Fixing the Sprawl with Ben Askren
A good sprawl is the lynch pin for defensive wrestling. It’s the defense for most common attacks in grappling, and the start of countering shot attempts. Despite being so important, a lot of wrestlers sprawl the wrong way.
The first mistake Askren notes is that as beginners sprawl out, they often forget to specifically control the opponent’s head. The defender wants to keep the attackers head pushed down and away, ideally by putting body weight on it through the hips. Askren calls this “covering the head”. If the head as already slid to the outside, dropping a hand down to the back of the head will do as well.
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The head controls the posture. If the spine is a lever then the head is at the end of the lever, so bending it will bend the rest of the spine into a weak shape. It is very difficult to keep driving forward if your head is being shoved down and away.
High Crotch Variation
When the opponent shoots a high crotch single leg, covering the head with the hips is going to be impossible. Their head is already too high and off to the side. For the defender the only option is to cover with the hand and shove the head down hard. Once the posture is sufficiently broken then the hips can get involved again.
The second common mistake is hand placement. The automatic reaction is to plant their hands against the attacker’s hips. Bracing against the hips might slow down the shot a little bit, but it doesn’t do anything to stop the legs from continuing to drive forward. So instead Askren cups his hands around the top of each knee to keep the legs from coming in closer.
Once the shot has been stalled, the hands can come back and start working on a front headlock or turnover.
The third mistake is a bad habit formed in solo drilling. When sprawling without a partner, newer wrestlers tend to exaggerate the motion, really kicking the legs back and so that their lower body goes up in the air before it comes back down to the mat. When done live, this extra motion takes up vital seconds of your weight being in the air instead of being on your opponent.
Instead, the sprawl should be done going straight down. Hips to the mat as fast as possible, with legs going straight back. This gets the legs far away quickly and puts weight on the opponent as soon as they come in.
With these three fixes in mind, your sprawl should be faster and cleaner. Remember that the sprawl is a late defense, and that being able to out hand fight he opponent to deny the opportunity to shoot is the first thing to be focused on. But with a good sprawl you’ll still be able to stay on top and try to score.
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