Riz's Martial Arts Training

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The Difference Between MMA & Self Defence

Not so long ago, terms such as 'Karate' or 'Kung Fu' were synonymous with self defence. Indeed a black belt was revered as a master of what appeared to be mystical arts showcasing inhuman feats of strength, aggression, and agility - maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but the belief that black belts could defend themselves to almost superhuman levels was fairly widespread.

The MMA scene reduced these superhumans to mere mortals wearing funny white pyjamas...some of these masters became laughing stocks for the world to see. People became hugely sceptical of the vast majority of Traditional Martial Arts (especially any 'Internal' Arts), which was only natural given the situation and frankly, a lack of public understanding regarding martial arts, sport combat, and self defence scenarios.

Though, I'm sure this issue must have by now been addressed in-depth by a plethora of knowledgeable martial artists more articulate than me, I'm going to explain the topic from my understanding. MMA fighters are immensely talented individuals; the sport is easily one of the most demanding of those commonly practiced in the world today. However, MMA (really, I mean Combat Sport in general) is not self defence training - MMA is a rule set.

The Basics

Let's start by examining the differences between ring fighting and a simple brawl. In my opinion the key difference is 'emotional content' (as phrased by Bruce Lee). While aggression and getting fired up is common in MMA, they are not akin to the anger and the intent as presented in a self defence situation. A MMA fight is not personal (in most cases!), self defence is nothing but personal - allow me to clarify at this point, a fight is not self defence; a fight (even just a drunken street fight) requires both (or more) parties to, at least subconsciously, agree to the confrontation. 

Self defence revolves around survival - it is the necessary response to an attack of malicious intent. The victim (for lack of a more apt termis not in the mental mindset to fight. As such, self defence isn't about winning, it's about not losing (...your life).

(Of course, I fully concur that what starts as self defence can easily develop into a fight, and that fight can then continue into an attack on the original attacker once the 'fight' is over. But I think the point at hand is clear...)

The devastating effects of a 'sucker punch' are well-known. World class fighters have been knocked unconscious by an unexpected punch before or after their fight - in many of these occasions, the so-called 'knockout punch' would hardly have phased the fighter during the course of the fight (probably because of the adrenaline dump powering him on) - a clear warning isn't always available in street encounters. This leads to the next factor, matchmaking.

All Combat Sports involve some form of preceding matchmaking. Matches are usually made according to weights and comparative abilities. For example, you would be matched against someone of around the same weight (5-10 lbs either way) and of a relatively comparable skill level in order to ensure the safety of fighters as well as in hopes of securing an exciting match. i.e. If I became an MMA competitor, I wouldn't have to ever worry about fighting Fedor unless he or I respectively lost or gained substantial weight (and I by some miracle was deemed to be worthy of the Fedor's fists).

Destiny/Luck (or lack thereof;) is what determines your opponent in a self defence situation (and to some extent in a 'standard' street fight/brawl) - you could be fighting a 'moronic meathead' (standard training dummy) or you could be positioned against a trained fighter on amphetamines.

Combat Sports prepare you to focus exclusively on your opponent and ignore any distractions occurring outside of the ring/octagon/mats etc -not a very helpful skill should any passerby/witness choose to join in the attack (scarily, this is a relatively common occurrance!). You are prepared to react only when you know an attack is coming; your guard is already up. Street situations do not allow for this luxury, which is why most traditional martial arts dedicate years to slowly cultivating a state of relaxed alertness, referred to as Zanshin ("remaining mind") in Japanese arts. Jean-Claude Van Damme famously positioned himself for a barrage of insults following his Franglais assertion, Je suis AWARE.

Of course, Zanshin isn't quite a Spidey Sense - it is simply a healthy awareness of one's surroundings developed through training different forms of kumite ("sparring") and other such exercises. It is not a trait exclusive to Japanese martial arts practitioners by any means; most seasoned bouncers and security personnel develop zanshin unconsciously whilst on-the-job.

Self defence (or street fights in general) do not involve any kind of regulations - the gloves are off (pardon the pun) and anything is legal. Biting, pinching, eye-gouging, hair pulling and striking to the groin are examples that scratch the surface of the attack possibilities present in a street fight than do not coincide with MMA training. I'm not suggesting that MMA fighters are unable to perform these techniques, I'm saying that such techniques may be less instinctive to an MMA fighter than to say, a Krav Maga expert (...that said, Krav Maga in my opinion, is one of those few styles that can easily result in the victim being given a longer prison sentence than the assailant). 

