Make Your Motion Better with Mike Malinconico
Take a step forward. Now, take one step back. Take one step to the left, then one step to the right. What do you notice?
The routine above is not an old-school dance move, but rather to stress the importance of movement. When you moved vertically back and forth, it was relatively easy. Moving side-to-side is not a demonstrably hard task, but it requires a bit more effort in order not to trip over yourself or your surroundings.
Now imagine the same routine, but with an active opponent forcing you to move.
As humans, we are designed to move vertically much better than laterally, and wrestling involves using that anatomical design flaw to take people down. Flo Wrestling technique expert and former Oklahoma State University wrestler Mike Malinconico goes over the basics of proper motion in the video below:
Stance May Vary
Mike introduces the video not with the concept of motion, but rather an interesting aside: different wrestlers will have different stances. He states that these differences can come from varying body types, athletic ability, and even personality and that trying to pigeonhole wrestlers into a stance that they are not comfortable with is counterproductive.
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Never Cross Your Feet...Most of the Time
When moving laterally, you have to consider the space between your feet. As Joe moves to his right while in his stance, Mike mentions, “His feet never go closer than hip width and never go further than shoulder width.” Bringing your feet too close makes you more prone to a takedown as your base is narrowed, and having your feet too far out limits your speed and power since your abductors and adductors are working overtime. He also brings up crossing your feet: the cardinal sin of movement. Crossing your feet compromises your stance and makes it twice as difficult to defend against the takedown.
With that said, Mike does point out that more advanced wrestlers use a “cross and pivot” motion in their movement. Once you are far enough in this sport to have mastered the basics of movement, then you can tinker with it a bit.
Contact With a Square Stance
Improving your motion doesn’t have to be limited to the most athletic wrestlers. If you are lacking in this area, Mike has a solution. Mike approaches Joe in a square stance with his hands low to defend the shot and makes his initial contact with his head. Joe, as a result, reaches out with his own contact and Mike works on the arms. Conversely, if you need to retreat from contact, you can take shorter backsteps while keeping your hands low, as Mike demonstrates. This is ideal for wrestlers who may have knee or back issues or simply for those who are not at the athleticism they want to be.
Moving in a Staggered Stance
A square stance is ideal for defensive posture, but a staggered (one foot in front) stance is perfect for offensive movement. Having one foot in front leading the way makes your ability to move around the mat more precise and narrow, allowing for angles. Near the end of the video, Mike gives advice to coaches who are working with newer wrestlers: “Most of their power is going to come from their back leg.” He goes on to explain that you need to load up on the back leg to generate more power as opposed to using your front leg. Think of it like boxing: you lead with your non-dominant hand in order to load up more power in your dominant hand.
Knowing how to move on the mat is not overly difficult, but it does require attention to detail in order to make it routine. Whether you’re learning to wrestle for the first time or passing on knowledge to the next generation, understanding the fundamentals of motion is vital to walking off the mat with your hand raised.
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