For this Judo Chop, I am pleased to announce that we are joined by the outstanding coaches from Edge Wrestling. Edge Wrestling is the premier wrestling training facility in the United States, founded in 1984. Under the tutelage of Ernie Monaco and Dave Esposito, EDGE athletes have garnered 12 NCAA D1 Championships and 47 All American honors. Edge is here to provide us with some technical demonstration of the switch technique used on wrestling mats, and to shed more light on the specific variety of switch employed by Carlos Condit on Georges St. Pierre (GSP).
(Note:The switch in discussion can be seen here and with each instructional gif, a link will be provided to the full instructional video produced by Edge Wrestling.)
With so many wrestlers in MMA, it is always remarkable what little diversity in wrestling technique is actually adapted to a prize fight scenario. As a wrestling guy, I get particularly excited when a fighter employs a wrestling technique designed for reversals or escapes, as the vast majority of native wrestling techniques used in a cage are takedowns.
This is why I was elated when, in the UFC 154 main event, Carlos Condit achieved dominant position on welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre with a beautifully executed standing switch.
I should be quick to note that this is not the first high profile incidence of a switch being hit in an MMA fight, it is not even the first time that this move has been discussed on Bloody Elbow. Nevertheless, Condit's immaculate execution of this technique deserves some celebration, and it gives me a perfectly good opportunity to write an informative post on a wrestling technique which I know very well.
Before anything else, a brief primer about positions in American folk-style wrestling. First, there is neutral, where both wrestlers are on their feet and seeking to take one another to the mat, thus earning two points for a take down. Second, there is top position where the wrestler's goal is to expose the other wrestler's back to the mat and achieve a match ending pin. Finally, the bottom position sees the wrestler in a position of disadvantage (in theory) where his goal is to achieve a two point reversal, where he switches positions with the top wrestler, or escape the top man's control and return to neutral position, earning one point for an escape.
The switch is a technique generally used from the bottom position; in the best case scenario, a well executed switch will result in a reversal. At the highest levels of wrestling, a switch culminating in a reversal is uncommon, and switches usually result in just the creation of space required for the bottom man to achieve an escape. In fact, switches as reversals are so scarce against elite competition, that I have heard some college coaches instruct their wrestlers to not even attempt them.
I'm not unsympathetic to this approach. Time in a wrestling room, from a coaching perspective at least, is a precious commodity, and best spent refining techniques with a higher success rate. On the other hand, the longer I coach, the more I've come to embrace the viewpoint that it is the individual wrestler that makes a technique good or bad, and ultimately, within reason, wrestlers should be encouraged to employ the techniques which work for them.
The switch is usually taught as one of two variations. The first is the cross hand control-based switch shown here.This "old school" switch is demonstrated by Edge Wrestling's Coach Marsh on Coach Esposito.
In this technique, the bottom wrestler achieves a sit out position while obtaining cross wrist control. He then reaches his free arm back and over his opponent's controlled arm, positioning it so his triceps is on his opponent's triceps. Then, he rotates toward the reaching arm and arches his back. The opponent's controlled arm now becomes a lever. The forearm, held tightly against the bottom man's midsection becomes the fulcrum, the back arch applies force against the top man's upper arm and shoulder, and the result is that the top man's face is forced forward into the mat. The back arch-created pressure is maintained, immobilizing the top man while the bottom wrestler finishes rotating around behind to finish the reversal.
This form of the switch is the less common of the two variations. The move is made less effective by its slow and methodical nature, and in this day and age of the super-tilter top man, sitting out and bringing one's hang back within the framework of his body is an invitation to get re-grabbed and tilted, perhaps repeatedly. The re-grab is demonstrated below.
The second switch variation, referred to as a "proper" switch by the Edge staff, is shown below,
I have always referred to this as a "quick" switch. The key component is the initial clearing of the inside arm. This arm needs to be placed as far away from the opponents gripping hand as possible. The next step is the sit out. Notice how Coach Marsh sits out and at almost a 180 degree angle, facing back toward the wall behind him. This creates space between his hips and Esposito's hips. In bottom wrestling, space creation is the name of the game.
As the sit out position is achieved, the outside arm is to reach back over the opponent's tricep and then between his legs, preferably using the palm of the hand to leverage on the inside of his thigh. To get the arm between the legs, this may require the arm to be bent and significant force to be applied back from the switchers triceps to his opponent's triceps. Once the arm is in place, over the tricep and between the legs, the switicher should then arch his back to pressure his opponent forward and then grab the near leg and double leg across for the reversal.
When facing elite opposition, this switch usually becomes a mere means of escape as pressure is relieved between the back arch and the double. Against top wrestlers, if pressure is relieved for even the briefest instant during a move, the move will fail.
This move can also fail due to wily counter wrestling. One of the most basic means of countering a switich is to crowd your hips back into your opponent. This closes the distance between the hips required to achieve a position of leverage. Crowding in aggressively also forces the would be switcher to turn away back to his base. Below, Coach Esposito counters Coach Marsh's switch by crowding the hips.
The switch can also be used in positions other than just standard bottom position.
One is as a counter to a head outside shot. This is demonstrated in current MMA prospect Darrion Caldwell's NCAA finals match for the ages against Brent Metcalf. Caldwell, in N.C. State red and white, finds himself attacked by adouble leg from the black clad Metcalf of Iowa, and hits the switch.
I should mention that at this point Metcalf was widely considered unbeatable, he is a fantastic wrestler and immediately identifies the switch and counters by crowding the hips, with good bit of prejudice. The only problem is that Caldwell is absurdly gifted (I have written about him, and this match before) and he manages to slime around behind Brent for the takedown, despite having absolutely no space for his hips to maneuver. Most lesser wrestlers would have bailed out of that switch long before, lest they get caught on their back.
Finally, there is the classic standing switch, used after standing off the bottom position to the "belly to back" position. In this position, it is the top wrestler's objective to return his opponent to the mat, and the bottom man's goal to escape from the top man's grasp, earning an escape point.
Below, Penn State's Quentin Wright, in the Big Ten finals, hits a switch to obtain an escape from Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus. Notice that Wright first cleverly pushes off of Steinhaus's (yes it is proper to use " 's "on proper nouns ending in "s") thigh to maintain hip space, he then reaches back triceps over triceps, sits and arches his back. Steinhaus's hands are locked around Wright's waist, this holds his arm against Wright's abdomen, allowing the Penn State wrestler to generate enough leverage to knock Steinhaus forward. Steinhaus, fortunately, is a stud wrestler, and he recovers instantly; he breaks his lock and gets his weight back over his knees. Quentin is deprived the opportunity to reverse, but obtains the escape.
Carlos Condit hits a similar standing switch on Georges St. Pierre in his welterweight title fight in the main event of UFC 154. Only here, St. Pierre perhaps betrays his lack of a competitive wrestling base by keeping his hands locked too long. The Edge coaches demonstrate below.
The longer Georges keeps his hands clasped, the longer Condit can torque him forward with the switch. Ultimately Condit forces St. Pierre forward so forcibly, that his ass pops up in the air and Condit is able to scoop St, Pierre's leg, push the head down, and land in half guard.
This was an example of a fantastic wrestling technique employed by Carlos Condit, and a flaw in St, Pierre's ultra-refined, but narrow, wrestling skill set.
Thanks to ZP for the awesome gifs.
Thanks to Edge for helping me out. Want more high quality Wrestling and Wrestling for MMA/BJJ advice? Visit Dave and Jeff at www.edgehoboken.com/