Learn how to recognize and escape all the major positions in MMA, Submission Wrestling, No-gi Jiu-jitsu, BJJ, etc.
Many times what you see in our articles and videos is the culmination of years of work, repetition and refinement. But that final product sometimes looks quite different when we first encounter it. And this has to do with many factors. First is how familiar or unfamiliar the technique is to us. Then there is how and where the technique began and then how we use the move, which can be quite different. For instance, techniques developed in arts that include pinning or outlaw leg locks will create energies and common pathways that simply will not exist in our world, and as a result, we will use a given technique in a completely different way than how it was used in it’s original home.
So we thought we’d do something a little different with this article. We wanted to include you in the process, from the beginning. We wanted to show you how we learn a new move, the questions we ask, the process we go through in stumbling through it, fleshing it out, trying to make it fit into what we are doing and the rule structures that we play by. We wanted you to see us make fools of ourselves (even more than usual), ask “stupid” questions and collaborate with friends. And so here it is, our first encounter with Catch As Catch Can’s Flying Mare.
Our story begins a few years back, during one of Coach Billy Robinson’s last seminars. Brandon and I learned the Flying Mare through him and brought it back to our gym. Kiser took to the move a little more than I did and began to teach it to our student body. I had reservations about teaching it since I didn’t understand the entire picture and didn’t have a chance to ask Coach Billy about a failsafe should the move get countered. Years later, our students had developed to a point where the move was popping up in their rolls and competitions. Sometimes working perfectly, and other times getting stuffed hard! And then the question came, “What do we do, when we’ve committed to the Flying Mare, and the opponent stops it?”
And this is where the story picks back up again. A few years after Coach Billy’s passing and with the following Facebook messages between Coach Sam Kressin and I attempting to reverse engineer what we think Coach Billy might say and suggest.
And this is what we’ve got up to this point. A month into the conversation with Catch Wrestler Sam Kressin. Now before we go out and publish this first draft of the article, I’d like to stray off topic just a little and mention a story I once heard about American Kenpo’s Founder Ed Parker. Towards the end of his life, Master Parker knew that his days were numbered. He had also seen what could happen to a family, an organization, once a leader had departed. He had seen the in fighting and politics that could erupt and decimate a lifetime of work. And so he set out with a plan.
The story goes that Master Parker sought out his highest ranking students and with each, only shared a portion of the advanced material, seeking to create specialists in particular branches of his art. His hope was that after his passing, his students would have to come together and share with each other to maintain the complete version of his life’s work. Whether or not this story is true, it made a permanent impact on me.
And so, what I would love to see, is feedback from the rest of our friends from Coach Billy’s school. To see, if together, we can reverse engineer our failures, and piece together a more complete understanding of how Coach Billy would have dealt with the situations we are finding ourselves in. And so I invite you personally, Jesse Mares, John Potenza, Jake Shannon and Garry Davis to join Sam, Brandon and I in our efforts to unravel this mystery. Please add your comments, send us your videos, we will incorporate them all here in this article and will learn from each other and grow closer through the process.
Check back as all new video and insight will be updated to this page as we receive it. And thank you for supporting DamageControlMMA.com!
This is our final farewell to our good friend, mentor and authority on Catch As Catch Can Wrestling, the irreplaceable Coach Billy Robinson.
It ends as it began, without a lot of fan fare. Just a handful of people that are super passionate about learning and growing. Like the very first time I met Coach Billy and asked him about CACC’s unique Shin Locks, this time I ask him about a way to stand up from the High Defense Position.
He has shown us a technique for this in the past but after reviewing his DVD “W.A.R. Catch Wrestling.” I saw a different variation and had the opportunity to ask him about the finer details.
What a privilege and pleasure to learn the subtle details of these mundane and fundamental techniques that seem to gain more and more relevance as I become more seasoned as a Martial Artist. Thank you once more Coach Billy. It’s been an absolute joy to have learned how to learn with you sir.
We have shown you a strong series of escapes from the Bottom Side Cross Position. This is because of how often you will find yourself in this difficult situation. Most of our escapes thus far have been from traditional hand placement when you’re on the bottom.
