Thoughts on ambidexterity, Hick's Law and assigning different games to each side.

Discussion in 'Grappling Technique' started by Shemhazai, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. Shemhazai

    Shemhazai Black Belt

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    This is going to be somewhat of a rant, but bear with me; hopefully I'll have a valid point or two.

    I've been giving some thought to the issue of ambidexterity in grappling. Almost everyone favors passing to a certain side, playing half guard on a certain side - hell, Marcelo Garcia says he only chokes people with his right arm. Obviously, one has less of a choice in this regard with certain techniques than with others, being that, say, choice of defense is often dictated by the opponent, but at least with offensive techniques, one is quite free to choose different games for different sides.

    Lately I've also come to realize, prompted by advice from one of my instructors during privates, that my BJJ is often too tentative, especially when playing guard. This seems to be largely due to the fact that I'm too conscious of all the options I have, while forgetting to actually impose my game - waiting, instead, to see which option is the most readily available. For this reason I'm now making a much more conscious effort to 1) simplify my game, limiting myself to 2-3 attacks from each position, and 2) make my attacks more automated and thereby more aggressive. Being a former RBSD nerd (I started out in Krav Maga), I find myself reminded of Hick's Law (Hick's law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), which in a nutshell states that the reaction time increases with the number of prescribed responses available. Guess I forgot about Hick.

    Applying all of this in practice, I've come to realize a few things about the way I play guard, and half guard variants in particular:

    - Since most people pass to the left, I obviously spend more time in half guard trapping my opponent's right leg.
    - When ending up with half guard on my 'bad' side, I often find myself working back to butterfly guard or the omoplata game rather than playing a proper half guard. (The exception here is the Glover-style deep half, which I tend to escape to from many positions, but try not to use too much offensively these days.)
    - When my opponent stands in my guard or sits in combat base, I'm more inclined to play a De La Riva type guard if his right leg is forward, but a one-legged X-guard if his left leg is forward. If one reverse-engineers the one-legged X-guard by way of half butterfly guard, it is essentially derived from a half guard on the opposite leg. In other words, I'm almost always playing half guard on my opponent's right leg.

    Now, what I find is that this approach, which I've never cultivated consciously (but might from now on), can actually aid me in limiting my number of prescribed responses, or attacks, from each position. Whereas with an ambidextrous half guard game, I'd have maybe 6 main options from my default position (maybe 3 of which being offense from half guard, with the other 3 leading back to full guard of some sort), a side-specific game allows me to assign one half to each side, keeping my game plan simple without neglecting effective techniques in my arsenal.

    To those of you who actually bothered with reading all this shit: What say ye?
     
  2. Solidus Snake

    Solidus Snake Purple Belt

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    I got nothing particular to say :D , except that you did a very good post.

    Personally, I think that it's true, I switch a lot attacks depending from the side... for example, I prefer to pull Hg on my opponent's right leg, and I usually do the underhook and deep half stuff a lot more easily than the other side, from which I prefer to put a butterfly hook and sweep, or play with the overhook for the triangle; the same can say with my butterfly guard, which I rather do with my right leg.

    I don't know, anyway, if one should better become very good with one thing at both sides, rather than developing a particular game for each side... somebody that knows you very well would try to force your game in a direction or the other (not a big problem till brown or black I guess, but still..).
     
  3. Lutador011

    Lutador011 Blue Belt

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    Iv'e also noticed prefferance for technique based on sides. When I imagine myself doing a triangle I always trap the left hand of my opp and my head rotates to my left. When I imagine the X guard I always grab the opp's right leg and my head moves to the right.

    Apparently ambidexterity is the trait of great athletes. Michael Jordan is a good example. Ambidexterity promotes your brain hemisphere cooperation (your left and right hemisphere work together) which helps you think faster and be more creative.

    You can develop ambidexterity by juggling. Also by drilling tech on both sides

    Personally I would invest time in developing both sides equally rather then having side specific technique. This is because having a balanced game on both sides I believe makes you have a better overall game and develops your ambidexterity.

    Not to mention the advantage over grapplers who develop only one side.

    Despite Hick's Law you can improve your reaction time by learning to flow with the go as they say, and you will have an easier time deciding a course of action.
     
