Miracle Cures for Grappling Problems

I first truly realized how powerful drills can be about 15 years ago.

At that time I was I was teaching a self defense class. One of my students was of average size and strength with severely below-average punching power. He was a chronic “arm-puncher,” which means he just couldn’t get his body behind his punches to make them powerful

I tried explaining how to use his body. I tried showing him. Nothing helped.

Finally I grabbed a heavy medicine ball and stood back-to-back with him. From that position we passed the medicine ball around and around, first in one direction, then in the other. To do this drill you really have to twist your upper body, which is quite similar to the movement required to punch properly.

A few minutes later, when I put the focus mitts on again, I was shocked at the difference in his punches. He finally started moving his body properly, and punch after punch thudded into the target.

His miracle cure was a single drill.

Sometimes you can have the same miracle cure for grappling problems.

If someone is having a rough time with a technique, it’s often because they’re having trouble with a certain aspect of the technique – a movement or transition that their body just doesn’t want to do (yet). If this is the case, then isolating that movement and training it often goes a long way towards solving the problem.

Here’s a concrete grappling example. Last year I wrote about a ‘secret’ of the Half Guard, about destabilizing your opponent by bringing your knees up to your chest. (If you don’t remember this tip, you can read it again by clicking here.)

Some people have a hard time getting this movement – maybe it’s because bringing both knees up to one’s chest explosively is just not a ‘natural’ movement.

So here’s a simple solo drill that I’ve found helps people to understand this movement, and then later apply it in grappling.

1 – First lie stretched out on your back, with your arms and legs extended in a straight line.

2 - Then QUICKLY bring your knees to towards your chest and slap the bottom of your feet.


3 – Then recoil back to the starting position and repeat.

It’s a little bit harder than it sounds, so start with about 20 repetitions. For maximum benefit keep the following points in mind

  • Pull your knees up to your chest EXPLOSIVELY. This is NOT a slow leg-lift type of exercise.
  • Touch the bottoms of your feet with your hands to make sure that you’ve pulled your legs up far enough.
  • Remember what this is for; as you’re doing the exercise visualize trapping one of your opponent’s legs between your legs. Imagine pulling him over you and getting underneath his center of gravity every time.

This movement resembles an abdominal exercise, but don’t let that fool you. It’s true that it does challenge and strengthen your muscles, but that’s only a side benefit. It’s main purpose is to put a killer edge onto a very sports-specific movement.

Think about the sticking points in your techniques that bother you. Then find, modify or invent grappling drills to make that sticking point a thing of the past.

P.S. If you’re looking for more information on grappling-specific drilling, I put my favorite grappling drills onto DVD a few years ago.  I still get a lot of great feedback about that material, so check it out and see if you think it would apply to you.

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