This escape is an excellent one to put into your repertoire to give you options when your arms get trapped outside of the traditional hand positioning. I really enjoy Gustavo Rodrigues approach as he has a similar weight and body type to my own and as a result his techniques are based on leverage and the mindset of being smaller and weaker than his opponents. Which is another way of saying, his stuff works, and works well regardless of how big or strong your opponents are.
Recently, we watched UFC Champion Ronda Rousey defend her title against Challenger Sara McMann. Finishing her with a Left Knee to the Liver. (For more information on how the Liver Shot works, please visit our article “The Anatomy of the Liver Shot“).
I was struck by Ronda’s post fight comment “When we were going over Sara’s footage and how she fights, we saw that no one had really gone to the body with her,” Rousey said. “Being that she’s a wrestling style, she’s more likely to be bent over more and I just thought it would be really unexpected.” This quote from the article at the Las Vegas Sun.
Step foot into any reputable gym, and the first thing you should learn is the foundation, the Stance. Be it a Boxing Stance, Thai Boxing Stance, Wrestling Stance, etc. the basic stance has been optimized for the specific art it was developed from. But what does an MMA stance look like?
Many of the top level athletes in MMA today are converts from other disciplines. Sara McMann was and Olympic Wrestler, Ronda a Judo practitioner. As converts, these fighters bring with them baggage in the form of a ready stance. Something practiced so many times, it’s hard to unlearn, something that was studied and capitalized on by Rousey and her camp.
My interest in this topic was peaked before when I first began studying Thai Boxing with Ajarn Surachai Sirisute and he explained the difference between the American Pugilism, Basic Western Boxing Stance (in contrast to the John L. Sullivan Stance, the cross guard or the Archie More style) and then again when I spoke with Catch Legend Billy Robinson and he discussed the differences between the Amateur Wrestling Stance and the Catch As Catch Can Stance.
So what are these differences, why have these stances evolved as such, and what does any of this have to do with MMA? Lets start by examining the stances from a few of the arts found more prevalently in MMA. Mind you, each art, has multiple forms and variations of their basic ready stance. We will attempt to demonstrate the most generalized form that is representative of it’s respective art.
Notice both feet are turned at a 45 degree angle. This blades the body and brings the liver further back protecting it with distance and the elbows from the opponent. Since there are no attacks to the legs allowed in boxing there is no penalty for turning in the front foot and exposing the sciatic nerve. There is a slight crouch which also protects the body and shrinks the target zones.
Thai Boxing Stance
Here you see more of an upright stance. This guards against knees and kicks which may be directed at the head. Only the rear foot is turned at a 45 degree angle, this makes the hips square up to the opponent, exposing the liver, but also bringing 4 of the more powerful, rear side weapons (shin, knee, elbow, fist) closer to the opponent and therefore easier to bring to bear. Having the front foot pointing straight forward also aids in protecting against leg attacks to the sciatic nerve. The hands are held further outward which helps to prevent the opponent from grabbing and pulling the head downward. The hand positioning also assists in defending against the heavy force of a shin in the event of a head kick, but the stance does so at the cost of exposing the body.
Amateur Wrestling Stance
This stance is optimized for defense against takedowns. The hips are square much like in Thai Boxing, but the crouch is similar to that found in a Boxing stance. The hands are held close, to guard against attacks such as arm drags etc. and also to be able to defend the legs in the event of a shot. As there are no chokes or neck cranks allowed in Amateur Wrestling, there is no penalty for exposing the head or neck.
Catch Wrestling Stance
In contrast to the Amateur Wrestling Stance, the Catch Wrestling Stance is upright, this exposes the legs for shot style attacks but maximizes the defense of the head and neck as Neck Cranks and Chokes are 100% legal in Catch. Often times an opponent who shoots in on the legs and is unable to immediately effect a takedown, looses the match to a technique such as the Grovit.
The arms and elbows are held close to the body to defend against Underhooks, Body Locks and Arm Drags, and as with Amateur Wrestling, there is no striking allowed thus there is no penalty for exposing the face and head to these types of attacks.
