I wrote this article for a local newspaper back in the early 1980’s, and a friend of mine just sent it to me out of the blue. I had forgotten all about it. But after re-reading, I thought it was interesting enough to republish. Hope you enjoy.
I’m sure you realize how difficult it is to concentrate on more than one thing at any particular moment. A lot of people, including me, struggle concentrating on one thing let alone two. That’s why the sport of wrestling doesn’t have a lot of pinners.
I say that because people, it seems, can’t keep one plate spinning, let alone two. Unless, you’re creative enough to glue two plates together; as I’m about to do for you here.
In wrestling, when you’re focus is on getting a takedown, or not losing one, the last thing you’re thinking about is how can I get a half nelson on this dude, unless you’re Gene Mills.
Or, and this is the heart of the story, you’ve made half nelsons actually a phase of your takedowns.
Think about it, a takedown is basically broken down into 5 component parts: 1) stance, 2) motion 3) level change 4) penetration and then 5) the finish up. If you do all five things successfully, the referee awards you two points.
Now, consider this . . .
If doing five things gives you two points, would you consider adding a sixth phase to your takedowns if the referee would give you an additional three points for the add on?
And, as a bonus, you have the opportunity to end the match by pin.
When I first started learning how to wrestle, I insisted on being taught how to pin someone before anything else; which really put me on the hot seat with my coaches. They insisted in the reverse that I learn stance first, and then how to shuffle my feet back and forth in a bent over position without falling over.
How silly of them!
Remember, I grew up back in the dark ages, and the fact that I wanted to learn pinning before anything else was considered verboten.
Eventually, my will out lasted theirs, and what I’m about to write is known as reverse instruction. Something I advocate to all that will listen.
I’ll use pinning here as my instructional example. But please note, the same reverse instruction also works for takedowns, reversals and escapes.
To start, I divide whatever technique I want to teach, or learn, into component parts. I’ll call them steps here for clarity. And, as the term suggests, reverse instruction starts with the last step first.
To begin, assume that a half nelson has five component parts. And I’ll refer to each one as step 1, step 2, step 3, up through step 5.
Now, the normal and accepted way of teaching a half nelson is to start with step 1 and then move to step 2, and onto step 3 etc.
However, I teach in the reverse. I begin with step 5 and end with step 1.
Step 5 is placing the bottom wrestler on his back, with the top wrestler having as tight a half nelson as he can apply.
Then I give the command to begin. The top man is trying to pin his partner, while the bottom man is resisting at a 50% level for that not to happen.
The initial practice of pinning your opponent should actually begin with you learning how to pin. Not in this instance, learning how to acquire a half nelson. That will come later.
For clarity, I’m not going to spend any time here on the technical components of a half nelson. Instead, I want you to understand how to arrange your practices though the use of reverse instruction.
After step 5, you go to step 4, by having the bottom man lie on his side with his partner, again, having as tight of a half nelson as he can apply. Then I start it all over again; ready, set, go.
Here, I’m working on making the top man more proficient with the half nelson; learning how to drive his opponent over to acquire step 5, and follow that by pinning him just like he practiced earlier.
So, the offensive man has just learned how to pin his partner twice. Once from step 5 and then from step 4.
Then I move to step 3, with the defensive man lying on his stomach and the offensive man with the best half nelson he can apply already in place. From there the offensive man has to learn how to drive his opponent over (step 4) and then to his back for the fall (step 5).
Again note, each time we drill the half, it ends in a pin. Right now, it’s step 5 to step 4 to step 3.
Then I add in step 2, learning how to put a half nelson on from his opponent lying flat. As soon as that is accomplished, the athlete completes step 3, 4, and 5, with each of the steps ending in a fall.
Step 1 is teaching an athlete how to break an opponent down from referee’s position so that he can go straight to step 2, then to step 3, and so on.
Learning the techniques of how to pin someone should always be taught in the reverse order; each athlete learning the technique of pinning by repetition.
The same instructional through process works extremely well for takedowns, reversals and escapes.
Now lets take that same philosophy and introduce it to what is being taught at the beginning of the season. Coaches always start with stance, then follow it with motion to takedowns and then most likely escapes.
Doing it that way makes total sense.
Unless you consider introducing reverse instruction here as well.
Let’s look at the benefit of introducing pinning before stance, motion, takedowns and escapes. Spend the first two weeks of practice teaching everyone how to put someone on their back.
When you do that, the athletes now have the skill that’s necessary to follow a takedown with a cradle, or a half, or a headlock. Basically you taught your athletes how to combine two different techniques into one, because that’s the way it was taught and drilled.
For the life of me, why would anyone just want 2 points for a takedown when they are already familiar with pinning and would much prefer being given over twice as many points by just changing the order of instruction?
I hope this helps some of you, as it paid huge dividends for me.