First contact - hands or feet?

First contact - hands or feet? Grappling is all about connection. No connection to an opponent means no grappling. At some you have to come to grips to make the action start. When you first come to make grips from open guard you have a choice between feet and hands. In truth, much of that choice will be determined by your opponent. If he positions himself in certain ways - hands will make more sense - in others - feet will make more sense. When ever he denies you one, the other will be available. Generally in no gi you will initially use your feet to establish contact at the ankles and knees. Hands at the wrists, elbows and collar. Here, Nicky Ryan uses feet first due to distance and stance - use that first contact to read the opponent and move into establish more contact for greater control. Just as you test water with a single hand or foot before jumping in, so too, test an opponent with a single hand or foot before jumping in to full connection.


There’s a lot more to the standing game of Jiu jitsu than takedowns

There’s a lot more to the standing game of Jiu jitsu than takedowns: When most people think of standing skills in Jiu jitsu they understandably think automatically in terms of takedowns. However, there are many other skills of great importance. Let’s consider takedown defense for example. In Jiu jitsu a successful takedown scores two points. A strong counter to takedown that exposes an opponents back and enables you to secure rear mount will score double that - four points. So clearly takedown defense is a potentially very profitable skill that gets widely overlooked in Jiu jitsu. Let’s look at pulling guard. This is typically seen as a defeatist strategy which intent is to prevent an opponent scoring on you (usually because you believe he has superior takedown skills to you). What if we changed our thinking a little and instead of passively pulling guard, we pulled directly to a SWEEP from guard? Pulling directly to a guard sweep is no more difficult than pulling guard. Now you can use guard pulling as a MEANS TO SCORE rather than a way to avoid being scored on. Interestingly you will score the same amount (two points) as you would have scored with a takedown. What if an opponent pulls guard on you? Most people just see this as an invitation to play the ground game. What if you saw it as an opportunity to score a quick guard passing off the pull? Now your up three points (more than a takedown) and putting your opponent under real pressure from the start. What about instead of pulling guard you pulled directly to a submission hold? An arm lock, leg lock or strangle? Then the whole damn match would be over! You can see that there are many very potentially lucrative standing skills that get far less attention than they ought to. Perhaps you can among the first to develop these and make them a feature of your game and reap the benefits!


Using your feet for takedowns

Using your feet for takedowns: Most Jiu jitsu players spend the vast majority of their training time on the floor - that makes perfect sense since that is where most matches are won and lost and you always have the option of sitting to the floor without using takedowns. So when Jiu jitsu players do use and learn takedowns they tend to focus on HAND DOMINANT takedowns (te waza) since most people are more naturally coordinated with their hands than than feet and legs. This is fine for short term development, but long term you must begin to use FOOT/LEG DOMINANT takedowns (ashi waza) to utilize the greater power and reach of the lower body over the upper body. The learning time is longer but the potential rewards are greater. One of the best ashi waza for Jiu Jitsu purposes are the various foot sweeps. In particular DE ASHI HARAI (BARAI). This move works very well along side the rules of guard pulling in Jiu Jitsu and can send an opponent tumbling to the mat before he can get a grip on you to pull guard. It’s a low risk move - you don’t have to turn your back on your opponent and is fairly easy to learn the variations most applicable to Jiu jitsu. Here, Gordon Ryan uses a no gi variation to take an opponents legs out from under him and get off to a great start from standing position.


The best takedown for Jiu jitsu

The best takedown for Jiu jitsu: Jiu jitsu is a grappling style mostly interested in ground work, since they is the best place to exhibit its central interest - control that leads to submission. Nonetheless there is a need to be able to get things down to the floor and takedowns are one of the most desirable ways to do this. It is natural to ask which takedowns are best suited to the unique rules and demands of Jiu jitsu. No one takedown is ever enough by itself - even if you had only one favorite takedown you would still need others to support its application. I have always believed that two takedowns in particular have a peculiarly strong appeal to Jiu jitsu athletes and could even be described as the most appropriate for the sport of Jiu jitsu when practiced in the gi (no gi i believe wrestling based takedowns are more effective. These are TOMOE NAGE and SUMI GAESHI. These takedowns do not expose you to submission counters, back attacks, getting caught under a heavy sprawl or counter throws. In a worse case scenario where they totally fail, you end up in open guard - not a bad outcome at all. They come naturally to most Jiu jitsu athletes since they are very similar to sweeps from open guard that we use every day - all that is required is some standing gripping skills and some motion and balance breaking skills and you are ready to start your throwing journey. In addition, these takedowns are extremely suitable for the awkward bent over, defensive stances that so many Jiu jitsu athletes favor and which can make many forms of takedown feel difficult to apply. I believe that if Jiu jitsu players started investing time in standing Tomoe nage and sumi gaeshi skills, they would greatly improve their effectiveness in standing position - if you were going to pull guard - why not try these takedowns? Worst case you end up in open guard. Best case you send your opponent flying with a beautiful and acrobatic throw that ends with you two points up on top of a disoriented opponent ready to be attacked on the floor. Make a serious study of these two beautiful and effective takedowns and you will soon have a different standing game!


