Tachi waza and Ne waza

Tachi waza and Ne waza: Most of the main grappling styles styles of the world recognize the fundamental distinction between grappling in the standing position (tachi waza) and on the ground (ne waza). Usually any given style has a bias through the rule set towards one or the other. So for example, modern freestyle wrestling and Judo are mostly tachi waza sports (though each has a definite ne waza component) BJJ is a good example of the opposite extreme, it is almost entirely ne waza based. The general aim of most tachi waza styles is to get the opponent down to the floor. The general aim of most ne waza styles is to pin or submit the opponent on the ground. As a general trend today, the grappling sports are becoming more specialized as either predominately tachi waza or ne waza. The result has been good in some ways - a definite rise in skill level in certain areas due to increased specialization and time spent in limited scenarios. It has been negative in others - we are seeing athletes with incredible skill in specialized domains but equally incredible naivety outside of those domains. Remember always that tachi waza without ne waza is pointless - what is the point of putting someone on the ground if you cannot control him there? On the other hand, ne waza without tachi waza is useless - what is the point of refined ground technique if you cannot get him there in the first place? Nowhere is the marriage of tachi waza and ne waza more important than in mixed martial arts, where failure to integrate them adequately often has disastrous results. Here, Georges St-Pierre works on the crucial interface between standing and ground grappling with Garry Tonon.

So proud and happy to hear of the great victory of my friend and student, Travis Stevens at the Judo world masters tournament this weekend. Travis used a tremendous mix of standing and ground grappling to sweep the field and take gold in this invitational only elite tournament. Here is an image of Travis that speaks volumes about his commitment to excellence in the sport. In a world of imposters and poseurs, here is the real deal - Travis Stevens - warrior of the mats

Solo movement drills

Solo movement drills: Some of the most impressive training lessons I learned came from watching great boxers go through their solo movement training - shadow boxing. They approached this part of their training with great seriousness. Indeed, it occupied a considerable part of their overall workout and was done with a commitment and sense of purpose that was deeply impressive to me. This stands in stark contrast to the rather lazy fashion in which most grapplers approach solo drills. Usually they are done in a very perfunctory way prior to partner drills before class as a warm up. There is none of the mindfulness, sense of technical perfection and most important - relevance to actual sparring - that was so evident in the shadow boxing of the great pugilists. This experience led me to develop grappling solo drills that were designed to improve movement in ways that would make a difference in live training just as quality shadow boxing improves the sparring of good boxers. Time invested in this project will serve you well - it will give you so much more than just a warm up. It will deepen your understanding of efficient movement in ne waza (ground grappling), reinforce good habits of posture and placement and enable you to workout effectively whenever you are alone. Here, young Nicky Ryan goes through his solo drills just prior to stepping on to the mat in competition

The two faces of jiu jitsu

The two faces of jiu jitsu: Every aspect of jiu jitsu has two sides - a positive side where my intention is to enforce my game upon my opponent, and a negative side where I attempt to prevent my opponent doing the same to me. So for example, in a grip fighting exchange, I try to impose my grips upon my opponent, whilst simultaneously negating his attempts to impose his grips upon me. When I pin someone and look to transition from one pin to another, I aim to position and hold myself in a way that maximizes my ability to move freely around my opponent, whilst at the same time doing my utmost to inhibit movement in my opponent. This dual nature of enhancing my aims while undercutting and negating those of my opponent is a key element of victory. Note that one without the other is without value. If I only care to impose my game without shutting down my opponents, he can move as freely as me and the result will be uncontrolled scrambles leading nowhere. If I only seek to negate what my opponent does without any positive movement and attacks of my own. I will never amount to anything more than an annoyance to my opponent by slowing him down without ever actually presenting any danger to him Here, Eddie Cummings exhibits a fine example of this duality. He has attained a position where he can readily move his body in the appropriate directions to apply crushing force to the leg of 10th planet black belt champion, Nathan Orchard, while at the same time completely eliminating Mr Orchard's ability to move in a way that would allow escape. This creates a huge imbalance in movement potential that leads to decisive victory.

