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4 Principles That Changed My Grappling Game

RicksonValeTudoHeadShot

Lately, I’ve been working hard on understanding how the great fighters think.

In the past, I’d watch them spar or fight and inevitably they’d catch their opponents in some nifty little hold and that’s what would grab my attention.

For the next few weeks, that’s what I’d be working on. That reverse Omo-Plata or that new half guard trick, you know the drill. And of course, brick by brick, move by move, I felt like my game would improve.

Later on, at the behest of my Instructor (Khuen Khru Will Bernales), I took a step back and began to look at things from a little bit wider perspective.

I started trying to look at “games” rather than just a single technique. He was always telling me to work on my side cross escape “game” or my guard passing “game”.

Using this mindset improved my grappling at a much faster pace. I was seeing more pieces of the puzzle at a time and as a result could begin working on entire chunks as opposed to hunting for a single piece at a time.

Instead of studying a technique, I began to study how a technique related to it’s brother and sister moves within a series designed to handle a particular position or situation.

And this lead to the next step. Another step backwards. I started looking at concepts and principles. I started looking at how the great fighters were thinking.

I tried to understang their minds which was a giant leap from looking at their finishing moves which were really only the result of an number of maneuvers which, I realized were all governed by a set of simple rules and bylaws.

The following are by no means a complete set of these rules, but they are the ones I have been able to extrapolate and have begun to digest and understand. They have had the greatest impact on my game in recent times.

He who controls the arms, controls the means by which his opponent will try to control him.

He who controls the arms, controls the means by which his opponent will try to control him.

control their hips
control their head
control their posture
maintain your posture

CONTROL THEIR ARMS

Over time, I had heard these objectives from many qualified and accomplished instructors. All made perfect sense but for whatever reason found a way to escape my abilities… Until one night when I was swept repeatedly by one of my BJJ instructors Mike Diaz, a Pedro Sauer Black Belt and masterful butterfly guard practitioner.

I asked him what I was doing wrong, why I couldn’t stop his sweep, and what technique I could use to defend his attack. He smiled and said, “I could sit here all night and try to teach you a counter to all the different sweeps that I use. Or, I could give you the simple answer.” Eager to understand my situation better, and being lazy and somewhat dim whitted (I knew there was no way I was going to remember all the techniques he could teach me), I opted for the simpler answer, to which he replied.

“You’re doing pretty good with most of the other stuff, but what’s making the difference between you defending and me finishing the sweep is arm control. You let me control your arms and that is why I succeed and you fail.”

I took this lesson to heart and worked diligently for the next few weeks at that seemingly simple suggestion. Don’t let your arms be controlled and control your opponent’s arms as much as possible. And sure enough, the sweeps diminished noticibly. And even more noticibly, my game improved from the standing clinch, in the takedown department, pretty much everywhere you go hands on in MMA. And then it hit me. The arms are the means by which we control the head, the hips, the posture, or the means by which we defend these things.

Control the arms, and the rest begins to fall into place.

When you're out of position, under fire and on defense, use your tools and faculties to fortify those defenses rather than digging yourself deeper into the hole.

When you're out of position, under fire and on defense, use your tools and faculties to fortify those defenses rather than digging yourself deeper into the hole.

Another night after numerous weeks of being dominated on the mats by my BJJ Black Belt Instructors, I expressed my frustration. “Man, I don’t expect to tap any of you guys out, but for crying out loud, I’m always on the run from you guys. I’m always fighting just to keep my head above water and survive.” I said. This time, both Coach Diaz and my primary instructor Khru Will were present and sitting before me. Almost in concert, they explained

“Sometimes all you can do is play defense… And sometimes all you SHOULD do is play defense. Jiu-jitsu is a Self Defense Art.”

I sat and thought about this for a moment. Reading the confused look on my face, they both began to point out that even though I had exhausted myself, escaping this submission and fending off that sweep and then scrambling to get out of beneath this or that position, that in the end I had made it pretty difficult to submit me. They went on to explain that if you could defend yourself against bigger, stronger, more experienced fighters, that was a pretty nice accomplishment. This made me smile. They were right. Over the years of working with Khuen Khru Will I had pushed my defensive capabilities from a few seconds of survival, to minutes and sometimes even tens of minutes. And beyond this they explained that sometimes it’s just a matter of surviving until an opportunity appeared or the guy on top made a mistake.