Furthermore, there is no determined time limit to the fight. While most fights are believed to last between 90 and 180 seconds (longer when groups are involved), most self defence situations are resolved (for good or bad) within a minute. 

Remember: A situation can end following a simple slip of the feet; there is no canvas ring/octagon - one could hit his head on the curb. Many deaths have occurred from falls in street fights.

Let's talk about equipment - most safety equipment used in combat sports is for the sake of both fighters. Wearing gloves reduce the risk of breaking your knuckles or hand-bone (in case the punch lands on your opponent's elbow or square on his forehead); gloves also provide support to the wrists which are known to buckle under impact or falls. When on the receiving end, gloves reduce the risk of being cut or breaking any facial bones; while increasing the chance of being knocked out - in fact, this was one of the primary reasons to introduce heavier gloves into boxing. Prior to this, many of the blows that now usually result in knockouts would more likely result in broken teeth, cheekbones, noses...but no knockout. 

There is also a factor of the equipment not used in MMA - knives, guns, bats, bottles, chairs etc. Regardless of one's training, a weapon in the attacker's possession always complicates matters - relatively speaking, very few people (even those trained in weapon-based styles) would feel comfortable when the pointy end is facing them. Whilst many martial artists may have some experience training against weapons (or at the least, understand how the rules of a fight change completely when weapons are involved), pure Combat Sport fighters have no experience in such occurrences (unless they've looked into it personally). 

Groundfighting in Self Defence

Groundfighting (while necessary to know...to an extent) is its own jar of sour pickles when it comes to self defence. For a start, on the ground you're vulnerable to damage from anything that's on the ground - if you're in a bar or club, this could involve broken bottles; or if you're on the roadside, this could be sharp rocks or sand getting kicked in your face. 

Tackling multiple assailants whilst standing is an impressive feat - even if you're not able to beat them, you may be able to bump and shove them before making a dash (...you could always take a page out of Musashi's book and try fighting them in a doorway or narrow alley...though this is tenuous at best) - Doing it whilst on your back is a near impossibility (unless your assailants are completely and utterly incompetent...no, I mean more hapless than those guys from the Home Alone movies - what? it's Christmas, it's on TV all the time) - even Rickson Gracie made the clear point that if you roll with two guys that are determined to beat you, one way or another you're going to lose (I should point out here though, that he also stated that if you use BJJ correctly, in most self defences situations - you'll remain standing whilst your assailant is 'rolling'). Groundfighting is great on the mats, but realise that it is learnt only as a necessary precaution in self defence. 

And I say the following out of pure speculation (but it makes some sense to me): If it is a female that has been attacked in what could be a potential rape situation, pulling the attacker into closed guard may only arouse him more - certainly, the arousal may be short-lived if the defender breaks his arm a moment later but, I imagine that short period of arousal against the woman's body may leave some emotional scarring that simply kicking your attacker in the balls and running away would not. ...Just speculation....This of course won't be true in many cases....

The Disclaimer

This is the part where I tell you that I have absolutely nothing but respect and admiration for Mixed Martial Arts and its practitioners. I'm not saying in any way that MMA isn't effective in self defence - in many ways, MMA practitioners are much more prepared for self defence situations than many so-called TMA artists. MMA practitioners tend to have higher levels of fitness and better body conditioning as well as being accustomed to the full contact nature of street encounters (though randori or jissen are often talked about, relatively few TMA schools really devote sufficient time to their training - though I hasten to add, this doesn't necessarily refer to no time limit, no-holds-barred-to-the-death-style training...but rather to training techniques in a variety of situations against a moderately resisting opponent who is able to counter and/or break attempts at attack). 

I'm not interested in arguing which is better - that's really just a matter of personal opinion as to which discipline better fulfils your personal goals (the assumption of a linear comparison is not really well thought out anyways). Personally, I see relatively little difference between MMA and TMA - to me, MMA isn't really a style of martial arts but rather the utilisation of different aspects of TMAs to function under a rule set (I'm not too fond of these new guys who have no background in any one style/particular strength but are just 'okay' at everything...). 

