Rolled with Guillaume during Wednesday Open Mat. Afterwards, he lamented that I hadn’t fallen for his trick. I had to ask what he’d meant, because I couldn’t recall a point where I’d thought there was such a thing happening. So he demonstrated: he was in side control, and he’d pulled my far lapel up by my face. He said I hadn’t grabbed my own lapel to take it back, which is what he’s expecting so he can then slide his own far lapel, which he has sneakily hidden nearby, through the giant hole I would create by pulling my lapel away, and then which he could use to choke me. “But it works on the white belts!” he said.
Yes, well, I explained, here is why it didn’t work on me (and likely other blue+): I evaluate a grip or a placement to see if first it is an immediate threat. Yes? Address it. In this case, he was only holding the lapel; there was no attempt at choking and there was no pressure. Ergo, this current position did not need a response. So I did nothing about it.
However, if something is not an immediate threat, it may be the precursor to a real threat. So that’s my next evaluation: is there a possible down-the-road threat from this grip or placement? If yes, address the down-the-road threat — not the current non-threat — before it can materialize. In other words, his grip there was not a problem to me. However, if I thought he was setting something up, I would do something to neutralize the grip without directly addressing the grip because, again, the current grip is not a problem so I can leave it alone. I would perhaps look to lock down his elbow or his shoulder (and so likely by extension, that grip as well) or to move to a position such that I do not see anything that could be built from that grip. Again, I’m not bothering with his grip because it in itself is not a threat.
And if it’s not an immediate threat and it’s not a possible threat, generally I pretty much ignore it, even if it’s, say, a white belt death-gripping my wrist from inside my closed guard. I can’t get my wrist back, but he can’t do anything with it, either, even though he doesn’t realize this yet. (In that case, too, he will typically trap his own arm for me by refusing to let go of the grip — hello, armbar!) Even if I would rather that he didn’t have it. Even if it hurts and is uncomfortable but is not something that I would eventually have to submit to. They’re so focused on maintaining their useless grip that they’ll give me time and space to work towards what I want. And if their grip is there, then I know for sure where one of their limbs is, should I need it. This happens a lot with head-squeezers, too; it’s doing nothing and is mildly uncomfortable, but they’re so sure that they can finish something there that they hang on while I escape.
I have found that this approach works especially well with the muscling white belts because, again, I know where their grip is and I know where their attention is. And I end up not agitating them the same way that I would if I attacked their grip directly. On the other hand, I am amused when some people seem to play Whack-a-Mole with incoming grips and positions and are constantly swatting at everything. And while they’re busy clearing a grip that does nothing, I sidle around for what I really want and what is now wide open.
Now with some blues and the purple+ — and especially the black belts — a “harmless” grip is generally a trap. This makes everything far trickier, though again I largely rely on attacking something else that will hopefully neutralize that grip and any incoming things they’re planning to throw at me… and hopefully without opening myself up to exactly what they want. Or, even if they have a “harmless” grip and no intention of doing anything with it, they make my life miserable anyway just by virtue of having that grip, and so make me address it.
This is, perhaps, not the best strategy. However, I so often find myself outmatched strength-wise to such a degree that attempting to disengage every single grip is pointless, mostly because I usually can’t get the grip off, and they sit there and grin like an idiot. So I have come up with this alternate strategy of prioritizing the incoming grips and then deciding how to react.