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With the trends of the Ultimate Fighter Television Show and Mixed Martial Arts schools constantly blooming in more communities, itís no wonder why instructors are eager to incorporate grappling into traditional martial arts systems.  But the truth of the matter is that grappling has been around for millenniums.  So why all the hype?  Why now?  Because national exposure has given grappling the attention itís deserved.

Battle tested, instructor approved.  If you could package grappling, thatís what it would say.  But letís peel away the publicity, the advertising and the hype and get down to the art.   For thousands of years and through hundreds of cultures, grappling has been an effective means of defending oneself.  Grappling could almost certainly be traced back circa 3000 B.C. in ancient Egypt.  Found in the ruins of the Sumerian Kingdom of Mesopotamia, pyramid hieroglyphics indicated that some form of boxing and wrestling had been practiced.  Theory has it that at the demise of Ancient Egypt, practitioners of this ancient art fled the country across the Mediterranean Sea into parts of Europe and even traveled as far as what is known today as Japan.  Since this form of fighting used a wide range of techniques, including ground fighting, it is believed the martial art was adopted in Greece as a form of combat.

In Greece, men believed that the skill for the art of war was passed to them from the Gods.  Men used to combat and even fight to the death in attempts to establish honor, power and supremacy.  Pankration which means ďall-powerful?was accepted as an Olympic sport around 700 B.C.  Due to the understanding that most fights ended up on the ground, Pankration was made up of two different types if combat: Ano Pankration which was a standing martial art, like boxing, and Kato Pankration.  Kato Pankration allowed a standing fight to be continued on the ground and often opponents would fight until exhaustion or death.

Probably the most famous style of martial arts to feature grappling today is Jujitsu.  In Japan, the art of Jujitsu evolved among the Samurai, in what was believed to be the 17th century.  Tested on the battlefields, techniques that worked allowed a warrior to survive and the techniques that didnít, proved fatal.   After power in Japan had been transferred to its Emperor and feudalism fell, Jujitsu became illegal to practice and almost extinct until the abolishment of that law in 1865.  Since its resurfacing, Jujitsu has become about the use of ancient martial arts techniques and grappling for survival in a non-lethal method.

In 1914, Mitsuo Maeda, a judo/jujitsu master, immigrated to Brazil from Japan.  As barter for help from the politician Gast„o Gracie, Maeda taught Gast„oís son Carlos the arts of judo and jujitsu.  Carlos passed his knowledge on to his brothers and in 1925 they opened the first Gracie Jujitsu dojo together and GJJ was born.  Through the years, they focused more and more on submission grappling and their jujitsu techniques evolved and the outstanding contribution that the Gracieís gave to the martial arts and grappling never stopped growing.  In the 1970ís, Rolls Gracie devised the first point system for jujitsu competitions.  In the 1990ís Rorian Gracie moved to Los Angeles to spearhead Brazilian Jujistu into the American martial arts world.  He also founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship in attempts to reproduce the Samurai technique of proving what techniques work and what techniques donít in a non-lethal manner.  America had been exposed to submission grappling, and we loved every minute of it.  Martial Arts heroes were born and names like Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Rich Franklin were household names. 

 Realizing its full potential to help complete any martial art, grappling has become increasingly popular, especially within the last two decades.  Combat martial artists started comprehending the importance of grappling when realizing that most of their fights, for one reason or another (i.e. exhaustion, takedowns), ended up on the ground.  Understanding this, traditional instructors are beginning to recognize the importance of being able to defend oneself from a ground position.  More and more instructors want to incorporate grappling into their system; however are uncertain on how to do so.  So letís get down to it. 

Grappling utilizes joint locks, chokes, holds and throws to subdue or disable an opponent.  Since grappling is mostly a ground fighting system, incorporating it into a martial arts style that defends from a standing position would create a well-rounded street-wise martial art.  Here are some tips on how to include grappling into your curriculum:


Education.  First and foremost, educate yourself.  Whether itís taking class from a local dojo, taking a home study program, or attending seminars, make sure you have the capability, resources and knowledge it takes to teach others.  This will aid you in preventing student injury and help you be confident in your new program. Remember, get the proper training yourself to keep both you and your students safe.


Seminars.  Schedule seminars at your school and allow students to practice some basic grappling techniques.  Put on a demonstration utilizing some basic grappling skills so students recognize the importance of grappling.  This will allow your students to emerge themselves gradually into the new program.  Also, seminars from grappling professionals are encouraged.


Grappling games.  As part of an everyday kidís class, incorporate grappling drills into fun activities, i.e.  Shrimp races, rolling and falling competitions, etc.  Kids will love these games and not even know they are learning some fundamental drills.  In an adultís class, use those drills as an end of class workout, instead of push-ups, etc.  This too will instill some fundamental grappling drills for adults.


Grappling classes.  Once grappling has been introduced to your students, incorporate a grappling class into your curriculum.  Just like you may have separate forms classes or self-defense classes, establish separate grappling classes as part of your regular schedule.  You may even split these classes up into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced as your students progress.  Note: Just as a regular class, you should have different child and adult classes.


Self-Defense.  Since most self-defense systems include takedowns, incorporate grappling techniques into your takedowns.  After the initial defense and takedown, you may even want to add an arm-bar or a choke hold to your finishing move. 


Mini Tournaments.  Every weekend or so, have mini tournaments.  Both kids and adults will love to compete and youíll be able to see your students?progress and reward it.  Also, youíll be able to identify certain weaknesses in their grappling.  Take 10 minutes at the end of each Mini Tourney Class and go over some weaknesses that will help your students?skill the following weekend. 


Movie Night.  Hold monthly movie nights and show different Ultimate Fighting Championship fights, NHB fights, Training Videos and martial arts movies to expose your students to different martial arts and how they use grappling in different martial arts systems.  Donít forget to preview the movie and make sure it is appropriate for the age you are showing it to.


Adding grappling into your system will not only benefit your students, but it will also benefit you as well.  Certify yourself and your staff in grappling.  The more you have to offer a student, the more a student wants to learn from you.  And the more you know, the better off you and your students are. 


About the author:
Vanessa Bush is a Martial Arts practitioner, instructor and freelance writer.
She is also an Advisory Board member for the American Federation of Jujitsu

 COPYRIGHT ?Vanessa Bush 2006


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