So the next question is, what is the best way to approach fighting in MMA? Would it be best to develop a new, hybridized stance, specifically designed for the complexities of the cage? Or would it be best to transition from one purpose built stance to another based on your intentions?
Like anything, there are pros and cons to each approach. I don’t believe that a generalized stance would be as effective at any one specific task as a specialized stance. However, specialized stances can be exploited and can sometimes be a “tell” to your opponent.
Be sure to leave a comment and share with us your stance on MMA and the best approach to the foundation, the stance.
I would like to start this post by explaining my editing decisions regarding the video above. You can see that I clearly disregard Coach Billy’s request to turn off the tape. A blatant show of disrespect. But my motivations for doing so were the exact opposite. Since Coach Billy’s passing, every word, every moment that we have on film seemed so precious and important, that I felt he would understand if I left his explanations in the clip so that you could see what a perfectionist he was and how he would always explain why it was that he wanted you to do something in a particular way.Some of you may wonder why it is that I am writing this blog post. After all, there are many others who knew Coach Billy much better than myself and were therefore much closer to him. I would be the first to agree with you. But I felt compelled to put this together because of how Coach Billy made Kiser and I feel.
You see, we were all aware of our distance from the core of the Catch As Catch Can and Scientific Wrestling family. Brandon and I play only a tiny part in the big scheme of things. We were like bastard children to Jake Shannon and Coach Billy who knew we came from Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Thai Boxing and CSW backgrounds. But they took us in and treated us with the same warmth, respect and regard as their very closest and most dedicated students.
I have never forgotten that and I never will. My love for Catch as Catch Can is more so a Love of Coach Billy and the way he treated me. The two are inseparable in my eyes, Catch and Coach. They were one and the same and for Coach Billy, it was no less important for me, a half blooded Catch Wrestler to master a technique he was demonstrating, than it was for one of his full blown Catch Representatives.
While others were turning their noses up at Kiser and I when we’d ask if they’d like to share something with us for Damage Control, Coach would be asking if he could do a video clip. It was such a refreshing and welcomed change.
And that is all I have to say about this great man. Not because I don’t have more to say, but because I feel that I don’t deserve to say it. That whatever else I have to say should be said by those who’ve truly earned the right to say something about the Legend of Catch. The ones who have dedicated their lives to the study of the art in its entirety. His students. Below are a few words and thoughts form the friends we have made through our trials and shared thrashings on the Wrestling Mat.
I thank you all for supporting Jake Shannon and Coach Billy. And thank you Jake Shannon for bring us into this wonderful family.
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I’ll never forget the first time I ever met Billy Robinson. I could tell right away that he was special and I knew I had found someone amazing. From that moment forward, I did everything I could to train with Billy as much as possible. Today, I feel so fortunate to not only have gotten to know Billy Robinson as a wrestler and coach, but also as a good friend. Billy really impacted my life and helped me in more ways than I could ever explain. He lifted everyone up around him. He was still so young in spirit, always having fun, making jokes, and living life to the fullest. He took his wrestling seriously and he lived for it. Never have I met anyone more passionate about anything than Billy was about wrestling. He demanded perfection and you were expected to perform that way. He would push everyone to do things right. Although Billy Robinson, the last of the Great Catch Wrestling Masters, has left us, his legacy is still here. He has given us all a wealth of knowledge and it is up to all of us now to continue carrying it forward.
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The world suffers a major loss with the passing of Billy Robinson. To the world he was a Father, Husband, World Champion and world class coach. In my eyes, Billy was a role model, a mentor, the best coach, a superb friend, historian and gentleman. He taught me humility, proper wrestling technique, confidence, creativity, and allowed me to peek inside his vast knowledge and experience of wrestling, physics, body mechanics and anatomy. Billy’s vision was one of perfection for all who studied under him. If a technique was incorrectly executed, he would have you do it again over and over until it was perfect. Billy will surely be missed and will never be forgotten because his voice will forever be in the back of my mind telling me to do it again.
