In your next belt you will focus extensively on ground fighting skills. This is a major topic requiring a good deal of effort, skills development, conditioning, and strategic thought. It takes quite a bit of time to become accustomed to ground work, so we want to begin introducing some of this material in this belt. We do not grapple, per se, in this belt (but you will probably experience some grappling activity as a byproduct of some of the drills you will practice), but we do begin to earnestly explore many of the skills and exercises you will find beneficial when you begin grappling in earnest.
In this belt we study some fundamental ground fighting techniques and strategies. This is primarily done through a series of drills designed to develop specific skills and techniques. There are dozens of these drills that have been developed over the years and we encourage you to do an internet search for others that we have not included in this belt curriculum. However, the skills we provide are quite extensive and are very common in the grappling community. Start with mastering the requisite skills below and then search for other skills you may wish to practice and use in future training.
Drills provide a wide range of benefits including conditioning, reflex development, muscle memory, and practical skills practice. Many of these skills described below can be practiced at home or at the Dojo. Some require a partner, but many can be done without any assistance from others. All of the exercises described below should become an integral part of your skill set as a Tensoku Ryu practitioner.
A Word on Terminology
Grappling can be described by several different terms and can refer to several different forms of the martial arts. Jujitsu, Judo, Sumo Wrestling, MMA Fighting, American wrestling, and even Aikido are all different forms of grappling. The most popular form today is Jujitsu, which is comprised of several different forms ranging from traditional Japanese Jujitsu to the more recent Brazilian Jujitsu. MMA fighters often have a significant background in some form of Jujitsu.
We refer to our form of grappling as Kakutou. This is merely a Japanese term that means grappling. It is not some hidden ancient art. It is merely a term to refer to what we practice as grappling.
You will also find reference on may websites to the term Newaza or Ne Waza. This refers to grappling skills that are employed while on the ground. You can think of these as ground skills. Sometimes Newaza is applied as a more general term referring to grappling as a whole, but strictly speaking it should refer primarily to those grappling skills employed while on the ground.
Our grappling skills, drills, and training are not much different from what you will find in Jujitsu, Judo, and similar arts. We do not have a Jujitsu or Judo lineage, so we do not refer to our form of grappling by these terms, though we do employ many of the same skills found in these arts. We simply refer to what we practice either as grappling or as Kakutou. If you wanted to refer to our style of grappling in particular then you might call our method Tensoku Ryu Grappling or Tensoku Ryu Kakutou. But this is seldom necessary. We do not claim to practice a unique or distinctive form of grappling.
Most of the drills we define can be done with limited risk of injury, but the risks are never zero when practicing the martial arts. One of the most common types of injury is mat burn. This occurs when your exposed skin is rubbed along the surface of the mat (or rug, if you are practicing on carpet). These are friction burns and can be quite painful. You will want to pay attention to how you move so you do not drag parts of your body along the mat surface when it is not absolutely unavoidable. Lift your head, shoulders, hips, knees, arms, and feet whenever possible so that exposed skin is not subject to friction burns. You should also wear an appropriate Gi to provide protection against this form of injury.
If you are in a compromised position and feel part of your anatomy being rubbed against the mat or floor then by all means tap out. At this stage of your training we are only learning some fundamental skills. We do not need to be too accepting of punishment and pain. In fact, these should be avoided whenever possible.
These burn injuries can easily become infected. If you suffer such an injury you will want to ensure it is properly cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible. Even a minor injury can become a major problem is not properly treated. Infections may include, ring worm, impetigo, athlete’s foot, hepatitis and MRSA, an extremely drug-resistant and potentially lethal staph infection.
These infections can be quite serious and even deadly. If you suffer a burn that becomes infected you should seek immediate medical evaluation. Serious health hazards can develop if treatment is not sought. Clearly if you have an infection that has developed on or near a burn area then you must not work out at any location frequented by others and you should not participate in any activity that would result in contact with other practitioners. It is important that everyone takes these infections very seriously.
When you are about to work out on a mat you should ensure that it has been recently disinfected. If you are unable to establish that the mat has been disinfected you should disinfect it yourself. After you have completed your training you should insure the mat or flooring you occupied is disinfected. You may think that the mat is clean and that your Dojo could not be the source of a serious infection. You would be wrong. You must ensure all training areas and equipment are sanitized before and after use. It is the best way to help prevent burns (which can be common) and infections from becoming major health risks to yourself or others.
When practicing a new skill you should always proceed with caution. Understand what will happen well before you try the skill. Then work slowly to ensure you do not move in ways that will place your joints or other structural elements in a compromised position that can result in injury as you practice the skill. This is not a common problem, but if you place a joint in an awkward position and then quickly execute a new skill you could suffer a non-trivial injury.
When practicing drills with partners you should ensure everyone knows what will occur within the scope of the drill so that there are no unexpected movements or consequences from the drill. As always, take things slow and easy until you fully appreciate what is involved in the drill.
Most of the grappling drills and skills in this belt curriculum are designed to introduce concepts about moving when working in a ground-fighting context. This is in many ways quite different than stand-up conflicts. One key difference is that ground work is much more physically demanding. A key element of this added exertion is that muscles are used at full strength for prolonged periods of time. Then, at opportunistic moments, a practitioner must be able to release a powerful grip and suddenly and quickly move in a new and different direction.
The drills and skills presented below are part skill introduction and development and part physical conditioning exercises. To be effective at ground work a person must have strong core, arm, leg, and neck muscles. The drills below help develop some of the required muscle conditioning. But the drills are not, in and of themselves, sufficient. You should also consider using abdominal exercises, pushups, squats, and other common exercises to help build strength in your major muscle groups. You might also consider using weight training as part of your exercise program. Weight training is not essential, but it can help you develop strength in a more rapid and focused manner.
You should also not overlook cardio-vascular training. Working at nearly 100% intensity for several minutes is exhausting. The cardio-vascular and respiratory systems will be working at nearly full capacity during these periods. You will want to participate in extensive kicking exercises, Kata, running, swimming, basketball practice, or other physical activities that train your body to work in a long-term endurance environment. In your next belt you will quickly discover the benefits of such training. You would be wise to begin preparing for it now.