I then realized that most of the time, when I got submitted, it was because I was frustrated about being on the run for so long and decided to push my luck by attempting a low percentage submission or sweep from out of position. These were the times they were talking about. The times when all I should have done was play defense.

Ever since then I have paid a lot more attention to when it is best to fortify my defenses and when an opportunity arises to make a calculated move and this has helped my game immensely.

Use chained attacks and escapes whenever possible.

Use chained attacks and escapes whenever possible.

Beginners think one move ahead, more advanced practitioners think two and three moves ahead.

Since the beginning of my training, this idea has made sense to me from the offensive perspective. The Triangle sets up the Arm Bar which flows to a sweep, etc. etc. etc. These submission chains are nearly everywhere. But much more difficult for me to grasp was the idea of a progressive, chained escape path.

So many times, I’d be underneath someone, trying to escape, using an appropriate escape technique just to have the guy on top of me transition into a different control position… ON TOP.

Finally it occured to me, that knowing the escape was not enough. Knowing the escape and where the guy on top would most likely transition, and having my second escape ready to go, half way through the first escape was the key to getting out of under their tyranical reigns.

Never stop fighting for top position. Never conceed the guard or bottom.

Never stop fighting for top position. Never conceed the guard or bottom.

Fight to be on top and when you can’t get on top, fight for top some more!

This was an epiphany I had after watching the Black Belts roll with each other over the course of many many months I realized that they would always fight like dogs for top position. Even when out of position on bottom they would fight to get to their knees and reset vs. working for guard. And when they did try to get guard the guy on top was practically passing it before it even fully materialized.

After watching this, scene unfold, time and time again I asked my instructor Khru Will when it was that he determined when to fight for top and when to start working the bottom game techniques. His answer was simple.

“If you have gas in the tank, it should be used to get to the top.”

This has been one of the most difficult concepts to make part of my game, especially since it is so physically demanding. But what I have discovered is that while employing this mentality, I can prolong the amount of time it takes for my seniors to trap me on bottom and finish me off with a submission. And sooner or later, that extra time is going to equal an opportunity. And when it does… I’ll be ready.

These four principals have done more to improve my game recently than anything else.

What principals have uped your game and made your life easier on the mat?

Shooto Lockflow Series

CSW has many influences, perhaps one of the main influences was originally Shooto

CSW has many influences, perhaps one of the main influences was originally Shooto

O.k. Superfans, this week I stumbled upon a series of videos that is absolutely awesome. Especially for those of you who enjoy the culture of technique and Martial Art as much as you do watching the latest moves on the mat. This is a timeless classic that holds an important place in the history of MMA, especially for me personally and any of us that have been influenced by Sensei Erik Paulson and CSW.

Below is a series of lock flows from the Original Shooto Lockflow series. I have never seen these all compiled online like this before and so I thought I’d share.

For those of you who have been studying with Coach Kiser over the last few weeks, this is what he has been teaching you. If you’ve ever wanted to see the whole lockflow documented so that you’d have an easier time remembering everything, here you go.

Rolling Elbow Compression Lock

Here is a gem from Khuen Khru – Coach Alvin Chan of Maryland CSW. I really like this lock and have been playing around trying to hit it from other situations such as off a 1/4 nelson (a.k.a. “Kaputa Kapaula”) vs an opponent who has an underhook and is trying to come up from bottom half guard… if that makes any sense at all.

Either way it’s a nice little trick to have up your sleeves… ahem, rash guards.

MMA: Coming To Grips

Hand Fighting or Grip Control has taken an increasingly important role in the development of my MMA and Submission Grappling Game. One of my Jiu-jitsu coaches, Mike Diaz impressed upon me the fact that

he who controls the grips, dictates the subsequent, incremental battles for control in general, e.g. Posture, Balance (Kuzushi), and Relative Body Position

(Belly To Belly, T-Position, Back Mount or Back From Standing).

Grip fighting or limb control, usually precedes any major engagement in a grappling contest. Footwork, Level Change and Bridging the Striking Gap are all equally important factors that must also be taken into account as they precede grip fighting in MMA style competitions. But when it comes to contests restricted to grappling, grapplers can elect to concede these ranges and begin from the clinch (elbow and collar tie up, Over – Under, etc.).