  4. laohu69

    laohu69 Blue Belt

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    I'll give you an opinion from an ambidextrious persons POV. I was born an ambi (& I've never actually met another true ambi) but due to society I have developed to do certain thing either one handed or the other. I write RH, eat LH, shoot a rifle RH but a pistol LH. I do stand up South Paw (since it's an "odd" stance for most people to fight against), but can easily switch (& do several times during a round) with no degradation of abilities. Most things are built for RH use so I tend to use the RH whenever I pick up something (scissors, etc.) made that way without thinking. This has led to being RH default over the decades, I'll usually pick something up RH since the odds are it is made for that hand.
    When it comes to grappling I am an ambi, but....I do certain passes / techniques on different sides. Some of this is also due to injuries from past wrecks (live hard, die young & leave a good looking corpse didn't work for me- I got old instead) limiting parts of my body & making movements easier one way or the other. If I want to kate getame you I'm passing to the R, arm bar the L. However I practice both sides equally & will take whatever I'm given, but certain techniques default without me doing a lot of thinking about them. If you hand me your arm & I'm on the R I'll armbar in a heart beat, I'm just not going to go to that side intentionally looking for it.
    IMO limiting your technique option from a certain side / position should increase response / reaction time since you'll be able to develop muscle memory faster (something that I didn't see taken into account in Hick's Law) but will eventually lead to holes in your technique. Of course if you're anything like me those holes aren't apparent since everything I do sucks. I'm a Relson Gracie student & in one class he asked why I was practicing a technique both sides since the majority of people were RH to practice that way (play the odds I guess) & once I could do it that way correctly then worry about the other hand. I figure he's forgot more about BJJ than I'll ever know so I try to follow his advice.
     
  5. ShanghaiBJJ

    ShanghaiBJJ Brown Belt

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    I haven't read it thouroughly, but I think it is a good idea to spent a good amount of time working on your weak side, once you have repped out the good side. So I wouldn't and personally don't start too early.

    Well, now that I think of it, I guess it depends..... In closed guard I always attack to the same side for sweeps and mostly the same for attacks. In Spider and halfguard (and to some extend butterfly) I work to both sides, depending on what is there.

    I think this has a lot to do with grips. If everyone in my closed guard grips the same, I am just as set (usually) on which side to attack.

    But I think once you get to around blackbelt, it will even out.

    They say you learn easier (the body that is) if you first focus on one side.

    I remember Leo saying that in his match with Edgar, he noticed that he only had good pass defence on one side. So he went to the other side and rape ensued...
     
  6. thegreenblender

    thegreenblender Brown Belt

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    I wonder if both of your sides are a little weaker to balance out. Like, a lot of fighters have a "heavy" right hand, cause they developed that way. You probably have a medium right, medium left....because you never picked one side and overdeveloped the hell out of it while neglecting the other.
     
  7. laohu69

    laohu69 Blue Belt

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    It's possible, but no way to actually test the hypothesis. That being said I've never knocked anyone out with my L but I have with my R (from both stances), but I think that was more the opportunity presenting itself & me taking it.

    Edit: I thought I knocked out a guy with my L once (you can "feel" it when it's right), dropped my guard to celebrate & took the worst beating I've ever had in a ring.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2010
  8. Uchi Mata

    Uchi Mata Preaching the gospel of heel hooks and left kicks

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    I agree with this post. My teacher is adamant about learning things on one side until you have it down, and then learning the other. Frankly, the other side often comes naturally once you have it down on your good side. I always play righty in Judo, but when forced into lefty I can still play a pretty good game just because all my favorite throws still appear in my head, just on the other side.
     
  9. ijustwannasurf

    ijustwannasurf Brown Belt

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    I agree with simplifying your game by developing core positions that are easy to get to. This is how you end up able to funnel people into your game, no matter what their style.
    Regarding L/R- I couldn't snowboard until I tried riding goofy. I couldn't take anybody down until I shot left leg lead or underhooked w my left arm. Trapping a right leg in half guard, I go Gordo or replace toward omoplata. Other side, I always seem to take the back. I drill strong side almost exclusively, because as the technique changes so does which side feels strongest.
     
