Defense is definitely the most overlooked and underrated aspects of the grappler`s game
There's a saying that goes on in football (that's good ol' American football) that offense may bring you to the playoffs, but it is defense that wins you championships. This was clearly the case at ADCC. Defense is definitely the most overlooked and underrated aspects of the grappler`s game, and while it may not always provide the flashiest footage, it is crucial element to the grappler`s strategy. After all in a match between game competitors, at any given point one person is going to be attacking and the other defending.
Now much has been discussed about Roger Gracie`s amazing run at ADCC, in which he submitted 7 out of 8 opponents between his own weight division and the absolute. It is easy to overlook the impressive defense that he showed throughout the weekend (and for that matter, has shown throughout his entire career). Roger has been put in bad situations plenty of times. Roger is simply impossible to put away. Roger displays the best example what I am going to dub a TECHNICAL DEFENSE, in which no matter how the tide turns in the match, Roger stays come and relies on his technique to improve the situation. Where as many competitors might panic and go into desperation mode when the fight goes badly (and this especially happens at the highest levels, where some have difficulty finding opponents that can even put them in bad positions through normal rolling), Roger calmly works on advancing his position and using his techniques the same as he would if he was in an offense position. Whatever situation Roger happens to be in, he has a technical solution to advance his position.
Students and competitors wishing to emulate Roger`s success would do well to drill out of a lot of bad positions. Have an opponent start mounted on top of you, or on side control, or on the back with hooks. Then don`t simply try to explode out of the position, try to remain calm and think and take the technically correct escape out of the position. If you`re doing this correctly, you are probably going to get tapped a lot at first. This is okay, this is training, this is the time to leave your ego at the door. After all, as the saying goes, the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in fighting.
Another champion displaying great defense that emerged from this weekend was the 99K and over champion Jeff Monson. Now, a lot of spectators have said that Monson is boring to watch, the truth is if you have a careful understanding of the game you can appreciate a lot of the things that Monson is able to do. The man is literally never in danger. Jeff is like a rock, he never overextends his offense to the point where it erodes his defense. Monson is always looking to improve his position (and he has one of the most unstoppable guard passes in the game), but he is very cautious when doing so, and simply will not be put in a bad situation ever during a competition (it is very, very rare). I am going to dub this the STIFILING DEFENSE and it is important to consider in our discussion of defenses, because who wants to get in those bad situations in the first place?
This type of defense has an endorsement of sorts from none other than Helio Gracie himself. When asked what the best way to deal with an opponent much larger than one`s self (and in Helio`s case, this described the majority of his opponents), his answer was "don`t lose". As long as you don`t lose the match, you have a chance to win the match.
Although it was technically a third place finish, Jake Shield displayed what I'm going to call CRAZY HEART DEFENSE. Crazy heart defense isn`t something you can actually train for, you either have it or you don`t and Jake has it in spades. I`m not even entirely sure it`s something you would want to emulate, but it definitely has to be appreciated. Jake dealt with the relentless offense from Diego Sanchez, survived a wicked armbar from Cameron Earle to come back and win the match (Jake looked like he had a baseball at the end of his elbow afterwards) and got our of a dangerous Leo Santos triangle choke to secure his third place finish. Incredible mental focus as opposed to pure technique is the key here.
So at your next training session, think carefully about your defense capabilities and strategies and what you can do to improve it! Your over all game will increase dramatically. Maybe in another column I`ll discuss the other side of the coin and something even more over looked than defense, and that is the self defense aspect of our sport. For all of our progress as a sport in jiu jitsu, are we any better at defending ourselves in a real life situation?