Often the grip is the means by which one breaks his opponent’s posture, off balances him and prevents his opponent from doing the same in return.

Last week we discussed training and the injuries that come along with it. Since that time, I’ve managed to add a severely sprained big toe to the line up of injuries.

I just can’t seem to catch a break. In the last three weeks I’ve managed 3 fairly serious injuries.

A sprained ankle, a subluxed rib, and a sprained big toe respectively. It’s times like this that I have to dig deep to find something that I can work on as I allow my injuries time to heal. Grip fighting is an area of study well deserving of some attention.

I learned another novel idea from working with Sean Weaver, another one of Professor Pedro Sauer’s wonderful Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belts. We were working in the gi, and I asked Coach Weaver how to deal with an opponent who gets a grip on your sleeve that you cannot break. He responded by telling me to look at the situation differently.

If you can’t break his grip, grab his sleeve back. Now you have him as much as he has you. I suppose this same strategy would work without the gi as well.

Fighting for grips is essential. This skill applies both in the standing clinch as well as once the fight goes to the ground. For either the top or bottom player, he who controls the other’s arms, generally controls the other elements of the game.

So until next time… Get a grip!

A special thanks to Coach Billy Robinson and Jake Shannon of www.ScientificWrestling.com who have been so kind to share their tricks of the trade with us.

Modern Catch As Catch Can: Written By Kris Iatskevich

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

” Let me show you how to properly do a front face lock”

Thinking that there wasn’t much an old ”pro” wrestler could teach a veteran grappler like myself, but having been brought up to respect my elders (and this guy was old, very old) I let him do his stuff, telling myself it would make the old man’s day ( I’m nice that way). He wrapped his still massive arms around my head, placed a hand on my shoulder, figure foured his wrists and cranked. Although he didn’t seem to apply much pressure, my knees buckled. My jaw, neck and spine made a loud cracking noise. I was certain he had just ripped my head straight off of my shoulders.

But he wasn’t done yet…he took me down and put me in a leg lock, a half Boston of all things, a fake ”pro” move (or so I thought).

What hadn’t cracked on the earlier move cracked then. Two weeks of regular chiropractor visits later, I humbly made my way back to the gym, armed with a new found respect for the old ”pro” wrestler and a desire to learn more about the old wrestling methods.

And so began my journey into the world of Catch as Catch Can wrestling… REAL ‘‘pro’’ wrestling.

(you can see the half boston crab in a MMA fight at 6:00 in, in the clip above)

Much like today, the Catch wrestlers of old were always looking for new ways to pin and submit their opponents. Their livelihood depended on it. In the past, these men dedicated themselves to the very real tradition of wrestling and engaged in completely real professional bouts. Furthermore, this wrestling was not the collegiate, free style or Greco-Roman wrestling we see today. It was submission wrestling, using techniques these men called “hooks’’

These submission wrestlers, called “hookers, shooters, pistols” by those in their trade, were the sort of men who sought real challenges and were not afraid to learn or show anything, Of course, this lead to a blend of wrestling styles. European styles mixed with Russian, Indian, and Japanese styles. So anyone claiming to know the ‘’true system’’ of CACC is either ignorant or trying to confine it to a mould that never existed before. There is no ‘’one way’’ of doing things, only principles and rules for you to use and play with. These principles and rules are what define Catch as Catch Can Wrestling and give it its unique flavour. I do admit that there are some Catch techniques and set ups that I have yet to find in other grappling systems, but what really sets it apart are the underlying principles behind the techniques, the philosophy of the art if you will.

After making its way to North America, around the end of the 19th century, the English Lancashire CACC wrestling style was blended with the “rough and tumble” American mentality of the era and a more aggressive catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling emerged, creating some of the most outstanding grapplers of that period.
In all the annals of history you would be hard pressed to find tougher and more skilled mat men than the Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestlers. These old time shooters took on all comers from all over the world and emerged victorious through a flood of blood, sweat, tears, and broken bones.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

Catch can be particularly aggressive. Unfortunately, some mistake this aggressive pace for a lack of technical finesse.

