There’s a lot of talk about flexibility and strength and how they help you in doing grappling. But I’ve always felt the need for basic acrobatics training since acrobatics has helped me, a nonflexible regular 30-something guy, to be better at rolling. Usually people do the stuff that are natural to the sport (like shrimping) which is a good thing, but I like to do more. And here’s why.
If you’re like me, you aren’t a world class athlete to start with.
A lot of guys who come to the gym do so for the first time in a long while. Or even if they’ve done other sports their body only knows the movement paths of that sport. They start a new hobby and learn the basics. After some time their body starts to learn new movement paths and they actually learn them. But then you throw them something new and they’re at a loss. And that’s perfectly normal since most of us don’t train our body to work in different kinds of situations. Hence the acrobatics.
Know your own frigging body.
For me, doing acrobatics is one the most important things. It’s one of the best ways to teach yourself how your body works. It puts you into positions where you actually have to think about what the heck your muscles are doing (they’re probably blaming your for their conundrum to the muscles of the guy you just fell on while trying to cartwheel). When it comes to movement paths versatility is must. Take a look at gymnasts and parkour runners. You can basically throw anything at them and they will know how to move.
Wow, how’d that get in there…
But seriously, a few examples:
So what’s this got to do with BJJ, SW, MMA?
Think about it; how many times you’ve come across positions or techniques that leave you scratching your head? I can say I’ve run into a lot of them. Usually the reason they left me baffled was the fact that I couldn’t get my body to go in the direction it needed to go. Meaning, I didn’t know how my muscles should work.
You can teach your body and muscles to do what you want it to do. I use acrobatics for this. I have three different kinds of ways to train acrobatics; basic moves, sequences and balance exercises.
Training single moves.
This is your basic kind of training; you do one type of move at a time, usually several times while moving across the gym. My basic routine consists of rolls (on the ground, front and back), dive rolls (classic and rolling over the shoulder version), log rolls, cartwheels and jumping (from standing still, both feet on the ground and single foot on the ground). I also like to do the S-mount walk.
My routine usually has some type of animal movement as well. My preferred animals are monkey, bear (need to start making people do this version as well), rabbit (Yes, that’s right. It’s a bunny. Do we have a problem here?) and seal. I also do single moves in place. Handstands (usually against the wall), forward steps in push up position, 180 degree triangle choke rolls.
All these I found to really help me with basic movement. With them I feel I can control my body better.
Sequence that stuff.
Once I got really familiar with the moves I mentioned previously I started to sequence them. Do cartwheels so that you change your side between one. Combine different rolls. Combine them with cartwheel. And the animals. And with whatever you can think of.
I like sequences because they also really rack your brain as well as your muscles. The weirder the combination the better. The more you really have to think about how the heck are you going to get into the starting position of the next move, the more you learn. Because you’re trying to go for the smoothest way to transition between two awkward positions. Which is pretty much what you do in BJJ all the time.
Balancing it out.
Balance is an essential thing for basically any sportsman. For this I’ve always preferred training like the kids. You know, where ever you are with what you have there. Are you walking on a sidewalk? Don’t. Walk on the stones between the sidewalk and the road. Go to the woods. Skip from rock to rock, walk on tree roots, try not to touch the ground. I like to train my balance while moving and not static postures (which are good as well, don’t get me wrong). Playgrounds are good as well. They usually have a bunch of contraptions that adults can also use. Which you can totally use to train your balance. Don’t worry about looking weird, you totally will but who cares.
And lastly, a (im)practical application of acrobatics:
Yeah, definitely going to have to learn that last one.