TRAINING CONCEPTS FOR BJJ/MMA/SUBMISSION GRAPPLING
“Meeting and dismissing that inner-voice, the one that calls for retreat, calls for rest, calls for acquiescence to physical exhaustion, then proceeding forward, pushing on and achieving more than what you thought you could endure, hardens your ability to survive.” –Tim Sledd
Warriors, athletes, and competitors are looking for an edge. Some stay tuned to the latest diets, exercise routines, and literature. Some choose to buy the latest equipment, gear, or instructionals on their relevant field. But throughout history, a key characteristic of successful warriors, athletes, and competitors has been the desire to survive.
By “survival,” I mean the ability to meet great obstacles head on, overcome them, and continue forward with the mission. Perhaps the obstacle is pain, limited finances, or fewer troops, but to a real warrior, there is nothing that will get in the way of the mission. A small percentage of people exemplify this character trait, but all of us are born with this trait and can condition ourselves to endure obstacles so as to meet our goals.
“Fighting is actually the best thing a man can have in his soul.”
– Renzo Gracie
So, honing your ability to survive will increase your effectiveness on the mat, in the cage, or on the street. That seems easy enough to understand, but HOW does one condition the ability to survive? One way, which is used by the best combat athletes in the world, is Shugyo Training. Many of the athletes may not even realize they are employing Shugyo Training but they are, and it makes them fierce competitors that have the edge when the match/fight gets tough.
In short, Shugyo Training is using a set of exercises or drills that force the participant to their breaking point physically and mentally then demand they push through. Marathon runners often engage in Shugyo Training when in preparation for the actual Marathon, they increase the distance they are running, and when they feel they are going to fail to be able to complete the lesser distance, they visualize making the ultimate goal of 26.2 miles. Meeting and dismissing that inner-voice, the one that calls for retreat, calls for rest, calls for acquiescence to physical exhaustion, then proceeding forward, pushing on and achieving more than what you thought you could endure, hardens your ability to survive.
Militaries around the world force their toughest troops through bouts of Shugyo Training. Whether it is the Navy SEALs with sleep deprivation, near drowning, and sensory overload, or Special Forces training in surviving “prisoner of war” scenarios, the goal and objective is to harden the ability to survive.
Dan Gable is revered in the wrestling community as one of the best wrestlers of all time and one of the most brutally demanding coaches. In the documentary, “Dan Gable, Competitor Supreme,” Shugyo Training oozes from every practice clip and tale of training Coach Gable undertook to come back after his solo collegiate loss. Losing was not an option for Coach Gable and because of the training his wrestlers endured, it was not an option for them either.
“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”
– Dan Gable
“ The 1st period is won by the best technician. The 2nd period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart.”
- Dan Gable
My first experience with Shugyo Training occurred my freshman year in high school during wrestling season. One day, our coaching staff came into the room and hung a red flag on the door. We were told that no one was allowed to leave, if anyone needed to puke, trash cans were available, and quitting was not acceptable. For the next two hours we exercised, drilled, exercised, drilled and on until puking, crying, and groaning were only muffled by the deep breathing of (what we thought were) well conditioned wrestlers. When the practice was over, the coaches made us congratulate ourselves, focus on our exhaustion, realize that we had made it through. They asked us to remember what it took. The head coach told us that no match would hurt that bad and that if we gave up on the mat, conceded defeat without being beat, then shame on us. What the “red flag” practices (there were at least 8 more in my high school career) achieved was giving me a confidence that when I stepped on the mat, I was more conditioned than my opponent. I clearly recall having a few overtime matches where I was tired and Coach telling me to suck it up, this was not a red flag practice!
“To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself.”
– George Orwell
A SAMPLE TEAM SHUGYO PRACTICE:
For the coaches and instructors out there, consider adding Shugyo Training to your regimen. The practices should not be dangerous, but can use simple drills and exercises to failure. My methodology for a Shugyo Training session is as follows:
- Warm up and stretch (light jog, shrimp drills, forward rolls etc.)
- Circuit training for exhaustion (Power rope swings, Kettlebell Swings, Slosh Pipe rows, medicine ball “hot potato,” sledgehammer swings) Depending on the level of fitness of the group we will do several rounds of this circuit without the participants knowing how many rounds.
- Next the drills to failure: (Wall-sits, planks, handstands against the wall) Each of these exercises are safe yet tire an already exhausted body and mind rapidly. THE KEY IS, YOU CANNOT LET THE PARTICIPANTS FAIL WHEN THEY WANT TO! Make them begin to count out loud when they want to quit, have a coach take over the count, or use the group support to keep the person engaged past their quitting point.
- Finally we analyze the thoughts. Each participant should know that they still have something left they could have spent to survive longer… next time we will go there!
MY OWN SOLO SHUGYO TRAINING WHILE ON “VACATION”
Each year, my wife, daughters, and I travel to my in-laws’ cabin in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a wilderness trip. There are no cell phones towers, no high speed internet, no gyms, no mats, it is the WILDERNESS. What there is an abundance of is water, trees, mosquitoes and beauty. Here is the last Solo Shugyo practice I did while there: 5 round circuit
- Solo Paddle 18’ Aluminum Canoe ¼ mile from DNR dock to our dock
- Portage Canoe from our dock to the DNR dock
- Run to garage (1/2 way between docks)
- Pick up 60lb “Atlas Stone” (a piece of sandstone from the property)
- Fast march the stone to the DNR dock then back to the garage
- 60 swings of a sledgehammer each side.
- Run to the DNR dock
Enjoy serving up some brutality and hardening your ability to survive!
Here is a video of Renato Tavares explaining the benefits of training hard. The benefits of Shugyo Training are found at the heart of his discussion.