The system is based on domination and pain compliance, but also on leverage, physics and control. The use of pressure points is also encouraged to set up techniques and keep opponents on the defensive.

All forms of submission holds, heel hooks, neck cranks and small joints manipulations are allowed within the CACC curriculum.

Catch has a wide appreciation of body mechanics and demonstrates a flexible and innovative mindset when it comes to submissions.

Not only does it use the typical subs you see across styles, but also flows freely from one technique to another, often times improvising subs to better take advantage of whatever the opponent leaves open during a scramble. Hence the name Catch as Catch Can (Catch a hold anywhere you can).

Basically, besides gouging, fish hooking, biting and deliberate striking, all is permitted within the CACC rule set. It’s all about getting the job done, as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Actually, the term ‘’ No Holds Barred’’ was originally used to describe the wrestling method prevalent in CACC tournaments during the late 19th century

, Meaning that no holds were banned from competition. That is why the CACC Wrestling men had to know how to throw, control, pin and submit their opponents from every angle and position imaginable. These men coupled brutal submissions (double wristlocks, neck cranks, toeholds etc) with an ability to twist their opponents into pretzels to pin them.

Since a Catch as Catch Can match can be won by either submission or pin, Catch wrestlers pay particular attention to positioning; high level of proficiency in breakdowns, rides and pins is required to excel in this system. Position is crucial to pulling off any submission, and even more so to obtain a pin.

Bottom escapes is another aspect of the game that is perfected. knowing that your opponents will work extra hard at keeping you on your back to obtain the pin, an incredible amount of time is spent working our way back up from bottom .

CACC became by far the most popular American sport during the post-Civil War period up until just before World War I, especially in the carnivals and fairs.

The carnival’s wrestlers challenged the locals as part of the carnival’s “athletic show”

and the locals had their chance to win cash reward if they could defeat the carnival’s strongman by a pin or a submission. This eventually led to the carnival’s wrestlers preparing for the worst kind of scenario and aiming to end the wrestling match quickly and decisively. As carnival wrestlers traveled, they met with a variety of people, learning and using techniques from various folk wrestling disciplines, many of which were accessible due to a huge influx of immigrants in the United States during this era

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

It is important to remember that there were also many style vs. style matches. In this way, the Japanese, amongst others, became very aware of the CACC tradition and vice versa.

Judo expert and prize fighter Mitsuyo Maeda also known as ‘’Count koma’’ perfected his fighting system by competing in and learning Catch as Catch Can before moving to brazil and teaching is style of fighting to Carlos Gracie.

Another judoka, Masahiko Kimura, also learned Catch as Catch Can while working as a professional wrestler. Kimura would go on to defeat Helio Gracie with a staple hold of CACC the Double Wrist Lock aka ‘’The Kimura’’.

Karl Gotch after honing his skills at the infamous ‘’Snake pit’’ in Wigan were he learned CACC, travelled to india and studied Pehlwani (Indian Wrestling) and then to Japan were he studied Judo and Sumo. My coach Edouard Wiecz Carpentier, , practiced Greco Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Savate before turning his attention to Catch as Catch Can. Later, he also became an avid Judo player.

Much like many of their contemporaries, these men were cross training even before we had coined a term for it.

I often thought that, were Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Edouard Wiecz and many of the old time greats in their prime today, they would be at the forefront of MMA fighting, as it is results oriented instead of performance oriented like pro wrestling. Given their training and dedication, they would have been at the top of the mma food chain.

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Unfortunately, while many of the ‘’Old Timers’’ kept a very open mind towards training. Some coaches today seem to adopt a very dogmatic approach to teaching.

Beware of all teachers who tell you that their method is the only legitimate one. All Grappling styles are good, it’s up to you to find witch one suit you best.

On a closing note, here is what I have learned in my 30 + years of practice.

Judo, Sambo , Wrestling (Freestyle/Greco Roman/Folk style) , Catch as Catch Can and BJJ are all legitimate combat sports. They’ve all been proven effective.
Nothing else needs to be said.

If you want to be good at grappling, find a good grappling club and train there. The rest all comes down to the instructor and the individual.

We all know what styles are effective and which ones are not. Just pick one you have access to and train hard. For the best grappling system out there, the only one worth devoting yourself to, is the one you enjoy practicing.

