ACL Melee Roles: Grappler

Intro– Quick introduction to Roles and Positions

ACL Roles: Strikers

ACL Roles: Punishers

ACL Roles:Runners

Hey Guys and Gals. Today Ringo is going to be starting his series on ACL roles, which basically equate to fighting styles. It’s another way to look at what the different jobs there are on the field and who does what. Today is also the last time I refer to myself in the third person. God that was gross… I should probably go back and just delete it…but that requires editing and fuck that. We do these all in one take. Yes I realize take is not the word for a written piece of work. Lets just ignore all this and get to the advice shit.

So we’ve covered Positions, which as the name suggests, refers mainly to where you are and move on the field. Now we’re covering roles, which are primarily how you finish opponents, to get them on the ground. In case you don’t remember there were 4 roles we use to break things down. You can go get the over here and get a good overview. I’d wait for you but the rest of the class wants to move on. Catch up when you can. Today we’re talking about the first of the 4 roles, Grapplers.

Grapplers are, as the name suggests, fighters who tie up and grab other fighters in an attempt to throw them to the ground. Grappling is almost always the first role people fall into when they start. Everyone thinks the safest place to be is hugging your opponent and the quickest way to get them to the ground is throw them. While neither of these is true, grappling is the easiest skill to feel effective at, though it’s actually the hardest skill to become great at. It can be pretty easy to learn how stay up against the majority of grapple attempts and how to tie up folks and stay on your feet. Throws against your average fighter aren’t that hard to learn either. However learning how to throw good fighters and how to defend yourself against a suicide attempt can be a very difficult task.

While I say this to get people to think twice about defaulting to the grapple I still think it’s a great starting point for newer fighters. Just one they should either progress out of quickly or if they stay double down on learning the Commandments of Grappling and the Basic and advanced Techniques. The thing is for now most fights turn into grappling at some point and while there’s a push to stop that there’s little evidence that it will do much to change the overall look of melee’s. As such this is a role everyone needs to have somewhat. And it is the fastest way to get to point where you can feel like you are doing something, so that you can start to figure out what really works for you and begin to develop a Melee Sense and Fight IQ.

That introduction is far too long without useful advice, so let’s get to some practical shit. What does it take to be a grappler? First and Foremost is obviously Strength, Followed closely by Endurance. However while more strength equals more better, it’s not a linear relationship. It’s more of a certain level of strength is a prerequisite to be able to be effective and then after that, it helps but not nearly as much as you think. Example, Cat is significantly stronger than Brian “Sampson” Juranty, possibly twice as strong in traditional lifts. He can easily throw brian across the room in a straight strength on strength match. However Brian is only slightly less effective at grappling than Cat and that appears to mostly be a lack of experience. So, before you go load up that bench or squat rack make sure you aren’t wasting effort.

After you’ve reached that level of strength, you need to make sure you have a very deep tank and muscular endurance similar to a distance swimmer or rock climber. Grappling is incredibly tiring and wearing on dozens of tiny muscles which may need to keep working at near 100% capacity repeatedly all day. You aren’t trying to match an ultra distance runner or biker or anything like that, but you do need to be able to keep putting out max effort for between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, only to have to do it again on just a few minutes rest. So get your HIIT training in and make sure you’re maxing it out. Get alot of reps if your hitting weights, not just work 1 rep max or a standard 8 set. Do 12, 15, hell 20 or more. You need your muscles to keep pushing not just push hard once. Ideally something that works it all at once is the best practice. Amature Wrestling type work, Rock Climbing, Swimming, Parkour, or obstacle course work are all great ways to work this.

In addition to those two physical abilities a grappler needs a particular mental set two. The biggest is a very localized melee sense. It’s good for any fighter to know what’s happening all over the field, but the grappler doesn’t really care that much on stuff outside of his immediate engagement area. However he needs to be hyper aware of what’s happening with the fighters around him. When to leave, when to turn his man to open them up, when to try doubling down and grab two guys, when he’s about to be double teamed, etc. Keeping that awareness and making the correct decisions will be the difference between a hugger and a grappler. A hugger just grabs people and hopes something good happens. A grappler makes something good happen.

