Sabaki (捌き) simply means management or handling but it's often translated to "movement". The reason I like "management" is because it indicates movement with an intent or purpose. In modern Karate, Sabaki* aims to take you out the opponent's line of fire and into a position where you can attack with less/no chance of getting hit back. I was having a short chat with my new friend and the more we talked about Sabaki the more it reminded me of this article I wrote a couple of years back on taking the back with an armdrag.
The reason the back is such an advantageous position in BJJ, NoGi submission wrestling and MMA is because you are no longer in the opponent's line of fire and in a position where you can attack with less/no chance of getting hit back or submitted. Sounds familiar?
Here's the article: BJJ / Grappling Back Take Tips: The Secret to Successful Armdrags
Commitment is very important in martial arts in general and especially so in BJJ and grappling. I share his Karate background and my former BJJ coach used to stress to me when I was in mount-bottom that the escape moves are never a one-off**. You must commit to the technique, have full faith in it and never do it half-heartedly. This is never truer than in the example of armdrags.
The heart of armdrags (irrespective whether from closed guard, open/butterfly guard or even standing) is in the first two moves:
1. Clearing the arm to the side
2. Reaching your arm across his back to the opposite lat.
What you do from here depends really on where your partner’s weight is and your own preference really… Christian Graugart gives a very nice breakdown of a few options on his blog. Above all, however, nothing will work unless you completely own that arm, and that is achieved by hugging/clinching tightly.
Leave behind the false notion that pure technique involves no muscle exertion. That is a misunderstanding! The art is pitting your strengths against your partner’s weaknesses: Your two legs against their neck (triangle) your hips and back against their biceps (arm bar) and, in the case of the armdrag, your clinching musculature against an isolated lat and rear deltoid! Once you get the arm past your centre line, you own it. Maintain a tight hug while you advance to the back (or any other option).
In the words of Beatrix Kiddo: Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you've lost. They belong to me now.
*Sabaki can be further subdivided into ashi sabaki (footwork) and tai sabaki (body movement) and in Okinawan styles, the aim is also to weaken the opponent's posture and prepare to throw them and control them on the ground or flee the scene.
**In Karate, one of the old (misconceptions) adages is "One Punch - One kill" and believe me it doesn't work when trying to escape mount or any other BJJ manoeuvre.
Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi
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