hit the ROP from many different set-ups) that I have focused more on and have a better grasp on.

    I have just recently started to make a concerted effort to play with X-Guard and Inverted Guard (more so X-Guard). I frequently find myself able to make space from the bottom and get a knee or butterfly in which leaves the transition to X-Guard a workable transition. Frankly, I suck at it; even if I get the X, hook the leg, and elevate my opponent, I'm still having trouble completing the sweep with a scramble resulting. Does that mean that X-Guard sucks? No, it means I need to keep practicing and ask my instructor for corrections and to help me trouble shoot my difficulties.

    Regardless of the apparent complexity of the technique or position the student should take the same approach described by Aeso when practicing. Whether the move has a ton of small positional notes like the ROP or DLR Guard or has just a few key important movements like a hip heist or a pendulum sweep you need to approach each technique as analytical as possible if you hope to get a good understanding of that technique to make it a viable option when rolling live.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Thanks for the thread.

  5. #5
    theotherserge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    North of San Francisco

    nice work there!
    Many things we do naturally become difficult only when we try to make them intellectual subjects. It is possible to know so much about a subject that you become totally ignorant.
    -Mentat Text Two (dicto)

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Breaking down positions - good ideas.

    I've lately been viewing top positions and maintaining and transitioning between them in light of constant pressure on either the shoulders or the hips.

    As a parallel idea, I've been viewing bottom positions in light of taking advantage of lack of pressure on either the shoulders or hips to escape or attack.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Jiu-jitsu & HEMA
    I think it's interesting how things introduced at the beginning of our studies shape our perception. Aesopian's story about the Reverse Omoplata is a good example of that.

    There's a middle school kid at my gym who, in his first month of training, was taught the gogoplata by one of our blue belts during an open mat. It has become one of the kid's favorite submissions.

    Often we assume that the esoteric is difficult, when often it's just that we've failed to put in the time needed to learn it properly.
    Last edited by SBG-ape; 11/16/2008 1:13am at .

  8. #8
    Hedgehogey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Try thinking of the ankle lock as a position. Just hang out there once in a while without finishing him.

    If you play it while he's standing you end up getting unconventional sweeps because you're way under his hips. It also shows you good knee placement and novel methods for making his legs splay so you can do all that x-guard stuff.

    If you play it on his back, you get an instant unconventional guard pass if you pass his foot to the other side of your body while your legs are wrapped around his hips. Or if he gets scared and withdraws it you can follow him up and knee through on the opposite side.

    "The only important elements in any society
    are the artistic and the criminal,
    because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
    can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany



    It seems that the only people who support anarchy are faggots, who want their pathetic immoral lifestyle accepted by the mainstream society. It wont be so they try to create their own.-Oldman34, friend to all children

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Yokohama, Japan
    Hybrid Wrestling / BJJ
    Thanks a lot for this. Leglocks are one of my main strengths, but I admit I haven't given much thought to using them to setup sweeps. I've been playing around with some lately and it's given me and my training partners a lot of new things to think about and try out, it's been a real breakthrough.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    another great thread, thanks guys!

    I've recently taken on the task of developing my seated guard, and i find that i'm constantly trying to figure how to handle my opponents movements (and reactions) simply by trial an error. While i realize that this method is incredibly important in the development of my style, i never really thought about reasoning it out on and off the mat. I'm definitely going to put some thought to it whenever i have a moment to think.

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