Introduction to Grappling (Abrazare)

Training in European medieval martial arts consists of far more than training with a sword. It is essential that one include training that enhances ones physical stamina, strength and endurance. The medieval martial arts training is a large component of overall training, however, it is important to include other physical training to facilitate and enhance the ability to withstand competition and tournament situations. It is clear that there are three main weapons in any arsenal: a) endurance, b) skill and c) cunning. Augmentation of this martial arts training will address the first of the arsenal. It is important enough that Giacomo DiGrassi stated :

"Therefore let every man that is desirous to practice this Art, endeavor himself to get strength and agility of body, assuring himself, that judgment without this activity and force, avails little or nothing."

There are two fundamentally different types of endurance: muscular and cardiovascular. Muscular endurance is the ability of muscle to engage a large number fibres during sword training such that you can do numerous drills and reihenfolgen without taking long breaks for recovery. For example, while doing a series of phase 3 drills, you fatigue your arms and legs that if you want to get through an entire repeating set you need to be able to bring many additional fibres into play. Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to deliver oxygen to the muscles to fuel further drills engagement.


Grappling Fundamentals

We begin this training with the four (4) fundamental grappling holds. These form the basis on which more sophisticated knife and longsword disarming techniques will be introduced in later skill levels training. A short description of each hold follows. These holds will be employed in the level drills later. The illustrations depict the holds from above in order to provide a visual clarification of the holds described.

1.0 Neck & Elbow Hold (L & R)

  • position the feet approximately shoulder width apart, and face your opponent at a distance apart that will allow you to place your hand on the back of your opponent's neck without stretching
  • place your right hand on the back of your opponent's neck (right hold)
  • place your left hand on the right elbow of your opponent
  • your opponent implements the same hold on you switch hand positions, so that the hold is now reversed (left hold)

2.0 Diagonal Hold (L & R)

  • position the feet approximately shoulder width apart, and face your opponent at a about 1/2 arm's length distance apart
  • take your right arm over your opponent's left shoulder and down the back diagonally towards the right waist
  • take your left arm, around the upper part of the right waist and up and lock a grip with your right hand
  • at the same time, move into your opponent, placing your head solidly against the base and left side of the opponent's neck applying some downward pressure with your forehead (this will prevent a "head butt" from your opponent during live situations)
  • switch hand and head positions so that the hold is reversed (right hold)

3.0 Back Hold


 

4.0 Belt Hold

  • position the feet approximately shoulder width apart, and face your opponent
  • lowering yourself with your legs, reach forward and grasp the "belt-line" or the top of the pants/trousers with each of your hands (right and left sides)
  • the figure on the left is an extract from Talhoffer's manuscript illustrating the belt hold attempt, however, the individual had gotten himself into a head lock position. The caption associated with this illustration from the manuscript reads: "Im Durchgehen ist dieses der Bruch, dann wurgt er ihn am halse." " In this pass-through, thus this one breaks and chokes him about the throat."
  • with this type of hold, you would be in a good position to deliver a hip-thrust throw

The following section describes various levels of drills to develop the necessary grappling skills. The drills are comprised of three levels, each level with increasing opposing pressure and resistance. The drills are not competition, and therefore, the student and partner must be managed by an instructor or coach to ensure that the pair don't get away from themselves.


Grappling Drills

Level #1

These training drills are to be conducted in pairs. This drill is designed to increase the student's comfort with grappling his/her opponent. In order for this to occur, the opponent must assume a non-resistant "living mannequin" role. In other words, the student delivering the holds, will have free range and unrestricted ability to deliver the above holds, in whatever sequence the student desires.

The student must transition between each of the holds described above, alternating between left and right holds if relevant.

This should be done for about five (5) minutes for each student.

Level #2

This drill is similar to level #1, except the partner now presents some resistance to the holds, making the holds a little more difficult. There should be no offense on the part of the "living mannequin" role, only resistance.

This should be practiced for about five (5) minutes for each student.

Level #3

In this drill level, the pair is now working against each other, each trying to get the better of the other, utilizing any one or more of the holds learned. Each attempts to work out of the grips by the opponent, and also attempts to deliver a hold and secure control of the opponent.

This should be practiced for at least five (5) minutes.

During this drill, some additional enhancements can be included:


Fundamental Throws

Continuing with the basics of unarmed combat training, we now utilize the holds learned above and throw the opponent using either one of the pair of techniques described below. These throws by no means should be considered a complete unarmed combat training method. These have been introduced purely as a method of expanding one's longsword training to include cross-training techniques and as a precursor to grappling and half-sword techniques introduced in delta level of skill training.

1.0 Hip/Thigh Throw (L/R)

  • position the feet approximately shoulder width apart, and face your opponent at a distance apart that will allow you to place your hand on the back of your opponent's neck without stretching
  • place your left hand on the back of your opponent's neck (left hold)
  • place your right hand on the left elbow of your opponent
  • move your left leg so as to position the leg in front of the opponent
  • using your left arm and body, "push" your opponent's head downwards and forwards to the right over your left leg (where the head goes, the body will follow)
  • use your body to facilitate the force behind the throw over the hip
  • the figure is an extract from Talhoffer (plate 219), which depicts this classical throw

2.0 Under-arm Gravity Throw (L/R)


Copyright © 2000 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: November 1, 2000 / Last modified: June 5, 2008