Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wrestling in BJJ - Takedown Defense (Part 2)

When your opponent shoots in for your legs in a wrestling style takedown attempt and you were not able to neutralize the attack with either grips or changing the angle, your last line of defense is the sprawl.

Often the sprawl doesn't get the respect it deserves. Some competitors prefer jumping and spinning at high speed and with great athleticism to get past their opponents attacking arms and try to go straight to the back or at least avoid the takedown by causing a scramble. I can't say that jumping all over an opponent and trying to grab lapels, belts, or ankles in order to score in some super-athletic unpredictable fashion or cause a scramble is bad, but you have to be a significantly better wrestler than your opponent to pull it off consistently.   If you go this route a few key points to creating and winning scrambles would be to keep your hips up/underneath you, capture and keep some control over the far side of your opponent, and attack, attack, attack.

I prefer a more fundamental defense - the sprawl.  I want to be able to win scrambles but I want a good sprawl first. Against a weak sprawl, a good wrestler is going to keep his head up, keep his hips underneath him, and drive, drive, drive into finishing the takedown.

Shooting your legs back and dropping your hips to the mat might seem as easy as falling down, but there is quite a bit of skill involved in a good sprawl. There are quite a few details for baseline D - legs back, hips low, hips in, stuff the head down or away, fight hands, work for grips, crossface, etc.. A good sprawl will keep your opponent off your legs/hips and a great sprawl will allow you to control your opponent and go on the offensive yourself.

This video shows a great sprawl drill. Things to watch for - how he continues to push back after the initial sprawl before popping back up to his feet. On the single leg version he gets the "attacked" leg down and back, then that hip, then both hips, and again continues to push back before returning to stance.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wrestling in BJJ - Takedown Defense (Part 1)

This post is an effort to clarify and organize my thoughts on basic takedown defense (especially things I need to work on). It is not meant to be a definitive guide but hopefully some of you might find it useful. (And as always if you disagree or have additional detail please leave a comment.)

Takedown defense starts well before the shot. It starts with posture, positioning, and grip fighting.

Let me say that again - Takedown defense starts well before the shot. It starts with posture, positioning, and grip fighting.


A little extreme on the posture guys.
Head up. If your head is down and your shoulders get in front of your knees you are vulnerable to a snapdown, other leverage/control of your head, or an armdrag/collardrag. You want to stay low by bending your legs - if you bend your back to get low your entire torso is weak (think low=your hips below his hips not bending your back to get your shoulders below his shoulders).

You might notice Judo guys taking a fairly high stance compared to the description above. This is because the current competition Judo rule set encourages "throws" and essentially gives no points to "wrestling" single and double leg takedowns (although they are traditional techniques - Kata Garuma anyone?). So, they don't need to defend the legs the same way. As a BJJ competitor you still need to know how to defend throws (also mainly with your hips) but you will see a lot more attacks on your legs.


I like the stance on the right.
I prefer a slightly staggered stance, one foot a few inches ahead of the other, it provides better offensive mobility than completely square (it makes the double-leg more difficult and you know which single leg he is going to go after). Elbows in - if your elbows flare out it gives your opponent access to your body. Lead hand low to protect the lead leg - the back hand is the one that initiates grips - reaching with your lead hand leaves your lead leg vulnerable to an ankle pick, low single, or snatch single-leg (among others). Don't stay directly in front of your opponent, use footwork to create angles. Let me repeat that - don't stay directly in front of your opponent. You can neutralize a lot of his attacks if you can change the angle. You have to be light on your feet, weight on your toes not your heels (not on your tiptoes, think being able to slide a piece of paper under your heels). The way to have freedom of movement with a strong stance is to use short choppy steps, never cross your feet.

Grip Fighting:

Your hands, elbows, and head are your primary lines of defense. You can't let your opponent control any of them. Nuetral grips (simultaneous collar and sleeve grips) get you nowhere. You want to have "two hands on" your opponent to his zero or one (you want to be at least one grip ahead of your opponent). You want to always think "two hands on" if you want to attack or actively defend.