The major difference I find is that TMA's are not for fighting - they are primarily for self defence. As such, they both have extraordinarily different learning curves (that is, MMA can be learnt faster but will not help you as much when you get older; TMAs are much slower to learn but can still be very effectively utilised when you've passed your physical prime). 

Fighting is an integral aspect to both disciplines, but for TMAs, it is something that follows self defence - it does not define 'self defence'. And that's really the message I'm trying to get across in this very long post. While Combat Sports can be very effective for self defence, their practices are not an example of self defence; there are other effective options available given that they are trained correctly. 


The Heel Hook

The Heel Hook is a leg lock technique affecting multiple joints, applied by transversal foot twist (rotating the heel). The rotation torques the joints (and ligaments) of the ankle and more so, those of the knee - the submission is simple to apply from a wide variety of positions. It's also one of few techniques used in Karate that translates seamlessly into the BJJ method of groundfighting.

Its versatility and effectiveness has made the heel hook popular with submission fighters from a variety of disciplines. However, the technique has a high risk of injury and has been banned in many competitions. Resulting injuries from a heel hook can be very severe and can quite literally end a fighter's career. Consequently, the submission is banned in a lot of clubs - be sure to find out whether you're allowed to use it at yours. Use the move with caution (if at all!). Here's a video of the inverted heel hook explained by Bas Rutten:

Key Points to Remember:

  • Lock your opponent's foot tight under your armpit (I find the Gable Grip is the best to use).
  • For maximum effect with the submission, be sure to twist your entire upper torso, not just turn your arms (though this is sometimes enough!).
  • Finally, remember this is an extraordinarily simple move - it can be applied from almost any position with relative ease.

Here are a few of my favourite transitions into the Heel Hook:

  • From the single-leg takedown.
  • While attempting to pass your opponent's guard.
  • From the basic X-Guard sweep (Toe-hold ankle lock works really well from here too).
  • As a counter to someone trying to get his butterfly hooks in (though this has a low success rate, it will frustrate people to no end!).

If you're ever caught in a heel hook, make sure to tap as soon as you feel it. The pain caused by the submission is relatively bearable until after you are already injured - at which point, you'll curse yourself for being born with legs. True story.

Using the heel hook is like selling your soul to the devil - the offer is incredibly alluring. Once you nail that submission and realise how easy and effective it is, you develop a thirst to go for it again and again. And by the time you realise how dangerous it can be - you have probably already hurt someone.

Personally, I often avoid using the heel hook as a submission - even though, it is one of my favourite and most natural-feeling techniques - I tend to just position myself to apply the submission without fully cranking the technique (just tightening your grip will result in a few submissions) before transitioning to something else. 
Be sensible. Don't be a heel hook slut.

On a side note: If you want to see someone who was absolutely merciless (read: "showed absolutely no concern for his opponents' wellbeing") with the heel hook, here's a clip of Ken Shamrock in his glory days against Leon Dijk:


Kata In Karate

Kata (in the context of Karate) can be loosely defined as pre-determined sequences of movements and techniques practiced alone or with a partner. They are commonly believed to simulate combat situations though beliefs of how and how well they simulate these situations vary from person to person.

Kata are widely considered an inherent part of karate training - to be complete as a karateka, you need to practice basics, kata and sparring (for those of you that read, 'The Triangle Hypothesis' - this is in similar fashion).

Most Karate styles incorporate kata as a fundamental aspect of their syllabus though different styles choose to adopt and teach different kata that tend to reflect the respective karate style (thus sometimes, kata is described as a style's "blueprint").

For example, while Shotokan kata are originally known to have derived from some older Shorin Ryu technique sets, the evolution of the style (in particular, the influence of the 1950s karate competition scene) has seen the kata place great value on aesthetic form - an indicator of this is that bunkai ("analysis") must be extracted and to an extent, moulded from the kata (which has lead to some questionable applications!). Ashihara kata, in stark contrast, appear to lack any aesthetic formality as each technique is akin to a stripped down application. Goju Ryu (in my limited experience of the style) provides a middle ground in which the traditional basic karate techniques are formatted in kata rooted in self defence applications - these kata appear to use more close quarter applications than those of the Shotokan and Ashihara styles (though, I suspect Hideyuki Ashihara's uncompleted 'Goshin no Kata' set (Self Defence Kata) intended to focus on close range encounters and techniques).

