This is a set of ground skills that can be developed and practiced without the assistance of a partner. These are fundamental skills with which you should become intimately familiar. You will use each of these skills often as you learn and practice more advanced ground fighting skills in your next belt. Strive to be an expert at each of the skills below. You will definitely need these skills later.
Nearly all of these drills are done on both sides. Where appropriate we will begin discussing the right side of the movement and then will provide a description of the left side. In a conflict you may find use for the skill on either side.
Many of these drills provide for a variety of alternative movements. In fact the number and type of various exercises related to the skills below is practically endless. Feel free to adapt and modify the drills presented below to address additional circumstances. There are hundreds of solo drills that can be practiced to improve strength, stamina and technique. Feel free to search the Internet for other drills that you may find beneficial. The set of drills below represent an introductory set of skills with which you should be quite familiar.
Bridging typically involves raising your hips off of the mat in some manner. Commonly you will lay either on your back or on your side. One or both feet are then pressed into the mat until your lower torso rises off the mat, causing your weight to be supported by your feet and shoulders.
In most cases you want to bridge by pressing the ball of your foot (or feet) into the mat. There may be cases where this is impractical (or impossible), but usually you will derive higher bridges and greater power if you can pull your foot in close to your rear and press down with the balls of your feet.
In some cases you might elect to bridge up onto both shoulders. In other situations you will bridge up so you rest on only a single shoulder. Often you will bridge up onto two shoulders and then rotate your body so you rest on only a single shoulder.
Bridging is generally considered to be more of a movement than a position. You seldom hold a bridge for a long time, though you may find you go through cycles where you bridge and relax repeatedly as you try to accomplish some task or seek an opportunity against an opponent. Bridging is a core fundamental skill that you will utilize constantly.
Practice bridging onto two shoulders and then rotating onto a single shoulder as you pull your head back to look toward the floor above your supporting shoulder . Keep a practical guard position and learn to tuck your mat-side arm inward so you can roll over your upper arm with ease. Practice alternating sides for several iterations on a frequent basis.
Back Scoots and Imaginary Rope Pulls
Sit on the floor with your legs bent. Now remaining upright, press your heels into the mat in a manner that presses your hips and torso directly backward. You should easily move your entire body twelve or more inches back this way. Do this several times to move back perhaps five feet (or more).
Now dig your heels into the mat and use them to pull your entire body forward as though you were pulling yourself forward with a rope. It helps to alternate your hand positions to emulate actually pulling on a rope. Do enough of these to reposition yourself to your original starting position.
These exercises work on leg and core strength. You’ll need it soon.
The Shrimp (Hip Escape)
Lay on your back with the left leg stretched out relatively straight and the right leg bent with the knee up and the ball of the right foot placed on the floor somewhere in the vicinity of your left knee. Press the ball of the right foot directly down into the floor so it causes your left hip to rise slightly off of the floor. Now change the direction of the push with your right foot so it propels your left hip backward until your right leg has straightened. Your left hip should have moved backward substantially due to this sequence of movements.
Since your right leg is now straight you can simply bend your left knee, place the ball of your left foot on the floor near your right knee, and use your left foot to raise your right hip slightly off the floor. Once this has occurred, use your left foot to propel your left hip backward.
You can alternate sides very easily with this drill. Unfortunately, this quickly moves you across even a large mat space and may be impractical if other people are using the training area. After you have become familiar with the basics of the exercise you may wish to use a form that uses less real estate. That can be done by reversing the movement after every sequence. So, after using the right leg to propel your left hip back, simply use the same leg and hip to move your hip back to its original position. Now straighten the right leg and use the left leg to initiate the exercise on the opposite side. Again, pull the right hip forward again at the end of the sequence. This allows you to alternate sides without appreciably moving from your small area of the mat.
This latter form of the exercise has the added benefit of providing increased muscle development in your core. And of course it helps prevent you from emulating a bowling ball when other people are nearby.
As you gain experience with this exercise try to do it on alternating sides without any pause between sides.
This is essentially a movement in the opposite direction from that utilized in the shrimp. With the Reverse Shrimp you rest on your side and the bottom leg is extended forward with the knee slightly bent. The outside edge of this foot is then pressed firmly into the mat as you bridge up onto the same side shoulder. So, for example, if you are resting on your left hip then the outside of the left foot presses into the mat as you then bridge onto the left shoulder.
The foot that is pressing into the mat is then used to pull your hip forward (toward your feet). After you have moved a short distance you will be able to rotate your foot so it rests flat on the mat, causing your knee to raise upward. This allows you to increase the pulling action from your leg. At this point you shift your bridge so you are bridged on the opposite shoulder. You continue pulling, allowing your opposite leg to be projected forward in the direction of movement. Eventually you roll so the hip opposite your pulling leg is resting on the mat. Now you are positioned to perform the drill on the opposite side.
