Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lego Theory of Matwork

Did you ever see a kid play with Legos?

You know why Legos are so awesome? Because you have a few basic blocks and you can build a million different things with them. Matwork is like that. Really. The Lego theory of matwork can be summed up as, “Everything connects to something else.”

One of the differences in the way I teach matwork is the degree to which I emphasize matwork combinations. You are going to be a lot better at matwork combinations, at teaching them, learning them and doing them, if you have mat techniques that fit together.

When adding a new mat technique to your arsenal, try to think about how it fits with what you already have.  One example of mat techniques that fit together was in a post I wrote a while ago with the demonstration of a move that began with an attempted throw by the opponent. From this position, you go to one armbar, if that doesn’t work, move to a second armbar and, failing that, move to a third armbar. That is one type of connection, where the techniques are all in a sequence, where you do step one, two, three and four.

A second type of connection starts from a base and branches out. One of the bases I use is the “collect the arm” technique I wrote about last month and connections to it are shown below.

 From the first technique, a turnover, I can move into one of two different pins. One of the pins has two variations I can choose from the standard pin. One of those has two possible combinations, one to a choke and another to an armbar. Or, I could just stay in the pin and win that way.  In coming up with these combinations, it’s not as if I sat down one day and laid it all out, quite the opposite. I learned the combination pin to choke when I was twelve years old - kata gatame. Probably about that same year, my first year in judo, I learned the next part of that combination, the tate shiho (mount), and quickly figured out I could put that together with my other pin and choke. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the armbar, and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me to switch from the pin to the armbar. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t.

When I learned the “collect the arm” turnover, I put that together with the pin, choke and armbar combination I was already doing. I learned the other pin variation last.

When I was in my twenties (better late than never) it occurred to me that the most effective way to improve my matwork quickly was to take anything new I learned and add it into an existing framework like the one above.

By that time, I had lots of opportunities to learn from camps, clinics and just visiting other clubs. When I would see a new technique, I would immediately try to find a way it connected to one of the existing sequences I had. Just like Legos, it could connect on at any point. The beginning of the scheme above, the "collect the arm" turnover, I learned second-to-last. The last thing I learned in there was the "Variation 1" on a pin I had learned when  I was thirteen years old.

Notice something else.  Remember, that first post I talked about, the one with the sequence of armbars?  It just so happens that if you try to push on towards me so that I can't get the armbar, you're set up for this "collect the arm" turnover. If you pull away from the "collect the arm" turnover, it is easy for me to throw my leg over and do the armbar sequence. It's all connected. (I really am smarter than I look. I keep telling people that but they don't believe me.)

Two points:
1. When you have a choice of new techniques to learn, always select the one that makes a connection with something you already do.
2. You can be almost completely unpredictable and damn near unstoppable if you have so many possible combinations and permutations that you have a matwork move no matter what your opponent does.

This weekend, at the Grand Opening of the new location for the West Coast Judo Training Center, I'll try to get some photos so I can illustrate these steps better. For now, though, having followed Andy Lee's advice on blogging  , first matwork , then statwork , I need to get to bed so I can get up in the morning and finish my lecture on the Central Limit Theorem.


aglee said...

Great post! I chuckled to see myself mentioned.

I like the geek appeal of the Legos analogy and the flowchart.

Jorge Almeida said...

Would you say that the focus of matwork is not so much on individual techniques but on the transition and reaction to each of your opponent action? You can force them by trying to collect the arm, but sometimes they are stronger/can leverage and use their weight to go the other direction and you have to have a technique that covers that branch. This is not to say that people should not specialize to a certain degree on arm-bars/pins/chokes but if you want to win on the ground you need a lot of flexibility (and I am not speaking about the physical one). I believe that this is the case. Great idea the flow chart. It makes a lot of sense.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Andy - I wondered how many people would like the flowchart! We'll see what Jimmy says when I mail this chapter to him He already nixed The Lego Theory and said that we are not writing a book for 10-year-olds and "Matwork connections" is a better title!

Jorge - I think the focus is on transition and reaction. Jim kind of half-way disagreed. He said if you drill and practice enough you should be able to always be half a step ahead of your opponent because there are only so many directions they can go and you would have anticipated or practiced for all of them.

Chad Morrison said...

There really aren't enough judo-themed Visio documents out there, IMO.

I couldn't agree more with this. I have read a couple of articles on how memories and recollection work that support this, as well. The premise (more or less, because this is pretty much all I remember) was basically that we remember things by their relation to other things we "know." So by actively creating these links, you make yourself much more likely to remember a new technique. The same thing would apply to standing, though the flowcharts may have too many branches to keep track of...