Build Better Defense with Henry Cejudo
Having a strong defensive game is more than knowing how to sprawl. It is a manifestation of movement, dexterity, mat awareness, and reaction time. Reaction time is perhaps the biggest portion of defense, as a poorly timed sprawl will leave you taken down or involuntarily slamming yourself to the mat. It stands to reason then that your defense will improve if you improve your reaction time, but how?
Reaction time for defense seems conceptual, but there are key drills that you can implement during practice to improve your ability to respond to your opponent. To demonstrate this idea, UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion Henry Cejudo reveals in the video below many drills to build better defense.
Both partners will start off with their hands behind their back with their posture bent into a wrestler’s stance. The two will work to establish inside position with their heads while simultaneously looking to step on the opponent’s feet. Defensively, your objective is to move your feet out of the way from your opponent’s steps and circle around the mat while maintaining head positioning. This drill is for footwork and circling the mat.
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Double Down Block
The two wrestlers will begin in a traditional stance and moving around the mat. The objective for the offensive player is to touch the opponent’s feet with both hands. On the defensive end, your goal is to down block by putting both hands to the mat and lowering your stance. It is not a full sprawl, but rather using your head, hands, and elbows to block the shot before penetration happens.
This drill is similar to the one above. Both wrestlers will begin in a traditional stance and look to tap each other’s feet. Your objective as the defensive wrestler is to use your down blocks, but with an added twist: responding by shooting on your opponent with a single leg. This drill works to establish your reaction time along with chaining offensive moves in succession.
This drill is intended to improve your overall reaction time for the sprawl. Both wrestlers will begin in their stance and actively moving around the mat. One wrestler will reach out toward their opponent to simulate a shot. The defensive wrestler will respond by hitting a complete sprawl as soon as their partner’s hands are within distance. The drill is not meant to be based on the opponent just moving their hands, but timing it at the point of extension.
Head Position/Downblock Combination
The last drill is a combination of the head position drill and the down block drill. One wrestler will be offensive and one wrestler will be defensive for the duration of the drill. Both will start in their initial stance and the offensive wrestler will reach for the defensive wrestler’s feet. The defensive wrestler will defend with down blocks at first. Eventually, the defensive wrestler will put their hands behind their back and defend the toe touches with movement and circling the mat. The objective is to combine multiple methods of defense coupled with strong reaction time.
Henry Cejudo’s reaction drills will build your defense up to combat any strong offense. Practice one drill to improve one skill, or practice them all to get a well-rounded approach to reaction time.
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