Saturday, April 6, 2013

Coming and going

I was watching a high level jiu-jitsu match on YouTube recently, and I noticed something. Something I suppose I should have occurred to me a long time ago—after all, as a judo man, I grapple too—but I guess it took me seeing it from the outside to notice.

And since judo matches rarely seem to end up on the ground (and when they do, it's not for very long), I've enjoyed observing watching seasoned grapplers do their thing.

Anyway, here's what I noticed, and this applies to grappling in general. Both parties are only interested in bringing the other guy closer. I know, you're thinking, "Doi! That's kind of the point of grappling, isn't it?" Bare with me...

Come here. Go away. Come here—no, go away. 

I aikido, there exists more of a balance. When uke tries to enter, welcome him in; when he tries to get back, send him on his way. In other words, when uke closes the distance, we go with it, typically ending up in some sort of control position, a wrist or arm lock. When he wants to get away, it results in a throw. There's a balance, a coming and going, a yin and a yang.

But in grappling, we seem to only be focused on one direction, the closing of distance. I always want uke to get closer and he wants me to get closer, because we both want to do things that require that convergence. The phrase "joining of centers" is a common one in judo, and applies to both standing and the ground.

But bothers me is that it's only one half of the equation. If uke is attempting to come in, great. We have answers for that. The problem is, uke knows that, so while he wants to get in, he doesn't want to get caught either, so when he senses danger, what does he do? Right—pull away. What do grapplers do? Hang on to him, and fiercely.

That's what the majority of that match looked like: two guys with tight, white-knuckled grips on each other, trying not to let the other guy do what he wants to do. And even though these guy were in phenomenal shape, you could see it was wearing their asses OUT.

So I'm left wondering, is there a way to grapple (or even in nage waza) that falls more in line with the "go with the flow" approach of aikido? When uke tries to enter, welcome him in; when he tries to get back, send him on his way.

I think so, I've just never looked at it that way. A couple of things that came to mind were sweeps and straight arm bars. If he's trying to move back, it seems like a good time to help him and sweep him in the process. When he's trying to keep me out or push me away, it seems like a good opportunity to snag an arm bar.

At any rate, it certainly something I shall be thinking about more and more.

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