Should You Have Sympathy For The Sandbagger?

Imagine that you’ve been grappling for about 9 months and have been considering competing in your first tournament in the beginner division at the next tournament in your area.  Initially, you’re somewhat apprehensive about competing ecause you’re not sure if your skill level will be good enough for you to represent yourself and your school well. Fortunately, your instructor encourages you to give it a try since it’s just a beginner division and there will be other guys in the division just like you that are new to grappling.

So, after getting over your apprehensions, you decide to go for it!You put in the extra training days on your schedule, you watch your diet the weeks leading up to the event to make sure that you’re right on your competition weight, and do all the other things necessary to make sure that your debut is a success.

The day of the event, you feel confident and ready to go.  For your first match, you encounter a guy who’s so good that he shuts down everything that you try or even think about doing.  His moves are so perfect that you wonder where he trains to be SO GOOD as a beginner.  And after he beats you during your match, you go over to introduce yourself because you want to know about him and where he trains.  You talk briefly and then you go to watch the rest of the
tourney.  You initially feel bad about losing your first match, but once you see that the guy who lost to actually won the division,you don’t feel so bad about your performance.

A week later, you do a Google search on the guy that you competed against and discover that the guy owns a MMA school and has been training for at least 5 years!   At first, you’re shocked by the discovery because you can’t believe this to be true.  Would a martial arts school owner that’s been grappling for at least 5 years really compete in a beginner division and then put the fact that he brought home a goal medal up on his website (without mentioning the division)?

Of course he would because that’s what sandbaggers do!  They lie about their experiences so that they can be bumped down to a lower skill level to ensure victory.  Sandbagging has been going on since competitions have existed and, most likely, will continue to exist. And as much as I would love to say that I made the story up above,it wouldn’t be true because an OG told me about this experience just recently and wondered what he should do about it.

At first, I used to be mad at sandbaggers, but then my anger turned to sympathy for them.  I mean, when you think about it, they really are a pitiful bunch of grapplers.  If a guy would go through the trouble of deciding to compete in a beginner division when he’s been training MMA (grappling with punches and kicks) for 5yrs.  Then conceal that fact from the tournament promoters and go out and do his most advanced techniques against beginners that can’t detect or know how to stop it. And afterwards celebrate the victory like he just submitted Rickson Gracie, Marcelo Garcia, and Jacare all in the same event before standing on the podium to get his 1st place medal without any guilt or remorse.  And finally have the nerve to go back and write on his website that he brought home another gold medal (without mentioning that it was in the beginner division) for their dominating competition team, how can you see them as anything other than pitiful?

So, the next time that you’re watching a tournament and you see a guy doing a flying triangle in the beginner division, feel some sympathy for that poor, miserable soul… then go report him to the tournament promoter!

The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my students and he wanted to know what gave me the idea of using a folding chair to demonstrate and teach the proper posture for the “Bullfighter” Guard Pass (as he saw in on the OG Clinic DVD) since he had never seen anyone use furniture to teach a grappling concept before. I told him the reason I was able to use the chair to successfully teach the concept of proper body placement and weight distribution was based solely on the fact that no one ever told me that I couldn’t use a folding chair to teach my students. And since no one told me I couldn’t use a chair (or anything else that comes to mind), my teaching was bound ONLY by my creativity.

The motivation for using the chair was to teach my students the proper hand positioning and to show them where the weight should be distributed to neutralize their opponent while doing the pass. The reason I used the folding chair was the fact that they’re light and mobile, which allows me to put several on the mat at one time to create a unique drill for the students that immediately catches their attention and presents them with a simple training tool that most of them have in their homes and workspaces. Once they put their hands on the chair in the proper position, the feeling they feel in their hands lets them know exactly where the weight is being distributed and if their feet and hips are properly positioned for successfully neutralize their opponent for a successful guard pass.

The whole idea of using a folding chair seems so foreign to many grapplers (of all experience levels and ranks), but that’s one of the reasons that so many grapplers can’t improve outside the traditional setting or without black belt level instruction. They lack the imagination and creativity required to help them learn, understand, and to teach grappling techniques and concepts outside of the traditional setting that you see in lots of training academies, grappling books, and instructional DVDs.

Would I consider myself an innovative genius for using chairs (among other things) as training props? Well…yes and no! I am innovative because I haven’t seen anyone else doing it and no one’s accused me of stealing it from someone else…yet! At the same time, I know that I don’t own the patent on training creativity and quite certain that there are TONS of non-traditional training methods being used in gyms around the world that teach grappling concepts that are unknown to the masses.

THAT’S what I consider “thinking outside the box” in grappling. So, if you’ve got some “crazy” idea that helps you or your students understand a grappling principle, keep up the good work and continue to think outside the box. And if you think using a folding chair as a guard passing training tool was cool, wait until you see how I use a stationary bike seat and an umbrella in my OG Shadow Grappling DVD, which will be available within the month!


Paul M. Greenhill, “The Wise Grappler”, is the creator of The Wise Grappler System and author of The Wise Grappler Ezine, a weekly ezine that provides grappling and mental mindset training tips for the older (over 35) and non-traditional/non-competitive martial artists. To learn more about “The Wise Grappler” and to sign up for more FREE tips like these, visit his site at or contact The Wise Grappler.

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