Everybody focuses on the collar grip but the collar is more defensive (it allows you to keep your opponent away from you). You want the sleeve. Most throws use the sleeve grip to initiate execution of the throw, but even more important I want control of his power hand. You can grab his same side sleeve directly, cross grip it and deliver it to your same side hand, or wait for him to reach and intercept it. (and there are a ton of setups that are too detailed to include here)

If your opponent gets a grip first, don't panic, work on breaking the grip. Once you break his grip make sure you keep control of that hand/sleeve and secure your own grip on that arm.

To break a collar grip, grab his gripping sleeve with your same side hand at the wrist rotate your palm down and pull down to take out the slack - your other hand comes across and aggressively pops/pushes his hand off the collar at the base of his palm/wrist while your same side hand pops/pulls his sleeve at about a 45 degree angle from your body. You don't have to yank your body and shoulder way back - this takes you out of stance and leaves you vulnerable.

To break a sleeve grip, point your thumb toward your chest/head and raise your elbow toward your opponents face (this takes the slack out) and then explosively pull your elbow back down and past your hip. Again, you don't have to pull that side of your body way back - keep your stance and a balanced posture.

(Next up in this series - The Sprawl)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quote of the Moment - Make the Most of Your Training

"Sometimes I let my opponent move to maximize my time in transitions. Other times I go straight for the finish when I feel a big challenge. Sometimes if I feel someone doesn't want to give the back, I'll fight very hard to make him make a mistake and give the back. Sometimes I might just train my squeeze for a session. Other times I'll work on my grips. My whole life I have learned how to make my own training by creating little challenges no matter who I am rolling with. This is very important."  

~ Marcelo Garcia

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pan Am Training (humor)

We had another great night of Pan-Am training at Brentwood Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Rounds and rounds of grip fighting, takedowns, sweeps, and submissions.

However the real party didn't start until we began to roll. Jeremy, who normally hides his sadistic streak, let it run wild by having us roll with RANDOM time limits - so you had no idea how to pace your game. And since this is Pan-Am training it was "all A Game all the time." I think he was envious of me rockin' my new Shoyoroll 7th Son Gi and looking so fly - because when I partnered up with the biggest meanest dude in the class he let the clock run....and run....and run....and run. And then we rolled some more. I survived (somewhat) and I'm not bitter or plotting my revenge or anything like that (honest).

It was a night of really special fun. But I do not know how much longer I can keep this up. I could not bend my body to fit into my car so I had to hang my upper half out the window in the sub-zero temperature. The drive home was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop.  When I absolutely had to stop, my body flopped forward into the steering wheel and subsequently the horn. That was probably a good thing as the people on the sidewalk then knew to get out of my way.( It is amazing how surprised people seem to be when somebody drives on the sidewalk - it happens all the time in the movies). When I finally got home I parked on top of something but I was too tired to see what it was. I hope it isn't a body.

The shower felt like I was being beaten with little demon ice picks. I could not hold onto the soap, but that was OK since I was already curled up in the fetal position on the floor - as my body spasmed and twitched I worked up a rather nice lather. I couldn't make my toothbrush reach my mouth but I managed to squirt some toothpaste onto the counter and since my tongue  thankfully still worked simply licked it up and chewed - mmmm, minty fresh now.

After my evening ablutions, I suddenly had the urge to inspect the cleanliness of my carpet up close and personal. I do not think my internal organs are where they should be and my bones have also been rearranged. This makes rising more than three inches off the floor now that I am done with my inspection an impossibility. The bed is way too far from the floor to ever make it but I managed to crawl over to the desk and pull my laptop down and start typing this post with my middle right toe - it is taking a while, but I'm not going anywhere tonight.

If I start at sunrise, I may be able to crawl to the gym before training starts tomorrow night!