  10. 3dsmax

    3dsmax Orange Belt

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    Being ambidextrous in grappling is almost a must for a lot of positions simply because you can't force your opponent to be on your good side all the time. I roll with somebody who's extremely intelligent and technical for his level. He does things like going to my weaker side in just about every position. In fact, he told me many times where my weaker side is. I won't even go into all the ways he changes his game up just to counter what I'm doing. I still try to use the same techniques regardless of whether it's my good side or not because I know they work. It doesn't take much to start feeling comfortable on both sides.

    When it comes to the whole "too many techniques" thing, one of the way of looking at it is to create sequences and loops of techniques. I have 3 sweeps (there are more but these are the starting ones) that I like to do from half guard. Unless my opponent is really off balance I'll go for one and then start transitioning into others as they become available. This could include more than 3 techniques but the bottom line is that you adapt on the fly with things you've prepared beforehand. The best sequences go back to the same original move and you do them until one of you messes up. Limiting yourself to 2 attacks is very dangerous early on because you'll end up with an extremely one-dimensional game that is easily countered unless your skill is much higher than your opponent's. Last sentence was to shut up all the Roger fans.
     
  11. Stacked

    Stacked Yellow Belt

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    Great post, I have been thinking a lot about this lately.
     
  12. JRT6

    JRT6 Black Belt

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    I don't have the literature to post but Hick's law has since been shown not to apply when: the response is relavant to the stressor AND it is practiced. That doesn't mean having a zillion techniques won't slow you down but you can definately have more than one or two and still not effect your reaction time.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2010
  13. Broski

    Broski White Belt

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    Just yesterday I noticed that I always try to pass to the left, but I didn't think most everyone did it.

    Honestly I'd rather have two options for passing or submitting than trying to force one option into working every time.
     
  14. laohu69

    laohu69 Blue Belt

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    That would make more sense since it would take into account the muscle memory that I noted earlier was missing from the equation.
     
  15. Drew Foster

    Drew Foster Silver Belt

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    So as a righty you also shoot shots lefty and ride skate/snowboards lefty?

    Me too. Crazy.
     
  16. Auspex

    Auspex Brown Belt

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    Odd, was talking to a neurologist that told me real ambidexterity only exists with people that have problems, or misdevelopments in their brains. You might want to get that shit checked out. :)

    I think switching between R/L is important, but if you split time with them evenly you won't get as developed as you should if you focused on a single side.

    Practice is all about developing muscle memory, learning nuances, etc. If you try to be completely balanced then I think you won't have any strenghts. I don't see this as a good thing. To each his own, though.

    For example, I primarily practice RH throws, but dabble in the left side so that Im' not a complete noob when a left side opportunity presents itself. But if I don't drill 1 side to become a complete badass, then I won't be at a high enough level to get a throw in the first place.

    And, after proof reading this, I am shaking my head with a "well, yeah, sorta, but...."
     
  17. MUFC

    MUFC Brown Belt

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    I can only play DLR with my left foot as the hook. I prefer some sweeps to my right, but largely, I'm equally as good to either side. Strangely, I'm right handed, but for the cross choke from mount, I prefer using my left hand as the first hand in.
     
  18. redaxe

    redaxe Silver Belt

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    This reminds me, I should probably practice shooting double legs with my left foot forward.
     
  19. ijustwannasurf

    ijustwannasurf Brown Belt

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    Once I figured all this out, feet to floor became much less of a mystery. Too bad it took me til purple belt.
     
  20. Shemhazai

    Shemhazai Black Belt

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    Obviously, with things like side control escapes and guard pass defense (or any other defense, really), this is the case. That's not quite what I'm referring to in this thread, though. I'm not advocating having a weaker and a stronger side, just different games for each side. Inevitably, if I have identical half guard games on both sides, one is going to be weaker. If, on the other hand, I have a mean inverted half/deep half/Kimura game on one side and a mean omoplata/butterfly/dogfight/whatever game on the other side, my opponent will simply have to choose his poison, and I can focus all my drilling of said techniques (or these specific entries, anyway) on one side. At least that's how I think about it.
     

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