Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finding Space

Sometimes when you are grappling someone bigger and stronger, it can feel like your face and the mat are having an inappropriate relationship.

You know by watching how your instructor moves out of bad positions from underneath behemoths that it is possible to escape superior strength and size. You hear talk about leverage and hip movement, about using people's momentum against them. But when you get into an actual grapple and someone locks you down, it may feel like there is no possible way to move. The person is too tight. Or they have too much weight on you. Maybe they are just enormous and you feel like you are trying to grapple the moon. 

Fabio told me something one time that changed the way I thought about getting out from underneath heavier, stronger people or people who are locking me down. He said that a person cannot be tight everywhere at once. For example, if someone is locking down your head and shoulders, your hips will have room to move. Conversely, if someone locking down your hips, you will be able to make space with your upper body. Unless you are grappling an octopus or some kind of freakish alien, people simply don't have enough limbs to effectively lock down your whole body at once. 

These are some steps I have have been working on when I am under lock down:

 1. Instead of focusing on where I am trapped, I try to think about which parts of my body I can move and use.

2. If something is being pushed down, instead of pushing back, I try to either slide out to one side or the other, going towards the space from the areas that aren't locked down. Usually, this requires getting an under hook and a lot of hipping. 

3. I try to remember that I don't always have to come out to a side. Sometimes I can come out from behind a person, or invert and sneak over their head to their back. Taking risks and possibly landing in a worse position is part of learning how to escape.  

4. If I am trying to hip out to one side and a person is driving into me, changing directions quickly--like hipping back into them suddenly--will usually throw a person off balance and either give me room to escape or enable me to sweep. Unless, of course, they already expect my little tricks and then they just laugh while they squash my feeble attempts at freedom. 


Liam H Wandi said...

Eddie Kone once explained the same thing to me by sitting inside my closed guard and making a massive circle with his torso: "You control part of me, not all of me" and I think that's very true. It's key.

You know what really helps? Disassociation. You are not your hand so if they grip your hand, they are not controlling "you". I find closing my eyes every now and again really helps because I no longer see the roll as two people but as a collection of points and interactions (i.e. a hand is gripping some pants rather than his hand is controlling my leg).

Beautiful post.

Afrorican said...

Nice post. Interesting that we just worked the same thing on Tuesday. I had never had it explained to me like that before and now I've heard it twice in three days. Thanks

allouteffort said...

just added you to my blog roll at

This is Sam from All Out Effort BTW.

SavageKitsune said...

Hey, I see SOMEBODY kicked some serious hiney at PanAms today. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!

Jen said...

I just found your blog....and I've laughed more in your 3 paragraphs than in the last 4 blogs combined. I'm 41, 4 mos into bjj, and loving every minute...and relating to everything in your last post first-hand. You are hilarious! Keep writing!