Tag Archives: omoplata

Clark Gracie: The Omoplata Game

omoplatagame

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In the days after the 2013 Pan Jiu Jitsu Championships, pictures of the winner of the middle-weight division were all over some of the biggest websites and news programs in the United States. Appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s Inside Edition soon followed. Rumours of a L’Oreal hair-care sponsorship were bandied about. Okay, that last one isn’t technically true, but it was a bizarre state of affairs that a Jiu Jitsu athlete would reap so much attention.  Was the sport finally breaking through to the mainstream?

It would be nice if this was a result of recognition for his win at the Pans. But Clark Gracie’s flirtation with popular recognition stemmed from an unrelated photograph of Gracie applying an omoplata to Ken Primola during the 2012 New York Open that made the rounds on Reddit and Facebook. The Jiu Jitsu Lab got in contact of Clark to ask him about his new-found fame, the pressure of his family name and his signature omoplata game.

“I first saw it the day after I won Pan Tournament when one of my students showed it to me on Reddit.”  Clark admitted when asked about how he became aware of the photograph that launched hundreds of image macros across the web. “I thought some of the memes were funny. I believe people, especially non-Jiu Jitsu practitioners, think that it is a very interesting position and for me to be looking so calm is unusual, but actually it is one of the positions that I feel the most comfortable and confident in.”

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The Omoplata Game feat. Clark Gracie – Highlight Video

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Make the Transition: the importance of intermediate positions in Jiu Jitsu

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One of my Jiu Jitsu coaches, Matt, is the master of transitional positions. When we train Jiu Jitsu it seems we never follow the conventional pathways of positional progression but are often stuck in between the scored positions in a kind of grappling no-man’s-land. It can be frustrating, but exploring these positions has greatly helped my progression.  As Jiu Jitsu advances these transitional positions are becoming more important and are being utilized to a greater degree by the highest level competitors.

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Divided we Conquer  

A classic thought experiment in the field of geometry is to imagine dividing a solid object or distance in half. Each half is divided again and again. How many divisions are possible before no more divisions can be made? In Jiu Jitsu these divisions occur between common positions. Early in the development of Jiu Jitsu the half-guard was considered a poor position; it was half-way towards getting your guard passed. The half-guard is now a considered a position unto itself with an assortment of attacks. The half guard is commonly credited to Roberto “Gordo” Correra, who developed the position when, during purple belt, he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from playing closed guard. Presently, the half guard has been expanded to many other transitional positions: half butterfly, deep half guard, Z-guard, X-guard, tornado guard, 50/50 guard, quarter-guard and many more. Each time the position is halved it creates a new point for development and discovery.

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Abstract (Martial) Arts

But why would it be beneficial to continue the abstraction of Jiu Jitsu positions? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed primarily as a self-defense art and many practitioners still view it that way. Esoteric guards and complex positions are considered limited or detrimental in a self-defense scenario. Even for mixed martial arts competition, it’s rare to see any positions outside of the standard Jiu Jitsu positions like guard and side control. The exceptions of course are Jiu Jitsu black belts like Fabricio Wedum, Wilson Reis and Antônio Rogério Nogueira who use uncommon positions like deep half guard to take advantage of their opponent’s unfamiliarity with the position.

And therein lays the value of transitional positions. Despite protests to the contrary Jiu Jitsu, like MMA, is a sport – and in any sportive pursuit the ability to surprise your opponent with a position, technique or strategy to which they are unaccustomed puts you at a distinct advantage.

A transitional position can be considered as any arrangement that:  (1) is between two scored positions, (2) can be maintained for an indefinite amount of time, (3) has multiple pathways into and out of it, and (4) is often a midpoint in an otherwise common Jiu Jitsu technique.

Conceptually, Jiu Jitsu positions act as a series of decision nodes. Something can be considered a position, in this sense, if you are able to take more than one pathway depending on your goal or your opponent’s reaction. A position can be considered dominant if you have a greater range of decisions than your opponent and control over what decisions your opponent can make. As Jiu Jitsu champions like Marcelo Garcia have noted, it is often during transitions between positions that you set up your submissions. Having more options in these in-between situations makes you a more dangerous Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

Many other familiar positions in Jiu Jiu can be considered transitional. Knee-on-belly is half-way between side control and mount, for example, and can be used for a variety of attacks and transitions. Take a look at three other less-common transitional positions that are increasingly being used in the highest levels of Jiu Jitsu competition:

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Knee-on-Belly – Part II – Joint Locks

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As discussed in the last entry (Knee-on-Belly – Part I), many transitions lead to the knee ride position. It counts for two points in Jiu Jitsu competition, but only after it is held for three seconds – a feat that is not easily accomplished against an opponent with good hip movement and escapes. The positive side to this is that many escapes from the knee-on-belly leave your opponent vulnerable to chokes, armlocks and some leg-locks. In this entry we will cover some of the joint attacks that can be mounted from here – paying special attention to everyone’s favorite submission, the omoplata.

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