You might practice this drill by doing several in a sequence as you alternate from one side to another. You might also do this drill in combination with the shrimp. Alternate back and forth between the shrimp and the reverse shrimp. After several iterations, change sides.
This is neither an elegant nor easy drill, but it helps build strength and agility and you will find it useful in later skills.
Rest on your back and raise both legs toward the ceiling. Move your right ankle down so it is just behind your left knee and then fold your left knee down until your ankle is locked in place by the left knee. You may wish to use your left hand to grasp your right foot to hold it solidly in place. This is a traditional triangle lock or triangle choke hold. It is commonly used to encircle or trap an opponent’s head or his or her arm and head. It can be used to apply tremendous choking pressures.
Practice this exercised by keeping both legs raised and alternating application of the lock from one side to the other. This helps build abdominal strength while practicing a useful skill.
Lay flat on your stomach with your head raised. Stretch both hands straight out before you and press your elbows down into the mat. Use your elbows to pull your entire body forward until your elbows are at your sides. Extend your arms and pull yourself forward again. Repeat several times.
Begin by resting on all fours. You may be on your knees or on your feet, but both hands should be on the floor. Press your right knee forward between your left leg and left arm and allow your hips to rotate upward such that your lower back is both facing and horizontal to the floor. You are essentially bridging between our left foot and right arm as you turn your hips over and press them outward and upward. Your left arm will then usually press into your opponent to restrain him or her and facilitate an escape.
Return the leg to its original position and then move the left knee between your right leg and right arm to perform the exercise on the opposite side.
This movement is often used as a way to escape someone’s grip or hold or to begin a reversal movement.
Begin by laying on your back with both legs stretched out relatively straight. Now raise your right leg up and place your right foot on the outside of your left leg, quite some distance from your left knee. This is intended to allow your hip to roll over. Now bend your left knee and slide it under the raised right knee. Continue moving the left knee outward and then up and over the right leg. Continue this circular movement until the left foot is on the floor and at a significant distance to the outside of your right leg. You can now pull the right knee under your left knee to begin the exercise on the opposite side.
This exercise is called a hip switch because it allows you to reposition yourself so that your opposite hip will be placed on the floor. If your right hip is on the floor you can slide your right knee under your left knee and then circle your right leg up and over until your left hip rests on the floor. You can gain increased efficiency and effectiveness by involving the hips in the switch maneuver as well. Pull the hips slightly backward and twisting the hips as the moving leg begins rising upward will make this a more powerful and rapid movement.
Vertical Hip Switch
This exercise is commonly done by laying on your side with your bottom leg stretched out relatively straight. Bend the knee of the top leg and place that foot on the floor. Use that foot to propel your lower body upward until you are in a hand stand. This need not be a perfectly vertical handstand, but it should be sustained for about a second. While in the handstand twist and rotate your hips and then fall out of the handstand, landing on what is now the opposite hip. Now repeat the exercise to switch hips, landing on the original hip again. Repeat until you grow tired. It won’t take long.
This is a very tiring exercise. It works on abdominal flexibility and strength, but also develops leg, arm, shoulder and neck muscles as well.
Derivative versions of this movement can be used to move from one side of the opponent to the other, to attack a different part of an opponent’s anatomy, or to pull or drag an opponent into a new posture. Like all of the drills in this section, the exercise can be used to promote a variety of different skills and techniques applicable to a large number of differing situations.
This falls more into the category of conditioning rather than skills development, but it is nonetheless a beneficial drill. Begin by resting on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Your hands should be placed under your Coccyx in order to keep the small of your back resting on the mat. Now pull your knees in toward your chest and subsequently press your hips upward as your extend both heels toward the ceiling. Now reverse direction and return your feet back to their original position.
The drill can also be done in a rocking manner so that you do a sit up after the hip up and then lay down again to begin the next hip up. This method has an increased risk of lower back injury but can be effective if you already have sound core muscle strength. Use the hands under your rear method first until you appreciate the challenges embodied in this exercise.
After you can do this exercise without much difficulty enhance the movement by employing a triangle lock when your feet reach the highest elevation. This can be an effective counter attack when you are on your back and someone is attacking you from a position near your feet.
This skill goes by several other names including Monkey Circular Hop and Guard Passing Transition. To begin, stand in Heiko Dachi and then lean forward, allowing your center of gravity to shift forward until you must fall forward. Allow your left hand to contact the mat and use your legs to propel your body around your left hand. You are essentially using your left hand as a pivot point. Your entire body will rotate 180° horizontally (parallel to the floor) around this arm. Now place your right hand forward and pivot in the opposite direction using your right hand as the pivot point. Each time you should rotate a full 180°. This technique is useful for quickly moving from one end or side of the opponent’s body to the other. For example, you might move from a position near an opponent’s feet to a position near his or her head by using this circular crawl. You might also switch from a position on the left side of your opponent to one on the right side of the opponent very quickly.
