Hi! I’m Cindy and I’ve been taking catch wrestling classes with Coach Raul for about a year now at UCLA and Fight Science. I’ve also trained at several Jiu Jitsu gyms like Pedigo Daisy Fresh, Caio Terra Academy, and now 10th Planet Headquarters. I started with BJJ, then transitioned to catch wrestling (if we’re being honest, it was because of my work schedule) and it has improved my performance in BJJ exponentially! Here are 7 of the most important things I’ve learned from my experience in catch wrestling:
1. Its okay to be vulnerable
In BJJ, I’ve always heard that to give up your back is a sin. Although it is an opportunity for the opponent to gain 4 points (if we’re going by IBJJF rules), it is not the end of the round and it certainly is no reason to throw the match.
In catch wrestling, it is rather the opposite: it is a sin to put your back to the mat because it’s a pin. I’ve found this to be applicable in other martial arts too, like MMA. It’s rather disadvantageous to have your back to the mat. It’s also not very realistic in a fight to lay on your back.
Just as guard can be your method of attack, turtle can be too. You just have to learn how to get out of it and attack from there. I’ve found that by not being afraid to expose my back opens up more opportunities for me to attack and get creative with my performance.
2. Always look for new opportunities
Building onto the last point, having someone on your back can open up opportunities that aren’t there if someone wasn’t on your back. I’ve learned many counters to back-take that have gotten me out of the position and into advantageous ones. Back-take may appear to be a dominant position for your opponent, it doesn’t mean that you are helpless! You may be exposing your back, but your opponent is also leaving some things out in the open for you to attack (such as wrists and ankles if someone has your back). Always be open to new opportunities!
3. Build and strengthen the fundamentals
Some of the core movements in catch wrestling include driving (no, not the vroom vroom driving), bridging, and sit outs. Time and time again, these motions have appeared in multiple techniques, counters, and escapes. If you don’t have a strong foundation, then everything else will crumble. I practice and use these movements all the time. They create a strong base for my grappling offensively and defensively. You can’t advance forward until you’ve mastered the core fundamentals.
4. The importance of consistency
This isn’t just applicable to grappling, but to all areas of life. After the academic year, I was still grappling over the summer, but not at my usual academy. When I came back, I saw my grappling regress. It was because the training was different, the quality wasn’t the same, and we didn’t have time to drill or apply the training to live sparring. I notice the most improvement train multiple times a week and live spar consistently. Just as everything else is in life, you get what you put in. If you’re consistent with your effort, then the results will show in time.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others
I used to compete before I started grappling and comparing myself to others used to be my downfall. Stalking my opponents’ Instagram or asking around about them only did more harm than good. It created unnecessary expectations or pressure when competing that only impeded my performance. It also makes the end result worse. When I stalked my opponent for my first ever tournament and saw their training videos, I got psyched out and was afraid to shoot. When I found out about my opponent’s age and potential skill level, I created pressure and expectations for how I should perform. In the end, I wasn’t happy with either performances. I did my best when I knew absolutely nothing about my opponent. Focus on your own game, not your opponent’s.
6. Control the things that matter
I wouldn’t say that I’m a control freak, but I wouldn’t say that everything is out of my hands either. For things to go my way, I have to control the things that matter. This includes my training, my breathing, and my reactions. This also includes my opponent’s hands, hips, and ankles. Everything else is out of my hands. If I do my best to control what I can, then the end result doesn’t matter because I know that I did the best that I could.
7. The importance of a good, healthy environment
I’ve hopped around multiple gyms and thought to myself, “how do you know if a gym is good?” Well, the people make or break a gym. I’ve been to the most pristine BJJ gym I’ve ever seen, but I didn’t learn a thing. I used to leave unsatisfied and unmotivated. I’ve been to a hole-in-the-wall gym and I still learn something new every time I go there. I leave motivated and eager to come back. The difference wasn’t the gym, but the people. The instructor actually cared about student learning and took the time to answer questions and drill the movement. They would come every class with a structure and lesson plan. The people around me were eager to help new members and open to challenges.
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