Prerequisites out of the way, how does one get out of the hugger campe and stay in the Grappler one? Primarily by remembering the Commandments of Grappling,(see our youtube series and accompanying blog post coming soon) and making specific attacks while tied up. The number 1, most effective, necceasrary, foundational attack is the Grind. Grinding is a very simple method, much like cage work in MMA, the grappler who wants to grind will push thier opponent up against the rail or fence, driving to bend them back over it if possible and pushing pressure on the sternum to restrict breathing. A successful grind places all of your weight onto your opponent, so they are having to hold you up as well as them, forcing them to slowly lose more energy than you. There are a number of little tricks that can be done to increas this. Pushing the head back, Crushing the sternum, Repeatedly changing the direction of pressure so they have to readjust. Each list will also change the ways in which you pull this off. It can be practiced in soft kit to great effect and I highly suggest it. Every Grappler needs this in thier arsenal, because most of the time, you will be unable to complete a throw against a fresh opponent. A tired opponent is easier to not only throw, but to get with pain compliance or even a check. Draining the will from someone is the primary attack you will be using as a grappler.

Beyond a good grind game, which is basically learning how to get leverage, drive forward, and keep someone pinned, the things that really separate a grappler from a hugger isn’t actually high end judo or good throws. That’s what separates a good grappler from the pack but the majority of takedowns done through grappling are more just sustained pressure and movement. You’re ability to move better in kit, to squat lower, lunge farther, and rotate faster will be how you get 80% of your takedowns. Yup, the 80:20 applies here. A few basic movements that are just moving a person along when they are out of position will serve you better than the wide variety of cool tosses, trips, hooks, and reaps that you see a few of the flashier guys do. If you can get your opponent into an awkward position, just hold on to them and start walking. Half the time that alone will be enough. And when it’s not, a friend can easily finish them or even a poorly done throw attempt.

The next two things that really separate a good grappler from the a hugger is obviously a good throw/trip game and the ability to immobilize one target while attacking another. That can be done by holding multiple people, by holding one and than using your weapon or shield to strike a second opponent that is also being tied up, or destabilizing that second opponents base with trips and kicks. This is a really advanced field sense thing but it is a huge seperator between a grapple basically being null value for your team and giving them a significant advantage.

However the key thing has to be throws. While locking opponents down and weakening them is great, if you can’t finish you can only at best be support. Sometimes the game is on the line and you are the last man standing. The thing about throwing in Armor though is that it isn’t like any practiced grappling sport. Everything has to be bigger movement, because armor makes alot of the smaller subtler stuff impossible to do or simply ineffective. In addition, throws have to be done with less power and follow through or you will go down too. Getting your throws in place will take alot of time and practice. It’s worth it to study Judo, Glima, HEMA Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, or any other grappling art. Spend the time put in the practice. It will not translate 1 for 1 or anything close. However that sense of a person’s balance and movement will and that is the key to being succesful. Being able to pick that up in armor and just move better in armor will often be enough if a person puts themselves in a bad position. Once you feel them moving getting them over is actually really easy as armor over-balances everyone. Setting that bad position up will take time to learn, when to explode, when to push, when to pull, etc etc. But it will come. Learn the sense of your own body in armor and the sense of bodies moving first. The rest will follow.

A last note on how to be an effective grappler, is to ditch two handed weapons, ditch falchions and maces. Use a hand axe. The angle between the blade and the shaft creates a hook that can essentially be used as a hand to manipulate weight and joints. In genearl other weapons will get in your way and work against you while grappling. An Axe will basically give you back some of the fine manipluation you lose with a guantlet and wpeon.

Now with the above info you may be trying to work this into your database of Positions. Remember these are designed to work as an alternative way of understanding how people break down on the field. That said, when combining the idea, which will probably give you the best analysis, you should have come to the conclusion that the only position where this Role is required is Center. Guards can and should be able to, mostly because the majority of fights turn into a grapple, but this is a no no role for Flankers. Learning it is fine, but you should not be playing this role if you are doing Flanker positioning.

Once you start to get the hang of grappling, the next logical step to move to is striking. A strong striking game improves your grapples immensely. You can begin to learn punishment but you’ll find that the two Roles are slightly antagonist as you can’t punish while Grappling and you can’t Grapple while Punishing. And Just forget about being a Runner. That is litterally the Anti-grappler.

Well I hope this was of some use to you, and I’ll see you in the lists


3 thoughts on “ACL Melee Roles: Grappler

  1. Pingback: ACL Melee roles: Striker | Life As A Swordsman

  2. Pingback: ACL Melee Roles: Punishers | Life As A Swordsman

  3. Pingback: ACL Roles: Runner | Life As A Swordsman

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