Takedown defence training continued tonight with a focus on regaining a standing position and the use of strikes. We warmed up with our usual mobility exercises building onto grappling-style calisthenics and then we went into some basic techniques.
Two important factors – internal and external – were addressed within the psychology, strategy and muscle memory of this current subject.
Firstly, we have the internal. By internal I am talking about the fighter’s self, so to speak. He needs to programme in behaviours that will stand fast against his opponent’s persuasions. He needs to not get side-tracked and pulled into another game. Although it is quite primal to resist being thrown such stubbornness can easily be circumvented and manipulated by a half-skilled opponent who wants to get a takedown. It is also primal for an unbalanced fighter to be drawn into a symmetrical ground fight and to lose sight of the main strategy. It is important to build a proactive behaviour of either staying on your feet or regaining your footing. Training both these areas complement each other and reinforce the importance of the fighter’s objective: not to be thrown or pulled into a ground game. Last week we looked at reversing or countering throws with takedowns. Although this is part of the takedown defence area of study it is an optional pathway from the main game-plan: staying rooted. Therefore the fighter needs to train exercises that start with the fighter having their balance challenged and end with the fighter standing.
Secondly, we have the external. I use the word “external” to describe what the fighter to projecting onto his opponent. He needs to “teach” his opponent not to attempt to take him down. The fighter does this by the draconian yet very effective method of teaching anything: he punishes. This is where the striking comes in and, as you will see, low-line takedowns can leave an opponent very vulnerable. The most efficient way to do this is to unleash damaging strikes from takedown-proof bases. The revolution in the world of mixed martial arts came from the wrestlers that learnt how to kickbox. This is what gave birth to sprawl ‘n brawl and ground ‘n pound. The base or stance needs to be strong enough to withstand the throw or sweep and then seamlessly blended with powerful and rapid strikes. If the opponent isn’t actually finished by this response he needs to be driven onto the back-foot with a clear message: do not try to take this fighter down!
Grounded to Standing
The fighter began under the mount. This is one of the worst positions for a takedown defender fighter to end up in. From here the fighter defended by covering up, bridging and turning in order to end up in his opponent’s guard. From there he maintained a strong base so he could not be easily swept, began striking – the modern classic ground ‘n pound tactic – and quickly transitioned to a standing position, where he stacked and continued striking his opponent. The entire motion was drilled as a seamless action of escape and counter-attack as a partner activity. This was then trained as a solo exercise to focus on the individual movements. The fighter has to watch out that he doesn’t collapse between the bridging motion and the kneeling position, maintaining the gap created by the initial bumping action. From here he jumps to his knees and then repeats the entire action. Prior to linking all of this we broke down these different actions as exercises in their own right. Bridging was trained on its own and then bridging to kneeling. Next jumping from knees to a solid stacking stance was trained. Then we added a weight, which had to be borne through the bridging action and then cleaned off the ground with the jump. Finally the training partner was reintroduced and he acted as a coach holding focus mitts for the striking in the guard parts of the exercise.
Sprawling to Straight Knee
We then covered the sprawl again. For the purposes of revision we drilled the sprawl into an anaconda choke. Strictly speaking, this is a counter grappling technique best suited to the previous lesson’s area of study. Nevertheless, it was worth covering as we hadn’t trained it for a while and it’s a good default grip for a fighter to go to rather than double-overhooks which can be easily countered unless you can pull off a pile-driver! Anyway, once we went back over this we looked at the striker’s response. Here the fighter drove his legs back and hip down into a sprawl and then digs his elbows into the opponent’s upper back, holding a type of guarding position. Then he follows this action up with a knee strike to the head. As with the sprawl ‘n brawl sequence, we also broke this technique down into a series of individual movements.
Sprawling is an excellent conditioning exercise that can be performed as a type of martial arts/grappling burpee. The fighter sprawls and squat thrusts back to his feet for a series of intensive repetitions. By using kettlebells and dumbbells he can add resistance and an explosive action using a clean at the end of the movement whereby the weights are brought quickly up into the racked position. Last week we trained the barbell deadlift version at the end of the lesson. When you think about the pull of gravity that an opponent will increase when a fighter is trying to stop a takedown the importance of cleans and deadlifts as auxiliary exercises becomes apparent. Within this context the explosiveness of the sprawl is especially important. When countering with a grappling technique the fighter looks to tie up the arms. In this particular instance we are looking to have as clear way as possible for the fighter to send forward a powerful knee strike. I am not saying that a fighter cannot play it safer and do a type of hybrid whereby he ties the hands and/or neck up in order to throw the knee, but it will restrict the potency of the knee strike.
We then broke down the important transitioning phase of the sprawl to straight knee strike. The straight knee, especially when delivered in the fashion mainly used by nak muay and other Southeast Asian kickboxing stylists, can be the most devastating strikes a fighter can throw. Its reliability to get a knockout when thrown to the head, mark it out as a valuable tool in any striker’s arsenal whether we are looking at full-contact completion or self-defence. A good part of its success comes from the way it extends through the target with the fighter finishing the movement on the ball of his supporting foot. This ensures a strong penetration of the target.
A pretty decent description of the rear straight knee strike in isolation.
Another reason for its power is its close proximity to its driving force, which is provided by the core muscles and the supporting leg. The arms also provide the pendulum action that is often the deadly ingredient to most Muay Thai kicks. In this instance, however, the arms are somewhat restricted by the opponent’s body. In order compensate for this lack of leverage and to capitalise on the gap created by the sprawl the fighter needs come out of the sprawl in a low straight leg lunge position. From here he has more space than usual to accelerate his straight knee strike, driving it forwards and upwards into the exposed face of the opponent. We trained throwing a straight knee from a deep lunge to encourage firing the muscles from this transitional position. This entire action can always be improved with timing. The fighter needs to practise releasing downward pressure onto his opponent’s back as he drives his knee close to the target.
This footage isn’t exactly what we were drilling, but nonetheless gives you an idea.
In addition to the weighted bridging to standing exercises covered earlier on in the lesson and the sprawling exercises covered later, we trained two other specific strength movements. Looking at shoulder health from a grappling perspective I had my client perform some kettlebell/dumbbell “armbars”. This particular exercises is excellent for targeting the range of movement the arm is put threw when being attacked by kimuras and various other hyperextensions.
We also covered the weighted, bridging rolling deck squat. This is a regular recommendation of mine for promoting a good coordination and active engagement of the muscle groups required for a speedy recovery from being grounded. The much easier rolling combat base squat is also recommended for obvious reasons.
The below example does not include the bridging action: