Each week, we post training-related questions to our Instagram Stories to connect with our followers, share ideas and learn new things. Last week, someone posed the question; “What are five techniques every cop should train?” My response was that cops should focus less on specific techniques, and more on concepts. This is because it can be easy to get caught up in the latest technique you saw on YouTube, or feel overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at you during class each week - especially if you’re a newer grappler. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be learning techniques, but having a solid understanding of some fundamental concepts will help you learn quicker AND make a lot more sense of how and why techniques work. I know many of you will still want an answer to the question about five techniques you should be training, so I’ll do a follow up post with the ones I think we should all know. But first, let's talk concepts.
Here are five concepts to focus on, in no particular order, that I hope will help improve your game, your grappling skills and hopefully your ability to better control uncooperative people on the street.
#1 Controlling the Head and/or Hips
We’ve all heard the phrase, “where the head goes the body will follow.” This is usually true, but we don’t talk enough about the hips. Once you learn how to control the head and the hips, you’ll find that your entire grappling game will get better. Everything from controlling someone from a top position, finishing takedowns and defending and escaping from bad positions. It all starts with learning to control the head and hips.
Side control is one of many great examples of using head and hip control. You’re controlling their head by putting pressure into their face so they can’t turn back into you. You’re also controlling the hips with your knee on their near-side hip and your hand on the far side hip. Anyone who has been stuck in bottom side control for an entire round by someone who knows how to establish this position can tell you how bad it sucks. My professor also jokes that this is the reason why people quit Jiu Jitsu. I’m beginning to think it’s not a joke at all.
#2 Focus on Grips
First and foremost, don’t let people grab you. Hand fighting may be the one of hardest parts of grappling, but also one of the most necessary. It took me a long time to figure this out, so hopefully this message reaches you early in your Jiu Jitsu journey. If you’re letting people grab onto you (lapel, sleeves, wrists, etc.), you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage. Start making a habit of hand fighting to not let them get their grips. If they do, break them right away before trying to pass their guard. Conversely, be sure to get your grips on your opponent. Nomatter what position you’re in, you should be establishing grips to make life difficult for your opponent. If they’re in your closed guard, you should have grips that allow you to keep their posture broken down. If you're stuck in bottom mount, you should be controlling one of their arms to try and bridge and roll. If you’re passing their guard, you should be controlling their legs with grips on their knees or ankles. You get the idea. Grab and don’t be grabbed.
Here's a quick tutorial with some simple grip breaks you can train:
#3 Move Your Hips
You can’t move efficiently on the ground if you’re laying flat on your back or rolling from side to side. This is especially true of you’re wearing a duty belt. Whether you’re escaping from a bad position or trying to set up a sweep or submission, you need to get your hips off the ground and learn to move them properly. There are a lot of great solo drills you can find online to help you practice and develop these skills. Go follow The Jiu Jitsu Ronin on Instagram for some awesome movement drills.
#4 Understand Leverage and Base
A lot of cops are meat-heads (myself included) and want to muscle our way through everything. Sometimes this works, until we’re fighting with someone bigger, stronger, or faster than us. The other issue of trying to power your way through an opponent is that it’s exhausting. Jiu Jitsu focuses on leverage and base, to make fighting easier.
An example of leverage can be seen in the rear clinch takedown video below. This technique involves the push/pull concept, where I’m intentionally pushing into my opponent to elicit his natural response to want to push back into me. When I feel that, I use that momentum and leverage to make the takedown easier, since his weight is already going in that direction. This is just one example, but these concepts apply to almost everything we do in grappling.
Base means you have a good physical foundation or structure, making it difficult for your opponent to push, pull or sweep you. One example of this can be seen in the knee-on-belly tutorial below. Notice how I’ve established base by putting one of my legs out to the side to be used as a post. This makes it difficult for the person on the bottom to push me off. It also allows me to be fluid as the person on bottom moves around and tries to escape. Also, note how my other foot hooks his hip (see concept #1 above).
#5 Learn to Breathe
Fighting can not only be exhausting, it can also jack up our adrenaline levels and make us do crazy things we may not otherwise do. Under stress, it may be easy to forget about all the above concepts, forget the techniques we’ve been training and start to panic from bad positions. Learning some tactical breathing exercises before the fight even starts can help eliminate all of this. It can also help keep us loose. When I used to box, coaches would always stress this point. While it’s often easier said than done, learning to breathe properly naturally loosens things up and lets you flow, whether throwing punches or grappling with someone on the ground.
Ultimately, learning to breathe at the appropriate times and knowing when to explode and when to conserve your energy is an invaluable skill for grappling. Practicing it daily can also reduce your daily stress and help you develop a general sense of calm. Let's be honest, every single cop on planet earth could use this.
Here are a couple of great resources to help get you started:
Breathe Techniques for Grappling: Yoga for BJJ
Go train. Oss!