17 October 2010

Ground Technique Training

Last week Sunday I competed in a grappling tournament in Seoul. It's an annual amateur tournament called “King of Ground,” and for this one there were around sixty competitors. I won some and I lost some.

This was actually the first time for me to compete in a grappling tournament. I've trained in grappling and other ground fighting on and off for awhile, but have never really had any interest to do it as a sport. I've retired from sport martial arts some years back for personal reasons, which I may discuss here in the future. So if I have no interest in grappling tournament sparring, why did I compete? The motivation for competing in the grappling tournament is twofold. Although I do have experience in stand-up fighting tournaments and and have sparred against a variety of martial arts, until now I haven't had any tournament experience in grappling. I do not practise grappling for tournament purposes but for self-defence reasons; yet it is probable that I may teach students in the future who may have such ambitions. While it is possible to teach based on theoretical knowledge, there is no doubt that practical experience is often invaluable for teaching. The second reason for my participation was to please my instructor. He really wanted me to compete. Our grappling group is not very big, so I conceded, knowing that participating in tournaments is often good for building group moral.

To be honest, I'm not fond of practising grappling. Rolling around with sweaty people is not my idea of fun. For this reason I actually like training in a full grappling uniform that absorbs sweat, for example a judo gi, better; however, I believe that grappling that does not require a gi is more practical for self-defence, as gi-training often teaches you gi-reliant techniques. Therefore, I favour practising techniques that are not dependent on your opponent wearing a certain type of garment. Although I do on occasion train at a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu academy too, where we wear uniforms, most of my grappling training occurs at a gym that does not use gi.

Grappling training may not be my favourite but I believe it to be an important part of a martial artist's arsenal so I hit the mat two, sometimes three, times a week. As a martial artist there are often things one does not necessarily like doing, but you do it anyway. It is part of being disciplined and if the martial arts teaches you nothing else, hopefully it teaches you discipline.

I've mentioned in a previous post the importance of practising ground techniques in Taekwon-Do. Ground techniques (noowo gisool / 누워 기술) is an acknowledged subsection of ITF Taekwon-Do and although it is often neglected, it should get a fair amount of training, especially—I believe—by higher level practitioners. It is my opinion that beginners should already start with basic break falling and rolling techniques, by the time students are intermediate level colour belts they must have a rudimentary arsenal of ground fighting techniques and by the time they are black belt they should feel comfortable on the ground. Of course Taekwon-Do is first and foremost a stand-up martial art, but since noowo gisool is part of ITF Taekwon-Do, a fair degree of proficiency in ground fighting ought to be expected of all black belts.

So what do you do if your ITF Taekwon-Do instructor does not teach you any ground fighting? Firstly, don't blame him or her. For some unfortunate reasons many ITF practitioners are not aware that ground techniques is an important part of ITF Taekwon-Do traning. It may be that instructor was probably never taught it by his or her instructor. Remember, also, that instructors often teach what they think students want to learn. After all, martial art teachers are in many ways service providers -- providing a teaching service to a particular audience. Suggest your interest in noowo gisool to your instructors and they may start to include it in training if they knew that there is an interest for it by the students. If, after you have requested ground technique training, your instructor still doesn't teach you anything, there are two other options. Get books and material of the Internet. A good introductory book I could suggest is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Renzo Gracie and Royler Gracie. There are some good grappling resources online like the YouTube-channel Submissions 101, for instance. Practise what you learn with a friend. Secondly, cross train at a gym focussing on ground techniques, like a Judo club, Brazilian Jiu-jitusu gym, or an MMA-club. (See my post on cross-training.)

A final caution. Remember that ground fighting in Taekwon-Do is different from normal submission styles. In Taekwon-Do we include a wide variety of techniques from the ground including strikes and kicks, not only submissions and joint attacks. Take some time to read through some of the striking and kicking options from the ground in the ITF Encyclopaedia. See Volume 3, p. 323-332 for ground hand techniques and Volume 4, p. 321-329 for ground foot techniques. (Note that a number of these techniques—like attacking the eyes—would be considered illegal in a typical grappling tournament.)

All of the best with expanding your arsenal for both stand-up fighting and ground fighting.

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