Saturday, March 6, 2010

Grappling Smart

I had a private lesson with Ben on Thursday and talked with him about how to grapple people who have a significant weight advantage. It was pointed out to me that, when I am intimidated, I tend to try to keep distance between me and my opponent. What I really need to be doing is just the opposite.

He was saying that you may have to grapple differently depending on your opponent. With smaller people you may be able to play at a distance and work a quicker, trickier sort of game. Of course, smaller grapplers may be more squirrely and you might have to work a tight, methodical game just to control them.

But with someone who has a significant size advantage, he gave me these pointers:

1. Get in close and play a tight game. This goes against every instinct I had!! You want me to get CLOSE to that man-beast? Are you insane? ;) But Ben explained that when I give them so much room they can build up a lot of momentum and just throw me around. Don't give them space to build up momentum and explode. Take away some of their power by getting in tight and not letting them move. It makes sense now that I understand it a little more.

Ben made sure to point out to me that being tight does not mean gripping and holding someone with all your strength. It means not making space.

2. Be methodical. There's nothing wrong with being quick. But if being quick means you make space then that's a bad thing, especially when you are dealing with an opponent who can shuck you off without much effort.

That's not to say that speed is an enemy. When you're small, you can probably move more quickly than larger opponents. That can be an advantage but only if you don't sacrifice position and technique for speed.

3. There are going to be times when you get stuck in a bad position. Just keep working. When you go for one escape, they may defend it, but it will probably make space somewhere else. You have to be a step ahead, knowing where you're going to go if they block your first escape, so you can take advantage of that space.

4. Leverage! Use their momentum and weight distribution against them. For example, if you go for a sweep and they pull back the other way, don't try to force the sweep. Realize where they have their weight committed and go the other way and get a different sweep instead. Again, it's a good idea to think ahead. Know what the defenses are to the sweep you're trying and then, depending on what the guy does, you'll have a plan for how to react.

5. Make them work and use up their energy. Take advantage of times when you can rest. In a tournament, if you have a buffer of points, be smart and rest when you're in a good position. You don't have to be up by 20 points at the end of the grapple. In the same way, in class, when you have a big guy in your guard, you want to keep their base broken down, but don't try to force a submission if they're defending. Make them work to get out of your guard. While they're working, they might expose something and THEN you can go for a submission. It requires a little more patience, but it helps you to conserve energy.

6. Learn to love fighting from your back. As a small grappler, I am going to be on my back sometimes. That is just a fact. But I can still keep them in tight to me while they are in my guard or half guard. And I can attack and be dangerous from the bottom as well as from the top. I should still try to get on top. Absolutely. But don't hate on the guard game!

This morning when I walked into class I was glad we'd had that lesson. There was only one person smaller than me and the rest were significantly larger and stronger. When I went with one of the biggest guys, I tried to put the stuff I'd learned into action. It made a HUGE difference. I still spent most of the grapple on my back. But I stayed in tight, looked for sweeps, tried to keep his base broken down, defended as many submissions as I could (except for some ankle locks because I always tap early with those). I felt a lot more confident and a lot safer, even though the idea of getting in close to someone that much bigger than me seems so scary.

Woohoo! I feel like I had a breakthrough. I was getting so intimidated by the bigger guys. I know I won't be suddenly able to dominate guys twice my size. But now I at least feel like I have a plan that involves more than quick tapping. :)


leslie said...

I always write comments in my head, and then assume I've posted them. Silly girl...

Love this. Good stuff. Thanks for posting it. :)