[This is the first guest-post by Kim Rice--a former training partner of mine up in Durham at Triangle Jiu Jitsu. Kim is a monster on the mats and she wins nearly all the big tournaments she enters. She's also one of the nicest people I know--which is why it's exciting for me to see her turn to the dark side! This is cross-posted over at her own blog, It's Like Wrestling Only Meaner.]
How to Safely Train Heel Hooks and Other Advanced Techniques
There's a reason that certain techniques are reserved for advanced ranks in most competitions - these techniques are considered the most dangerous. Either because a) there is a shortened window for tapping before injury occurs or b) the effects of not tapping in time are more devastating than those of most techniques or c) both a and b.
Heel hooks, neck cranks, cervical locks, bicep/calf slicers, and flying scissor take downs all fall in the category of advanced (usually no gi) techniques.
While I learned a few of these techniques as a white belt (the heel hook is part of the fundamental curriculum at my school), it wasn't until recently, as a mid level purple belt, that I began rolling for these during training. Why? Well, safety is really important to me. I've been an athlete all my life and the threat of a possible game-changing injury is quite intimidating. Even more than I want to win, I want to train smartly so I can train for a long, long time.
But, these techniques are legal for me in the no gi division for local and regional tournaments and not training them was doing me no favors. To stay competitive, I had no choice but to begin to train techniques outside my comfort zone. Here's a guide on how I stayed safe and gradually grew more comfortable with advanced submissions:
Communicate with your training partners
I never assume that advanced techniques are on the table. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but I always ask my partner before rolling for advanced submissions. I also ask that we not crank on them. Yes, it gets tedious to have this conversation over and over again, but safety is worth this extra step.
Choose your training partners wisely
When I first began playing with advanced techniques, there were exactly 3 regular training partners whom I felt comfortable rolling for these with. These were 3 folks whom I felt very confident would not hurt me and also 3 folks whom I would have no qualms tapping quickly to because they tap me all the time anyway. However, these folks were also better than me, so I caught them with the advanced submissions I was working on approximately never.
They tapped me with these techniques quite a bit though and, eventually, I got better at defending them. I also got better at recognizing danger and knowing when to tap. And THIS made me feel comfortable expanding my repertoire of advanced technique training partners. Eventually I expanded my list to include folks whom I roll competitively with and folks whom I often tap.