After the warm-ups we skipped throws and did a few restraint-and-control techniques, most including a throwing component. From there we went into a solid hour of groundwork:
- Offence: The first four immobilizations
- More offence: Immobilizations six through eight
- Theory: How control of the opponent's hips (and to a certain extent the shoulders) establishes dominance in groundwork
- Basic defence: A mount escape; two guard passes and a counter to a guard pass
- More defence: One-and-a-half counters to the first immobilization: kesa gatame (the scarf hold)
All of this was interspersed with short sessions of groundwork randori.
It went well. Everyone had fun, no-one was hurt, much was learned, and the randori at the end of the class was much smoother and more dynamic than at the start. The more experienced students appreciated the opportunity for concentrated work on one part of jiu-jitsu, and the new students made impressive progress.
So why "Groundhog day" rather than "Groundhog month"? Long, circuitous answer ...
I think of Jiu-jitsu as having roughly the following breakdown:
- 30% throws
- 30% restraint and control
- 30% groundwork
- 10% special sauce: reflexive self-defence, striking techniques, weapons, etc.
Because my class is dominated by lower grades, I probably teach closer to 40-50% on throws. Why? Because throwing (and falling) teach most of the body movements characteristic of Jiu-jitsu, make for good self-defence, and develop positive physical attributes, all leading to a strong physical and technical foundation.
Now, here's the nub of the issue: I reckon that it is easier to make faster apparent progress by focussing purely on groundwork than -- say -- purely focussing on throws or on restraint and control, let alone pursuing all three at once. [Hello Brazilian Jiu-jitsu!] With groundwork everything can be taught (and learned!) a little more statically than with throws, and there isn't as much fine detail as in the restraint and control.
But just because something is easier, doesn't mean we should let it dominate our approach. In fact the opposite pertains. In order to get evenness of development we need to spend coresspondingly more time on the more challenging -- but still valuable -- parts of the art. Incidentally, that is exactly what judo founder Jigoro Kano recommended: He warned against the practitioner who, encouraged by relatively rapid progress in groundwork, neglects his or her standing techniques. Instead he encouraged biasing deliberately towards standing techniques at the early stages of learning, and play catch up on groundwork technique later.
So there it is. While I am intentionally devoting more time to throws in most classes, the occasional short, sharp burst of groundwork will allow us to catch up in that area from time to time.
Also: If you haven't seen the movie Groundhog Day, you should. I thoroughly recommend it. Not that it has any particular relevance to this post, other than lending its catchy title.