Monday, November 21, 2016


Getting the order right ...

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the way we are introduced to certain subjects/topics/ideas throughout the course of our learning, is rarely the optimal pathway. 

Sometimes it is, of course, if a learning-pathway had been mindfully designed but much more often we are learning as though pulling books at random from the shelves of a huge library.

Looking back at say - to be topical - the theme of ashi-garami/leg control - I learned many drills, attacks, some defences, combinations, entries, etc - over a period of time. In reviewing what I have learned, I now realise - that there are three simple drills that I learned (10 years in) that would have been immensely helpful right at the very beginning. I also realise that that some of the variations I learned would have been much better learned after I had better understood some of the basic concepts. In other words, it is now very clear that I was picking up pieces of the ashi garami puzzle, at random, trying to make them fit together without even a view of the bigger picture.

Seeing the front of the jigsaw puzzle box gives us immediate context and overview. This really helps when we are trying to re-construct it from a random pile of pieces.

In the case if ashi garami for example - I think it is important o first understand context - ie: why and under what set of circumstances are we deciding that this is in fact a good option/course of action.

Eg; Imagine we are standing over our opponent - who has an open guard - we grab his foot, fall backward and try to establish the leg/foot control ... we should ask, is this an optimal strategy when we are taking our first fledgling steps into the world of ashi garami? I would suggest that it is not!

And this is where 'rationale' comes into the design! As in life, before we choose a path, start out on a journey, make a decision ... we should, ideally, be able to provide some rationale as to why we have made the decisions/choices we have ... rationale.

Think about it ... we are on top (essentially dominating) .. so why choose falling back as a first option/foray into the footlock world ... it's kind of like splitting tens in blackjack - you would want to be confident. You cannot know, with certainty, that you have improved your situation by foot-grabbing and falling backward (ask shamrock , circa 1992)

So, how about we start out taking another approach (actually a very old-school approach) ... imagine we are laying on our back with opponent standing over us (one foot either side of our chest) ... by securely grabbing his ankle, just that, we improve our situation as he cannot properly mount us. Then by threading our foot, up and around his leg - securing the ashi garami position - we reduce his mobility and start to control the distance - we find a way then to dump him on the ground - and then we stand up (or stay down and attack his leg/foot if we have skill). In this scenario, there is little doubt that we have improved our situation every step of the way ... 

So, I would suggest that this would be a better starting point for an early ashi garami lesson than any set-ups we might apply from the top. Hopefully you get where I'm coming from.

I refer to this (and I got this idea from my coach Rigan Machado) as the seed/root idea of ashi garami. Then we design and build from there. Often, certain foundational drills/warm-ups would precede even the seed/root drill - to better prepare the student for success in their initial efforts of replicating the seed drill.

My thinking is that this theme 101 approach - to almost any subject - is a great way to go. It builds a solid foundation - and gives context and meaning - providing a basis upon which to heap all the future design iterations and variations and favourite versions of that theme that we will not doubt be exposed to as time goes by.

This approach can be taken with almost every subject. Food for thought; projects enough for a lifetime. - JBW

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