Saturday, May 6, 2017

Abrazare Positions and Ground Fighting

While practicing some grappling today, I had a moment when I considered the cross-over between Abrazare positions and the movements of grip fighting when one pulls you to the ground. Abrazare, in its original context, typically refers to the combative grappling that occurs whilst standing. This is obviously because ground fighting is almost wholly absent in the corpus we have at our disposal. As an aside, one must wonder if this is due to the nature of the fighting or due to the absence of manuals that discuss it. But one must ask himself: how much of my Abrazare will work on a man who has pulled me to the ground and is attempting to choke me with me with his legs? In answering this question, one must not be too quick to rely on tricks and death-blows; they are a minority of techniques presented in the manuals, not your bread and butter movements, and are better suited to set up other techniques rather than ends in themselves.

This is where the fundamentals come into play. Abrazare, when practiced consistently, should give one solid training in position, posture, and proximity, and how to control each of those factors. One learns position through the guards and footwork. One learns posture through practicing the techniques and experimentally learning how posture alters throws. One learns proximity through both drilled techniques and alive sparring. In Ringen, the German cousin of Abrazare, similar principles are described as strength, measure, and agility. Strength refers to both physical power and the ability to go low properly. Measure is knowing how to move both the arms and the legs in a coordinated fashion regardless of guard. Agility is a combination of factors involving knowing techniques, knowing how to position yourself around and behind someone, knowing tricks and death-blows, and in general applying the right action at the right time for a desired result.

Abrazare also has the benefit of giving us a decision-making matrix in the form of a decision tree. This decision tree is observable when one lays out the various abrazare (and la daga) techniques and sees the branch structure first-hand (something ARMA members have access to). One very important decision-making matrix, a separate one from the decision tree discussed here, is found in the Codex Wallerstein, which I have presented visually here:

One would do well to remember the advice of the Codex Wallerstein when deciding how to attack his zugadore. Once one decides how to attack, he must use his measure to attack from the appropriate guard. These guards, for the sake of review, are:

Long Guard

Boar's Tooth

Iron Gate

Doubled Iron Gate

Crown Guard

Now so far all of this has been presented in regards to standing combat, as per the context of Abrazare. But all of this holds true for ground fighting as well. When one is in the guard of a stronger opponent, it is wise to let him act and then attack him based on the opening he just gave you. When you're fighting an equal, you use a combination of strength and measure to interrupt his attacks. When you are fighting a weaker person, then you smash him with power and force him to respond to your wrath. When one is, let's say, in another's closed guard, then one will have to grip fight with his zugadore to make sure that he is not attacked from below. This is a moment where one will notice that all the arm positions of the Long Guard, the Boar's Tooth, the Iron Gate, and the Crown Guard all come into play. You use a straight-posting of the arm to grab him or pin him, you use the bent arm to break grips and secure arms, you use the withdrawn arms to prevent him from grabbing you, and you use the offensive outward arms to force him to respond. There is nothing esoteric about this; these are principles of standing combatives applied to ground combatives.

This may be difficult to visualize as abstract principles, so instead imagine yourself in the closed guard of another. You may begin by grabbing his collar with your right, outstretched arm (Long Guard). He responds by taking a very tight grip on your sleeve and you cannot seem to get out of it through swimming motions. You use the bent arm with one hand (Boar's Tooth) or both hands (Double Iron Door) to induce him to let go by pulling him in and attacking his wrist. He lets go and then you regain your posture with both arms low (Iron Gate). He sits up to grab you again, so you aggressively grab his skull with both arms (Crown Guard) and put him in the can-opener. 

One aside before concluding. The Boar's Tooth is extremely effective when it comes to destroying people's grips when they grab upon your clothing. If you are cross-training with a ground fighter (let's say a BJJ guy), you will notice that they train to grab your collar and your sleeves a lot. Many of these fighters are quite strong and you may not be able to pop off the grip off easily. So instead of playing his game, you should play yours as a practitioner of Abrazare. Remember your training:

Breaking the Grip (Auerswald)

Breaking the Grip (Pascha)

You already know how to break a grip while standing because you've trained the techniques in the manuals. So go with what you know and apply the Boar's Tooth. If he grabs onto your collar with strength, use the Double Iron Door grip to shove his hand into your chest and then jam his wrist until he lets go due to pain compliance. If he grabs onto you less strongly, your Boar's Tooth will pull him until you break his grip. Rest assured, the principle of movement (bending his arm with downward force via your arm) will work regardless of a standing or sitting posture.

My desire in writing down my meditation on this matter is to help Abrazare practitioners connect the dots in their training. When we practice combative grappling, we aren't really practicing a set of techniques. Rather, we are practicing and experiencing a set of principles that are depicted in idealized throws and take-downs. The images, while static, must be understood as one moment of a film. This film depicts a model of taking a person down, through breaks and\or throws, in response to their movements. All movements, breaks, and throws obey a set series of physical principles based on geometry, motion, and human physiology. If one can understand and apply these principles when they train Abrazare, regardless of the style of their zugadore, then will preserve himself.