This Saturday I taught a special 2-hour workshop for the Oxford School of Martial Arts on Ground-Fighting. My mandate was to help prepare prospective candidates for the last half hour of their black belt karate grading, focusing on one specific area. This grading involves 30 minutes of non-stop low rules sparring whereby it is highly likely that the candidates will end up on the ground and fighting from their backs. My approach to preparing these students was to make them aware of movement whilst dealing with strikes and to get to strong control positions from underneath.
We warmed up with a series of ground-related exercises. This began with various crawls as well as some stand-up grappling drills – sprawl/double-leg takedown – and snaking/shrimping, including side-winders. Some of the top position exercises – crawls – were also performed as agility exercises. With muscle activation and familiarisation with the ground in place, we moved onto some simple partner drills.
The first partner drill consisted of flowing between pins and escapes. This began with one partner establishing a pin and then the other partner reversing it or countering. We then changed this to overlapping thereby preparing the person being pinned to counter before the pin was properly established. Finally, we layered in striking. The striking element immediately changed the dynamic, making movements tighter and interrupting flow. This served as an introduction to the “feel” of striking on the ground where the positioning/transitioning of submission grappling is fused with striking attacks and defences. This exercise can include a sparring element whereby the order to “fight” can be made whilst drilling and both students work with full resistance from wherever they have ended up in the exercise. This brief period should quickly then be reverted back to drilling and so on.
Going back to building a strong foundation in movement and positioning, I introduced a guard flow-drill. This exercise chained together closed guard, spider-guard, butterfly guard and half-guard. The drill emphasised blocking the hips and hooking the legs. The hip always has to be blocked before the fighter hooks a leg into the new guard position. Once the leg/foot positioning was confirmed, we moved onto arm positioning for control. This part involves wrist control, under-hooks and head control, depending on the guard. The final phase of developing this drill is to first isolate the cover from each position and then to integrate it with the arm and leg positioning. Throughout the drill the student in top position throws strikes at every available opening and can even defend under-hooks and test the cover.
We then looked at certain control positions, starting with the spider-guard. This is not what I was traditionally taught to be a spider-guard, but it might and has been argued to be this position in its rawest form. The position involves the defender having both their feet on their opponent’s hips and attempts to make distance. We then turned this into a specific sparring exercise where the defender’s objective is to perform a hip escape and stand back up but also has the option of pulling full closed guard whilst the opponent strikes and attempts to prevent the fighter from standing.
We then moved onto the half-guard where we looked at the lockdown position and the difference between an MMA half-guard and one that is generally used in a more point-orientated system. I covered the knee-shield to fight from a distance and the under-hook to attack the back or to sweep from the dog-fight position.
Oxford School of Martial Arts were a hard-working group of teenagers who gave this workshop their all. They were a pleasure to teach and a credit to their teacher, Mary Stevens. Great work guys!
Some remarkably relevant videos for further research: