Continuing Education: T36 Instructor Course

In December, before going on [my trip across Florida], I took the [T36] instructor course with [Andreas “Andyconda” Schmidt]. The course was a great experience and, although I’m certainly not fit to teach a full-fledged grappling class at the moment, vastly expanded my knowledge about the ground game. Besides being a great learning experience, the whole thing also made me re-think some didactic matters, which I may or may not cover in a future post.

In a nutshell, the T36 system is a [luta-livre] based grappling system of combat. Combat, as in street fighting for law enforcement and military. It’s all strictly no-gi, with the ultimate goal of every action being a swift and clean choke finish.

Obviously, most of that stuff is pretty close to what you’d find in a BJJ or Sambo curriculum, only it’s all a bit different. After all, we know that rules make styles and in a no-gi setting that allows for heel hooks, neck-cranks, spinning knee bars and the like (even in competitions like the [subbattle]), you better pay attention to these things. For example, the double leg takedown is different from the one encountered in wrestling, as for a wrestler the guard is no big deal. As
a matter of fact, Andy has written a blog post [on this very issue].On the other hand, since a fight’s only over when it’s done (i.e., there are no points awarded for positioning, as far as I understand), some positions are just not quite as beneficial as they’d be in Judo or BJJ (think kesa gatame).

Seven distinct sets deal with different scenarios that can commonly be found in street fights, along with branches that offer a gameplan for many possible ways the fight can go. For example, if the first set start with a bear-hug takedown and goes to mount, there are six branches to deal with the enemy rolling to this or that direction, pushing, clinching, covering or trying to escape in different ways.

Andy did a great job in packing a lot of high-percentage techniques into a sound and structured framework that doesn’t rely on a high level of athleticism or flexibility – definitely a huge benefit when it comes to teaching the basics of ground fighting to law-enforcement personal in a limited amount of time. Of course, against someone who’s skilled in the art of grappling, those basics alone probably won’t cut it. Then again, that’s not necessarily the scope of the course, either, so that’s perfectly fine. For a amateur-level MMA fighter who specializes in striking and has a decent takedown defense, this might just be what is needed to survive on the ground.  As a matter of fact, I even believe the system encompasses more than what is actually needed in most situations – for example, there is a set that deals with sprawling and then going to a [crucifix], which doesn’t seem to be a common finish after all. Then again, this is the kind of extra-knowledge, a surplus of skill if you like, that offers a deeper understanding of the involved mechanics.

Quite frankly, though, the single most important part of the system, for me personally, was the set of drills to escape, pass and sweep from different positions. I’d consider that a true minimal base for ground fighting, in that any fighter capable of obtaining dominant position (or at least avoiding losing positions) has a choice regarding his further actions. From the mount, a submission artist would probably go for a choke or lock. Conversely, a striker could (and probably should) choose to just beat the other guy into submission. This works and has aptly been demonstrated in early UFC matches. Especially in the context of self defense, the chance of facing an expert grappler/mma fighter who can keep his calm and reverse the situation when being pounded is relatively low. I understand that for law enforcement, a choke or restraint hold would be the finish of choice due to legal and publicity issues. Just think of the public outrage usually – and often rightfully – following a police beating. Gently sending someone into slumber via Mata Leao is a totally different thing. Still – for personal, civilian (or also military if the aspect of morality is largely removed) self defense, ground & pound ain’t so bad for effectively ending a fight. After all, a beating can always be followed by a choke, for good measure…

Wrapping things up, Andy is extremely knowledgeable and a good teacher. If you’re into fighting but have so far shunned grappling for being too complex or time-consuming, the fast-to-learn, easy-to-use T36 might be just what you’re looking for. If you happen to [train with me], you’re in luck, as my next couple of master classes will deal with that very topic. Hope to roll with you soon,

so long,
take care

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