Saturday, April 24, 2010


Back to the back ...

Back Choke – perhaps the most iconic of BJJ finishes, remains one of the least understood and used strategies in the current BJJ landscape. When I began my BJJ training, there was a long line of soft-challengers (by this I mean that variety of challenger that comes in insisting they are just curious and want to have a friendly spar; their skills against yours - and then they do their very best to take your head off) walking in the door wanting to pit their skills against a largely unheard-of team of BJJ enthusiasts and practitioners. That was the case prior to the first UFC; post this historical event, that line has largely disappeared; perhaps these ‘would-be’ tough guys are off looking for easier prey. The line is still there but now it is comprised of people who have left their ego’s behind and are sincerely looking for BJJ instruction; so the days of sitting astride yet another hapless challenger, waiting for him to roll over and give up his back to our choke, are largely gone.
In the professional BJJ academy and garage alike, people are rolling on the mat. In the beginning, the neophyte may indeed respond instinctively to being mounted by giving up his or her back; but it doesn’t take long before they realize that this is a bad strategy and they stop doing it. What happens as a result is that regular BJJ athletes are developing sophisticated strategies that are more and more effective against fellow experienced BJJ athletes; and the iconic back Control is quite often put on the back-burner.
On a sophisticated BJJ mat, if we just wait for our opponents to voluntarily give up their backs when we grapple we will be spending much of our time playing the waiting game. If we want to develop a strong and strategic back-oriented game we have to find ways to spend more time both getting and keeping that position. If I watch a mat during free-grappling practise, I don’t usually see many athletes spending a lot of time in back-control; I see loads of guard practice and guard passing; lots of side control and lots of north-south; some mount, of course, but not a lot of back control. There are several easy ways to remedy this situation – from a coaching perspective.
One simple but effective way is to simply have everyone play the paper-rock-scissors game before each wrestle; with the match starting with the winner of the game taking up position on the losers back; then the match begins. A few weeks of this can add up to a years worth of organic-back domination.
Another great way is to teach everyone a wide variety of ways to coerce the opponent into giving their back; from side control, from north-south, from mount, from guard, while passing, etc. The more ways the students have to achieve back-control, the more chance they have of achieving it during free-training. There are many technical and highly effective methods of getting to the back that can benefit coloured belts and black belts alike. The more time spent on the opponent’s back with our seatbelt grip in place, the more able we are to develop strong attacking and Plan-B skills in that position. Perhaps it’ s time to consider getting back to the back …

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It looks like the lion wants to take revenge for the name of the choke!

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Interesting perspective. My coach feels the same way about the iconic cross-collar choke from guard, like it's becoming a lost art as a finishing move and has evolved more into a setup move. I think there is something to be said for respecting these traditional basics even though they are going "out of style," so to speak. It could be that like clothing fashions, these positions and moves will roll back around into popularity.

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