Stand up game: Basic Principles

A year and a half back we started to train technical judo.  For me it was the start to really improve a part of my game that I felt really uncomfortable with – the stand up. I never inteded to go and learn judo. I went because I wanted to learn how not to be thrown down (I hate being thrown down). So this whole year and half I have been going to judo has been with BJJ in mind. I’m not going to go into details about different takedowns or throws. I am by no means an expert in stand up grappling but what I want to share is my thoughts on what you should know going into the stand up game. From the perspective of someone normally lying down on the floor.

Rhythm is everything.

Without rhythm no amount of takedowns or throws or submissions will do you any good. What I learned really quick was that takedowns aren’t that difficult. It’s getting to do them that is hard. The thing that I realised was that I had no knowledge of rhythm. Some use the word timing to describe this, but for me this is wrong. Timing is what happens as the result of rhythm.

The one thing I have been drilling the most while doing stand is feeling the rhythm, to learn to feel how my partner moves, what pace is he/she setting. Because once you’re able to identify the rhythm you can brake it. And that is what will give you the takedown. Think of a finely crafted band of musicians. When they all work with the same rhythm the music flows. But when one of them misses the rhythm it’s going tackle the whole piece.

The same thing works with doing stand up. If you can find your partner’s rhythm then you can break it and catch them when they’re in a vulnerable place. If you just go with at it with their rhythm you will never be able to do takedowns as you will be working against his/her strong positions.

Forget the grips. They don’t matter that much.

Let’s get this straight. Grips do matter, just not as much as a lot of other things. The one thing that most people coming to the judo class from BJJ is about the grips you need. I did the same thing when I started. I wanted to learn to be efficient with an arm throw so I was really interested in getting the grips. But in the end that didn’t really matter. I wasn’t getting the arm throw because I didn’t have rhythm.

Let’s take the osotogari for a closer view. I first learned it in BJJ basics. I learned a certain way of stepping, a certain grip to hold. I learned to sweep the leg (obviously I’m not going to sweep him if he’s wearing a bandana and is standing in a crane stance, that would be suicide).

Then a few years later I learned the osotogari again. Another way of stepping in, no grips. No sweep. Just a long step past the guy. And it resulted in a takedown. Six months later I learned the osotogari in yet another way.

Three different ways of doing the same technique and each of them worked.

The one thing that all three of them had in common was the direction of the takedown.

When a human stands in a normal posture (meaning a shoulder width stance with both feet parallel) it is weak in two directions; forward and backward from his ankles. This was the thing I had been working against. I was just trying to get the guy down and spent a lot of energy in trying to get him go down in a direction my partner was strong.

Once I started doing my stand up game in way that I tried to do the takedowns in directions my partner was weak in I suddenly started getting more successful in my takedown attempts. Because having that general direction where to work your partner in mind it didn’t really matter anymore what takedown I was going for. It made all of them alot easier. Once I had a little rhythm and a sense of direction my game really started to improve.

Walk up straight, you’re not a bloody monkey.

The next big thing was the realization that I couldn’t walk. I was doing the basic BJJ guy stand up game; crouched, muscles tensed and a little spastic while trying to get what ever I knew by force (and when that didn’t work I sat down). I was getting tripped a lot because of that. Because I was giving my partner a direction to take me down.

I literally learned to walk again. Keeping my eyes up, shoulders down, chest out, back straight. Just walking back and forth in the gym. And by doing this it became so much easier to do the stand up game, even with a crouched partner. I have actually walked past several takedown attempts because I could. I wasn’t constraining myself to a give nothing defense. When I walked up straight and loose I could move myself in to the place my partner was trying to take me down.

Oh yeah, one of the best ways to prevent takedowns is to move where your partner is trying to take you.

This is how I try play my stand up game nowadays. I still have a long way to go but I feel the road is the right one.  There’s one more thing I’d like to share about doing stand up:

You’re going to get thrown down. Alot. I have. I will be. I will not like it nor should you. But you have to know how to fall.


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