Frankly, I hesitate to call this a fundamentals class, given the content, but in the end, the fundamentals are what got the biggest workout, so I’ll just remain with the convention and go with it!
A quick warm up was followed by some exercises meant to both practise footwork and wrestling technique. From a collar and elbow hold, students must first push, then pull their partners across the room in a straight line using passing footwork. This encourages them to engage the hips, and forms a great core workout with some cardio elements. It also works great on thinking about structure and unbalancing and how to get the partner to move. This drill is repeated, but with gathered footwork. Not the collar/elbow hold is gained on both sides for the drill, giving more reps!
This is followed by a slightly more martially sound drill along the same lines that involves getting your partner across the room, but this time using lines of weakness. Pull across the line of his legs, push across that same line, etc. Use rotation and engage the hips to get them to move. I really should do video of this…
I also introduced another mechanic for getting people to move when pulled, stolen straight from Judo – what is, for all intents and purposes, an uchikomi. Check your watches, guys. I’ll also add a couple of more variations on this mechanic as we go through different aspects of wrestling.
We then spent some minutes just going to ground in a controlled manner – aka falling exercises. It’s become my experience that dedicated falling drills aren’t as useful as, you know, actually falling, but they do prepare the body as well as giving the new students some framework to accept falls correctly.
That done, we spent the rest of the evening working exclusively on a) getting the partner to move to a position where a throw can happen and b) practising timing. We did this through practising variations of the gambarola, a backward tripping. I admittedly stole a few training tricks from the Judo training bag here, but how can I argue with the effectiveness of this hundred year-old grappling sport specialising in throws? See. Justification made.
So now to the meat of the subject. The how-to.
Each technique was practised somewhat statically to begin. This is so people can get the mechanics of the technique. And by statically, I mean get your partner to move into position (practising the set up), then take them down. It’s nigh impossible to throw someone who is simply standing there like a lump. Practise also involved several instances of “fitting in”, whereby the entry is practised 5 times, but the throw itself happens only on every fifth repetition. This does a few things: increases the number of reps you can get in, reduces the number of falls people have to take, and practises what is ultimately the most difficult part: the setup and mechanics.
Each technique was then practised dynamically to practise timing. Taking a page from the Judo playbook here again, students moved by stepping back and forth in unison, and when ready, perform the set up and throw. This seemed (from my perspective) to work exceptionally well, with people getting launched into the air on a simple tripping.
Finally, done with the “how to”, here’s the “what”: variants of the gambarola (which I tend to define rather loosely as a backward tripping takedown). We practised a series from a collar and elbow hold, from an underhook, using an uchikomi mechanic (I really need to find a nice elegant Italian word for that), and finally with both arms to the outside (taken from the MS 5278).
- Break structure.
- Keep your partner’s torso close, work with your body and not just the strength of your arms.
- Step offline, perpendicular ( in this particular case – we’ll work later on different mechanics for stepping) to the line of your partner’s lead foot.
- Step through and plant the foot, straight leg. I like to call it “pointing” the foot, creating better structure and strength in contracted muscles.
- Make sure to keep your leg turned such that if you fail in your technique, or he falls on your leg, he falls against the back, and not against the side of the knee.