“I’m a little hesitant on my shots. I hate getting extended in that position and putting myself at a disadvantage. Even if my attack connects, what do I do from there? I don’t know how they’re gonna react. What if my opponent counters with something I’ve never seen before and I give up points? Shooting also takes a lot of energy. What if I get tired? Oh well, guess I’ll just pull guard!”
If this sounds like you, then you’re not alone. This still happens in wrestling despite extensive amounts of takedown practice (except for the part where you pull guard, of course). In fact, it’s so common that you’ll occasionally hear this in Division 1 NCAA Wrestling where people are extremely cautious and hesitate to attack.
So, why is this a problem and how do you go about fixing it? Fear when shooting takedowns may stem from a variety of factors and it’s tricky in that there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. If you address the following points, however, you should be in a good position to overcome these fears.
The most obvious cause may be some form of technical disconnect between practice and competition. Maybe you’re not getting a good enough feel of the position because your partner is simply falling over when you try to execute a takedown. A little resistance (anywhere from, say, 20% to 50%) helps immensely in getting a feel for the takedown because it teaches you where to put more force or pressure into an attack when you’re met with resistance.
You might also simply misunderstand takedown principles, which is certainly possible. Some instructors talk about the techniques but not the reasoning as to why they work. Think of it as chess openings. At some point, you’re going to want to learn how the chess pieces relate to each other and why certain chess openings are more favorable in some areas than others. A takedown may seem complicated with many parts at first, but most of the time you can break it down into three parts: set up, shot, and finish. Often times, hesitation with shooting takedowns comes from not being sure how to finish a takedown after you successfully connect an attack. If need be, feel free to focus on drilling takedown finishes without the set up or the shot.
Uncertainty and a Lapse of Confidence
You may call it stage fright, performance anxiety, choking, or something else. Mark Cody, a division 1 NCAA wrestling coach, once said, “If you think, you’re in trouble.” One of his wrestlers had gone undefeated for the entire season leading up to the national tournament but started thinking about one particular opponent that he would inevitably face. It was his only loss of the season but it certainly cost him the 1st place finish.
Confidence is something that you can actively build up over time. Think of all the times you’ve successfully executed a takedown. Maybe this starts in the practice room; think of all the times you’ve practiced it, followed by all the times you were able to do it while sparring or during a live go. More effectively, you can think of all the times you’ve successfully taken someone down during competition. If you’ve got personal experiences in your mind of all the times you’ve taken down high level competitors in competition, you’re more than ready to attack.
Focusing on Getting Everything Just Right
During a practice session, you get to focus on every detail. In a competitive situation, however, that focus on every detail will slow you down and get you in trouble. Conscious thought can lead to hesitation, and that hesitation could be the split-second difference between a well timed shot or one that feels rigid and sluggish. If this is the case, you may often feel as if you’re “forcing” a takedown that’s not there. Make no mistake- it was there! By the time you decided to execute, however, it just wasn’t there anymore. At the beginner and intermediate levels, you may be able to get away with it. At the higher levels, those fractions of a second will matter.
Past a certain point of practice, you’ll realize that the technique has been integrated into your subconscious. You can do it with your eyes closed. You can do it without thinking. You can do it with seven seconds left in the match when you need to score the winning takedown to close out the match.
When you’ve got a solid understanding of the technique, have some sense of certainty in the positions you may end up in, and the confidence to execute, you’ve got yourself a go-to takedown. All that’s left to do is to clear your mind and let your body take care of the rest.
What is your go-to takedown and what steps can you take to improve it in practice and in competition?
Che is a former collegiate wrestler, member of Thailand’s national freestyle wrestling team, and current combat sport enthusiast. He writes about how to achieve higher physical and mental performance while being on a budget or a busy schedule. You can learn more about Che and his work at: https://chayoot.blog/welcome-to-chayoot-blog/
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