One of the best things you can do if you’re just starting out training or if you’re looking for a way to integrate your martial arts with self defense is to learn or improve your clinch. There are some distinct advantages to learning the clinch first, before sparring with strikes or when first learning grappling.
Training the clinch teaches you about balance, space, and pressure. It teaches you to use leverage, timing, and precision. And most important of all, working on the clinch gets you comfortable with working at a very uncomfortable range. If a smaller person can use position and leverage to make himself “heavier” or harder to deal with, that person can use his strikes, weapons, or make decisions during a fight about what to do next while operating confidently in a range that most people ignore. Most fight training consists of either striking or grappling with the idea that you can only devote significant attention to one or the other. Starting with the clinch forces you to learn range and position that allows you to expand outward into effective striking and grappling easier than if you were to start with either one individually. If you’re serious about learning to fight, you’ll have to learn all ranges and the best place to start is in the clinch. A guy with a good clinch can learn to strike fairly easily and a guy with a good clinch can be taught takedowns and groundfighting much easier since the context is already ingrained.
For self defense purposes, fights are won and lost in the clinch. If you are attacked and you successfully defend the ambush, you will be in a clinch situation. Nobody attacks another individual and then runs away after a single successful defense by the person being attacked. A clinch fight should be assumed and prepared for. This is especially important if you carry weapons since attempting to access a weapon at the wrong time could lead to it being used on you. You will also recognize your opponent accessing a weapon earlier and you may be able to prevent your opponent’s access.
In this series of videos, I take you through a progression to get you started with some fundamental Greco-Roman wrestling techniques that should form the basis of your clinch. They can be learned and then used as a warmup for training session, as a starting point for stand-up sparring or for practicing entangled weapons access, or as a base for learning takedowns. Grab a partner and give these a shot.
We’re excited to offer a ground fighting class starting Monday at Defense Krav Maga. The class is open to everyone and will teach you basic position, submissions, and grappling strategy. We’ll use elements of wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, and Krav Maga to put together a simple, but brutally effective ground fighting program.
Contact us using the form below to schedule a trial Krav Maga class!
The Starting Strength Model assumes, as you should too, that gravity works in a direction that is perfectly vertical. When you’re trying to pick up a heavy weight (probably the heaviest weight you are physically able to) in your hands and stand up with it, any effort that’s exerted in any direction other than directly opposite the force of gravity is wasted effort.
The deadlift is a simple lift. You pick it up and you put it back down. We should strive to create a consistent, easily reproducible setup that will allow us to maintain a vertical bar path. Thereby, ensuring that we pay due respect to the simple fact that heavy things want to move straight down. You’re asking yourself, but what about my long femurs, long trunk, short arms……? Shouldn’t MY setup be different than some “ideal deadlifters”? NO, the setup will be the same, but the resulting start position will look different for people with different anthropometries. Individual lifters will have different hip heights, back angles, and knee angles, but the landmarks of a correct start position will remain consistent regardless of anthropometry.
The bar will start over the mid-foot, since that’s the balance point of the lifter-barbell system. The shoulders will be slightly in front of the bar creating about a 7 degree angle from the shoulder to the bar. This will be true of all sufficiently heavy pulls, so we’re just going to start you there, since the goal is to get strong efficiently.
In 5 steps, here’s how to deadlift:
Set your shins 1 inch from the bar. Putting the bar at 1 inch from the bar puts it directly over the midfoot.
Without bending your knees, reach down and grip the bar just outside your shins. DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
Bend your knees and drop your shins until they touch the bar. Where your butt is at this point is where it will remain throughout the rest of the setup and beginning of the pull. Again: DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
Squeeze your chest up by pointing it at the wall in front of you. This starts a wave of extension throughout the back that will result in a flat back. If you find yourself on your toes at this point, rock back to shift your weight back to the midfoot.
Drag the bar up your legs, keeping the bar in contact with your legs throughout the lift.
As a new instructor, sometimes the warmup is a crutch. You just passed your instructor training, but don’t REALLY know how to teach yet. The warmup, since that’s what you’ve been doing as an apprentice instructor, is what you’re good at so it’s time to show off a bit and make sure that everyone is “warm” before you get to the shaky business of teaching actual self defense.
There are a few problems with this:
A lot of the time, the warmup is wasted time (sometimes up to 25 or even 30 minutes!) that could be used to reinforce skills and introduce concepts that will be useful later on in the class. Arm stops, pummeling, moving to dead sides, basic wrestling, transitions. Depending on what’s going on in class, getting some basic movements out of the way early on in the class will get people moving the way you’ll want them to move when you introduce more complicated movements later in class. During my warmups, I’ll have students practice very basic transitions or basic wrestling under no stress, without striking, or having to think about anything else. Things that are simple, but absolutely critical to managing a threat.
Guys will have students jogging around the room, waving their arms around, sprawling, doing endless pushups, situps, and burpees. These are lazy, uncreative ways to get people sweaty and tired. Strictly speaking, the purpose of a warmup is to prepare the class for what’s coming later with the intent of reducing the chance for injury. Raising body temperature, getting the correct juices squirting, and getting people mentally comfortable for what’s about to happen. Doing your P90X “muscle confusing” warmup accomplishes all of these things, but that’s about it. You’ll use class time more effectively if you get people doing what they’ll be doing later under stress, early on in the class under no stress. Let’s say you’re going to work on bearhugs for today’s class. Your warmup could consist of drilling underhooks and a couple of transitions. The nice thing is that for beginners, this will be plenty to get them warmed up and even breathing hard. For the more advance folks in the room, they will naturally up the resistance and get the same effect. Now people are learning or refining skills rather than doing mindless exercises. Save the “badass” exercise for your conditioning classes.
By breaking up the class into chunks of time – Warmup, Strikes, Drills, Self Defense – the instructor never fully develops a cohesive teaching method where, even in the course of a 1 hour class, skills build on each other from simple to complex. We’re all given the formula starting out – pick a technique for the class, figure out which strikes complement that technique and teach those, do a couple of drills. It works great when you’re developing as an instructor, but understand the limitations of the this teaching formula. It assumes that your students will be able to connect dots that they may not or never will connect unless you explicitly do it for them. As you train more and more people, you come to the realization that teaching a strike or a self defense technique “based on natural instinct or reaction” isn’t all that difficult. What’s difficult and where things will unravel very quickly in real life is during the transitions. Control of the opponent, proper transitions, and control over variables whether through clinching, grappling, movement or striking is the most important thing you have to be able to teach. The opportunity to reinforce shouldn’t be passed up.
Doing a super-long, crappy warmup is maybe excusable in the newest of instructors. If you want to be a better instructor and gain a deeper understanding of how to teach Krav Maga, take the time to evaluate how and why you run your classes the way that you do. Question everything.