Angle and positioning: How do we get there from here?
Anyone who has trained a martial art with resistance-based pressure testing or sparring knows that the correct technique in a given situation is rarely predetermined. A boxer may have a plan to knock out his opponent with his powerful right cross, but making perfect contact with perfect timing and placement is very difficult. The other boxer and his or her body has a say in the matter as well because he or she is fighting back and not all things work on all people. The same goes for a wrestler’s takedowns, a judoka’s throws, and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner’s submissions. The fighter may have a game-plan and a best move, but things change and he or she must adapt and overcome.
Training that focuses on a single technique as an inevitable pre-determined outcome to a given scenario, with no contingencies or alternatives for when, not if, things go sideways, is not only unrealistic but maybe even counterproductive. There are many better ways to train than this, with a variety of different focal points for the training. One useful method is to focus on repeatedly attaining an advantageous angle and positional advantage without concerning oneself with the takedown, pin, or submission, at least at first.
If you are able to consistently get to a dominant position, at the correct angle, under greater and greater amounts of stress and reisistance, application of the finishing technique becomes much easier. Angle and position give us the gift of time. They allow us to make tactical choices under significantly less pressure and threat of retaliation because, ideally, they put us out of harm’s way, even if for a brief moment. Angle and position stack the deck in our favor and give us greater control of the fight and its outcome.
So, next time you are practicing an armbar, a takedown, a choke, or ude osae (ikkyo), pause in the final moment prior to execution and reflect. Analyze the angling of your body and the position you are in relative to your partner. What does it look and feel like? How could it be better and more secure? How can you replicate that and find that place from anywhere? With this focus, you will fail at executing the finishing move for a while, especially in randori, but eventually you will find your groove and you will notice yourself fitting into that place more and more naturally until you begin to feel unstopable to your opponents who are still concerned with minutiae and not the big picture of angle and positioning.
-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo