"The picture of that armbar is all wrong."
Now, he's got both hands on his one arm. He has the arm flat against his chest. He has it perfect.
"Yes, but look at his legs in both of those pictures!"
He was right. I (and Karo and Rob in the photos above) was focused on showing how you need to lock the arm against your body and you need to rotate toward the head and you need to lift with your hips to finish. Once it is pointed out, if you look up above to the first photo, it is obvious that his legs are really wide apart and so he does not have his opponent nearly as tight as he could.
In the photo below, Roman shows a better armbar on Manny. Notice how much closer together his legs are. Remember all of those leg curls you did in the gym? (You didn't? What?! Well, you should have!) With Roman pulling Manny in with his legs like this he has that much extra strength to hold the armbar, strength that has gone to waste if you do the armbar like in the first two photos.
I thought this discussion brought up an interesting point. Rob, Karo and I are all black belts. We all know armbars fairly well. Yet, when we did those first two photos we were talking about and thinking about locking the arm against your upper body, breaking the arm away from the opponent's body and finishing the armbar. It isn't that Karo (or I) didn't know that your legs should be tighter together, we just weren't thinking about it at the moment.
When I explained to Roman and Manny that I needed to re-take the photos they knew exactly what I was talking about and we took those shots right away.
I got to thinking about the importance of a coach, of someone who is NOT thinking of exactly what you are thinking about at the moment and who can spot those mistakes that really are obvious once they are pointed out to you. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that to be successful at an international level, you really need a coach. You cannot do it yourself. Certainly you can win local and regional tournaments coaching yourself, and plenty of people do. Possibly you can even win the nationals in the U.S. without a coach. As you get to an international level, though, the differences between the top players in conditioning, in natural physical ability, get smaller and smaller. At that point, I think having a good coach who can spot all of those little nuances can really make a difference for you.
My criteria for a good coach differs from a lot of other people in this country. That's a topic for another post but I will tell you this, the main defining factor for me in whether someone is a good coach for me is whether I'm getting better and whether I'm getting the results I want. I see people who train in the same place for years, telling me their goal is to make an Olympic team and they've never come any closer than making the top three or five in the U.S. If that is you then there are three possibilities,
- You don't have the necessary talent.
- You aren't working as hard as you could.
- This coaching situation is not working for you.
As I said though, that's a post for another day.