World class wrestlers seem to move differently. A flurry of movements culminating in an opponent landing flat on his back…or his face. My first time competing against a high level wrestler, I fell flat on my face about four times in less than 30 seconds. I was so confused I couldn’t even be frustrated. What just happened? How was this possible?
The answer is chain wrestling. This is when wrestlers set up multiple motion sequences. When world class wrestlers do it, the movements are so fluid that several offensive and defensive movements blend together into one extended, fluid motion.
To see how this looks, we’ll take a look at one of America’s most prolific offensive wrestlers- David Taylor. It seems like he’s always pressuring into his opponent, always moving, always looking for the next score.
David Taylor’s first breakout performance was at the 2017 World Cup in the 86kg weight class, where he went undefeated while beating several returning World Championship medalists along the way including a returning Olympic champion in the finals. Known for his attacking styles, he seems to smother his opponents with pressure until they make mistakes and start opening up more opportunities to score. He’s known for his cross ankle pick, but has multiple leg attacks that he strings together and seems to be comfortable with any leg attack, especially after he put on muscle and bulked up to the 86kg weight class. Not surprisingly, he is predicted to be a medal contender at the upcoming World Championships in freestyle wrestling.
In the video, notice how he practically never stops moving. When he’s in the zone, he’s always looking to score. If opponents are standing up too high in their stance, leg attacks open up. When they’re too low, he snaps them down into short offense and goes behind them. When they’re in good position, he either breaks them or attacks anyway; his leg attacks are so good that his opponents may know what’s coming, but they can’t seem to stop them.
Now that we’ve seen a world class wrestler chain wrestle in action, let’s pull back to the principles and how you would look to achieve a high level of mastery with your own takedowns.
Each successful attack sequence at the higher levels usually require a combination of two to three set ups. In particular, snaps and jab fakes are particularly easy to use in combination. There are so many variations of each set up that you can snap or fake an attack in most standing positions.
With a good combination of set ups, one attack will work. Sometimes, however, several attacks in fluid succession are needed. Jordan Burroughs does this particularly well because he’s just about perfected firing off leg attacks from his knees.
How do you reach this point?
In order to reach this level of offensive ability, these attacks need to be integrated into your subconscious mind. Actively thinking about the steps simply does not work. The first step is to master the fundamentals of each individual attack. After this step has been reached, three particular drills can be used to develop a feel for chain wrestling.
In this drill, focus on hand fighting and set ups without executing a leg attack. Here, you’re looking for jab fakes, snap downs, or any other set ups while deliberately creating openings to score. Try to chain individual set ups together.
Sparring is a lighter version of live wrestling. There is more resistance than drilling but both wrestlers take turns trying to develop a better feel of certain positions while experimenting with different technical options. This is where you can get a feel for executing multiple attacks in succession.
It’s very difficult to chain wrestle without knowing what it looks like. Video works great but seeing chain wrestling in person works even better. Since you don’t see life in video camera lens, seeing what chain wrestling looks like and feels like in a live situation gives you a better idea of the timing.
Your Chain Attacks: What To Expect
Once you can chain attacks together, your opponents may know what’s coming and still be unable to defend your attacks because they can defend the first set up or attack. However, that second attack or sequence is very hard to prepare for since the opponent has already broken position trying to defend the first attack.
Che Chengsupanimit is a former collegiate wrestler, member of Thailand’s national freestyle wrestling team, and current combat sports enthusiast. He writes about how to improve your takedowns and achieve higher performance both physically and mentally. You can learn more about Che and his work at his blog.
Check out this wrestling for BJJ YouTube channel as well. It is sick! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtAKJuOmKVP9VJMcE0BeSDA
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In this backstage video, captured by a cell phone during the shooting of Rickson Gracie’s Self.Defense.Unit online course, master Rickson demonstrates a few invisible details that will improve your posture when passing guards.
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