Last September I wrote this piece detailing my initial experiences of training in freestyle wrestling. Feeling spurred on By Mollcutpurse’s recent call to arms, I thought it was about time I posted an update. So here it is.I still train at the same gym, under the same coach. It’s been a good period for Fearless wrestling club since my first post and we have several lads either on, or under consideration for, the Great Britain freestyle squad. The class size has increased which is cool and some very accomplished MMA and BJJ competitors come to train with us which adds to the fun.
The primary area that my own game has improved is definitely leg grab attacks, both attacking and defending. No big secret to how this was achieved; I started getting to classes a bit early so I could drill dropsteps and sprawls for 20 minutes beforehand. Additionally, I realised that part of my reluctance to shoot in was because I didn’t feel comfortable with where I ended up if my opponent sprawled on me, so I started practicing sitouts extensively too. Fortunately I have a lot of good training partners who’ve been willing to put a lot of time into helping me out, for which I am very grateful. Once I had polished up my techniques a bit in this area, I made myself attack only with singles or doubles for a while when wrestling rather than going to my comfort zone of the clinch. This led to me getting absolutely pasted by everyone for several weeks but in the long term it’s really paid off. It’s good to feel that I’ve become more rounded as a wrestler.
What’s also been nice is that I’ve reached what I think is a turning point in every martial art: where I am able to employ an element of misdirection into my game. Instead of just spamming attacks I now try to set them up beforehand. For instance, I like to crouch and tap the knee of my opponent’s lead leg, which hopefully makes them retract it while I shoot a low single on the opposite side. Another entry I like begins with the same lead leg knee tap, followed by a quick yank down on the back of their head to fake a snapdown attempt, then quickly into a double leg. This low-high-low approach seems to catch people off guard a fair amount of the time. I’m still only employing pretty simple tactics and am under no illusions that I am a great wrestler, but these subtle evolutions are what make me happy and keep me interested.
Two areas that need definite improvement and which I will try to devote more time to, are becoming more ambidextrous in my attacks and developing my game once the action hits the mat. Presently I attack almost exclusively from a right side forward stance and have got into a bad habit of drilling solely from this side. With the exception of a couple of clinch throws I am extremely ineffective if I try to use any techniques the opposite way. My judo experience taught me that having one or two techniques which you can execute well from both sides can catch people off guard or be a good way out of awkward situations, so this is something I would like to integrate into my wrestling. The answer, as ever, lies simply in repetition and I have vowed to begin drilling techniques left side forward once I’m comfortable from my usual stance.
Developing my wrestling groundwork is a slightly trickier proposition. Because the majority of the class do freestyle to supplement MMA/BJJ training, or simply for self-defence/fitness, Kam spends most of the time on what everyone wants to learn ie. takedowns. He runs occasional fortnight long ‘wrestling camps’ for a small group of guys who want to compete. During these they train every evening Monday-Friday, focussing on matwork and other aspects more unique to the sport. Because of my shift patterns at work I unfortunately haven’t been able to attend one of these yet. However I’ve had a chat with Kam and explained that if he gives me a few week’s notice before the next one I’ll take the time off as annual leave in order to attend. Hopefully this will be the case because I’m always very envious when I know the guys are on camp.
So that's pretty much where I'm at with my training. As always all questions, tips or comments in general are more than welcome.