What concepts transfer easily from standup striking to ground grappling? If you understand one game but not the other and you decide to learn the other game, can you scaffold off your old knowledge or do you have to start all over again?
I think that someone who is a good striker who wants a ground game will have an easier time that someone with no striking experience that wants to learn to be a ground fighting. I also think the opposite situation is true: someone who is a good grappler who wants to learn to do standup striking will have an easier time than someone with no fighting experience. I think the reason the person with some fighting experience will have an easier time is because they already have a conceptual framework to build off of. I think this process will be made even easier if these connections are made explicit – meaning if the person thinks and talks about the similarities.
With all that in mind, I want to write a series of posts that attempt to conceptually connect the standup striking game to the ground game. Here is post number one. (How many posts will there be? More than one and less than one hundred.) I want to look at this comparison through the eyes of a decent striker who is clueless on the ground but wants to learn.
I think the easiest concept that translates beautifully between the two games is the value of getting off line against a bigger, stronger and more aggressive partner. A good striker knows the risk of standing toe to toe and exchanging strikes with someone who is bigger than you. It can work but given the challenge of a bigger, stronger and more aggressive partner, it is a situation in which the bigger person has a huge (literally) advantage.
One solution is to get off line: the knowledgeable striker moves their feet so they aren’t standing right in front of their partner. Using footwork, the smaller more strategic striker would ideally be standing behind the bigger person, looking at their back. The bigger partner’s arms and legs would be facing away from the smaller striker, making it very hard for them to strike effectively while the masterful tactician’s arms and legs would be positioned to strike a very poorly defended backside. Realistically, since no one wants their back taken, the bigger guy is going to move their feet so they can use all their striking tools and getting a slight angle is a big win. Sometimes it is enough to create these angles with footwork alone. Often, the good striker knows they need to throw some strikes to occupy their partner so that while they are busy fending off those attacks, they can get offline.
So most strikers with some experience are going to have a decent grasp of this concept of getting off line. How does it apply to grappling? Exactly the same way. Most of the time, you’ll want to get off line of a bigger, stronger and more aggressive partner.
In the standup example, we talked about not standing in front of a bigger partner because trading strikes with them works more in their favor than yours. It is equally true that if you have been thrown onto your back into the guard position (when you have your legs wrapped around your partner’s torso) by a bigger partner, you don’t want to fight for a submission with them straight on.
Assuming we are dealing with a sport grappling situation with no strikes, staying flat on your back and trying to get submissions isn’t a great idea against a bigger opponent. Despite the control advantage of guard, if they are bigger, they are likely to just use their size and strength to bull their way out of your attacks. One strategic solution is to get off line. Instead of laying flat on your back, you should move so that both their arms face the floor, both of your arms face one of their arms (your at a 45 or 90 degree angle to them).
On the ground, once you cut the angle against a bigger, forward driving partner, you should strive to position your body to control their position so they can’t turn to face you. Hopefully, you’ll establish a good enough control that they have to work very hard to regain their position. Ideally, you will use your controlling position to find a submission and finish the game right there. Realistically, you’ll probably have to repeat the angling off procedure several times but it will be easier each time as they get progressively more tired and with each iteration, you will find it easier to close a submission.
To summarize, one thematic connection between standup striking and submission ground fighting is getting off line. In both cases, you don’t want to square up and go toe to toe against a bigger, stronger, more aggressive opponent. They have the advantage in a contest of straight on strength. Instead, you want to change your position by getting off line, allowing you to leverage your maximum power (striking or submissions) while they are forced to operate from a weak position.