Shoulder Lock and the Structure of the Triangle (diary entry)



The sixth lesson in my client’s second course in MMA for Martial Arts Cross Training followed on from the trapped arm/scissor guard position and then began revising the basic submissions in closed guard.


We warmed up on the focus mitts with some straight blitzing. We then built onto this with sprawls and combined this action with upward knee strikes. This creates a type of sport-specific burpee for MMA. Then we moved through some basic ground drills, including sit-throughs and triangle crunches. Looking at the leg triangle as an exercise, we covered the shoulder stand and dragon flags. These movements are excellent for developing the structure of this common underneath attack position.


When I first learnt submission fighting I recalled having serious problems getting the triangle choke to work despite it being a basic move. I was committing of superficial training. I could get the shape, but I didn’t understand the mechanics of the move. So long as I had my legs wrapped around the area I wanted to attack all I became concerned about was tightening up. For ages I would find myself squeezing with my legs as hard as possible without my opponent showing any signs of tapping. I practised and my game improved by being adjusted by good (see patient) coaches until finally I started getting somewhere. I remember Kevin Webb from Braulio Estima’s Gracie Barra class yelling for me to pull the head down when I caught someone in the hold. It got me the submission, but we all knew it was far from the purest execution of the move. Later, through learning from Kevin as well as Rob Stevens and Braulio’s other superb generation of teachers in Birmingham, I realised the importance of the hip movement behind the legs, the full engagement of the core muscles behind the hips and the positioning that makes it all work. The triangle is involved in many techniques from the guard and it even be used as a very handy sweep when all else fails.


My experiences made me think more about neural pathways, muscle memory and muscle activation in relation to the development of strong techniques. When I was teaching my own self-defence/MMA class to children I noticed how smaller students were having particular difficulty in sweeping larger opponents when they were being stacked. I took the move back home and explored better functional core activation. I went to something of an extreme by doing work on a solo trapeze, but it helped create a better awareness of the use of the right muscles involved in the fighting from the guard.


Back to the lesson at hand, and we completed the trapped-arm scissor guard series of tactics with the shoulder lock (aka oma plata). We then looked at its aforementioned use as a sweep in response from the stacking position.


We then revised closed guard and looked at the standard arm bar. After going over the technical side, we started doing some muscle memory exercises. The lesson finished with a flow drill that included striking with hammer-fists whilst attacking with the arm-bar from side to side.



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