Tuesday, May 19, 2020

There are no secrets: Don't let them sell you a re-invented wheel

There is good technique. There is good understanding of fundamentals. The myth of the natural is not something that I'm even going to bother debunking. If you believe some people have some large innate advantage I'm not going to waste time convincing you otherwise. My short response is that natural advantage is an easy fall back to explain small differences multiplied over time for which you cannot account or an unwillingness to examine to what extent you actually prioritize your craft.

Moving on...on my Instagram I've been posting over the past few weeks old school primarily Japanese leg lock finishes from Shooto and even smaller tournaments (Lumax) that can be found on YouTube & UFC Fight Pass. I post them as proof that the same baseline leg locks we see in grappling and MMA aren't new. Nothing is new. Perhaps the structure of how it is taught, or the prevalence of venues which allow them has broaded/deepened, but the base principles of attacking the leg are not new. You could argue that new forms of lapel guard did not exist in competitive Jiu-Jitsu in much capacity until you saw some Lapel-oplata or were limited to ideas such as threading the lapel between the leg ala Bernardo Faria or Saggioro more recently, but by and large there has been some obviously discernible change in the form, function, and utility of lapel aided Jiu-Jitsu. I don't, or have yet, to see much in the old school leg locks that doesn't exactly mimic the "new age" or "contemporary" leg locking systems. The Danaher/Renzo "control the second leg" or "double trouble" and handfight to the finish is unseen in old MMA footage and Shooto but as back then it was MMA, as the main leg locking venue, you often saw the attack of the leg from giving up top position and diving on the sole leg. The core set of finishing leg entanglement positions is laregely unchanged or improved upon. The comprehension and systemitization by Cummings and Danaher (and to what extent who deserves credit is a matter of debate depending who you ask) are the true additions of merit. Their use in competition in a non-MMA setting also is a venue for a true deep dive into modifying and discarding theories regarding grip, breaking mechanics, transitions, and escapes.

All the Instagram fluff leg locks you see with 14 different grip switches never turn up in MMA or even in competitive grappling for a reason. They're not real and even if they were it would mean you were in such control of your opponent and anticipating their reactions that you would have been able to tap them 7 transitions previously anyway. If anything, the access to information thanks to the internet has led to some improvements in awareness and defense but this is still laregly misunderstood because guys are basing their efficacy of defense on utilizing it against their training partners who themselves are sub par leg lockers. I don't care about what works in your gym against your students. I don't care about your whatever system that works at local tournaments in an area with no serious competitors showing up.

The most valuable insight I got from Eddie Cummings was "the biggest threat to your JiuJitsu is not what doesn't work, but what seems to work, or works against sub-optimal opposition." I'm paraphrasing but that always stuck with me.
The biggest threat to your JiuJitsu is spending time on positions which cannot be reliably forced/achieved against knowledgable opposition. Sure, the palm to palm grip counter foot lock from double trouble works, but knowledgeable guys don't get tapped by it or don't even let their foot be placed there. Sure the calf-slicer is a submission, but the opponent has to not be paying attention or react incorrectly to the position/hips relative to the lock to get tapped. Et cetera.

When you start competing, even at the Advanced/Expert/whatever level, you start to realize how many of your opponents either panic tap, or get tapped due to a lack of competent defense. You didn't overwhelm knowledgable opposition, you had an iron age weapon vs a bronze or stone age weapon. This is only exacerbated by a black belt with a school who's crafting programs based on beating their own students who already often have some deeply subsconscious pedestal effect they put onto their coach even while rolling or while they inadvertently find themselves in a dominant/advantageous position.

In the Gi, the transitions are different, especially without reaping across the hip. The grips of a top position player to pass and backstep are also more formidable. Being a competent NoGi leg locker is not the same as tapping a competitive adult black belt with positional awareness. My point in all this is that the real secret is in training methodology and positional training to develop nuanced understanding of the reactions and transitions of knowledgable opposition. Crafting theory in the training room is ONLY the beginning of developing and hammering out a truly matrix level understanding of a position. A guy like Lucas Leite comes to mind. He has competed absolute, Gi, NoGI, and for years on end continually modified and refined his outside/Coyoto half-guard position. Sean Spangler, a previous coach of mine knew more about head/arm choke/front head lock variations than anyone I've yet to encounter in person or online. This has been a long term project of his for well over a decade.

This indefatiguable pursuit of experties is the true mark of what I define as a "professional" and also the basis upon which I discard standard explanations of "heart" and "luck" or "natural" or "secret" explanations and above all the "reinventing the wheel" phase we seem to be in to varying degrees in JiuJitsu.

A primary motivation of mine for teaching is the efficacy of systems. You can discredit the takedowns I teach based on my background in Judo and MMA as not working for JiuJitsu, but if folks with no combat sports background can repeatedly score with components of the takedown curriculum I teach and implement, then it's a different conversation. 

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