And to paraphrase my good Friend Jake Shannon president of Scientificwrestling .com

‘’So what is modern Catch as Catch Can Wrestling? ANYTHING that is legal under the rules of a catch wrestling contest IS catch wrestling. I think a lot of people get confused that because catch wrestlers show a lot of little known but effective techniques that they think there is some sort of secret society where a few anointed people “know” catch wrestling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Catch wrestling is “Open to suggestion”. Anyone can contribute as long as their contribution “works”.

The only “proper” way to pin or submit a man is the way that works. That’s it. Catch wrestling isn’t necessarily a canon of technique; it is a METHOD and a set of rules.
Each person will chain the techniques their own way. Each person will apply the subs and pins based on their individual body types and knowledge base. Catch is rigorously individualistic.

That is why we are here, to continue experimenting in new ways to pin and submit people; no points. The permutations are endless.

That is why it is called Scientific Wrestling; test it, prove it, use it, teach it to others to help them.

These men will champion catch (their own brand of catch) and will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know their subject. It is truly an exciting time!’’

Exciting times indeed!

As an addendum to the original article, Coach Iatskevich asked me to include the following links for reference:

first is an article written in 1905 and debates catch wrestling vs Jiu jitsu
http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_leonard_0802.htm

second Is an overlook of the history of MMA and it,s link to catch wrestling
http://www.kocosports.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=18493&z=9

third is the story of Ad Santel vs judo
http://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/ad-santel-and-catching-our-history-11623

From Kris Iatskevich: “I know some of these stories seem a bit negative,I personally don’t like comparing systems. But what you get from them. is the understanding of how much these arts influenced each other.”

Kris Iatskevich has studied different fighting arts for the last 30 + years.

– Catch Wrestling under the guidance of Eddy Wiecz Carpentier since ’96
– Lead Instructor for the Scientificwrestling.com certification program
– Black Belt and Regional rep. for SAW (submission arts wrestling) Hidetaka Aso
– Black Belt Judo
– Canadian rep for FIAS Sambo
– President of Catch Wrestling Canada Association
– Owner and Head coach of the Quebec Toe hold Club

You can learn more about him, his system and more at his official website:
http://www.catchwrestlingcanada.com/

__________________________________________________________________

As a final note from me (Brian Yamasaki), I would like to add that I own both of Coach Iatskevich’s Competition Catch as Catch Can DVD’s and consider them some of the best DVD’s I own.  They contain an enormous amount of useful information and give a fresh perspective to the art of Submission Wrestling.  I highly recommend either or both of these wonderful volumes.

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

The Catch Wrestling Shin Lock

Training with Sakuraba's Coach, the legendary Billy Robinson

Training with Sakuraba’s Coach, the legendary Billy Robinson

After first learning about the coveted but elusive Knee on Shin Lock and Elbow on Shin Lock, I was obsessed. I had to have them. I had no idea where to find them or how to go about getting on the mats with someone who knew the real skinny behind these old school Catch As Catch Can Techniques. But as luck would have it, the answer would literally fall at my feet.

Jake Shannon president and founder of the Scientific Wrestling Group, a society he has tasked with the consolidation and preservation of the many forms of Catch/Carnival/Wigan style Wrestling, recently changed his place of residence from sunny CA to the desert colony known as Utah.

2, 90 Degree Angles on 2 separate planes make for a more efficient SNAP!

2, 90 Degree Angles on 2 separate planes make for a more efficient SNAP!

W.A.R. Catch Wrestling: Lessons in Catch-As-Catch-Can with Billy RobinsonUpon arriving he needed a place to host an upcoming seminar with the legendary Catch As Catch Can Instructor Billy Robinson, a first generation student of the late Billy Riley. Jake called up his friend, our instructor Sensei Erik Paulson. Sensei Paulson suggested that he get in touch with his state representative Coach Kiser and the rest is history.

Having the once in a lifetime opportunity to train under one of few remaining authorities on Catch Wrestling, we picked as much of Billy’s brain as he and Jake could stand. The result was a bunch of footage that, to this day is some of my favorite material.

For anyone interested in learning more Catch As Catch Can moves directly from Coach Billy Robinson, I whole heartedly recommend
W.A.R. Catch Wrestling: Lessons In Catch-As-Catch-Can with Billy Robinson