Rolling/Standup Strategies


Feb 18, 2005
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Last month I posted a thread called Self Evaluation, to get us thinking about our strengths and weaknesses. This month my topic is strategies, and how to apply to them to the grappling game. I hope any experienced grapplers here with sound advice will feel free to contribute to this thread, but no flame wars please.

The difference between Strategy and Tactics:
Strategy is the overall gameplan I plan to use, tactics are the steps I employ to achieve my strategy. For example, if my strategy is to keep the fight from my guard, my first tactic is to pull the guard as my opponent clinches, my next tactic is to close the guard and prevent my opponent from breaking it. These two tactics are essential to maintaining my strategy of fighting from the guard.
Let's take a look at Chess for a moment. In chess the object of the game is to place the King in checkmate, a position he cannot escape; this can be equated to sinking in a submission on my opponent, it is how I win the game.
In chess, white makes the first move, usually moving the Queen's pawn into the center of the board; this is the strategy of "controlling the center". In this strategy, whoever has the most control of the center, can force the opponent into a corner, cut off the opponents troops from each other, isolate the King, and move in for the kill. The tactics involve getting 2 pawns to the center, getting the horses to reinforce the pawns, getting the bishops to reinforce the horses, then freeing up the queen and the towers and placing them in the center files.
In grappling, if my strategy is to control the center, my opponent is now forced into the corners. He will be in an immediate disadvantage, if he is forced off the mat he loses points, he has less room than me to manouever, and he will tire quicker as he moves around me than I will by standing in the middle.
When we engage, I will again control the center, but this time the "center" will be his center of gravity- his hips. The tactics I will use to control his hips will vary on how my opponent defends the control- can he break my double under hooks? Does he allow me to pull his head over his center? etc.
If I control the center of my opponents body, I can take him down.
Once on the mat, my strategy will change to " positional dominance ": I will now get him in a "control" position. In chess, controlling the center is a form of positional dominance- I can attack my opponent easily, but he cannot attack me easily. On the ground, by keeping my opponent in an inferior position, I can submit him, with little risk to myself- unless I lose the position!
This is where tactics come in. My tactics to establish side control (dominant position ) can include: passing the guard, passing the half guard, stacking, jumping passes, submission attempts, feints, maintaining base etc.
This is where some fighters can go wrong. They confuse tactics with strategy and cannot finish an opponent. The goal in my fight is to submit my opponent, if I can, and to absolutely dominate the positions. If my only goal is to pass his guard, a tactic, not a strategy, I am blinded to any other possibilities that may present themselves. My strategy is a progression of tactics, attacks and counters, that will achieve my goal of tapping my opponent. My strategy is not a bunch of moves that have no focus, no over all gameplan, and no hope of beating a skilled fighter.
Everybody who wants to win will employ strategy, wether it's a training program, a weightlifing program, psychological training, a particular set of moves that flow well together, etc. It's the guys that only practice the crazy new submissions, with no overall gameplan of how to work these tactics into a winning strategy, that get frustrated and lose.
A submission has no place in my arsenal unless it fits my fighting style, and my chosen strategy. If my strategy is to fight from my guard at all times, I need to work the sweeps and atacks that come from the guard. If my strategy is to get the top positions, I need to work on my takedowns, my wrestling, my attacks form the side control, getting the mount, keeping the mount, finishing from the mount, etc.
aznything else has no place in my game.
It sounds to me that you've been introduced to "The Grappling Gameplan".
What happens when my strategy fails?

Sometimes, no matter how hard we work at something, the opponent just will not let it happen. this is the time to change to a backup plan. It's important to have worked the back up plan well in advance of the fight, so it is a natural and familiar thing to do.
For instance, my strategy was to get a dominant position, and finish the fight from there. Every thing went according to plan, my takedown tactic was succesfull, my guard pass tactic worked, I got the side mount, I established a good mount- then it happened. My opponent reversed me, I ended up on my back with him in my guard.
Instead of getting emotional that my strategy seemed to fail, I should switch to my back up plan, fighting from the guard to win. I have worked this gameplan for many weeks as a backup, I'm confident from my back. I work to sweep, to get back to my original plan, but if my opponent just will not be swept, it's okay. Because, while he might think I only want to get back my original position, I actually have a whole new gameplan, along with entirely different tactics to use on him. He is now in uncharted waters whereas I, am in my home port. If the "positional dominance" strategy is my front yard, then my " win with the guard " strategy is my back yard. I might have planned on hanging out in the front yard today, but it's no big deal to go play in the back!
Bmonk said:
It sounds to me that you've been introduced to "The Grappling Gameplan".
No, not yet! :) But I plan on buying it when I can afford it. I do get the e-mails tho'.