Tricks are for Kids….
Reverse, Upside Down, Standing Triangle, WTF?!
So…you have been training 6 months to a year, you are starting to tap people at your gym/school, that blue belt just arrived, things are going awesome! But it’s just that damn 50/50 stalemate heel hook position that is giving you trouble. You need a new move, some trick to get you out of it, right? You already figured out how to work into that cool standing inverted triangle you saw on the Bellatore Fights the other night. Got a lot of cool tricks, some that work and some that don’t, and you are always on the hunt for more.
Here is a secret for you: Tricks are for kids. Better yet, there are no tricks. I just watched Phil Migliarese on a video, showing a tip for getting out of the 50/50 heelhook position I mentioned. It was a great method, and Phil is a master level instructor. I enjoy doing the same thing he was doing (not placing myself in any way in a category alongside Phil Migliarese), which is taking questions about jiu jitsu and helping with solutions. But here is the thing: people want fixes or tricks to help them out of their sticky situations, and learning these types of tricks can actually be ineffective and obfuscate the bigger picture of how they need to be training.
Oh no, not another one of these damn “Stick to the basics” soapbox speeches! We get it already! Blah, blah, train the basics. I know, I didn’t like to hear it either. Still don’t. I am a trick collector, too – ask anyone who knows me. I am not taking the blanketed route of saying train your basics and nothing else. I think that is the wrong (and boring) thing to say. It is also confusing. What are the basics? Aren’t there basic and advanced versions of the same moves? When do you learn the advanced stuff?
Firstly, what are the basics? Base, posture, position, etc. Whoa, whoa…you can’t throw “etc” in a statement like that! Yes I can. I just did. And the reason I did was because people sometime have to develop certain basic principles in different order. So, ETC! Deal with it! Drill and drill. Apply the basic principles everywhere. Something I preach to noobs is to operate in the familiar positions when you first begin rolling. If this means you get into a strange position that feels as if it may be dominant but you don’t know how to use it, then back off it into a position that you actually know how to work from. Example, if you are lost in half guard, let your opponent put you into the guard if that is where you actually know an escape from. This way you get to work on your techniques rather than having to ad hoc a transition or position.
And as far as those tricks go. By “kids” I mean newbies. Kids are excited by shiny, fancy things, and so are the tiros new to jiu jitsu or any other class. These are the ones wanting to know how to do that thing that guy from that fight the other night did. And to them, it is a trick in the truest sense of the word. It is a case-specific, independent movement to get them out of a certain difficult situation. The problem with noobs learning these tricks, is that they have a limited frame of reference for applying the sound basic principles to them. Tricks are fine if you can pick apart the principles at play within them, that make them work.
This is where the tricks come from; someone uses basic principles to apply a technique that gets them out of an unconventional situation. Dissect the situation, remove the technique from the context, and poof, you have a new trick. Here is the only real problem with tricks: when guys sit around and think up new things that might work, force these half-brained moves into a situation that is impractical or unrealistic, and anything but battlefield-tested. I could sit down and think up exciting new ways to choke someone with my toes, and if they sit still for me I can make them work. Hell, I can make crazy shit work very effectively if someone holds still for me. People do this all the time, and because they can demonstrate it on a cooperative partner, it appears to have as much validity as “real” techniques. Some people make whole careers on doing this shit (George Dillman?!).
My recommendations: you don’t have to be a cynic about everything you see in martial arts (that is my job), but you do have to establish some accredited sources you trust, and still keep a healthy level of skepticism over much of what you see. Half of what you see and none of what you hear is a great maxim for martial arts. Seek out those pure basic principles and use them as a barometer for any new trick you encounter. And train! Nothing filters bullshit better than exposure to the truth, and truth comes through experience.
And just to spice things up, I thought I should give you some examples of things I would consider “tricks” in the negative sense of the word. In other words, these tricks have either so very little basis in reality or are so isolated in their application that they benefit nearly no one. Enjoy, until I get in trouble for posting these and have to remove them:
The Pentagram?! Really?
And this is just hilarious!!!