What is “Grappling”?

I was involved in a recent discussion where the term “grappling” came up, and I very quickly realized that my definition of “grappling” didn’t mesh with the individual I was talking to. He used the term to mean ground fighting. I use the term to refer to the set of techniques for fighting that require or establish fixed points of contact. There are even more definitions for “grapple”. It can refer to a specific set of sport rules under FILA. It could be a metal hook used to anchor a ship. It could even by a hybrid fruit between a grape and an apple. So, what is “grappling”, and how should we use the term?

If we consider the terminology of judo, “grappling” is katame waza, or at least we translate katame waza as “grappling techniques”. Katame waza is composed of three groups: shime waza (chokes), kansetsu waza (joint locks), and osaekomi waza (pins). It doesn’t include nage waza (throws and takedowns), but it doesn’t mean groundwork either, that’s ne waza. In fact, Aikido and jujitsu are built around the notion that kansetsu waza can be done standing. It is the case that katame waza and ne waza are pretty interchangeable in practice though. Joint locks in a competitive setting are more likely to be finished on the ground.

Merriam-Webster defines “grapple” as:

transitive verb

  1. to seize with or as with a grapple
  2. to come to grips with : wrestle
  3. to bind closelysynonyms: wrestle, rassle, scuffle, tussle

I think there’s a few good take-aways from the entry. Number one is that “rassle” is a real word according to the Merriam-Websert dictionary so maybe the world did end without us noticing. The second is the appropriate use of “scuffle” because it’s so much more specific than generally referring to a fight as people seem to use the term today. The third is that we have a pretty good standard definition for “grapple” in English – to take hold. So we have a few definitions, we could go to other resources to get more, but what we end up with is pretty much the same: fighting, grabbing, etc.

So, why do I think of “grappling” as being anything that establishes or requires fixed points of contact? People have this amazing gift to sort things based on similarities so that we can cleverly categorize them and use those categories to convey meaning. I personally categorize techniques like I would living things (KPCOFGS). This kind of categorization is useful. It fundamentally needs some term for the top though. Joint locks very clearly aren’t chokes, but they’re both submissions. Submission holds very clearly aren’t throws but they both belong to this general category of techniques that is based around having entangled contact. A leg-reap and a collar grip might be very different, but the concept behind them is the same thing – you’re establishing a fixed point of contact that is used to control the other person. That’s not to say you can’t be striking and grappling at the same time (GNP, the plum, striking while executing a throw), but there are two discrete actions happening at that point. Grappling is being used to maintain those fixed points of control while striking is being used to deliver one or more blows.

It’s similar to how BJJ includes closed-quarters striking, throws, and standing joint locks, but all people ever think of is the ground work. There’s more to it than that. We tend to associate the most common element of something with the definition. In general use, it’s a good assumption. In the case that you’re talking about the entirety of the subject it defines, the assumption falls apart pretty quickly. When we think of judo we only think throws. That’s not to say that judo only has throws or that it’s fair to describe it as throwing alone.

Happy Holidays

* This was shared on Fitocracy. It is not my original creation. I do not have the rights to it. Doing a Google image search for it didn’t help for finding the original artist.

Achievements and Leg Cramps

Last night was the first night I was able to make it all the way through warm-ups without my inhaler. Side note, I have exercised-induced asthma. It gets significantly better as I get in better shape so being able to last the whole 30 minute warm-up is a great sign for me. It acts as a nice encouragement to keep drilling at home so that I’ll be able to do that even after the holidays.

Rolling went as expected, but with some major progress points. I’m reclaiming my ability to re-guard and using it to my advantage to not go to the turtle. I inevitably gave my back to Ric again, and there were a couple of times where I went for completely shit leg-locks that I should have abandoned for position way earlier than I did, but I clearly saw progress. I also got a calf cramp. I used to get them a lot in MMA. It’s a combination of dehydration (I sweat A LOT) and my diet. Easy enough to correct. I also got to ask Thales about what kinds of things I can do to keep from giving my back up so readily. The number one thing was switching from the stable pressure of judo’s kesa gatame to a safer kazure kesa.

To be honest, I prefer kesa to kazure kesa, but I do see jiujitseros take my back more when I’m playing judo ground game than when I stick to BJJ principles, so the question of comfort and pressure vs. safety is important. The decision comes down to giving up on kesa or actively working it into an attack position instead of a pin. I would liken it to the notion of the “turtle guard”. Turtle is conventionally a defensive position with limited attack options – more likely than not you’ll give up your back, but when played well it can be turned into an actively attacking position. The 80/20 rule says I’d be better to just give up kesa. It’s not really worth investing in the position at this juncture when the effort for developing kesa could go into developing four already strong positions like side control, mount, half-guard, and butterfly guard.

I’m also trying to force myself into an open guard game. The closed guard feels like stalling. The open guard forces me to be constantly attacking or pushing for the sweep.