Position and standing technique

Position and standing technique: From the first day you begin Jiu jitsu you got told the importance of POSITION. Probably you were told that position is more important than anything else and should precede (upper body) submissions. There is a reason why you were told this - because in the vast majority of cases it is true. However, when you were shown standing techniques, all the talk about position was abandoned. You were just shown some random takedowns and told to do them from wherever you were. This is a mistake. THERE ARE JUST AS MANY DEMANDS AND NUANCES IN THE STANDING GAME AS THERE ARE IN THE GROUND GAME - and just like the ground game, getting good position first makes applying the techniques much easier and more successful. Just as position usually precedes (upper body) submission on the floor, position precedes most takedowns on the feet. So what are the dominant positions in the standing game? There are several, but the one I always like to teach first is to constantly seek to get a dominant position OUTSIDE YOUR OPPONENTS ELBOWS. If you can get an advantageous position outside an opponents elbows, most takedown techniques will be easier to apply. When you go to grip up with your opponent - seek to get outside his elbows and either attack directly from there or as your opponent tries to recover and square up with you - having that initial positional advantage will make the takedowns so much easier to apply. Don’t think that position is just something that only applies to the ground game. It’s just as valuable on the feet. Start your journey with the idea of seeking always to get outside your opponents elbows and play from there


Your success or failure in the standing position will come from your mastery of the crucial precursor skills

Your success or failure in the standing position will come from your mastery of the crucial precursor skills: A huge mistake in most Jiu jitsu standing programs is the tendency to teach a set of takedowns as the class curriculum. Students are shown a given move, say a single leg takedown, they drill it for a while and then move to the main component of the class - the ground positions. At best this creates a class of students who can drill the moves - but it never produces a class of students who can perform the moves against a strongly resisting opponent in sparring and competition. A big part of the reason for this is of course, the fact they don’t do any sparring in the standing position; but there is another important reason - THEY ARE NEVER SHOWN THE CRUCIAL PRECURSOR SKILLS OF STANCE, MOTION, GRIP, OFF BALANCING AND POSITION THAT ACTUALLY MAKE THE TAKEDOWNS POSSIBLE AGAINST A RESISTING OPPONENT. In standing grappling, TAKEDOWNS ARE THE CULMINATION OF THE APPLICATION OF PRECURSOR SKILLS THAT HAVE TO BE APPLIED FIRST BEFORE THE TAKEDOWN CAN BE PERFORMED. If those skills are lacking - the takedown will prove impossible the moment the opponent starts resisting. These crucial precursor skills are not sexy - no one gets excited about the prospect of practicing grip fighting, stance or movement - so they get ignored. Just as you can never hope to apply an arm bar on a resisting opponent without learning the precursor skills of passing and pinning and control - you can’t apply a takedown without standing precursor skills and learning takedowns without them is simply not going to be productive - you may look ok doing your drills but you won’t be able to takedown a resisting and competitive opponent. Make sure you spend as much time learning these crucial precursor skills of the standing position as you do takedowns - they may not be as sexy but when the pressure is on they will the factor that makes you successful


Jiu jitsu takedowns - controlling the aftermath of the takedown

Jiu jitsu takedowns - controlling the aftermath of the takedown: A a very distinctive feature of the Jiu jitsu standing game that separates it from many other forms of grappling is THE THREE SECOND RULE which states that takedown points will not be awarded unless the athlete performing the takedown can demonstrate control after the takedown for three seconds where control is understood as the ability to hold an opponents hips, shoulder, side or one knee to the mat for the full three seconds. This is actually extremely difficult. In combat sports THREE SECONDS IS AN AWFULLY LONG TIME. The effect of this rule is that the takedown itself is not really what is valued in Jiu jitsu, rather, what is valued is the AFTERMATH of the takedown - THAT is what you get scored for. In practice your opponent will typically fight to keep his butt/side/shoulder/one knee off the mat. This means the points you score usually come from the scramble AFTER the takedown (rear mount is the most common). As Jiu jitsu students you must pay particular attention to controlling this crucial post takedown phase - very often this is the difference between a winning score versus a tiring scramble that ends with nothing.


