by Erle Montaigue May 15, 1989
NB: Photos still being prepared for inclusion on this page.
One of my main concerns over the years has been that many martial artists, including myself to a certain degree, tend to teach what they know rather than how they know it.
It's not easy to not give advanced techniques to students because, let's face it we all want our students to learn and become better than the instructor, in this way we as instructors have done a good job and people always for some silly reason judge the instructor by the standard of his students.
Recently I gave up teaching beginners and now only take advanced people (from any martial arts system) in what I am calling the master Taiji class. We don't do that much combat wrestling but in keeping with my previous statement I am throwing in something of everything I know and have learnt over the years including my amateur and pro wrestling career, (be it ever so short, the pro part I mean).
Anyone who knows my views on locks and holds and combat wrestling will be saying, why is he doing this! My main reason is because although I do not hold much credence with locks and holds as they are, if they are learnt, the balance and timing that one gains from these techniques is great and I owe a lot to that early combat wrestling as a training aid.
Because of my idea that everything that I teach must be useful, I have developed many of the combat wrestling techniques so that they do work in the street. Some of them I have included in this article and in my training schedule because of the immense value in balance, timing and just good old physical exercise.
Much has been said in recent combat wrestling articles both by Benny Urquedez and by Danny Inosanto about the fighting prowess of one Gene Lebell or 'Judo Gene Lebell'. Gene Lebell is a legend in the judo and in particular the W.W.F. (world Wrestling Federation) and, yes, he is one of those wrestlers who appear on the American Television. Many people scoff at these athletes saying that everything is pre-set, all moves are carefully arranged so that no-one gets hurt etc. Yes, having been there and done it, just about all of the throws, falls, locks etc. are pre-set but for a good reason and super fit these wrestlers are. Most of the holds used actually work and if they were executed properly, people would die. And indeed a few have when something has gone wrong with the script! No, of course we aren't going to wait there for some big hulk to grab us and lock our arms or legs, or get the old back breaker on us, wrestling unlike combat wrestling is after all a sport and many of the techniques only work in that sports atmosphere. We're going to knock his head off before he gets that close. But beware, if you fail to knock his head off and he gets in close enough, you're gone! I don't care who it is, Bruce Lee, Mike Tyson or even Mas Oyama. Let one of those 20 stone plus guys grab you and you've gone bye byes. Bill Wallace, a wrestling teacher himself once said that if you placed 12 martial artists from every style into a huge ring and said go for it, at the end there would be 9 wrestlers still standing.
Combat Wrestling & Locks
I have always told my students that if anyone is able to get any lock or hold on you then go somewhere else as I haven't done my job. But what I do teach is how to get the locks and holds on someone else, someone who perhaps doesn't know how to evade these techniques or who throws big open punches allowing you to counter, stun him with a quick shot to the face with your simultaneous block and then get the lock on.
So what about someone who charges at you a la rugby style, head down etc. This is what one of my students asked me at our last master class. I said, "do it". And he was on the floor at my feet. Reaction time is the main defence in these situations. If you do not think about the great energy coming at you but only of your sub-conscious defence then a quick fa-jing punch to his head literally lays him at your feet. But this is not easy, many people can be on top of you before you are able to blink so it is important to develop extremely fast punches from no distance at all. And remember, if he's very tall and you even do strike his face, then you have come well within reach of his hands unless he is crouching down or has his head down etc. In most cases you haven't even got enough time to pick up your knee (a favourite technique of many martial artists to such an attack) and if you successfully do lift your knee and he is big and his momentum just keeps on coming then with the knee up, you are at a disadvantage, being a much closer peripheral than your fist and 'more attached' to your body. So his oncoming force is able to push you over. this might be OK if there is only one of them, he might be knocked out from your knee attack but if there are a few of them and you have been knocked over yourself, then forget it. One of the most useful techniques against a big wrestler is to develop excellent leg kicks from all angles, usually aimed at the side of the knee to break the two ligaments on either side of the knee. Without legs no one is big.
In combat wrestling I am not going to go into the more complicated leg locks or step over toeholds etc as these are just not on for real fighting but some of the easier techniques I will cover here.
Combat Wrestling No. 1 (THE BACKBREAKER)
Backbreaker! Oh come on. Wait just a minute, I have a very good reason for teaching this technique. Firstly, we aren't going to actually get anyone into a backbreaker but the physical ability to execute this technique is of considerable weight. My logic is that if one is able to perform this technique without breaking one's own back in the process then great leverage, timing and balance has been gained.
Also, the 'get into' combat wrestling techniques for this hold are quite useful independently of the finish. In fact these initial combat wrestling techniques lead us into many other more useful street techniques which I will cover later. All of my senior students regardless of weight (well provided they aren't too small) must eventually take me up onto their shoulders, a daunting task for even the fittest of students. The shorter and heavier one is, the more difficult it is to get these holds onto. If a person is quite tall regardless of how heavy they are, then this hold becomes relatively easy once the leverage and timing is worked out.
I might ad here that this hold is quite dangerous and should be used with great caution when training in combat wrestling and should not be used when any back or lower back problems are suspected, by this I mean by lifter or by liftee.
There are a number of combat wrestling techniques to initially set up this hold but one that I use is as follows.