Not Getting My Gear On Time

Long story short, even with 2-day shipping my new rashguards won’t be here until tomorrow. As I had forgotten that FPTC will be closed on Tuesdays for the next two weeks this means tonight is my last no-gi class until January 8. Reviews will be postponed.

I’m severely disappointed with the time it took to fill my order. Even with the free 2-day shipping upgrade it’s this kind of small thing that makes me switch to another vendor. The terrible thing about online markets is that everyone has the same stuff for the same price so we can all shop around until we find a place with the kind of speed, customer service, and sales that we want.

A Huge Suprise

I’m in judo this morning, right? Tim’s teaching because Matt’s at work, Tanner has a broken clavicle, and I’m certainly not qualified. All of the sudden Wade comes in. He proceeds to join us for gi BJJ class. For those of you who may be joining us a bit late, Wade is the black belt that I was training under when I started this blog. He’s the youngest individual in Wisconsin to earn a black belt, and he is the individual to have done it in the shortest period of time. I greatly respect his level of skill and his approach to the game. Needless to say, I’m stoked to see that he may be coming to Fight Prime to train.

New Gear

I’ve been longing after a new gi lately. I don’t even know which one. The Manto gi’s look sharp, but based on the Manto I have they aren’t really the best fit for me. The Fushida Comp GS will probably fit like a dream, but they’re all sold out of A3 and A2X. So I ended up thinking about it and deciding that I don’t really need another gi right now. I mean, I’m only doing 1 day per week of gi, and I have about 6 fully functioning gi’s that I could wear.

I did however splurge and get three new rashguards. The first was the result of not having a rashie for class. Fight Prime happens to sell pretty much anything you need (as long as you’re okay with Brazil Combat brand stuff). So I picked up a purple rashie. Needless to say, I am not a purple belt, and I’m not a big fan of the screen printed Brazil Combat logo that kept sticking to the mat. So then today I was tipped off that MAS is offering free 2-Day delivery for all rashguards (I was not aware that it also applied to shorts and gi’s when I made the purchase because I knew exactly which rashies I wanted and the tip failed to mention the other two). I will very shortly be the new owner of a 93 Brand blue rashie and a Manto ranked blue rashie. Lucky for me, I’m a long ways from having to worry about purple belt so it will be awhile before I have to upgrade these two.

Reviews to follow the next two weeks of training. The rashguards are slated to get here on Tuesday which happens to be no-gi so I’ll give one of them a shot straight away.

No Gi Class (12/11/12)

Last night’s class was pretty awesome. We started out with the usual warm-ups, then a guard pass, and then guard pass drills instead of rolling. The pass felt more complicated than necessary, but was pretty simple to follow (this description for right-handed variation):

  1. Start in your partner’s closed guard. Grab the back of his head like you’re doing a can opener, but don’t crank on the neck, just pull on the neck to keep him stacked into you.
  2. Your partner grabs over your arms with his right arm to set up an arm bar. With your right arm, overhook his right elbow. Pull on the arm like you’re doing an arm drag to clear it.
  3. Once the arm is clear your left hand goes on the tricep to block, and your right hand grabs his wrist. Your left side is now clear of his right arm.
  4. Put your left foot up, then stand, pulling on your partner’s wrist with your right arm. Thales notes “if you’re not pulling him up, he’s pulling you down.”
  5. Block your partner’s left leg by putting your right elbow into the thigh. Take a small step back with your left leg and push down on your partner’s right thigh with your left hand. This opens the guard.
  6. Drop your left knee over your partner’s right thigh to block the leg. Your right leg should be pressed up against his left leg as though you were doing a single-unders pass.
  7. Push his trapped wrist toward his head, reach under his head with your left hand, and switch grips. He should now be “gift wrapped“.
  8. Underhook his right leg with your right hand and switch your hips to escape your right leg without letting him trap you in half-guard. You now have him gift wrapped in side control. Pull your right arm out and underhook his left arm.

From there we worked a couple of transitions – to mount and to the back – as well as some submissions from the gift wrap. Then came guard pass drills. We were partnered with person A on their back and person B passing. After three minutes we switched to person B on their back and person A passing. I’m a little embarassed to admit that it’s been almost a year since I last did guard pass drills. It showed. The first guy I went with was an awkward experience for me. I’m not used to being so clumsy or so unsure. With the second roll I started getting more comfortable. I feinted the knee-bar to keep him from getting my back to roll under and recover guard. I was also starting to be able to drive with my hips better. With the third guy things were starting to come back to me. My favorite passes from Wade’s white belt curriculum were working as high percentage moves, and I somehow managed a knee-tap sweep.

Overall it was an awesome night of working on the guard. Let my floundering be a lesson – you can’t replace situation-based rolling for getting good at handling that position. It’s important to get all four levels of work on a technique – practicing it and adding details, drilling it, situation-based rolling, making it work in rolling.