WIP Billy (Wrestle In Peace)
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Over the past 30+ years, I have trained in many styles of martial arts & achieved high rank in several different styles. But one of my most cherished ranks is Assistant Coach under the legendary Billy Robinson.
Billy was an amazing coach, friend & mentor. I loved nothing more than practicing a technique & hearing him yell NO! DO IT AGAIN! Then he would make a slight adjustment in the way I was moving that would make the technique seem effortless & ten times more effective. His attention to detail was second to none & his stern abrasive coaching style showed just how much he cared about the art of Catch Wrestling & making sure his students learned it correctly.
Although he appeared to be tough & maybe sometimes even a bit scary, he had a huge heart of gold.
Some of my favorite times were just hanging out having a beer with him & listening to his stories. He had an amazing journey in this life & I am truly honored to have shared a small part of it.
It’s because of Coach Billy that I have become the catch wrester that I am today!
He has taught me not just how to teach but how to learn as well.
He will be forever in our hearts & always remembered for being the great man he was.
Snake Pit USA Catch Wrestling Association
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As painful and terrifying as it was at times, I am so grateful for every minute I got to spend with this man! He didn’t just make me a better grappler, he made me a better person. He taught me how to teach and most importantly he taught me how to learn. I will never forget when he told me I was the god damn laziest bastard he ever met and then he said his classic line NOW DO IT AGAIN!
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Garry and Mickey started training under Coach Billy in 2010 after being introduced to catch wrestling by Sensei Erik Paulson. Gillian began in 2012 at the request of Coach Jake Shannon with the hope of introducing more women to the sport of catch wrestling. Garry has successfully implemented elements of catch wrestling into both the Jeet Kune Do and Submission Grappling curriculums at Brazen Martial Arts. Mickey was primarily interested in improving his stand up game, but after training under Coach Billy he came to love the mix of submission grappling and wrestling — with the focus on being on top as opposed to playing from the guard. Gillian has successfully used techniques learned under Coach Billy to defeat much more experienced opponents in high-level grappling competition. All of us will continue to use Billy’s concepts to help our students blend the different arts in a way that works for them individually. Coach Billy was open-minded to all of the other arts, and extremely helpful in countering techniques encountered in grappling tournaments even when the catch wrestling rule set was not directly in play. He loved competition and adapting his knowledge to different circumstances.
Coach Billy was never just a coach to any of the three of us. Garry and Gillian would tease Mickey endlessly about how excited Mickey would get when Coach Billy walked into the room. We emailed with Coach Billy even when we weren’t at training camp and not always just to talk about wrestling but just to check in and say hello. Coach Billy demanded perfection from everyone he trained, but he never did it for himself or without reason. He demanded perfection FOR us, to help us be better wrestlers, better learners, and better teachers to preserve something that was his whole world. We loved him dearly and miss him greatly.
–Garry Davis, Mickey Hall, Gillian Silver–
Gustavo Rodrigues is back, and this time he is showing a very ingenious way to escape from bottom Side Cross when your arm is trapped between your opponent’s arms and endangered. There is a lot to learn here if know what to look at.
Notice the precision and attention to details when Gustavo explains the finer points of how to position your legs to prevent the mount while also accounting for your opponent’s potential to turn your hips away and take your back.
He says it’s a basic move for beginners but I think it’s the experts who will really appreciate the beauty of this technique he’s shared.
Study the Martial Arts long enough and eventually, you’ll begin to realize just how long it can take some times to learn a certain set of skills. I have been a huge fan of foot sweeps for years and as a result am perpetually on the hunt for different entries, set ups, details and insights regarding this valuable tool.
What I enjoy so much about the foot sweep is that it is so versatile while at the same time being a low risk, high reward technique. Foot sweeps can be used as takedowns, as set ups for submissions or my favorite, as set ups for the Knee.
Here I get a rare opportunity to learn foot sweeps from one of my all time favorite instructors, Ajarn Greg Nelson from “The Academy” in Minneapolis Minnesota. Ajarn Greg was the first instructor to introduce me to the idea of using sweeps as off balancing techniques to set up knees. I’ve been exploring that idea ever since and enjoying every minute of it.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about using foot sweeps as takedowns, and as set ups for submissions or knees. Which do you prefer? What are your favorite follow ups for foot sweeps?
