Winning isn’t always about executing your most effective technique, it often comes down to stopping your opponent’s most effective technique.
Kyle Dake didn’t beat Jordan Burroughs to make the Olympic team as a result of his offensive prowess. He was in Beijing because he was successful at stopping Jordan’s legendary, and lethal, double leg. The genius behind it was simple. As soon as Jordan lowered his level to take a shot, Kyle would drop to his knees. Now, don’t mistake my use of these titans of the sport to make a point, both are two of America’s greatest but nothing plays havoc in a competitor’s mind more than the feeling of frustration at not being able to score with ones go-to move.
Decades ago now, I had to face one of America’s greatest wrestlers, a three-time NCAA Champion who was certainly capable in many ways. However, his go-to technique, like Jordan’s double leg, was multiple variations of a fireman’s carry.
Knowing this, I wasn’t interested in finding out how good he was with it. That was already obvious from watching the experiences of others. To counter that, as soon as the match started I put my left arm behind my back, the one he needed for his attacks. The fans thought I was crazy. They couldn’t believe I was willing to wrestle someone at his level of achievement with just one arm.
But in the end, I dominated what should have been an exciting and competitive match. It wasn’t that wrestling on my feet with one arm behind my back was a great idea, but it was really. It took away my opponents go-to takedown and what remained were far less effective attacks.
I told that story at an MMA clinic probably a decade ago now, and recently received this email.
Mr. Schalles . . . I thought that story you told us about wrestling with one arm was hysterical. And, I remembered why you shared it with us. So, I thought I’d write. Four years ago I was fighting Georgie from France. He was a European champion with a devastating double right sleeve, and right lapel grip that he would wind into a hari-goshi. He had beaten the Cuban World Champ and Asian Champion with it. When I had to go against him, I thought of your story and as soon as the match started I put my right arm behind my back. Georgie became frustrated and tried the throw me with just a double lapel grip. He landed on his face and I chicken winged him to his back and 30 seconds later the match was over. Afterward, my entire team wanted to know how I thought to do that. I just said Coach Schalles. Of course none of the judo players on the team ever heard of you, but I will never forget what you did for me.
The story I’m trying to share is; winning isn’t always about what you can do to your opponent, it’s what you can do to stop your opponent from executing on you.
First, you need to determine what you’re going to run into, and then, figure out how you’re going to stop it . . . preferably before the shot happens.
More recently, one of the young men I coach had to wrestle an opponent who would tie-up on the opposite side with a left hand collar tie. I could see the “what do I do now” look on his opponents faces as I watched him in matches.
Like Dake shutting down Burroughs double, it’s quite possible this young man won a lot of matches, not by his offensive prowess, conditioning, or tenacity, but through successfully stopping all of his opponent’s attacks before they happened, by his off-side tie-up.
Additionally, it should be noted, the greater a person’s go-to move is, which is a direct result of extensive drilling, the weaker his secondary shots are.
“So, what do I do,” Austin asked, regarding his match? “It’s simple,” I replied. “Don’t tie-up. Push him away when he tries to engage. Wrestle him from an open stance. You may limit your offensive capability some, but you’ll have totally eliminated his, and in the process, the frustration he used to dump in his opponents lap you’ll dump in his.”
What I’ve tried to convey here is illuminating options to challenges that for all of us at some point, might have seemed difficult to overcome. Winning isn’t always about who has the sharpest claws, sometimes it makes more sense to de-claw the opposition.