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
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.
There seem to be two general types of BJJ academies in existence, meaning every academy will fall under one (or both) of these umbrellas. The two types are Self-Defense based academies and Sport based academies.
What are the differences? Which one is right for you?
More often than not BJJ practitioners train in the traditional kimono or gi. Some wonder how wearing that uniform will help in a street clothes situation.
Sport Jiu-Jitsu will help you to develop the body awareness and coordination necessary to protect yourself in a self-defense situation, and you will certainly learn enough submissions to find a way to end the fight if necessary.
Self-Defense Jiu-Jitsu will also have an emphasis on punches and kicks (delivering and blocking) whereas you will have 0 emphasis on strikes in a sport setting.
If you are looking to BJJ for self-defense reasons, learning the self-defense techniques and drills in BJJ will serve your interests best. In this type of curriculum, you’ll learn how to deal with strikes and you’ll learn to escape and counter the most common “bar style” holds.
As you learn more self-defense BJJ, you’ll see that most of these moves are responses for your opponent’s offensive actions. Over time the mind will crave grappling with people who also know what they are doing, not just the local drunk buffoon. This is where more of a sport Jiu-Jitsu environment comes into play.
Many BJJ students learn the self-defense applications of BJJ early-on in their careers and look to sport BJJ for continued enjoyment. In sport BJJ, the problems are more complex, and thus more challenging, because your opponent knows not to hang on to a headlock when you are transitioning into technical mount. This makes BJJ much more fun in the long run, and with the self-defense foundation already established, your advanced knowledge of positioning, leverage, and timing will only make your self-defense skills sharper and more effective.
One of the most effective and commonly used takedowns in any grappling sport (where the rules allow it) is the single leg takedown. This is partly due to the fact that there are many different variations and technical nuances that go into the single leg takedown. If you’re trying to learn the single leg takedown but you’re not sure where to start, let me break it down for you and show you how each piece fits into the big picture.
Types of Single Legs
Single legs can be divided into three main categories: high, mid-level, and low.
For future reference, virtually nobody says “mid-level singles”. They’ll typically just refer to three variations as high singles, single legs, and low singles.
High singles are easiest to learn since you don’t need to get into the complexities of the penetration step (which is where most beginners make their mistakes). For the high single, you step towards your opponent’s leg, put your forehead to their chest, and grab the back of their knee with your arms. This variation is great if your opponent stands up in a very high stance or if you don’t want to drop to your knees with a single leg (due to a knee injury, for example).
Mid Level Single
Mid level singles are the most common variation you’ll see in grappling because you have the most options with set ups and finishes. With the mid level single, you can finish your takedown as a high single or as a low single, so you get more flexibility with your options. However, this also means that it’ll take longer to master.
The basics are simple enough to learn, but it does take longer to learn than the high single since the penetration step is introduced. If you follow the principles I mentioned earlier, though, your single leg will be much more effective early on.
Low singles are generally the favorite for fast and technical wrestlers since the attack focuses on precision and leverage (though there are exceptions). Setups are somewhat limited because you’ll tend to shoot a low single from a slightly farther distance.
Done wrong, a failed low single also puts you in a bad position where you’re extended and your opponent can put their weight on top of you like a sprawl, so there is more room for error than the other two variations. The plus side is that with the additional technical mastery, it’s also potentially the least energy consuming of the single legs, which is why it tends to be the energy-efficient attack of choice for quick and technical wrestlers that can pull it off.
How Do I Work on my Single Leg?
Choose your leg attack variation, learn the key finishing positions in that variation, and then master the set ups. This sequence is unorthodox but there is a reason to the madness.
At the beginner levels, you can get a lot of mileage out of a mediocre set up but your inability to finish will put you in all kinds of trouble. You may also develop bad positional habits down the road if you’re used to getting extended as well.
Of course, I don’t mean have zero knowledge of how to set up an attack. Learn the basics there, but sharpen them after you feel confident in your finishes. Wrestlers tend to hesitate on their attacks due to their inability to finish their takedowns, so we want to mitigate this as much as possible.
The single leg takedown is one of the most popular takedowns in wrestling. When you are controlling one of your opponent’s legs, your ability to score a takedown is far greater than your opponent’s ability to score a takedown. You can also personalize a single leg based on your body type, which makes it even more favorable. There seems to be endless variations and nuances of single leg takedowns.
Che Chengsupanimit is a former collegiate wrestler, member of Thailand’s national freestyle wrestling team, and current combat sport 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 workat his blog.
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