Monday, November 06, 2017

Creativity and Martial Arts Training III

The third article in a series of four.


In Part I and Part II of this series, we looked at how rearranging or reversing the sequence in which the movements within a technique are performed can sometimes lead to superior results, specifically referencing the kimura from under half guard, and the front kick.

We reversed the order of a couple of movements in setting up the kimura. Instead of grabbing the wrist and wrapping our other arm around the elbow, we catch the elbow first and separate it from the hip and rib cage. Then we control the wrist and finish the lock.

This concept is extended by creativity researchers and the related science into a wider range of verbs than just reverse. They are often referred to as SCAMPER.

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify (Magnify, Minify)
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse (Rearrange)
In applying these concepts, remember that learning, and even more, teaching, Jiu Jitsu, has many more aspects than just the application of specific techniques.

You want to get better at takedowns - Substitute one of your weekly Jitsu classes with a judo class, or private lessons with a wrestler, for a while.

Parents of your Jiu Jitsu kids complain they can't take their kids ot every lesson because of homework commitments. Combine Jiu Jitsu with flash cards of times tables, etc. to get the best of both worlds.

Find ways to adapt sweeps and takedowns that end up in guard, so that you bypass their guard while still on your feet for takedowns, or you set up the sweep in a way that ends up with you finishing on top in kneeride or side control rather than inside their guard. Many people first learning the basic elevator sweep from butterfly guard find it natural to try and finish in the mount. Yeah, you swept them, but a decent Jiu Jitsu guy will put you in half guard every time if you try this. You need to adapt this idea to go to side control instead by putting your knee on the mat next to his hip after you sweep him and putting him in side control.

Modify the lengths of rolling rounds from the standard five minutes to keep things interesting. Magnify to ten or twelve minutes, concentrating on endurance and pacing. Minify to a minute or thirty seconds, going for the submission. Mix it up and randomise the round lengths.

If the cage in your gym is getting worn out and you replace it, or you got it second hand and have extra length, Put it to another use as a lattice from which to hang medals, old belts after promotions, photos, kids' paintings. etc.

Always look for ways to simplify techniques, and how to teach them, by Eliminating unnecessary steps, or information not pertinent to beginners. Start with a low resolution approach to techniques at the beginning, and increase the resolution as they advance.

And John Will's kimura from half guard, discussed above illustrates the potential value of reversing or rearranging the order of things.


As no doubt the above examples show, not every idea is a great idea, practical, or even feasible. The objective of the ideation process is to come up with lots of ideas, wild and weird and out there. Then winnow them down to those that might actually work. Let one idea spawn several others. Most human progress is made by extending what already exists. More ideas leads to more good ideas.

These are not the only verbs you can use. Nor do you need to use them in isolation.

The Hybrid Sweep  against Combat Base described near the top of my notes on John Will's "A Spider Guard Plan" seminar details a sweep from the lasso guard which combines the hook, spider and X guard sweeps. John also details a way to tweak (adapt) the setup of this sweep by adding a couple of extra steps, allowing you to finish in kneeride rather than inside the opponent's guard.

A strong competitor with excellent guard passing skills may elect to finish the sweep in guard, and then pass the guard, so as to rack up points. However, a Jiu Jitsu purist would elect to bypass the opponent's guard whenever possible. Your creative approach should reflect your goals at the time.

Forced Connections and Metaphors

Forced connections in creativity refers to taking an object or concept unrelated to the problem you are trying to solve, and seeing what new ideas come to mind when you look at or consider this object. You could take a mental walk through an imaginary place and force connections with whatever your mind's eye sees. A more formal set of techniques for accomplishing this is "Synectics", which from the original Greek has the meaning of "the joining together of apparently different and irrelevant objects". The use of metaphors and analogies can be of great value in generating ideas.

Metaphors abound in the naming of Jiu Jitsu techniques (tripod sweep, tomahawk sweep, breadcutter choke bow and arrow choke), and can be particularly useful in teaching. An appropriate metaphor can be invaluable in communicating the essence of the technique or concept. A short list of such metaphors I've heard over the years:
  • Zombie Attack
  • Monster Shoulder
  • Shoulder of Justice
  • Hip of Doom
  • Triangle of Death
  • Corridor of Death
  • Fireman's Carry
  • T Choke
  • Stocks
  • Banana Split
  • Crotch Ripper
  • Guillotine Choke
  • Spiral Ride
  • Donkey Guard
  • X Guard
  • Catapult Sweep
  • Lego Principle
  • Porcupine
  • Corkscrew Principle
  • Stab Yourself in the Heart
Longer ones:
  • To keep your weight on them in side control - try to hover, so all your weight goes on them rather than on the mat
  • Sink the stirrups - using your weight in open guard
  • Heavy legs - to prevent the pass and make triangles, omoplatas, etc. work better
  • Stomp and curl - how to use your legs to finish once you get the proper angle on the triangle choke
  • Three-legged table - concept for sweeps
To a martial arts teacher, good metaphors are gold. The right metaphor can convey a concept so much better than several paragraphs worth of literal description.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering is a term often used in software or other engineering, which refers to disassembling or analysing there operation and behaviour of a program or other machine to understand how it works, for the purpose of duplicating it, reproducing its functionality with more modern tools, or to improve one's understanding and knowledge about it and its operation.

Reverse Engineering is spoken of differently in Jiu Jitsu, by John Will and perhaps other advanced practitioners. In Jiu Jitsu, Reverse Engineering is a process of working out how to get from one position to another position, or perhaps to a specific submission, by working backwards from the final position, trying various alternative paths, until one can end up back at the starting position. Like rewinding a video, but in real time.

How to get from front control to a Gogoplata finish? Start in the final Gogoplata position, then work backwards until you end up in front control.

You probably can't literally do some thing in reverse due to the laws of physics. But when you set you drilling mode back to Play after Reverse, what you have might work.

I learned a legbar from front control at a seminar. That would be very difficult to do backwards, but not so forwards.

In a similar vein, at John Will's second Ashi Garami seminar, he showed us a progression of techniques working towards Eddie Cummings' setup of the 411/ Saddle / Honey Hole from Butterfly guard, often closely followed by a  heel hook victory.

Saddle from Butterfly Guard, as performed by Eddie Cummings

John had been asked to work such a sequence out by attendees at a previous seminar. The steps he came up with were:
  • Standing Kani Basami (scissor takedown) finishing in the Honey Hole
  • From butterfly guard, go to a modified Kani Basami on the knees
  • From butterfly guard, lift the opponent with an elevator and hop the supporting foot out to the side away from him
  • From butterfly guard, elevate the opponent, move the other foot out, and then drop him down, scissoring his leg into the Honey Hole
I discuss the teaching sequence in more detail in my notes on the Ashi Garami 2.0 seminar from John Will.

While one needs a wide knowledge base and more creative problems solving techniques besides Reverse Jiu Jitsu Engineering to come up with such a sequence, I feel this is illustrative. It would be enlightening to hear how Eddie Cummings (and perhaps his coach and/or training partners) actually devised this technique and how it was developed as an aid to further insight and experimentation.

On to the final, Part IV.

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