Grappling As Theatre

Good training partners must be good actors and good coaches good directors.
In an ideal world we would have an infinite variety of training partners. We would get the opportunity to compete against people of all different sizes, body types, and grappling styles.  This would give us the experience to deal with any kind of person we would ever come up against. We would develop personal methods of handling people that were bigger, stronger, and aggressive, as well as those who were smaller, more mobile, and relied on counterattacks.
In reality, the average small to medium sized club/school might have 20-50 active members of which 10-15 will be present at any given class. You will get used to everyone’s style very quickly.  Within a few months everyone will know your game and you will know everyone else’s. Live grappling can quickly become scripted. You will develop skills to handle the specific people in your school but could be at a disadvantage when competing against a new person with a radically different style.
So how do we as athletes and coaches make the best of this situation? Obviously we are limited to the body types and sizes of those in our clubs; however, we can begin playing the roles of different types of grapplers.  A good coach will develop some stereotypical styles and force his students to role play. He might want to hold a training session designed to get people used to an all-out onslaught. Thus certain people would be designated to play the role of the hyper-aggressive, submission hunter.
Such role play is good for both trainees. One student gets to learn to deal with various general types of opponents. The other student is forced to play a type of grappling game he isn’t used to. Learning will occur on both ends.
I will leave it up to the individual coaches (directors) to come up with their own characters but consider the following as possible types:
Runner – Refuses to engage, breaks away whenever possible
Staller – Tight and overly defensive, prevents movement without attempting to do anything himself
Mauler – Overly aggressive and rough, always looking to squeeze, crush, and make the opponent uncomfortable.

Brian Jones, PhD

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