There are a great number of variations for this movement depending upon what it is you wish to accomplish. The basics are the same, but what you do may during or after the movement can vary greatly. One common alternate version is that you are on your knees instead of standing on your feet. You could also be resting on one hip and then hop to the other side of the opponent, landing on your opposite hip. The mechanics are similar in each case. Try to be accomplished in each of the variations – you’ll find use for each in the future.
Bend forward so you are standing on both legs but with both hands on the floor. Now quickly shift both feet to your right, maintaining their same distance apart, until your left foot is just behind your right hand. Now shift both hands to your right until your left hand is forward of your right foot. Repeat the movement from the beginning several times. Also practice moving in the opposite direction.
Bridge Hip and Mount
Begin this exercise by resting on your back with both legs bent so that only the balls of your feet rest on the floor. Now concurrently press both feet directly down into the floor and raise the trunk of your body so it is supported only by your two feet and your right shoulder. Your left shoulder should be slightly raised off of the floor. Now raise your left knee up and over, pivoting on your right foot and right shoulder until both of your knees are on the floor.
To perform the exercise on the opposite side you simply keep your left shoulder on the mat while raising your right shoulder slightly and then use the right leg to rotate your hips over until you are on both knees.
This movement is often used to allow you to escape from someone who is positioned above you. It might be used as a simple escape or to reverse your position relative to the opponent (i.e. placing you on top of the opponent). The action is often used to both escape and mount the opponent in rapid sequence.
Bridge Hip and Escape
This is very similar to the Bridge Hip and Mount skill, but instead of raising your knee up and over your opposite leg, you press your hips backward as you pivot on your feet and shoulder. You essentially slide out from under your opponent. This looks very much like The Shrimp, but the initial starting position is quite different.
Forward and Backward Rolls
While kneeling perform a typical forward roll over your right shoulder. As you roll forward bend your left knee and tuck your left foot onto the floor near your hips. Your entire left shin should rest flat on the mat. Your right leg will be bent with the knee up so that the right foot is flat on the floor. Now continue the momentum of the roll until you rise up and rest on your left shin and right foot. Press your hips forward so you have a strong posture directly over your legs.
Now quickly settle your hips back onto the floor to initiate a backward roll. As you roll onto the middle portion of your back push both legs backward and over your head to generate additional energy for the roll. Now continue rolling over your right shoulder until your knees come to rest on the mat. Raise your head up and pull your hips inward to establish a strong structure while remaining in the kneeling position.
You are now ready to perform a forward and backward roll sequence over your left shoulder. The sequence is the same, but obviously the left and right side actions are reversed.
These rolls can best be described as lateral or sideways rolls. Your roll directly to one side or the other, rather than forward or back. You begin from a sitting position on the floor, roll to one side and then return to your original seated position.
To begin, sit on the floor with both legs slightly bent in front of you. Your heels rest on the floor. Place both hands so they firmly grasp the back of each respective knee (e.g. the right hand grasps the back of your right knee). Hold both hands in place and roll to your right side until your right shoulder is on the mat. Concurrent with the previous movement also lower your chin toward your chest and keep it in this position until the roll is completed.
Continue the momentum of the roll by moving your left leg over your right leg until you have the balls of both feet on the floor. Roll over your right shoulder until you are resting on both shoulders near the base of your neck. Your head will be positioned between your legs. This is why your head should remain tucked throughout the roll. Now continue rolling until you roll onto your left shoulder and then your left hip. As both heels again land on the floor raise your head upward so you are in your original seated position again. Now you can roll to your left using the same methodology.
As you become comfortable with this roll you can remove your hands from the back of your knees. Place your right hand behind your back as you roll toward your right shoulder. The left hand is left free to move in a natural manner or to somehow grasp Uke as an opportunity arises.
Voiding Standing Escape (Technical Standing)
This exercise provides you with a means of standing up when you are dealing with someone who is directly in front of you. You deliberately create a void to allow yourself the time and room necessary to subsequently stand. Begin by sitting down with both legs in front of you. Now bend your left knee so that your left foot is flat on the floor. Place your right hand back behind and just outside your right shoulder with your hand flat on the floor. Concurrently press your right hand and left foot into the mat to lift both hips directly upward. As adequate clearance is provided, slide your right leg under your hips and then place your right foot just behind your right hand. Now stand.
You should consider what would happen if you were faced with an aggressive opponent when performing this action. If you lean your head forward it offers an obvious target for the opponent. It is therefore critical that two things be accomplished during this exercise. Firstly, do not offer your head to your opponent, and secondly, get to your feet as quickly as possible. Practice this exercise, on both sides, until you can rise up very quickly without pitching your head in the direction of your potential opponent.