Beginning at the End: An Argument for Learning in Reverse

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There's always a need for beginners to know immediately:

  • Where am I?
  • How did I get here?
  • Where do I go?
  • Why?

Which makes it entirely understandable for coaches to start teaching with things like guard passing and having an offensive guard.

However, in competitive pass times where strategic competition is paramount, there is value in working backwards and starting from the end.

The closed guard position

Starting with themes such as guard passing and offensive guard are fair, just keep in mind that the chance of repetitive failure is markedly high which can lead to student discouragement and decline in morale. 

Let's say in Chess you learn checkmate patterns first but not openings. PS: you should definitely do this...


Guard passing grips

Well for starters in Chess there are literally thousands of opening combinations that depend on how you move and how your opponent responds. 

You can teach some openings, but you are essentially just telling a beginner what to do and possibly creating a cookie cutter grappler in your image.

Now equate this to guard passing.

You can teach some guard passing techniques and why they are functional, yet still the student is only learning what to do in that instance in time. Nor is it their own particular flavour of grappling. 

Plus there is a multitude of combinations and counters in the arms race that is guard passing vs guard. 

Applied to the guard, there are innumerable sweeps and submissions here as well as learning guard retention techniques and concepts.

For someone with very little idea, you can see how this might do more harm than good. 

Gripping the gi

There's a lot of ways to skin a cat here and the needs of the student mightn't be effectively realised, especially in regards to the first few questions going through their mind.

The benefit, and the purpose of this post, to teaching from the end goal position is that students will get stronger as they move through the hierarchy of positions toward the goal. 

Which in this post, and possibly your next session coaching, is the back.

Gi choke with the lapel

Personally, I take large priority in communicating just how powerful a position the back is in grappling and equate it to a "checkmate".

As most would know the back is you using all your tools (eyes, arms, legs, hands, feet, hips) into your opponent while theirs are facing away into nothing. 

Sure you could say the choke from there is the checkmate, but this is putting too much emphasis on the mechanics of winning and not the value of the end goal position.

Imagine a scenario where you're a beginner watching a roll having no idea what is going on, then you're given such clarity from something so simple as getting the back.

The trick is no one wants to expose their back or give it up willingly...
But that is another blog for another time.

Think of the back as home.

Defending the rear naked choke from the back

The more you get your student - or yourself - to brave the challenges of the guard, the escapes, the passes, the closer they are getting to home. 

This can answer some key questions in the beginner mind particularly where they are and where they need to go towards the back.

This is where some killer coaching comes in to put some muscle on the skeleton that is their budding grappling game. 


Where am I?
Half guard.

How did I get here?
Partner attempted guard pass.

Where do I go now?
Get an underhook and work to the back.

Because that is your home.

Start learning or coaching in reverse like the world's greatest chess players and you could find more strength as the round goes on.

Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life.

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