The two most significant rules in Jiu jitsu with regards the standing game

The two most significant rules in Jiu jitsu with regards the standing game: There are two rules in Jiu jitsu that make the standing game significantly different from other grappling sports. The first is the THREE SECOND RULE which states that takedowns only score when they exhibit control for three seconds after the takedown where the opponents hips/buttocks/back or knee is kept on the floor for the full three seconds. This is a very difficult criteria to satisfy and in competition often means that the critical three seconds generates a scramble and points are scored in the scramble rather than the takedown per se. The second crucial rule is THE GROUND ENGAGEMENT RULE which states that if an athlete elects to sit to guard position the other athlete MUST engage on the ground. This means you can never force the opponent to a standing match - it has to be something they want to engage in. It is this rule which makes it possible for Jiu jitsu students to completely ignore standing skills (other than the easy skill of pulling guard) and makes it important for us to know how to counter a guard pull - a skill that is not necessary in other grappling arts that don’t have this rule. All of your standing training training in Jiu jitsu has to factor in the effect of these two rules. Takedowns that would score in wrestling or Judo may not score at all in Jiu Jitsu and at any time you may have to abandon the standing game if an opponent sits to the floor. It is important that you adjust your techniques and tactics around these two unique rules of Jiu jitsu - they have a huge effect on the standing game in our sport


Overlap

Overlap: Many of the most popular standing takedowns in Jiu jitsu can also be used as sweeps from guard position on the ground. This really helps the Jiu jitsu student speed the process of learning them as standing takedowns. If you already have a strong single leg sweep from open guard, it won’t be so difficult to lead a single leg takedown from standing position. Once you learn standing set ups and elements of stance and motion etc, everything is quite similar. Quite a few takedowns have very significant overlap with commonly used guard sweeps - double legs, Tomoe nage, sumi gaeshi, collar drags, ankle picks - these (and others) all are excellent takedowns from standing as well as excellent sweeps from the floor. By focusing on these overlap takedowns, the Jiu jitsu student can shorten learning time by taking what is already familiar and applying it in a different context. I’m sure that many of you have been applying these moves as sweeps for many years - it will be easier to apply them from standing once you make the necessary additions than learning an entirely new takedown that has no relation to the ground game you are so familiar with. If you’re looking to develop a good standing takedown game in a short timeframe - ask yourself what some of your favorite guard sweeps are and whether they can be applied in standing position - a surprising number can - perhaps they can be your short cut to developing some takedown skills


Killers on the ground - competent on the feet

Killers on the ground - competent on the feet: Over the years I’ve had the honor of working with many elite grapplers from other grappling styles such as Judo and Wrestling etc. What I noticed is that these fellows were always absolute killers on their feet. Some of them were so skilled that they could literally take their favorite throw and toss someone with it from virtually any grip and even determine which part of their opponents body would land first in the floor. They could grip and then IMMEDIATELY throw/takedown. In addition to being absolute killers on their feet, they were also very competent on the floor. They were not elite level Jiu jitsu on the mat but they certainly weren’t bad (there were a few exceptional athletes such as Flavio Canto and my student Travis Stevens who could match even elite level Jiu Jitsu players on the floor - but they were exceptional). This stood in contrast to many Jiu jitsu players who were absolute killers on the floor but incompetent on their feet. There are some exceptional Jiu jitsu athletes who are very competent in the standing position, but a disturbing number had a real discrepancy between their ground and standing skills. In Jiu jitsu you don’t have to be a world beater in the standing position. No one is expecting you to hang with elite Judo or wrestling athletes whose primary focus is standing grappling - but you owe it to yourself to at least be COMPETENT at standing skills. When you train work with the ethos that you will become A KILLER ON THE GROUND AND COMPETENT ON YOUR FEET. That is an ideal that is easily attainable for us all and will make your eventual mastery of the sport much more rewarding and well rounded and give you a deeper understanding of the sport we love