The Drills of Shaolin


When Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro started talking the drills he uses I paid attention. Shaolin has won the World BJJ Championships 4 times, holds the 140 to 155 lb belt in Shooto, and has a long list of other titles. He is an outstanding competitor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submission grappling and mixed martial arts, so he knows how to train effectively and efficiently!

Shaolin uses a variety of drills to help him and his students put a fine edge onto their grappling blades. Some are done fast to develop speed, coordination and endurance. Other drills are done slowly to develop isometric strength in particular positions. All of them use sport-specific movements that have direct grappling applications.

In this article we show you four of his favorite drills: all are of the light and fast variety. Attempt to do as many repetitions as possible in the time allotted: go all out for 40 seconds, and then alternate with you partner so you get 40 seconds of rest before you go again. You and your partner each do the drill 2 or 3 times each. Try to stay light on your feet and don’t thud heavily into the ground or your training partner.

The more you do these drills the better your coordination will become, and you’ll also receive some killer anaerobic workouts along the way!

Shaolin says:“I think that these drills are very good for a warmup. When you go to train, if your body isn’t warmed up very well, then you have a good chance for getting injured.”

SWINGING ARMBAR DRILL This drill helps develop the hip mobility required to apply armbars from the guard swiftly and smoothly. Use the momentum of your leg to help you spin. KNEEMOUNT DRILL This drill teaches you how to move quickly using the kneemount. Keep the movements light and fast, and be sure not to land heavily on your partner with your knees!
Armbar Shaolin 1
Shaolin has Stephan in his closed guard and both hands behind his head
Kneemount Shaolin 1
Shaolin is in the kneemount and has his hands on the mat beside Stephan’s head
Armbar Shaolin 2
To start the drill Shaolin puts his right foot on Stephan’s left hip…
Kneemount Shaolin 2
Putting his weight on his arms he leaps over Stephan…
Armbar Shaolin 3
…and pivots 90 degrees, bringing his other leg up under Stephan’s armpit
Kneemount Shaolin 3
…and ends up in a kneemount on the other side
Armbar Shaolin 4
Shaolin steps over the head to the armbar position
Kneemount Shaolin 4
Shaolin doesn’t stay in the kneemount: he immediately rebounds back into the air…
Armbar Shaolin 5
He now swings his right leg, then left leg in a semi-circle…
Kneemount Shaolin 5
…and continues to jump from side to side.
Armbar Shaolin 6
…and goes directly to the armbar position on Stephan’s right arm.Keep on swinging from side to side.
Stephan Kesting says:”I’ve been using these drills as warmups when I teach classes and workshops. They develop sport-specific coordination, and they’re less boring than jumping jacks.”

this drill teaches you how to pivot your body to apply armbars from the mount position. Emphasize transferring your weight onto your feet and hand during the pivot.
here you drill the footwork of a very popular, and effective, guard pass. Go as fast as you can while keeping good form.
Top Armbar Shaolin 1
Shaolin starts off in an armbar position holding both of Stephan’s arms
Shaolin Guard 1
Shaolin starts out with both his hands on Stephan’s knees.
Top Armbar Shaolin 2
Shaolin posts his left hand on the floor, maintaining control of Stephan’s arms with his other hand.
Shaolin Guard 2
He steps forward with his right leg in a slight semi-circle…
Top Armbar Shaolin 3
With his weight on his feet and left hand Shaolin pivots 180 degrees.
Shaolin Guard 3
…and then steps his left leg, passing the guard and dropping into a kneemount
Top Armbar Shaolin 4
He now swings his leg over the head to assume the armbar position on the other side.
Shaolin Guard 4
Shaolin now steps backwards with his left leg…
Top Armbar Shaolin 5
Holding the far arm, Shaolin places his right hand on the ground…
Shaolin Guard 5
…and then his right leg, returning to the starting position
Top Armbar Shaolin 6
…and pivots around to the other side again…
Shaolin Guard 6
He now steps his left leg forward, close to Stephan’s body…
Top Armbar Shaolin 6
…and passes his leg over the face into the armbar position. Repeat from side to side.
Shaolin Guard 7
…and ends up in a kneemount on the other side.Continue from side to side, going light and fast.

This article was originally published in the August 2005 issue of Grappling Magazine.

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