So much of your success while in the neutral position is relative to your ability to push and pull your opponent. Recall our eight skills that underly standing wrestling—

  • Stance
  • Motion
  • Hand-fighting
  • Level Change
  • Penetration
  • Lifting
  • Pivoting
  • Back arch

Consider that while implementing any of the last five of these skills, you’ll be close to getting your opponent’s hips to the mat (e.g., a blast sequence of level change, penetration, and lift for a powerful double leg!).

But also know that your chances of success with any of the final five skills are relative to your prowess with the first three—i.e., stance, motion, and hand-fighting. Further, a lack of expertise in these preliminary skills will leave you open to your opponent’s attacks!

This is why at HHGC we spend a big chunk of our practice time—both in the family and adult classes—playing a grappling game we call ‘Sumo’. The game’s details are easy enough. We rope off a small circular boundary and have our combatants engage with two sets of objectives…(1) push your opponent out of bounds, or (2) get your opponent’s hand on the mat. Achieve either one of those, and you win.

This simple contest has done more to instruct our athletes about the skills of stance, motion, and hand-fighting than any detailed exposition regarding the mechanics of each that I can provide.

And recall one of our central tenets to deliberate practice, which is so critical to developing expert-level skills—immediate feedback! Stand straight up, you’re pushed out of bounds. Stop moving, you’re snapped down. Lose the hand-fight, either can happen!

Note, too, that depending on the athletes’ skill, we can adjust the radius of our ‘Sumo’ space. The more developed these three skills are, the smaller we make the circle. If you follow our posts regularly, you might notice that this adheres to our constraints-led approach to skill development, too.

Check out the attached clip of Cary Kolat, an elite wrestler and coach, to see these skills being taught and implemented by a true master of the craft!

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