Develop 2-3 go-to moves for each art you practice
They’re famous–Ronda Rousey’s arm bar, Mirko Cro Cop’s left head kick. Go-to moves that are unstoppable even when you know they’re coming.
There are 2 main benefits to having go-to moves aside from winning. First, it will quickly give you some measure of success and therefore encouragement. You’ll be able to tag or tap people one or two levels above you provided you can create the opportunity to use your move.
Which brings me to my second reason–seeking and mastering a move informs your art. You understand body mechanics quickly, and then move on to strategy and tactics, even if the rest of your basic technique is under development. This gives you higher-level thinking earlier in your development, adding richness to all your techniques.
Ever heard the expression, “a hundred ways into the same technique?” People often use it in connection with Toshihiko Koga and his Seoi Nage throw. While inaccurate to say he won every match this way, it creates openings that would never appear did he not have such a threatening move. Plus, he made the move his own, not relying on the textbook but what his body, preferences, and experience taught him. Not being a judoka myself I’m not qualified to assess whether or not it was a teachable format, but no denying personal mastery, and hence enjoyment.
It should be noted that there are plenty of great champions that don’t have a single move that defines them. What they have is great attributes, which is another tack. Andseron Silva is the first example that comes to mind. No signature move, just great. Great timing, angling, distance, and creativity.
My YouTube channel presents a lot of different material, along with combinations that are meant to develop attributes, not necessarily score in sparring. You take pieces and ideas from them for application, but it should be informed by the stuff you’re good at when you try to apply them right away. And again, even if you want to be the well-rounded fighter,
go-to moves or things you’re good at will inform your attribute development.
Since this is a blog, I’ll put some personal story here. I noticed that my go-to moves in kickboxing tend to be circle out punches to leg kick, knee into retreating energy from the clinch, and some kind of jab-hook variations. But I’m not so interested in hitting people as I am with what principles they reveal. Sensitivity to hit into vacuum in the case of the knee–oh that’s wing chun. Circling out to create angle–kali. Jab to hook and their permutations–boxing.
Not that those arts have the monopoly on the ideas, but they tend to have developed them more fully, allowing me to study them and PUT THEM BACK INTO MY KICKBOXING.
Never having developed go-to moves in BJJ or kali, when I let my training slide, I noticed I had no anchor to bring me back, so I sort of feel like I’m starting from almost zero again. Something to consider if you have to spread your attention across a lot of different arts: I wish I had developed a few anchors to pull me through the slack periods.
Last week I released another holiday hubad with Kurt at MKG Detroit. Besides being really fun, one reason I like hubad is it reveals your preferences in an organic way. Not in danger or too much stress but in flow, you’ll notice certain moves and motions come out naturally and more often than others. These are natural candidates to develop into go-to moves. Sure, sometimes we only do it from ignorance of stuff we might like better, but that also will be revealed as you figure stuff out and try a few reps of it.
There are often moves we love because they’re beautiful in theory. Putting them in hubad and light sparring should tell you quite quickly if it’s going to naturally integrate quickly or be a labour of love. It doesn’t matter provided you’re not invading a village next week with swords, but it does allow you to make intelligent choices about how to spend your limited training time.