Kata are often discredited (especially in online forums!) due to misunderstandings - some of these perpetuated by poorly informed karateka. Recently, I read an article written by a Karate-sensei in a fairly well-known martial arts magazine which stated that kata should almost be considered a "dance" to help drill balance and basic techniques; and that kata would never really help in a realistic self-defence situation... funnily enough, this was this particular sensei's argument of why kata IS beneficial! I should point out that this same individual wrote that the main aims of traditional karate were life lessons/morality and good health - that self defence is not really a focus in the art! (The gentleman is of course, entitled to his opinion but I disagree - in my opinion, while personal development and fitness are an integrated part of the art, I feel that 'self defence' is the most central aspect of karate.)

While I agree wholeheartedly that kata on their own will probably not teach anyone how to defend themselves; I strongly believe that kata in appropriate conjunction with basics and sparring will serve only to enhance the practitioner. Basics teach you the techniques; Sparring allows you to apply your techniques; Kata present to you a 'roadmap' of how the techniques can be applied - 'premeditated shadow-boxing' if you will. 

Can you learn to defend yourself without learning kata? Absolutely. Many arts do not utilise kata, but almost all arts encourage the practitioner to repeatedly practice pre-defined combinations/sequences or some form of shadow-boxing.


The benefits of practicing kata can be considered three-tiered, depending upon one's experience with the art:

Beginners: Practicing kata is developing 'muscle memory' (this is why many kata require you to perform every technique from both sides) and learning to sequence basic techniques into combinations with the proper footwork.

Intermediates: Above + an introduction to 'fighting karate' - Bunkai within the kata introduces intermediates to more advanced karate principles and techniques such as throws and grapples.

Advanced: Provides samples of how karate can be effectively used in real situations; Allows karateka the opportunity to search for bunkai/application so as to deepen their own knowledge of karate techniques and combinations - this is the point where karate becomes a completely individual and unique art. It can be dynamic or rigid, a soft style or a hard style, dependent on the strengths and preferences of the karateka.

Suggested Exercises

Beginners: Practice your kata - it builds discipline (this is common sense, but sometimes common sense isn't very common!). Practice it at different speeds. Try it as fast as you can (but don't sacrifice technique or stance). Slow it down; tense your entire body with every technique you perform. And just for fun (not on a regular basis!), see what happens when you change your footwork - overstep, shorten steps etc ...learn why footwork is so stressed.

Intermediates: By now you should realise that kata is not just a sequence of moves and shouts. It is a physical textbook; with every technique, you are turning a page. The problem is that not enough people know how to read this physical textbook and instead treat it as a picture book –the vast amounts of knowledge in kata then become lost.

Bear in mind, all of this can be learnt without studying kata. There are always alternatives. Kata is just the chosen route of most karate systems as it acts as a pre-prepared manual for attack and defence based on the traditional karate systems - it is a memoir of sorts; charting the preferences of many of the early karate masters. This doesn't necessarily mean that every technique in kata will be perfect for you, but it is a great place to get started. Start treating kata as a reference, not a demonstration. (Zen-like analogies end here, promise.) 

Practice your kata but with a twist. Start from Kamae (fighting stance). Perform every technique as you feel the application to it works. E.g. Age uki ('rising block' as shown in the illustration) might be a hair grab (using the straight preparation arm) followed by an elbow/forearm bash from the inside line (blocking arm). 

If you feel stuck for variety, consider the following concept: 'Every time two parts of your body meet during the kata, there is strong potential for a grapple, sweep, or throw.' This exercise can even be done with a partner however, be sure not to stray away from the basic movements of the kata - form dictates function.

Advanced: ....you should be giving me tips and exercises.

At an advanced level, one can look at further studying kata in their historical contexts - perhaps the kata may have been designed to provide defence against armed assailants?; dissect why it is put together the way it is (and I don't mean in just a 'yay! let's prove the old masters right sort of way...look at it critically, use some logical judgement); examine popular examples of bunkai and see for yourself how they feel - after all, some interpretations may be.... 'poorly suited'. And finally, extract your own 'oyo bunkai' from the kata - and I really mean your own - not just something you think looks good/correct, but something you feel complements your individual style of karate - the technique's function dictates your form.