Your partner stands in front of you and throws a left rip to your lower right rib area. You step in (always step in and never out) simultaneously blocking his attack with a damaging pounding palm technique to the acupuncture points on the inside of his wrist and/or middle forearm or inside elbow using the bony area of the base of your palm with your right palm. This sets up the 'mind point' (in acupuncture) for a strike with the same portion of your left palm. This mind point is just above the 'v' of your jaw on the little 'fat bit'. It works by blocking off the nerve signals to the brain by putting pressure on the cerebral cortex for a few seconds. Even if you miss, it's a very good physical strike to the side of the chin. Your right palm has struck at a point three fingers back from the inner wrist which will take all of the power out of his lower body but if you miss then it's a good physical shot anyway. See Photo No.1
Now, while he's reeling from the first defence, you take the initiative and sliding your left palm down his left arm so that your left ring finger is just above his elbow joint and your right palm has taken his left wrist, Photo No.2, you jerk him forward breaking the elbow (be very careful with this one) and then turning him into a hammer lock. Photo No.3. Note that I have not moved around the opponent, I have caused him to turn so that his back is toward me. Now, with a quick jerk of his elbow and wrist I pull him into my chest and as my chest slams his back, I take right palm up over his chin (use the neck for the practice as it puts too much pressure on the neck to use the chin) and lock his hammered arm into his back with my left shoulder taking my left palm downward around his right leg. I do not curve my back but rather bend forward at the waist. Photo NO.4. Now I take up the leverage and stand up taking him up onto my shoulders. Any slight pressure with my both arms with create great pain for his back. Photo No.5.
I usually have each student (those who are able to) practice this combat wrestling manoeuvre ten times on each side it's a wonderful full body toning exercise where every muscle gets an excellent workout.
Combat Wrestling No. 2 (THE CHOKE OUT:/SLEEPER)
Many people espouse the use of the choke hold but very few know how to use it apart from grabbing someone around the throat.
There are three things that can happen here. We can use a chokehold to cause the air to stop, or we can use the sleeper hold to stop the flow of blood to the brain or we can use both.
Once again, I urge you not to use this combat wrestling hold just for experimentation (just to see if it will work) because it does work and will cause death if improperly used or the doer does not know how to revive. Just put it on lightly for the practice.
We will begin this with exactly the same combat wrestling technique as for the backbreaker. Once you are facing your opponent's back and the hammer is in place, jerk him inward so that your chest slams his. At the same time that your chest hits his, your left (or right if on the other side) forearm goes around his neck with the radius side against his neck and the other palm takes a three finger hold. See Photo NO.6
Now, if you just squeeze inward this will cause the larynx to be cut off and the air will not be able to pass. This is a choke hold which of course if held long enough will cause him to pass out and later die. If however, you pull just a little with your right hand to cause his head to turn slightly to his right and put a slight downward pressure onto his head with your head, then we have the old sleeper hold which will cause the blood to be cut off thus causing black out and eventually death. See Photo No.7 for the sleeper. Or you can use a popular variation to put the downward pressure onto the head by making use of the other hand as in Photo NO.8. But I prefer the first combat wrestling method.
Oh, yes, but what if! OK so the usual out to this is to use the elbow to strike the doer's ribs. But keep in mind that the opponent has had his face slammed and his elbow broken or dislocated. But even if he was able to use his elbow or any other weapon, I can assure you that someone who knows the chokehold can hold it on no matter what. As soon as the opponent moves, you simply shake his head off in much the same manner as the crocodile does when taking a bite. There is no way that he can move to counter once it is on. I demonstrate this principle by holding the choke around the student's chest and even this violent shake up is enough to counter his counter, even though he has not sustained a broken face and a broken arm.
Combat Wrestling No. 3 (A MORE SERIOUS CHOKE!)
Take him to the ground from the previous combat wrestling technique or this can be applied after you have hit the ground. Try to put his shoulders onto the ground and press his right ear into your abdomen. This is the most dangerous lock as it not only puts them to sleep but also could break the neck so don't try it just to see if it works, you could end up in gaol. PHOTO NO.9.
Combat Wrestling No. 4 (ELBOW THROW)
We get into this one in a slightly different manner. Your opponent throws a slightly round right fist at your face. You block it using a technique we call the vertical method prawn boxing. Your right palm slaps his attack and pulls it in slightly as your left palm comes underneath it to take over the block, PHOTO NO.10. Your right palm is then free to strike at the old mind point again on the right side of his face as your left palm takes his right wrist. As you do this you take your right foot and place the toe only down onto the ground just inside of his right knee. PHOTO NO.11. You then are able to apply pressure to the knee as you turn your waist away and also apply pressure to his right elbow with your right forearm. PHOTO NO.12 Just a slight amount of pressure is needed to have him flying. PHOTO NO.13. You always follow up a throw with either finger to his eyes or by dropping your right knee onto his rib area as you strike his eyes. Usually just the fingers to the eyes is enough though and you don't have to stick them in, just enough pressure on the bony area under the eyes is enough to let him know you mean business. You usually follow this with some unique statement like "make my day".
There are so many combat wrestling holds that are useful from the pro wrestling area and if anyone wants to get into these I suggest a good teacher and don't try and learn these dangerous holds from a book as a slight slip up in training could spell disaster. This combat wrestling article is just to give an idea of how effective our almost forgotten western art of wrestling can be in the street. When the Japanese and Chinese arts hit the west we tended to forget the un flashy wrestling moves and go for the more spectacular mystical ones from the orient but nowadays there seems to be a new trend back to our oldest martial art, that of wrestling.