Basically, zugzwang is a German word used most often in chess for when you absolutely have no choice but to make a move that is disadvantageous, or just plain wrong. In chess if you are put in check you must remove the check attempt on your king before anything else, even if you are mid strategy or it means sacrificing a crucial piece in the game.
If you've ever rolled with a higher belt you'll know what this feels like. Things go from bad to worse until you are in a compromising position possibly with your arm extended after giving up a deep lapel grip. This zugzwang position could potentially mean you give up the armbar or the lapel choke and it is entirely up to you how to proceed (...... protect your neck).
If the word zugzwang is too abstract for you then think of it as "pick your poison". Say you're in a very bad side control with shoulder pressure pushing your face away, meaning mechanically your body has no choice but to oblige. There are ways to escape/prevent this but for the sake of this blog and it being a position that many beginners find themselves in, we will proceed with the notion that the only way out is to go with the pressure and roll away from your opponent. Not advised, but again, this is something that should be familiar to a white belt or grappling novice.
As above, you give into the pressure for lack of a perceived better choice and hope to turtle before your back was taken. But what has really transpired here? Your opponent has asked you to pick your poison and you gobbled one up. I'm not going to sit here and preach that the best defense is prevention, you'll get that beaten into you on the mat and find much stronger value in prevention that way. What this blog does aim to show you is that on defense and offense there are ways to shepherd your opponent into making mistakes and capitalising on them rather than beating yourself up over how much you "suck" when you make bad choices.
The zugzwang concept is a pretty advanced one for the new-comer but don't fear, recognise this now, when you are forced into a position with two negative outcomes and applaud your opponent for getting you into such a crafty predicament. After the roll ask them how they managed to engage the scenario, if there was a better way you could have escaped or even perceived your options at the time. Who knows, it might even be you administering the poison one day.
There's always another roll.
- Jake Anderson