Socrates phrased it nicely: "To find yourself, think for yourself."


Half Guard: Old School Sweep

The 'Old School' is a high percentage sweep from Half Guard, which is traditionally used following a successful Whip Up. It’s another technique popularised by Eddie Bravo, though he states in his book ‘Mastering the Rubber Guard’ that he’s heard of someone named ‘Gordo’ that had been using it successfully before him (“...since the dawn of time”).

The sweep is ideally performed using the momentum of the Whip Up – as you whip up to your side, weave your inside arm to latch onto your opponent's faraway foot around the toes. The Lockdown remains tight through to this point. Next, pulling his foot inwards towards you, release the Lockdown and slide around his body to establish Side Control (or if you’re quick, the Mount). Here is a video clip of the guys at Submissions 101 going through it during a class:

Key Points to Remember:

  • Keep the Lockdown held tight until you’ve grabbed your opponent’s foot and are transitioning into the sweep.
  • Make sure to keep your outside under hook – the grip is ideally just above your opponent’s hip.
  • Be sure to grab your opponent’s foot around his toes – not his ankle, or leg/trouser leg.
  • The Old School Sweep can be worked relatively easily against much larger opponents but only as long as you keep it tight! Work on keeping every part of your body as tight as possible to your opponent's whilst performing the sweep.  

Should your opponent predict the sweep (as your training partners definitely will...eventually), it is likely that he/she will extend his/her leg preventing you from gripping the foot. In such a scenario, establishing a butterfly hook is pretty easy; you could also simply use the extra space to establish Full Guard.

Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet system actually lays out an intricate Half Guard game with a myriad of different options detailed in ‘Mastering the Rubber Guard’ – a book that I will no doubt review in due course! 


Half Guard: The Whip Up

Once you establish the Lockdown with double under hooks, you have some options available (the most obvious of these is simply to stall in what is a solid hold on your opponent’s leg) but, to really capitalise on the Half Guard’s offensive potential, you will need to  ‘Whip Up’ to your side.

The Whip Up is a deceptively simple looking move. Drill it over and over with your training partner holding you down as tightly as he can; only after the move starts to feel natural will it really be effective during rolls. Here is a video by the guys at Submissions 101 explaining the Whip Up in some detail:

Key Points to Remember:

  • Drill the technique thoroughly before you expect it to be effective.
  • Against much larger opponents, it can be extremely difficult to perform the Whip Up, especially if they are weighing down and/or have obtained neck control – focus on creating spaces and using your opponent’s momentum to your advantage.
  • In a situation where you are at risk of being punched/elbowed, always consider transitioning into a different position as your opponent postures up to begin striking e.g. Transition to X-Guard, or use the space to kick your opponent a safe distance away from you. 
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a successful Whip Up is a successful technique – it is only a transition that allows you to capitalise on a wider variety of techniques that follow as a result of its success. 


Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching & Aggressive Defense

I had originally planned to write and post an article regarding Karate and Bunkai (Application) today but given that since last night, all I can think of is De La Hoya’s performance against Pacquiao, I’ll post a little something about boxing instead – not last night’s fight, that’s over (I’m actually a big fan of both boxers, but De La Hoya really failed to impress last night).

This is a review of Jack Dempsey’s ‘Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching & Aggressive Defence’. Jack “The Manassa Mauler” Dempsey is a boxing legend, known for his aggressive forward-moving style (similar to that of Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson –Tyson is known to have modelled himself after Dempsey, including shaving the sides of his head for fights) and one of my favourite all-time boxers; he was World Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926.

The book, which as far as I know, is now out of print but is a great resource for any boxer (or fighter in general) looking to power up their punches. The information presented was written in mind for both ring boxing and bare knuckle fighting. This was a conscious decision by Dempsey who feels that trainers are forgetting that boxing at it's very core is about self defence - he asserts that too many young boxers are taught solely technical boxing whilst ignoring the importance of packing a powerful punch! 

