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Does Your BJJ Game Need Some Catch Wrestling?
For those of us who train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and are obsessed with the idea of trying to master the martial art, it is easy to forget that the world of grappling is made up of many other forms of physical combat each with its own arsenal of techniques and craft or application of said techniques.
Each of these different forms of grappling can have yield great benefit as a form of cross training for our BJJ. Two of the most common grappling styles that are commonly used in conjunction with BJJ training to improve certain aspects are judo and wrestling. Studying judo, with its focus on the stand up techniques and takedowns can give one an edge in competitive jiu jitsu competition, as many academies do not train a great deal of takedowns. Having a wrestling background or incorporating wrestling into one's BJJ training can prove very beneficial from a number of perspectives.
First and foremost, athletes who have wrestled previously typically, no matter how currently out of shape they are, have a certain amount of physical explosiveness that the average new student simply doesn't walk in the door with. Secondly, their ability to adjust and control a person's body can greatly give them an advantage against a student with similar BJJ skill but no wrestling.
Catch wrestling is a variation of grappling that has seen it's ups and downs in with respect to popularity, having at one time been in the Olympics and been the original "pro wrestling" that birthed the scripted and fake version that we have today. Though it has waned in overall popularity in terms of spectator support, it has a relatively large and loyal following of practitioners and is growing slowly, challenged by the lack of events and media coverage that it faces. Leading practitioners and proponents included personalities like Chael Sonnen, Josh Barnett and Neil Melanson.
With it's focus on powerful submissions and controlling the opponent's body and wearing them down, there are a number of principles that we can extract from the catch wrestling lexicon to utilize when we are looking to add some new flavor to our BJJ game. These principles will make our BJJ techniques stronger and help give an edge in competition which is something everyone is looking for.
Catch them with pressure
Take a look at Josh Barnett's match against the great Dean Lister in Metamoris a number of years ago and you will see a great example of the use of pressure that Josh's catch wrestling background brought to the arena that ultimately led to Dean being caught in a relatively common head and arm style choke.
When it comes to applying a more "catch wrestling" style of pressure during your techniques, you will want to ensure that you are never, or very rarely not on your toes. Without a doubt, you must stay off your knees whenever possible when applying pressure. Any use of your knees will diminish the pressure that your opponent experiences and will not make them as uncomfortable as you could possibly make them. The gentle art, needs to get a little less gentle if you're going to have the edge on your opponents.
The same goes with the elbows. Often times we may find ourselves basing our weight onto our elbows, much like our knees. Ask yourself, am I riding the person I am grappling with or am I basing my weight on my knees and elbows? If the latter, make the change and watch the control and submission rate go through the roof.
Catch them with the crossface
Where someone's face is looking is where their body will go. If you can improve your ability to use pressure from your torso, your shoulder, your forearms, even your own head, you will be surprised and how easy they will be to control. You will have a better gauge on the potential escapes that they can launch because you will be pointing them in the direction you need them to go.
Couple an intense cross face with the principles of staying on your toes (off your knees) and staying off those elbows and they will have no choice but to somehow try to avoid the ride you are having on their body. Their gas tank and defenses will be no match for the pressure and control you bring to the game.
Check out the video below for a great example of how Neil Melanson utilizes the catch wrestling cradle to bring the pressure to purely BJJ practitioners.
For a look at the history of rise of the submission only movement and the decline of catch wrestling's popularity over the last century, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics.
It's always good to keep an open mind with other styles and look for ways to incorporate the effective tools from a variety of disciplines into your arsenal if applicable. Bruce Lee was one of the most famous proponents of taking techniques from a wide variety of styles and eliminating those things that are not as useful. By focusing on making your pressure unbearable and your crossface unbeatable, you will go a long way to making your BJJ game unstoppable and you'll have catch wrestling and it's philosophy of pressure and control to partially thank.
When you're ready to begin injecting some principles and techniques of the age old catch wrestling of by gone days, you will want to check out the "Catch Wrestling Formula" from Neil Melanson available here!