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“To close with your opponent, to control them, to place them on the ground in a manner that does not expose you to risk, and to destroy their resolve.”

Movement programming for Wrestling

Wrestling uses movements that are not typical for many people.  This is a bit of a conundrum.  You cannot learn wrestling moves well until you can move as a wrestler moves.  Doing wrestling moves is probably the best route to moving well.  Movement programming addresses this conundrum because it offers a way to practice the needed movements, build local muscle endurance and range of motion so that the wrestling moves can be accomplished and then practiced.  


Movement programming as a practice is simple.  Repeat a challenging motion until its easier.  Use movement programming to warm up and also train using  them in conjunction with your fitness routines.  It does not actually take long before you can work the moves more properly.

Here are some examples of wrestling appropriate movement programming drills:


  • long muscle flexibility exercises

  • squatting with and without a load

  • the nuances of stance

  • simple circle drill

  • stance in motion drills

  • strong line/weak line practice

  • rolls, back and forward

  • break falls

  • monkey walking

  • bear walking

  • Giant Stride

  • changing your level

  • turning the corner

  • sit outs

  • sprawls

  • get behind

  • single leg in and out

  • hip pop 

  • lifting

  • back stepping (preparation for a toss) 

  • bridging

  • reverse rolls from the ground to the feet

  • back arch  prep for suplex)

  • circle drill

  • stalking, backing up, body fakes, circling, knockouts (sprawls), spinouts, and hip heists

Decision Trees

 If you try to learn wrestling by choreographing moves or by rote learning alone you will not be able to progress far.   These methods allow you to intellectually understand what to do but they do not ingrain what to do in your soul.  Through drilling and scrimmaging (sparring) the familiar pattern of events starts to emerge and if you pay attention to this pattern it can help you to stay focused.


You can thus  think of wrestling as a series of decision points or problems that need to be overcome.   These decision points are like the junctions of branches on a tree.  Each decision point requires a course of action and what you choose dictates the choices that you have at the next decision point.  Having made one decision, the number of possible choices diminishes.  This branching pattern of choices is called a Decision Tree.  Coaches of complex sports and other activities are using Decision Trees to make it easier for the athlete to process what needs to be done in the moment.   The idea of a Decision Tree is based on game theory.  MMA coach Greg Jackson uses this process when coaching such athletes a John Jones.  The process simplifies what a wrestler has to think about in a match or in combat.  It helps diminish the time required to observe, orient, decide and act. 


Wrestling as a martial art progresses through a series of steps:


  • Entering into grappling range

  • Obtaining control over your opponent

  • Penetration to capture your opponents balance

  • Takedown

  • Ground Control

  • Escapes and Reversals

  • Submission


These steps outline the most basic and broad decision tree.


Each step is a branch point and each ranch point conveys with it a choice.  How you choose will dictate what options come next.  You will want to flow from one branch point to the next smoothly while taking advantage of the instability that you have created in your opponent’s defence in the process.

When you consider wrestling to be a martial art,  you have to place it within a continuum that begins out of range with a noncompliant opponent who in all likelihood wants to strike you with either fists or a weapon.  Entering is how you get to grappling range.   To enter well, it really makes sense to view wrestling as a component of martial skill and not as a stand alone art.   To learn to enter, learn unarmed striking skills and how to use weapons well.   Unless you know how to punch, kick and use a weapon you cannot find the voids in your opponent that allow you to enter.

Having entered into grappling range you can take hold of your opponent to both stifle attacks and to obtain control. using ties and the skill of pummelling.   While closed at this "clinching range"  close range striking as well as joint locks can be used to soften your opponent up, to prevent them from obtain control over you and or end the fight outright.  

Once you obtain control, you will control your opponents contre and create openings within which to penetrate to capture your openents centre and allowing you to do a Takedown.

Takedowns are the means by which you change the game from standing to the ground.  YOu can use takedowns to throw your opponent, ending the fight as a result of you can go to the gorund with them.

Ground control  is similar to pummeling in that you are maintaining control of your opponent's body so that you can manipulate them into submission.   All the while, you opponent will be attempting and escape or a reversal to turn the tides.

Submission  skills include pins, strikes, and locks.  Pins hold an opponent down and under control until they see the light of reason.  Strikes and locks can either cause damage or pain and cause a submission orinduce a loss of consciouness.  The goal of submission is the same: to destroy your opponents resolve one way or another.

A Dynamic Path

How things actually resolve is variable and dynamic.  At any point along the path, if the opportunity presents itself, the path can progress to the takedown or even a finish.   There will be a contest for control all along the way.  You may take the initiative and become dominant or your opponent may, in which case you will need to retake the initiative.  


There are lots of ways to progress.  For example you might:


  • strike a person outright

  • perpetrate a standing arm lock, a choke, or a strike as you enter

  • pull their upper body through the head or arm

  • push their upper body through the head, arm, or chest

  • take their centre and rotate it

  • trip them at the knee or ankle

  • take their knee or ankle up

  • combinations of the above


And they might also foil your attempts and counter you whereupon you might:


  • sprawl to stop them

  • perform a reversal if you have been caught

  • find a way to submit them anyway

  • strike them to stun them first


and so on.

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