Another famous icon to draw on Dempsey’s knowledge was the legendary Bruce Lee – some study of both their books shows you the clear influence that Dempsey’s ‘vertical punch’ and ‘falling step’ had on Lee; furthermore, Lee’s counterpunching techniques used in the Jeet Kune Do system are heavily modelled after those that Dempsey describes in this book.

Aside from punching skills, the book goes over training, conditioning, defence, sparring and the proper way to watch a boxing match.  It’s well-written and easy to read, providing some insights to Dempsey’s own thoughts regarding boxing.

The book can be quite difficult to get a hold of but the information presented in it is actually quite cutting edge (especially since it was published in 1950!)...except for the illustrations, the illustrations are charmingly 1950.

Here is a list of the book’s chapters:

1. Explosives at Toledo 
2. Good and Bad Toledo Aftermaths 
3. Punchers Are Made; Not Born 
4. Why I Wrote This Book 
5. Differences Between Fist-Fighting and Boxing 
6. You're the Kayo Kid 
7. What is a punch? 
8. The Falling Step 
9. The Power Line 
10. Relaying and Exploding 
11. Stance 
12. Footwork 
13. Range 
14. Straight Punching from the Whirl 
15. Purity in Punching 
16. Hooking 
17. Uppercuts 
18. Punch Ranks First 
19. Your Sparmate 
20. General Defense and Blocking 
21. Deflection 
22. Evasion 
23. Feinting and Drawing 
24. Training 
25. How to Watch a Fight 

I’ve read that there is a pdf version of the book floating around the internet – so if you feel so inclined, give it a quick Google. It really is worth it.  


The Triangle Hypothesis

Over the last decade and a half, I've been fortunate to train under a variety of martial arts instructors - some well-known, others completely unknown. I've been especially fortunate since all of my instructors have been completely open to discussing their methods and techniques in a critical fashion (some instructors find it disrespectful to question how their technique works or why it may not work etc).

I learnt early on that while the views of effective individual techniques vary from person to person, all of my instructors agree on three basic physical facets that are required to progress in the martial arts. In fact, the vast majority of my instructors all used the same analogy to describe these three facets - The Triangle Hypothesis.

In their words, each corner of The Triangle represents one of these facets. There is Technique, Power, and Speed (bear in mind, that these are the basics, so aspects such as 'Flexibility' would fall under Technique, whilst 'Explosive Force' would fall under Power etc.).

Each facet is interconnected - Improving any one corner has the potential to improve any other corner (for example, if you improve your technique - power and speed are likely to increase as a result).

In order to grow as a martial artist, you have to make your triangle bigger. That is, you have to improve your Technique, Power, and Speed. Improving any one aspect will help you, but in the long-run, it may leave you unbalanced.

So why does everyone say that Technique is the most important of these three aspects? The reason is this: Technique is the base of your martial arts training. Speed and Power will help you progress tremendously, but in the long-term - speed and power will decline (more so for some than others) and there is only Technique that remains (included here, is Knowledge and Experience).

As a result of my own experience, I've humbly chosen to add 'C' to the centre of my Triangle. C stands for Cardio/Conditioning - I feel that this is crucial (also starts with a ‘C’....alliteration...nice.) because as you tire, your technique deteriorates, it becomes harder to generate power, and your body begins to slow down.

How you develop your own Triangle is up to you. No doubt, your instructors and training partners will have an impact on how you grow but ultimately, it is you who decides. Consider this whilst examining your goals in the martial arts. What kind of triangle is best suited to you and your goals?

(Interestingly enough, the Gracie family logo is also a Triangle - it may be a homage to the Triangle Choke, but I suspect it probably has something to do with what I've written above - correct me if I'm wrong though!)


Introduction to Half Guard: The Lockdown

Half Guard is a very common position in BJJ, especially for beginners who have not yet developed a solid Closed Guard and as a result are often passed. The position itself is simply this: 'when you trap one of your opponent's legs between your own'.

Traditionally, the Half Guard was considered an inferior position in which you are one step away from having your entire guard passed. However, views on the position have changed considerably as more and more practitioners have shown the offensive potential associated with the position.

The Lockdown

The 'Lockdown' is a Half Guard position made popular in recent years by Eddie Bravo. Typically, the position leads to various sweeping options though it does offer some submission possibilities as well. It is also one of the tightest Half Guard techniques possible in my opinion - great for preventing your opponent from passing into Side Control or the Mount. 

