Sunday, January 20, 2013

MMA: Cracking the Turtle by Joe Silvia

Just a warm-up drill, right?

The primer which includes the warm-up and review have been specifically designed. It is not some random assembly of cool drills. EVERY workout starts with fundamentals. Every science, art, sport, or other endeavour starts and ends with fundamentals. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard or footage I've seen of Dan Gable drilling his shoot, or Rickson Gracie practicing his Shrimp, or Karelin practing his crotch lift, or John Smith practicing his lo-lo, or Serena Williams drilling her forehand, etc. It's only the beginner and intermediate athlete that wants to amass techniques as if the answer has anything to do with technique. Techniques are the END RESULT. When your posture, alignment, composure, breathing, and other fundamentals (base camp) are in perfect place and you have disrupted your opponent's base camp a technique will unfold. Don't artifically force a technique onto reality or you will be punished.

Having said that, cracking the turtle is a fundamental of the transitional range of "Fighting Short." In wrestling it's called mat wrestling or par terre. In BJJ or MMA it's called the turtle. Guys like Telles and Sakuraba have made the turtle into an entire system. They have made it OFFENSIVE. Many people gloss over it and maybe give it passing mention, however it's one of the most important positions on the ground.

As I mentioned you must assume base camp and break hi and THEN we use technique. Do we want to attack a person that is at 100% ability or 50% ability? If we attack his posture, alignment, breathing, composure, etc. he'll be at 50% ability or less. This MUST be first. This is why it's called a fundamental. You attack a person as he is trying to get his balance, breathing, posture or alignment back. He HAS TO to be effective.So what are some of the things a top player can do to break down his opponent's base camp while he is turtled? Let's start with the environment.


* SEAL: you NEVER break the seal between your chest and his back. It's this pressure that makes everything happen. The bottom player WANTS space so he can escape, counter, or attack. Do not give him/her what they want. This pressure will affect two elements: breathing and posture. With heavy weight on his back, he cannot pick up one of his hands or his face will piledrive into the mat. If he can't lift his hands, he can't use them. The seal must always be there.

* PRESSURE: Pressure must always be directed either sraight DOWN or at a DIAGONAL towards the floor. Do not pressure sideways, because that pressure is useful to your opponent. Secondary pressure is PLASTIC. This means not 100% hard, but not too light either. If you commit 100% and your opponent counters you are going to be in trouble.

* READING: All sports utilize reading. You need this sensitivity. You must bring awareness into the picture through observation. Listen to his breathing. Watch the look on his face. Observe how he shifts his weight. Is he faking? Bluffing? Getting ready to escape? Does he always respond by pushing back? Is he stronger or weaker? This feedback loop will provide you with the information you MUST HAVE to make the right decisions. Otherwise you are making guesses and that's no way to do a combat sport.

* DESTRUCTURING: Here is where you use your limbs to ruin his posture and alignment. Turning his face away, bending his joints into artifical not necessarily painful) positions, taking his head and spine off alignment, narrowing or widening his base, removing his balance points (posts), etc. Constantly breaking down his structure places him on the defensive even more.

* ACTIVE: Don't stay in one position and unleash all this. Spend a second or two attacking and then moving into different positions. Never let him know what your plan is or where you plan on doing it from. He has to feel like there are two of you and you are in front of, behind, on top and on the side of him. He has to be overwhelmed.

* SUBSTRATUM: You must ALWAYS be striking. This is not BJJ or Wrestling. This is MMA. Striking is the great equalizer. Someone can be many belt ranks above you, but when you are driving an elbow into their face or kneeing them in the ribs, their inexperience in MMA is exposed and your ranks are now equal or yours may even be higher. Like Tyson said: "Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face."

Fundamental Motions 

So what are some of the ways we can break his base camp? The primary method used is called tilting. The vast majority of what you will be doing is tilting since it involves control and breaking his base camp. Let's leave the detail and "secret" moves for class.

  1. Ankle picks: w/ or w/o a seat belt. Single and double picks.
  2. Seat Belt: This allows you to prevent him from stopping you putting your hooks in or getting a harness.
  3. Undercup: Single or double. This is for getting a variety of Nelsons, turnovers, submissions, and pins.
  4. Nelsons: half, quarter, power, full, reverse, etc. Great for control, submissions and turnovers.
  5. Crossface: GRIND and mush his jawline.
  6. Trap Lift: Having trouble getting his elbows away from his hips? Be clever. Lift his traps.
  7. Hip Drag: Use your momentum, not just arm stregth to destroy his balance and posture.
  8. Wrist Control: Great way to prepare for arm attacks anf get his elbows away from his hips.
  9. Grapevines: Single or double, stretcher or base attacks.
  10. Hooks: Pry his elbow away and place these wedges in. This is not the placing of your heels in, but the placing of your knees at his hips.
  11. Leg Rides: Typically on his near leg, with inside or outside rides.
  12. Navy Ride: Break him down and control his hips by threading his legs.
  13. Spiral Ride: Break his stance in two positions.
  14. Elbow Chop: Collapse his near side elbow.
  15. Stickshift: Pull his post out from under him.
  16. Head Lever: Drive your head into his triceps, best with wrist control.
  17. Chin Drag: GREAT when assisted with tricep control.
  18. Armpit Chop: Transition from front to side.
  19. Underhook: Use to tilt him into pancakes, cow cathers or cement mixers or exposing him to front naked chokes, brabos, D'arces, etc.
  20. Tricep Drag: from outside or inside.
  21. Nape Post: Drive his face into the mat.
  22. Chinstrap: Use a reverse collar and chin control.
  23. Blanket Ride: Great way to flatten from the side.
  24. Claw Ride: a little pain to get him tilting.
  25. Iowa Ride or Turk Ride: Great way to get turnovers.
  26. The Cheap Tilt: 2 on 1 control.

When all of these things are happening.....things you won't find in a magazine, book or instructional video (which is why you lurkers should come down to train) THEN you will be informed on what the best technique for that MOMENT is: G&P, submission, turnover, etc. Gather the info before making a decision.The general theme of this post applies to all facets of your MMA game, or for those specialists who just do BJJ, Boxing, Kickboxing, Judo, etc. you should appreciate, elevate, and admire the importance of fundamentals BEFORE techniques.


My sincerest gratitude to Joe Silvia for his kind permission in posting this primer.



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