Class was opened with a quick calisthenics session before proceeding to the real warm up. For this, students were asked to get into a collar and elbow hold and first push, then pull their partners across the room – without any further instruction. A few runs of these proved to be an awesome warm up, and set the stage for the upcoming lessons.
A review of footwork was then in order. Focus was on proper stance and weight distribution, weight on the balls of the feet and hip engagement. Also, proper alignment of the legs and in particular, thighs, in relation to one another. We went through volta stabile (hips torque the movement, weight on balls of feet, keep your thighs clenched on the inside, otherwise your legs will do the splits), and passare/mezza volta (proper stance, back straight, push off back leg, clench inside thighs, pass through the center, transfer foot forward and onto ball of foot) both forward and back, and then some combination stepping drills joining both steps.
I then took a bit of a departure from the way I’ve been teaching tutta volta. This has been the fruit of both a thought experiment on my part, and the desire to both simplify the explanation and accompanying demonstration, aligning it with the rest of my work, and to make it better suited to grappling applications, which will be the focus for the next few weeks.
A few more exercises to round it out: turning to the inside and turning to the outside. Both exercises meant to engage the hips and core in footwork and promote a stable base.
A quick recap of structure and balance and their relationship and points we can use to break it followed, with an accompanying recap of the wave principle and levers. Students were given two minutes a side to find points on which they could pull or push to make their partner move and force a step/break balance/structure.
The class warm up was exercise then revisited, with some tweaks. Specifically, the disposition of the collar and elbow hold and methods used for pushing and pulling. Students were then asked to repeat the pushing drill, this time sinking their weight below their partner’s and driving upward at an angle. This prevents your partner from rooting themselves to the ground through their legs, anchoring them and making them harder to push. An emphasis was also made on keeping the body upright and maintaining proper structure. The exercise was repeated, and the partner being pushed was asked to pull if he felt his partner leaned to far forward, breaking his own structure. This promotes both a good body structure on the part of the person pushing, but encourages hip and core engagement and proper footwork – oh yes, my friends, you are doing power footwork!
Same drill, this time pulling and using the head and neck as a lever to help break structure. Be careful not to lean back into it, your partner will push!
Finally, this was repeated, but employing both pushes and pulls against lines of weakness – don’t push or pull straight unless you must – move people along diagonals, in short or wide circles, and employ levers to do so. We ended the class with a bit of a game, using what we’d done previously. Students were paired in the center of class, and told to drag, push or pull their partners to one side of the room while their partner did the same. Great fun, great core workout, and great power generation and grounding exercises for footwork – all applicable to grappling to come.
And yes, you did 2 hours of focused footwork. Ha! Gotcha!