This sounds clichè but basics y’all…. BASICS! Quite simply, if you don’t get the beginner/ basic level technique down it’s going to hold you back when you start advancing. It’s doesn’t matter what style you practice. It could be Jiujitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, Taekwondo, Judo, Kung Fu; it doesn’t matter because the rudimentary concepts and motions need to be understood before you can even think about getting really good at a style.
Have you ever seen a boxer who looks like he’s never heard of a jab? Have you ever watched somebody kick from way too far away and missed so hard that the opponent didn’t even realize that there was a kick thrown? Have you seen a grappling exchange where someone has a clear, easy path to take the back but instead pulls guard and goes for some low percentage guillotine?
….. I have. It’s AWFUL!!
Yes you have to know your basics. Yes, you need to know your fundamentals. In order to practice effectively and safely, people have to know how to shrimp, break fall, sprawl and at least understand the concepts of takedowns and passing guard. Grapplers can get controlled and reversed if they can stop a takedown. Most people can’t use a lot of offense (keyword: a lot) if they can’t pass guard. Good luck getting out of side control if you can’t shrimp well. And especially know when one of the basic sweeps is wide open. That and all the other things can make someone an exponentially better grappler.
I could care less how good your Von Flux choke is if your RNC (Rear naked choke) is a ridiculously low percentage. No one cares how fancy a walk-in closet in a house is if the foundation will crumble the next time the wind blows. I don’t expect you to count to 1000 if you can’t even count to 10. If you can’t get the simple stuff down, the complex stuff ain’t happening!! That’s coming from a Taekwondo teacher.
In fact, one of the best professors I had going through the English department at the University of Houston was Professor Gonzalez. She was a short, chubby lady with short hair and a love for sports. Her philosophy when teaching writing was literally what she called the “Vince Lombardi school of writing.” She stresses on getting back to the basics of writing. Athletes, like writers sometimes show good ability early and get skipped past a lot of basics to do high level stuff. Those people who miss basic concepts tend to suffer for it later. Professor Gonzalez made sure that a class full of college adults made sure we knew the basics of writing structure and MLA format when it came to citing.
Same thing applies to martial arts. There fighters that show promise and athletic abilities that sometimes prompt coaches to rush them along through certain aspect of training. Also just as common, some fighters or martial artists just flat out never learn some basics because simply their lack of ability from coaches to teach those basics or even recognize when someone needs those concepts.
Other times the problem can be individuals themselves no wanting to work the basics because they’re “too boring.” Which explains why they can look like absolute trash sometimes. I literally have a student currently with this mentality and of course that same student wonders why they haven’t been able to come remotely close to landing strikes on me (or anyone else) despite the fact I’m currently an injured man. Ineffectiveness happens when your jab and your cross look like water you find underneath the garbage dumpster. In fact, this kind of “lets-skip-to-the-high-level-stuff” thinking can lead to what some internet scholars call pseudo-intellectualism. (A term I like to use sometimes)
Pseudo-intellectualism is an interesting concept in that points out that people can have complex ideas and theories can often times have good data and valid points. But often times those valid points usually lack the major points like motive and reasons why those valid concepts exist in the first place. Basically, being fake smart. You sound like you know what you’re talking about but you don’t. I’m NOT talking about perspectives or opinions because at least those have decent basis. It’s more about the little nuisances making sense but the grand scheme makes no sense.
In other words, people have a tendency to overthink things.
This same concept of pseudo-intellectualism can all apply in martial arts. I can drill wrist grab escapes all day when I teach but there’s always one child who thinks they’re smart and uses a monkey grip with two hands on top of my wrist…. in which I simply pull my arm back and show how that child’s complexity led to overthinking. They lost sight of the main, simple goal…..just get out.
Even at a fighting level, people get so focused into big complex combinations and sequences that’s sometimes don’t make sense. On top of that, some kickboxers try to use a fancy, spinning technique that they don’t know how to set up just get stopped mid rotation when I plant my push kick/T-kick into their back.
A push kick…… something I teach to random seven-year-olds during in-gym birthday parties so that they have a safe technique to break a plastic practice board. Yes, that kick.
So simple, yet effective. Hence why it works. When starting out anything, you need simple tools to lean on. Something reliable that you know works. Your home base if you will. Say what you want about americanas, ezekiels and RNC’s; they need to be learned so that a new practitioner has tools to work with while getting proficient with other techniques like armbars and triangles. Newer people need to have a closed guard before getting good with other guards that will take time. Professor Gonzalez would stress how Shaquille O Neal was a dominant player that couldn’t shoot free throws very well. When other teams realized that, other players would foul him on purpose knowing they’re not going to pay for it too hard. And it’s just that, he didn’t have that base covered and it got exploited.
Also the reason why people need to work with the basic techniques like armbars or kimuras is not only to know those techniques….. but to UNDERSTAND them.
It’s not about knowing techniques, it’s about PERFECTING them. I know how to throw a jab and a cross like Canelo Alvarez….. doesn’t mean I’m going to beat him in a boxing match. I know how to make spaghetti and I’m sure a pro chef like Emeril Lagasse does as well. But I’m pretty sure Lagasse will make it better than I could (if you think I make better spaghetti, you have too much faith in my cooking ability).
It’s not about what you do but rather how you do it. If you understand a technique and know the How’s, Why’s and the When’s of a technique, you can do whatever crazy sh** you want. (a topic for another blog) Knowing how to do a d’arce choke isn’t scary. Being able to hit that choke while being pinned in side control IS scary. It’s about perfecting technique. Getting really, really, really good at it. If you master the basics, a lot of times that will be all you need.
For the other times that the basics won’t simply work, you still have to understand basics for whatever advanced or crazy stuff you’re trying to do. Even for my Taekwondo students who are high level and want to learn some throws and cool stuff to increase their arsenal, I can’t do much if they don’t know how to roll or break fall (yes I teach rolling break fall to TKD students). As much as I’d love to change things up and teach stuff like a tomoe nagi, if students don’t have a break fall and a roll down then a tomoe nagi is not happening.
So get to training and remember that no one is above drilling the basics. Some of you, low or high belt, need to review them anyway. The ones that need it the most…..y’all know who you are.