I recommend reading Robert Verdell’s excellent blog and specifically his article entitled BJJ is not a superpower and subscribing to his YouTube Channel Anyone attending our ‘BJJ’ training sessions know that we have frequently ‘taken’ Robert’s classes, albeit virtually by watching his videos. He is not just a coach but a grappling scholar, without question, and I always learn from our online interactions or from studying his work. Robert shows deep fundamentals, often delivered within ‘the wrestling sphere’, such as the basic over / under pummelling drill, and then shows you what almost every.one gets wrong. I, and everyone else in my class, was giving far too much space on the pummel changeover where we switch over / underhooks to the opposite side, having reviewed his material. Once corrected, pummelling became a relative nightmare for anyone wrestling with us who was unfamiliar with this point.
Robert’s article above also points to a common problem that I believe almost all grappling coaches, irrespective of their experience , will suffer from, and that is that we associate BJJ with the ground, wrestling with stand up wearing ‘no gi’ and Judo ‘with Gi’ in stand up. Those with most competitive experience in each domain then coach that discipline bringing with it their prejudices, rule sets, etc, regardless of the students they are coaching. So how do we ensure that during our ground or stand up practice, we don’t pigeon hole ourselves into each of these domains?
Here are some ideas I have. They are not really much more than a brain dump in response to and building upon Robert’s article, an article that I want my coaches and students to read, a potential new mentor for them via his YouTube channel and other social media output, and my thoughts for them to digest, and feedback to me on.
1) It is all biomechanics. Therefore coach biomechanics, not moves with colloqiual labels.
For the most part when we form pyramids, we build the ultimate shape in structural integrity for resisting forces. I would recommend everyone interested in grappling goes down the biotensegrity rabbit hole whether its Judo, BJJ, wrestling, etc. Like Robert’s example of giving space when pummeling, you will find that giving too much or too little space, is a fundamental rule of all fighting and transcends all disciplines. Biotensegrity comes from tensile structure study. You can buy architectural models of buildings as well as see its principles from Ancient Egypt to modern architecture. We build strength in pyramids and movement in spheres. Want a string sphere? Build you sphere from pyramids.
2) Show concepts and moves that work Gi, No Gi, standing, or ground, strikes or no strikes.
Equally if you can explain how a technique you are showing in standing or grappling works equally well in the other domain, it communicates to your students that they are learning something very important, synergistic, and that gives them a great return on their time investment in your grappling classes. Robert highlights the guillotine and front headlock in his article. You will see guillotines, rear naked chokes, front headlocks, etc in all fighting disciplines and self defence unless they are prohibited. You will see them irrespective of age, gender, weight classes, etc.
3) Reminder Again: Our assumptions are usually based on subconscience rule set or experience bias, NOT biomechanics. Keep checking yourself.
When we begin with discussions of what happens in top level fighting, where now weight classes and rounds exist along with hundreds of rules in a pre-arranged “fight”, its certainly infinitely better than starting from theories from traditional martial arts that were largely untested until UFC 1 and quickly fell apart. However…..
4) Coach what your truly audience requires
If we are trying to provide self defense to young females, I’m not sure that an approach exclusively based on UFC level testing is the complete way forward. Their parents are not paying me to coach a future MMA fighter, although that may be an outcome. Having what largely is a roster of lifelong wrestlers who have wrestled from the age of 3 in state sponsored schools with economic superpower countries where wrestling is part of their national curriculum, who in many cases even their girlfriends now wrestle, coming from a family of wrestlers, etc, is not going to produce anything other than an endless outcome of wrestling orientated success in MMA. Professionalism trumps theory. National Monopolists trump professionals. Certainly against an untrained male attacker, several weight divisions above them, with all the muscular, structural, and hormonal advantages that entails would mean, we don’t prioritise body locks and takedowns. Grip breaks, being able to cover up on strikes, and even fighting from the guard with up kicks maybe her very best strategic option in lieu of running away. Impeccable defense on the ground buys more time and a triangle / armbar may be the highest chance of ‘victory’ beyond survival and buying time. I once posted about developing Jiu Jitsu for our daughters. Adam Singer of SBG Athens
asked as to why I hadn’t mentioned sons. I explained that in my view, our sons will always be ok. They are usually relatively strong and aggressive. Robert’s assumptions as an example here, are far stronger than they are for young girls. The truest grappling system works for the weak and our thoughts should begin there for optimal outcomes. Whether the Gracies have ever delivered on that I will leave for another time, but I don’t hear anyone else even discusses fighting for the small or weak with any efficacy to back it up. Have any male wrestlers beaten people significantly larger than them? Of course, but I don’t see them discussing the same advantages to smaller, weaker females working the 9-5 or at school than the Gracies. Those who have most competed in one discipline over the others be it; sambo, wrestling, judo, BJJ, submission wrestling, boxing, thaiboxing, etc have a tendency to present their students with all manner of pre-biased assumptions. I do this myself and frequently need to check myself.
5) Labelling in AI and its application to grappling – watch your verbage and labels
I’ve also previously discussed with Robert on SBGU the importance of labelling. This continues to be a struggle for me as a coach but working in AI in my day job, I know that incorrect or sub-optimal labelling leads to all manner of cognitive issues when coaching e.g. rubbish in, rubbish out. For example, do we call a sit-out a sit-out, or do we call it a technical stand-up? It’s as this point I feel I’m translating to students. I want them to understand the major languages such that they can turn up at a Judo, wrestling, BJJ, no Gi class, etc, at another school and fluently know what the instructor and other students are discussing. The more precise we become in our language, the less words we require, the shorter our explanations and the more impactful our points. Judo, wrestling, BJJ etc are independent languages and cultures. This leads to different information models and builds inbuilt bias in our thinking, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve in reducing fighting down to its absolute fundamental minimum. I try to give quick references without labouring them, for example “Technical stand up / sit-out” has become the label. Sprawl transcends BJJ and wrestling. I’ve thrown out the Kimura and Americana terms; they are just examples of bent armlocks, and their pressure is generated from compressing the same pyramid structure. I prefer going forward John Frankl’s discussion are arm postures essentially boiling down to full internal and external rotations of the thumb, and whether the arm is bent or straight. That discussion should predicate all coaching of armlocks. The very submissions we are trying to achieve when our opponent’s arm fall outside of their silhouette, are our very best framing options when the arms are inside of the silhouette. I owe an enormous debt to Frankl on this point like so much of my current thinking. That same pyramid compression on ‘Top Wristlocks’ / ‘Americana’s’ (bent external / internal rotation) is used in finishing 2 on 1 takedowns.
6) Another example of a grappling transcendent approach: Rickson’s Push Pull Principle
Something Rickson has pioneered which relates to pyramids, and transcends all grappling styles is the ideal that your structure, typically pyramidic in form, prevents push or pull from your opponent simultaneously, assuming that the pyramid is correctly angled in relation to your opponent. This is what he calls “connection” often described as energy transfer. I can now demonstrate this in multiple positions whether standing or ground, Gi or No Gi, and I keep discovering more and more applications of it. Another example again is the 3 major foot positions being sprawl, sit-out /technical stand-up, and bridge (uniformly used across all grappling styles I believe at least in English). The more we can find transcendent principles, the better we become as coaches and the best we avoid our inherent biases and preferences, and the deeper our understanding becomes.