Does Your Training Also Teach You How to Defend Yourself… or Just Win Grappling Tournaments?

April 13, 2009

Imagine one night after leaving your grappling class that you decide to stop off at a convenience store to get a soda. As you’re walking through the door, a guy rushes out while not paying attention and runs into you, forcing him to drop his soda. You say excuse me for your part in the mishap, even though it wasn’t your fault, and hope that will resolve the issue.

Unfortunately, our rude friend decides to call you a few dirty names and demands that you buy him another soda before he kicks your butt. You try reasoning with him and are forced to accept the fact that he’s not going to let this thing end peacefully.

And as you try one final attempt to resolve the issue peacefully, our rude friend decides to…

Now, I ended the scenario right there because I don’t want to say exactly how it turns out because it can end a number of way (e.g. guy takes a swing at you, guy accepts your apology, guy realizes he wasn’t paying attention, etc.). But the question I want you to ask yourself is this:

Does your grappling training prepare you for this kind of situation or is it geared more toward competitions?

Why am I asking this question, you may ask?

Ever since grappling emerged on the MMA scene in the early 1990s, millions of people have joined grappling schools around the world hoping to learn how to defend themselves, like we saw an underdog named Royce Gracie do in those early UFC matches.

There were some schools that taught their people how to fight. But unfortunately, there were far too many schools that made their students only sport tournament practitioners that couldn’t defend themselves in those kind of situation mentioned above.

They never learned how to throw a punch, kick, head butt, bite someone, the right mindset for self-defense or even how to hit someone with a brick to get to safety… but they know how to apply an armbar or 3 different ways to escape a triangle choke.

Now don’t get me wrong because I’m not against sport grappling at all. I just believe that every school should provide a vehicle to teach their students how to protect themselves outside of the sport tournament rules framework.

I also believe it’s the responsibility of each student to ensure that they learn how to defend themselves so they will feel confident in their abilities to deal with those kinds of situations when they occur and can’t be resolved peacefully.

Flying triangles look cool, but they won’t do you any good if someone slaps you, puts you in a headlock and throws you down to the ground while you flounder there helplessly. How are you going to explain why you got beaten up at the store when you’re telling everyone that you’re at the gym “fighting” 4 days a week?

Can Acting Like Spiderman REALLY Help Grapplers on the Mat?

December 2, 2008

I know, it sounds crazy! But before you call me a kook, hear me out for a minute while I tell my story.

Last week, I was training with a couple of students and while I was rolling with one of them (who I’ll call Grappler X), I was putting a lot of 3PP discomfort on him from the top positions.

The entire time I was doing the pressure game, he was smiling and cracking little jokes about having me in trouble and telling me how what I was trying to do wasn’t working.

One of the guys on the sidelines said to him, "This probably isn’t a good time for you to be cracking jokes.’

Grappler X replied, "Hey, I’m just like Spiderman. He cracks jokes EVEN when he’s getting his azz kicked!"

Of course, I laughed because I thought it was funny and remembered all the times I read ol’ Spidey talking about how fat the Kingpin was before, during, and after their fights.

But then I got to thinking about what the joke-cracking did for Spidey and it occurred to me that the jokes did three things

1. It hid how he really felt about his situation from his opponent

2. It kept his attitude positive when he was in deep chit

3. He always joked his opponents on an area where he knew it would get to them mentally (e.g. the fat jokes with the Kingpin)

And the more I thought about it, I realized that Spidey was actually using mental mindset tactics against his opponents!

Imagine that… Spidey was an OG ahead of his time!

That doesn’t mean that you should make fun of your partner’s weight or their speech disorder while training, but if you can hide how much trouble you’re in, keep your attitude positive while being smashed, or poke fun at one of their positions (e.g. your guard sucks), that would be along the lines of something Spidey would say.

So, as I finished rolling with my joke-cracking student, I realized that he was way ahead of many of his teammates because he had the ability to mentally endure and escape 95% of all tough situations he would encounter on the mat. Once he gets the technique to go with it, he’ll be a wrecking machine.

So, the next time you’re in a tight spot and just about ready to quit, think of something ol’ Spidey would say and see how both you and your opponent responds to it. I think you’ll be surprised at how well it works for you.


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.

6 Mat Tips to Improve Your Closed Guard Defense! Part 1

August 17, 2008

Here’s the magic question:  If I said that I could provide you with
6 simple tips that could make your closed guard defense more
threatening to your opponents, would you be interested?

If you’re a grappling nut like I am (and at this stage in your
grappling journey, you need to accept the fact that you are), the
answer is yes and these tips were made just for you!

Be advised that the simplicity of these tips is the reason that
they are so effective, easily applicable to anyone’s grappling
game, and should not be underestimated because they seem “too
basic.”  They could mean the difference between you surviving long
enough to pass your opponent’s guard or being revived and informed
that you were just put to sleep and the match is over!

Here are the Tips 1-3 for improving your closed guard:

Tip #1:  Always maintain good posture every minute you’re in the
guard – This may sound like a “no-brainer” comment, but the reason
most (if not all) grapplers get triangled, swept or armbarred is
because of bad posture.  Good posture is established when you are
sitting back on your heels with your hips in front of your head
while staring at the wall in front of you.  The minute your head
moves in front of your hips (e.g. when you look down at your
opponent), it’s easier for your opponent to pull you forward and
break your posture.  When you look at your opponent, move your eyes
only to focus on him as if you would get into trouble if someone
saw you move your head. This will allow you to see what your
opponent’s doing while maintaining your position and making them
work harder to pull off their closed guard attacks.

Tip #2:  Don’t ignore or keep fighting thru your opponent’s grip
when they grab your gi or wrist, deal with the problem – All too
often, I see grapplers inside their opponent’s guard ignore it when
their opponent grabs their lapel or another control point while
they’re passing the guard.  What they don’t realize is the fact
that their decision to ignore a grip has created a problem which
will make passing the guard more difficult, even if it’s not
apparent to them at the moment.  This is what usually happens when
a guard pass fails and the grappler gets snatched back into the
guard position or into a triangle.  Fighting through a grip may
work early in a match when you’re not fatigued.  But as the match
goes on and your energy declines, it gets harder to fight through
control grips.  So, stop fighting thru them and remove them when
they occur.

Tip #3:  Use your hands to control your opponent’s body on the mat
and to break their attacking rhythm – When you’re sitting back in
good posture, your hands (which also includes elbows and forearms)
are responsible for keeping your opponent’s back on the mat,
monitoring your opponent’s hip movement, and grabbing your
opponent’s hands, wrists, and forearms (not the biceps because it
requires you to lean forward and takes you out of posture.  It’s
not wrong, just something I don’t recommend unless someone is
punching you in the face or you’re an advanced grappler), which
will force them to stop their attack so they can free themselves of
your grips.  If you control their body movement while tying up
their hands during an attack, you will stifle their attack while
frustrating them at the same time.

Apply these three tips and you should notice that your opponents
will find your guard more difficult to pass as well as providing
you more opportunities to set them up for your favorite attacks.

In the next article, I will reveal Tips 4-6 for improving your
closed guard defense.

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.