Recently, Charles Haymon from www.50StatesOfBJJ.com visited our home gym, Mushin Self Defense in North Salt Lake, Utah. Traveling from his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana, Charles has set out to train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in every state of the US. An ambitious, nobel and courageous goal indeed.
It takes a lot of courage to step into a new gym. Even more so sometimes when you have previous experience in the arts. It’s intimidating to walk into a place, being a beginner and not knowing what to expect. It can be even worse when you know exactly what to expect. You see, in the combative arts, there’s almost always a feeling out process.
Think of it like a pack of wolves. When a pup joins the pack, the elders and warriors of the clan see it as little threat. But when a grown wolf seeks acceptance, there’s always have one eye and ear turned up to see what the new guy’s intentions are. They’re always sniffing for anything that smells fishy. Is this guy a friend? Is he a foe? Is he here to test his mettle and the strength of this new pack? Where will he fit into the hierarchy?
I have experienced both sides of the coin. I’ve had to roll over and show my belly, and I’ve had to defend home turf. So I really appreciate Charles sense of adventure in trusting that everything will turn out and that in the end, he will be the beneficiary of a great wealth of knowledge and experience after all is said and done.
We got to train together, and it was like a scene from an old Kung-Fu Classic. He started working on a few techniques that I immediately recognized from another friend of the Damage Control MMA project, Reilly Bodycomb. In fact, the techniques were practically identical to those shown, Reilly three years ago in our article Sambo and MMA Tie the Knot: A Marriage of Skill. I wanted to say “Huh, the White Lotus Kick?… You must be a student of Master Bodycomb, from the Southern Province.”
Turns out that Charlie actually does work out with Reilly at his home gym, NolaBJJ. Rolling with him was a very interesting experience. Charlie is a big, and deceptively strong man. That coupled with his technical expertise and the validity of the Sambo Leg Knot resulted in me getting caught in the very move I recognized and then spending the next few nights lying awake in bed, contemplating the meaning of what happened.
I was frustrated that I saw the move coming and was unable to stop it from progressing. I was standing up and attempting to pass Charles’ guard. As he threw his leg under mine to initiate the knee reap, I took ahold of his foot to remove it from my hip and even with both hands was physically unable to lift the heft of his leg and thus preemptively stop the knot from being tied in the first place. I simply could not lift it. He was too strong.
Getting caught was not what troubled me. It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last (I hope). Being caught is a learning opportunity. A chance to grow and discover. No, I was troubled with the fact that I saw it coming and could not prevent it with a method that had worked many times before with partners smaller than Charlie. I don’t like relying on stuff that I can’t pull off on opponents of all shapes and sizes. Especially since I am almost always the smaller man.
My conclusion was, and it remains in the initial testing phase, that rather than removing the pieces of a progressively tightening knot, preventing the knot from starting in the first place, was my best bet, in terms of defending against larger, stronger opponents. No duh! right? But here’s where my personal revelation came in. Most of my partners don’t attack the legs aggressively as did Charlie. And thus, using a standing Guard pass is a pretty solid choice as it keeps my neck and upper limbs safer from harms way. But what I hadn’t realized is that these same standing passes, expose your legs (Hell, they’re already extended and isolated from the body, just from the nature of standing) to those with a strong leg locking game.
So how do you prevent the leg lock from starting? Again, my theory is in its infancy and it remains to be further tested, but my approach is 2 fold. I can either go for a leg lock myself instead of attempting a pass. I can use a kneeling, or sitting pass as opposed to a standing one, or I can combine the two, attempting a kneeling pass that may set up a leg lock or vise versa.
Either way, the experience was awesome and as you can see has given me plenty of food for thought. I’d like to hear what you think about the situation. And I’d love to hear about your learning experiences. Tell me about how getting caught has upped your experience points and changed your game for the better in the comments below.