Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movement and Flowing

I have been emphasizing movement and flow the last few months, and will continue to do so the next year or so. The objective is to get comfortable in our own skin, improve coordination and balance, build muscle memory and functional strength and stamina using movements that you use in grappling, not lifting weights or other isometric exercises that may or may not benefit our grappling.

Takedowns & throws
I started initially by ensuring a good takedown base, by implementing takedown training as a warm up, giving my students 20 minutes or so takedown practice every class. Takedowns are important, and the confidence to shoot will only come from practice, which regrettably I have to admit, I didn't concentrate on for years.

The objective is for my students to gain confidence and have at least ONE "go to" takedown, one takedown that he is confident in and use like his second nature. Like a favourite standup combination. This will be useful in a competition, or if need be on the street. By then it is too late to decide which takedown in a few hundred to apply, you must already have your favourite.

Movement drills
I have been implementing animal movement drills for warmup and warmdowns the last couple of months, not with the intention of it being a workout, but a warmup/down. Get the body comfortable with moving a certain way.

Here are a few examples of animal movement drills on Youtube, my current students will be familiar with most of them:

Animal drills, the majority of them demonstrated

Andre Galvao mixing animal drills with tornado rolls, throw drills etc.

I will be implementing with these animal drills, tornado rolls, wrestling shoots and sitouts etc for warmups and warmdowns.

Light Rolling
Lastly, and I have been trying this for years with varying success, I will want to continue pushing for the technical "light" roll.

I first started with just generically telling my students to roll light. Some more experienced students got it, others did not. The issue is, how light is light? If you let them go too easily, we started seeing unrealistic WWE escapes (rolling backwards out of back control to a backwards mount???) and slightest push reversals which IMO does not benefit the students technically

I then tried letting my students take turns, similar to what the CM guys in the gym call the "tennis drill" these days for their standup sparring. This is where one student will attack, then the other will defend, then the first counter, and the other counter again. This worked to a certain extent, but it gave an unrealistic sense of timing, and the student being countered against flopped too easily.

Then I started trying out what I call "cops and robbers". One person will continuously attack, flowing from one attack to another, but only using 50% weight and strength, while the other will be flowing from one escape to another. This again did benefit the advanced students, but the beginners had a hard time understanding it and implementing it.

Then I started my "Taking and keeping initiative roll" by one student lying down in a reverse scissors position. Not exactly a guard, but with the other person between the legs, its more or less a neutral position IMO. Again varying levels of success. The advanced student will eventually take and keep the initiative, the lower skilled student will end up underneath.

I will try another approach in the coming classes, I call it my "three second initiative roll". This means one student will take the initiative for 3 seconds, the partner does not flop but try to stay where he is, then the other partner goes for 3 seconds for his escape/attack/move. If one person can only do one move within that 3 seconds, so be it, if he can go 2-3 moves, good too. The objective is to stay light, but flow as much as you can within your 3 seconds.

This overcomes the common problem of when do you start your counter attack? If he is passing your guard, do you let him pass all the way to a control position, or do you work your counters to guard passing before he gets a control? The above drills I attempted always have this issue, when do you initiate your counter without discouraging the lightness of the roll and making the roll competitive and tight.

Here is a great example

Fabio Gurgel and Leo Vieira rolling light.

Notice that they are not clamping down, but there is a distinct rhythm, not so much each take a turn, but roughly a 3 second initiative each one takes once they hit the ground.

No doubt these are world champions, at the top echelons of BJJ mastery. But thats the objective, and the goal. 

Have fun! And remember to "Play Jiu Jitsu, not Fight Jiu Jitsu"

Sam Wee is the head instructor for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) at the KDT Academy (, Malaysia and has been teaching BJJ since 2003.