The technique itself is simple:

1) Step over and trap your opponent’s leg with your outside leg.  

2) Hook your outside leg's foot into the pit of your inside leg's knee.

3) Hook your inside leg's foot under your opponent's leg.

Key Points to Remember:

  • You can stretch out the Lockdown to help break your opponent's posture.
  • Keep your opponent's posture broken down using over/under hooks (double under hooks to best utilise the Lockdown’s sweeps), otherwise you are open to an Indian Death Lock counter as well as a ground n pound when striking is permitted.
  • Squeeze your knees together to keep the position tight.

Common Mistakes:

  • There's no need to constantly stretch out the lockdown. True, it frustrates your opponent but it tires you out needlessly (since you're not gaining any ground) and makes the 'Whip Up' to your side a lot harder (Try holding and dialling your mobile phone using only one hand whilst keeping your fingers stretched out to see what I mean).
  • Don’t start camping - Keep your game active. If you feel pinned to the ground, try grinding your knuckles into your opponent’s ribs to make some space (but only just enough for you to turn on to your side and begin working sweeps/submissions!).

Half Guard is a position I'm very familiar with - it's a rare occurrence when I don't transition through Half Guard during a roll (I find it easier to escape to Half Guard when mounted than to sweep my opponent; it's also a lot more comfortable than trying to lock my full guard against someone with a big waist!). Though getting double under hooks came to me quickly, performing a successful Whip Up was a whole other story - I think I must have stalled using the Lockdown for a month before the Whip Up started working for me.

Whenever the Whip Up isn't working for me, I usually look towards establishing a butterfly hook or, (if there's enough space) transitioning back into full guard.

Don’t fall into the Lockdown campsite method – Keep active, there's good reason Half Guard was considered an inferior position for so long! Even if you feel pinned - do something... anything! Try switching from Lockdown to its calf-crushing (even though it’s traditionally an ankle lock) Judo cousin 'Ashi Kannuki' (just mirror the position of your legs - inside leg traps opponents leg etc).

Another problem that can occur is when someone diagonally mounts you from the half guard (as seen in the photo example). In this situation you can attempt a submission via Arm Triangle or, you can release the Lockdown, and revert to some basic BJJ bridging escapes (I find the latter to have a higher success rate).

Next Step: The Whip Up


Beginning BJJ

Four new members joined our BJJ class last week. It was interesting to observe how each of them approached the art differently especially, how each approached the rolling segment of the class.

A & B rushed forward into each other with little recollection of the techniques and positions presented to them just a short while before; C spent the majority of his time trying to keep as much distance as he possibly could; and D, vigilantly worked towards closing the gap...and then pushing away his partner to reopen it.

Each of the new members demonstrated a different strength - A&B showed aggression and endurance. C, constantly moving, demonstrated speed and a high work rate. And D showed perseverance whilst trying to play a slower game.

BJJ is probably one of the most complex and intricate martial arts in the mainstream. It's no surprise that beginners to the art may have little to no idea what to do when they roll - it can be a little overwhelming! It takes a lot of training and a fair amount of time before one's hard work begins to blossom into successful submissions, escapes and transitions (not necessarily in that order!).  

A valuable thing one can do straight away is to start thinking BJJ - I'm not suggesting one turn into a human technique encyclopaedia...I'm referring to developing an overall understanding of the BJJ game. Not only will this provide one with direction during their rolls, it'll help understanding in the application of different drills.

Stephan Kesting's e-book 'A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu' is a great place to start. Having stumbled across this some weeks back, it's a resource I wish I had read years ago! The e-book is free to download and distribute; I'll also add a link to Stephan's 'Beginning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu' site (which has a free e-course as well) to my link bar. Alternatively, you can download the book here (it's only 3MB):


'A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu' goes over all the basic positions in BJJ and then takes things one step further by explaining the hierarchy of positions. Stephan has also included transition flowcharts, photos and instructions/ideas of what to think about whilst rolling. For experienced BJJ practitioners, this e-book can act as a little reminder to what your juniors are thinking and how they're feeling - everyone needs a dose of empathy once in a while!