Empirical tests

Empirical tests: Nothing furnishes proof of a theory or set of beliefs quite like a simple yet decisive empirical test. Jiu jitsu often allows for very decisive tests due to the nature of submissions. This often makes way for a very clear testing of the pros and cons of a given system versus alternative systems. Here Eddie Cummings quickly latches on to the leg of noted leg lock practitioner Reilly Bodycomb and secures a decisive win - validating the effectiveness of our system in a very clear empirical test.

Extreme pressure

Extreme pressure: Garry Tonon locks up a very tight inverted heel hook from cross ashi garami on the great Rousimar Palhares, himself a master of leg locks. The pressure of top level competition shows as Mr Palhraes grimaces and prepares himself to roll out of bounds to get a release- good tactical strategy on his part and showing excellent awareness of the geography of the mat - a key factor in world championship level grappling. Note the physical tightness of Mr Tonon's ashi garami - very necessary against such a powerful and skilled opponent. This was truly a clash to determine leg lock supremacy in the grappling world

From rivalry to friendship

From rivalry to friendship: The very nature of our sport is centered around competition and the ability to gain and enforce competitive advantage over an opponent. One of its greatest pleasures however, comes from the realization that however strong the fervor of competition might be, in the end, the sport as a whole is bigger than any temporary rivalry between ourselves and another person - for we are all ultimately united by the kingly arts of combat. Years ago my student Georges St-Pierre was matched to fight the formidable Jake Shields, who at that time had not lost a fight in almost eight years and who had crushed numerous UFC champions and contenders along the way to his title fight. The fight and the camp leading to it were as tightly contested as any, yet years later, Mr Shields came by to train and work on skills. It was a valuable reminder to me that friendship and camaraderie are more uplifting and lasting than rivalry and advantage. In the end; it is far more important to be a good human being than it is to be a good fighter. Skills in a competitive world and the great achievements they can bring us make us stand out from the crowd, but it is our humanity and empathy that bring us back. Jake and I share some stories from old campaigns after another tough session with the team

The essence of jiu jitsu

The essence of jiu jitsu: The ability to control greater size, strength and aggression with lesser size, strength and aggression: One of the defining characteristics of jiu jitsu and indeed, all the combat sports, is the ability to control and overcome greater size, strength and aggression with less. It is the quintessentially human action of using the ingenuity of our conscious minds to make up for the deficiencies of our body. Jiu jitsu is one of the few remaining combat sports that still permits open weight bouts where this essential feature can be tested. The finest example in recent memory was the clash between Garry Tonon and Rousimar Palhares - a man who was the very symbol of size, strength and aggression in our sport and who was in addition, highly skilled in submissions, particularly leg locks. Yet it was the much smaller, weaker and less psychologically aggressive Garry Tonon who dominated most of the action - winning all the submission exchanges in a thrilling encounter of psychological aggression versus tactical aggression that went the distance. It was a superb example of the essential nature of the kingly art of jiu jitsu

Many will look, but few will see

Many will look, but few will see: In all things, but especially in jiu jitsu, small details, often unseen or ignored, make the difference between success and failure. Cultivating a habitual reaching for perfection in performance, however difficult and frustrating that might be, is thus crucial to your advancement. This is so often a game of inches and millimeters and the consequences of even the smallest mechanical or tactical mistakes can be very costly indeed. I tell you in all honesty that it will be excellence in the performance of the unexciting, mundane aspects of jiu jitsu - not the pursuit of the exotic and showy elements, that will enable you to prevail when you need them most. Here I go over the minutiae of rear strangles with young Nicky Ryan and the ever observant and thus constantly improving, Eddie Cummings.

Position before submission

Position before submission: jiu jitsu students often use this phrase - some even go so far as to define the sport this way. It is a good way to express a valuable insight to a beginner, but at the higher levels, it is an over simplification. Positional dominance is one form of control and advantage, but it is only one among many forms of advantage. Indeed, such is the subtlety of the sport at international level that it is quite possible to give up to your opponent one form of advantage whilst retaining several different forms for yourself. In this way weakness can be feigned from a position of strength and an unwary opponent taken by surprise by an unforeseen attack. Here Garry Tonon gives away positional advantage to the very talented Jake Shields whilst hunting for other forms of advantage to launch attacks