Grip Training

There are a few exercises I strongly recommend for lower arm strength for grappling:

The reality is, we do a lot of gripping, especially in the gi. Lower arm strength (fingers, hand, wrist, forearm), not only in the muscles but also in the tendons can be a huge boon. This shouldn’t replace learning how to grip properly or that you should be comfortable death gripping for 5 minutes. More strength tends to mean fewer injuries. Will your grips be harder to break? Absolutely, but that’s a terrific side effect as opposed to an explicit goal if I’m being honest.

There are plenty of other lower arm exercises like hammer curls, wrist rollers, using fat grip adapters, holding/lifting with hubs, the list goes on. Those things can be a lot of fun and you can find great advice for them on r/griptraining if it’s a hobby you’re looking to pursue, but I think the above is a reasonable list of things to work on for grappling. Ultimately it comes down to some form of pulling/hanging/brachiating, levering, grippers, and extension bands. Four exercises that can easily be added to your workout or done on rest days to help make your lower arms healthier and stronger.

What Makes a Purple Belt?

I asked Mike what he thinks the blue belt should work on to get ready for purple belt. He had two overarching concepts: 1. Movement, fluidity, and smoothness 2. Setting positions.

Movement is one of those things that’s easier said than done. Mike had suggested wall drills and flow drills. Since this particular blue belt struggles a lot with hesitation and overthinking, the reality is I need to push him harder during rolls, maybe even to the point of smashing just to reinforce that he needs to pull the trigger. Luckily he knows he doesn’t need to be nice to me so he can be more tenacious. Still, I need to really think about what will improve his fluidity and movement. There are a lot of drills I used to do explicitly to improve my movement like yoga ball drills and wall drills. I’m hoping he has a yoga ball to work on some of them.

Setting positions feels like one of those super easy things to work on by comparison. He needs to learn to not only hold but dominate the classical positions and then smoothly move into the submission positions from them. Once in the submission positions, he needs to practice thinking about them as positions themselves so the actual submissions stop being the effort. He’s currently looking at triangle, juji gatame, Saddle, and back control for these submission positions. Honestly, it’s a start. I’ve seen folks get promoted to purple belt with less than those four.

These things, along with developing his RNC as his favorite submission, are the focus for now. Once we can do standing, there’s also going to be that. I’m thinking of “encouraging” the white and blue belt to work the throws of the Celtic wrestling styles from a fixed collar and elbow grip to get them a sense of timing and basic competency with foot sweeps so we can use those to set up all the other standing things.

Quarantine Training Progress

I have two quarantine buddies and mats in my back yard. One individual is a blue belt, two stripes, promoted over 3 years ago now. In my opinion he’s close to but not quite ready for his purple belt. My current goal for him is to get him ready for purple belt by March 2021. I’ll talk about why that date below. The other individual came in as a fresh white belt, she’d only attended a handful of classes previously. We’re joking about trying to get her to be a blue belt by the time the quarantine ends. At the rate the US is going, we may have that kind of time.

These two train together additional days beyond the 1-2 days per week I’m available during quarantine. This means I can show them a drill or concept and they can spend multiple sessions per week drilling it so when I see them again we can evalaute how it went and any questions before moving on to the next thing. I essentially get to speed run a class one day for them to get a week’s worth of content out of, plus the blue belt has a vast video library to reference so I can say “look at Priit for this turtle thing, he’s got good details” and the blue belt can watch and work those in for them, again, texting me if he has immediate questions, but also with the cushion that I can help evaluate and recommend the following weekend.

So that’s our setup. We do around an hour of debugging, Q&A, and positional study and then 30-60 minutes of rolling with evaluation between rolls where something significant comes up. I get to work on my things, they get to work on theirs. There’s a sense of improvement where the white belt has made tremendous progress; our initial goal was for her to become a competent training partner for the blue belt, and I think she’s exceeded that goal by a long shot at this point. We’ve gone through the conceptual stuff with her from all of the units in my previous posts except for standing in the interest of safety and space. We’ve started delving into our favorite beyond the basics topics. She’s getting a passable leg lock defense, she’s consistently taking the back if you make a mistake, and once on the back she can capitalize in a way that most blue and even some purple belts struggle to. However, she’s limited to two training partners, and we can only give her so many reactions between us. She’s going to need exposure to a larger pool of people to make the next big leap. She’s doing really well for the circumstances though.

March. In March 2018 I got promoted to brown belt, two instructors got promoted to black belt, and the head coach got promoted to first degree black belt. A cycle has pretty well been established. In March 2021 two instructors will go to first degree black belt, and the head coach goes to second degree black belt because time in grade. I don’t know if I can get ready for black belt by then due to the quarantine and a lack of direction, but my goal until then is going to be to get anyone I’m working with as close to their next belt as possible. The reality is, promotions are going to happen in March simply due to the time in grade system for black belts; for those of us not yet on the TIG system, it’s going to be a big crunch or a longer than average wait. The US may well still be in quarantine by then if neither of the current Phase III vaccine candidates pan out and we keep half-assing a quarantine just well enough to delay the virus’ spread but not well enough to stop it. Should that happen I’ll need to have serious conversations with the black belts to find someone able and willing to at least evaluate these two. Without a larger pool to measure them against I can’t really be confident of where they are without a more experienced eye helping evaluate.

The last thing is, as noted, I am hoping to get ready for my black belt as close to March as I can muster. I’ve been reviewing a lot of video content to go back over the basics and working those higher level details into the drills I’m doing with my quarantine buddies. I can’t say it’ll be enough. Other than improving my chokes and my passing, I don’t really have any clear direction on how to get better other than just improving my details in general. It’s hard to get the kind of feedback rolling with a white and a blue belt I could get rolling with black belts. I’m thrilled to be fortunate enough to have quarantine buddies who can be safe outside our time together so we’re at a low risk of catching coronavirus from each other, but it’s disheartening to be where I’m at. At least two schools in town are violating the orders designed to limit spread of the epidemic. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t constantly tempted to go to one to get the work in I need for black belt. I’m just trying to remind myself regularly that living family matters more than racing to the proverbial finish line in an artificial hierarchy.