GB Technique: Clinch Against Strikes

One of the weeks in the Gracie Barra Fundamentals Curriculum is closing the distance to clinch against an opponent who is attempting to strike you. Once you have clinched and are relatively safe from full power strikes, the next step is to execute a takedown to get the opponent to the ground.
This is self defense Jiu-Jitsu 101.

Many BJJ students are not familiar with this fundamental technique of Jiu-Jitsu – especially if the majority of their training experience has been under purely sports Jiu-Jitsu rules. But let’s not forget that Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art, not only a sport. Jiu-Jitsu’s roots lay in real fighting and learning to deal with an aggressive opponent who is trying to punch you is key.
Want to Up Your Takedown Game? Check out: GB2 Online Takedowns – by Henrique Machado
The good news is that by understanding a few basic concepts, it is actually quite straightforward for a Jiu-Jitsu fighter to close the distance with a striking opponent and get the fight to the ground. This is especially true if the opponent is untrained (as they most likely would be in a street self defense situation) and unfamiliar with grappling. Landing a clean, strong punch on a clinching opponent is a lot more difficult than it might first appear.
A great drill to practice this specific skill is to have 1 training partner play the role of the aggressor and the other try to avoid the strikes and get to the clinch. The striker can put on a boxing glove on 1 or both hands for some real live training. The striker should REALLY try to hit the opponent! This will bring an element of reality to your training and is more effective training than slow, choreographed movements. Injecting adrenaline into the training will give you an idea of what it is like to deal with a high intensity, chaotic self defense situation.
Here are 3 tips to help train your ability to deal with strikes and get to the clinch and takedown:
1 Control the distance. This is the #1 consideration when the fight is on the feet and the opponent is looking to strike you.
Either you will be at range – that is to say that you are too far for the opponent to be able to reach you OR you are too close and able to tie up the opponent. Move around the mat with the striker actively pursuing the other student while maintaining a safe distance out of direct striking range.
2 Distraction to disguise the clinch. Those of you who remember watching the earliest UFC events remember Royce Gracie using a front kick to the opponents knee to distract them before suddenly shooting in for a clinch. The primary purpose of that kick was not to win via superior strikes – the purpose was diversion. In that split second, the striker’s attention is diverted from them a dangerous blow and the clincher has the ideal timing to close the distance.
In addition to the kick, a slap or punch feint can also be effective to disguise your intention to clinch.

3 Takedown from the clinch. Once you have achieved a clinch and tied up your opponents arms and greatly reduced their ability to execute a full force strike, you need to find a way to get the fight to the ground and completely neutralize their ability to strike.
Most untrained individuals have a surprisingly poor sense of balance and with a handful of basic takedowns, you will find it not that difficult to get the takedown.
It is very useful to learn and practice a number of trips and throws that you can perform from a position where you have tied up your opponents punching arm from a close quarters clinch.
A little training time spent defending punches and closing the distance to clinch will greatly improve your confidence in dealing with the threat of strikes in a street defense situation.
See also on Gracie Barra : Drilling : How To Do It Right
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia