Groundwork Principles: Limit Your Scope

Control requires letting go...
***A quick note before I start:  This is not a fully-formed thought... I hope to start a discussion with this post, and I'll update the post occsasionally as warranted.  So please, if you think I got something wrong or missed something, let me know. ***

Control is a huge part of groundwork...  Gaining control over your opponent, and preventing them from getting control over you.  But too often, I see people try to exert absolute control over their opponents,  trying to prevent any part of them from moving an inch.  I can manage this pretty well against my 2 year old son, but not against another 170-pounder... 

Don't think about controlling "your opponent" - think about controlling parts of your opponent.  Sensei Virgil Bowles, may he rest in peace, used to demonstrate the two-finger hold down:  with his victim laying on his or her back, he would put one finger on the wrist of the victim's oustretched right arm, and another finger on  the victim's jaw bone, forcing them to face left.  This proved to be quite effective at keeping the bad guy down - and even more effective at illustrating his point:  If you control the right pieces, you don't need to control that much.
When you focus on one part, you can apply all of your weight/strength to that part.  Or maybe you can apply 70% to one part and 30% to another...  But the more parts you add, the less of yourself you can apply, and the easier it will be to overcome your control at each of the points...

What are some useful things to control?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Head Direction:  If you can make his head look one way, you can bet he won't twist the other way.  People tend to try to avoid twisting their heads off.  And you get to fight against relatively weak muscles.
  • *A* Shoulder:  Most of the time, its a waste to try to control both of them...  Focus on one.  Don't let it up (too far, anyhoo), and don't let them pull it away from you. 
  • The Hips - A Hip, maybe?:  Not as good as the shoulders, but a person can't turn over to their stomachs with their hips facing the ceiling...  Though I have seen some Gumby-esque kids who have come close.
  • A Floating Rib:  Maybe a half-rack?  My original thinking here was about controlling the side... but that's too generic, and too large of a target.  If you can focus on pinning the floating ribs down, that will make it hard to breath and difficult to turn away.  Turning in is still a risk, though.
  • The Neck:  Generally, you would use this to prevent the bad guy from rotating, or from sitting up.  But beware that wrapping your arm under the neck can trap your arm if bad guy presses his head down.
  • An Arm (Part):  The arm is too big of a part as well, but I didn't want to list all of them.  Trapping a wrist or controlling above the elbow (that is, on the humorous) are two good candidates.  Similar to how opponents like to keep their heads screwed on, they also like to keep their arms in socket.  A lot of arm control will be a part of shoulder control, though.
  • A Leg:  Legs are probably my least favorite.  They are big and strong, and can be a terrible waste of energy.  But there are times when the legs will ... present themselves as useful tools.  Similar to the arm:shoulder relationship, I think control of the legs (from a pinning perspective) should generally be aimed at controlling the hips.  For instance, if you can press the legs down and make the hips face one way, that will prevent the bad guy from turning the other way.  You just need to be extra-careful about them turning towards their legs.



Katherine said...

I find this stuff really interesting. Even though most people are heavier than me I feel like I have more of an equal footing with them when we do groundwork for some reason. Maybe it is because I am pretty flexible and a lot of people aren't? I don't know. I know you really want to win with an ippon, but groundwork is just so fun!

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, I have often said that "the hold that holds the least, can hold the best".
You've made perfect examples.

kodokanjudo said...

Greer, ne-waza is a lot about mobility, flexibility and positioning. Just like in tashi-waza, good ne-waza can cancel a bigger person's size and strength.
That's judo for you.

Clay said...

This somewhat reminds me of Mr. Ishikawa teaching us groundwork. Particularly for pins, he pointed out that there are 5 "points" on the body to concern yourself with - the head, each shoulder, and each hip. In order to pin someone, he said just control two points.

Other skilled groundwork practitioners taught me to breakdown a particular part of the body when doing my ne waza. When I want out of your guard, I attack one spot - a knee, or perhaps your hip. When I want to turn you over, I work one spot, not the whole body.

In my view, clearly, your thoughts are going in the right direction.

kodokanjudo said...

Hi Clay,
How long did you study under Ishikawa-sensei?
Your point about controlling two out of the five "corners" of the body are the same as my sensei taught me. His sensei had been a student of Ishikawa's in the 50's and had also been Takamama-sensei's
sempai during the 60's. My latest sensei, Bernie Gill, also teaches that same method. He too studied under Ishikawa-sensei in VA Beach for several years. :)

Chad Morrison said...

From Sensei Pat Parker:
Remember Sheila T from msu? I saw her hold this poor girl down in a tourney one time with kataosaegatame for thirty seconds. It was as if there were an iron spike driven thru her shoulder into the mat. The girl squirmed and bridged and pushed as much as she could without tearing her own arm off, and sweet little Sheila left her crying on the mat - partly from frustration and partly from the pain of struggling against that one point control. It was a perfect example of what you're talking about.

I've seen several bjj guys teach this slick maneuver for getting the opponent off your back. About the clearest explanation of it that I've seen was from saulo riberio, so I've started calling it the Saulo scoot. He interferes with the choke till he can scoot his hips down and shift to sit or lie on the other guys knee, pinning it sideways to the mat. From there, he lets the other guy try to recover position, which lets Saul spin out to side position. The interesting part is the knee pin executed by just piling weight onto it. Again, its like an iron spike through the knee into the mat.

And then there's Gary berliners turtle turnover executed by taking a grip on ukes gi at the shoulder blade and piling weight onto it, pinning that shoulder blade to the ground. Then, with that one point controlled, you can list the near knee and they'll roll onto their back. Again a one point control facilitates the turnover.

So I think you're on the right track...