Most of us will never visit outer space. This means that gravity will be a constant in our lives – that powerful force that sends unsupported objects crashing down to the ground. Because we can’t change it, we have make friends with gravity and get it on our side when we grapple.
The first way we befriend gravity is to develop takedown proficiency. In a sporting context, winning the takedown game puts you ahead on points and in good position. In a self-defense situation, dropping someone hard on the ground can be a fight ender. Think of it as ‘hitting them with the ground’. If they don’t land correctly, and they often won’t, it could easily be lights out.
My suggestion for takedowns and throws is to train them often. Start most of your sparring rounds from the standing position. It is truly sad to see a jiu-jitsu athlete who is amazing on the mat look like a complete novice from his feet. I’ve heard the tired chorus of excuses:
“The majority of fights end up on the ground!” I agree, but all of them start on the feet. I suppose someone could ambush you while you’re lying on the beach. We’ll say 99.9% start from standing.
“People get hurt when we start from standing. Training from the knees keeps injuries down!” This is because you don’t know how to fall properly; another underdeveloped skill among the jiu-jitsu crowd. Learn how to fall then takedown sparring will be safe – as safe as a contact combat sport can be anyway.
Another way we can get gravity on our side is to emphasize top position on the ground. Guard work is fun, interesting, and intricate. Many people have great guard work, dangerous attacks, and excellent sweeps. However, the guard should always be a position of last resort. Work for the top. Gravity forces the bottom person to carry the weight. Every attack and movement requires extra effort because it works against gravity. Meanwhile the person on top can relax his weight and use it to pin.
An emphasis on top position cuts across contexts. In no grappling context is it a poor tactical decision to be on top. This is not the case with the guard. In an mma or self-defense situation you can land harder shots because you are working with, rather than against, gravity. Striking from the guard is feeble in comparison.
Top position also allows you to disengage more quickly if you need to stand up. It offers greater environmental awareness in case there are multiple opponents and easier access to your weapon if you are a LEO or armed civilian.
Gravity is one of the universe’s most powerful forces. It is ridiculous to fight against it so get it on your side. Make friends with gravity.
Brian Jones, PhD