Grappling from a Western Perspective – Part III (Offense)


The second principle of Western combat is Offense. To ensure
victory one must stay on the attack, he must maintain the initiative. Rather
than wait passively for ‘an opening’, a grappler or warrior of the Western
mindset forces an opening. As the modern US army combatives program describes
it, “the defining characteristic of a warrior is the willingness to close with
the enemy”. Consider the headlong sprint into combat of the Germanic
berserkers, the charge of the medieval knight, or the rush with fixed bayonets
during the American Civil War.

Offense requires energy and will. It requires a focus on the
objective of winning  that we previously
discussed. A defensive mindset hands the initiative to the opponent. In grappling
I have often noticed that some people “try to win” while others simply “try to not
lose”. This latter mindset is fundamentally alien to the Western philosophy
of combat. It leads to passivity, weakness, and submission (figurative and

Setting up an offense involves willfully forcing your
opponent into a position in which you have all the exits covered. Force him
onto ground that you know well then play your most dominant game. No one is
equally skilled at all positions of attack so choose your offense carefully. If
you cannot force your best game on your opponent you will have to be as
offensive as possible from wherever you find yourself.

One can be offensive even in positions of relative
disadvantage. When fighting from the bottom guard activity is required. If you
are not offensive then you are simply waiting for their opponent to pass. The
opponent has no fear of either a submission or sweep. If stuck on the bottom of
the mount the top grappler should feel as if all his energy is needed to maintain
his position. Without this constant offensive threat of escape or reversal then
you give him time to plan and execute a submission.

Develop this mindset by deciding upon victory regardless of
the opponent. In a grappling context you may be sparring with someone you are
certain will beat you. However, this should not force you into a purely
defensive shell. Do you want to get caught in a submission because your nearly
successful attack was countered, or would you prefer to lay there like a beaten
dog until you get submitted? The only way to snatch a victory from the jaws of
defeat is to stay offensive, and thus dangerous, to the bitter end.

Staying on the offensive does require energy and
conditioning. Do not neglect these in your training. Consider incorporating
outside strength training and conditioning activities if possible. There is a
limit to how much hard sparring the body can handle; however, drilling should
be done frequently and intensely.
Position attacking or escape drills provide a clear objective and
require non-stop activity.

Let me finish this post by stating that there are training
drills designed to develop awareness, movement skill, and sensitivity. Within
these drills, ‘victory’, may mean performing the drill correctly rather than
lapsing into hyper competitiveness.  Listen to your coach and make sure that you
fully understand the objective.

Brian Jones, PhD

Napoleonic Grand Army

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