The phrase that I’ve used for the title of this post was said to me back in June of 2010 by renowned coach Billy Cusak. We were in Orenburg near the Russian-Kazakh border for a tournament and training camp and, after being told the programme for the upcoming session, I was straight into complaining about the ne-waza (groundwork) rounds, “I hate doing groundwork.” Billy, almost nonchalantly, like he’d heard that a hundred times before, replied with “Danny, if you hate groundwork then it will hate you.”
It’s funny isn’t it, how sometimes someone that you’re not connected to all the time (I only saw Billy when we would be away on international trips or at British squad training) can say the same thing that you’re always told, but in perhaps a slightly different manner, and it can ring home.
My coach Luke had continuously stressed the importance of and drilled effective groundwork into us. I’d always turned up and done the groundwork side of training and learned what was taught. I didn’t particularly enjoy it though and when it came to randori (sparring) I’d do it but with the mindset of it being more of a warm up and held a lot back for the standing work.
When Billy said that though it was a bit of a light bulb moment; I quickly counted back and noted that I’d lost 3 contest over the previous 12 months on the floor. 3 too many. I literally said to myself going onto that next session that “today will be the day that I will start to become good on the ground.”
It’s actually quite simple isn’t it. If I am striving to compete at the highest level but ignore my strength training then I WILL be out powered, if I am unfit then I WILL be outworked. If I don’t pay attention to all the key areas of performance then, without exception, eventually I will be made to pay for it.
As fate would have it, shortly after returning from Russia, Jim Warren taught me his unique version of the armlock, ju-ji-gatame, which I instantly fell in love with. I saw a link between Jim’s armlock and the strangles that were on the syllabus at Camberley Judo Club and, really quickly, I had a good system of groundwork to get my teeth into and develop.
Today I would say that groundwork is probably the best aspect of my Judo. As I’ve said before, I have been a good international level competitor but haven’t ever really broken into that top group of the world’s elite. With good gripping (another simple and controllable area that anyone can get good at) and plenty of groundwork I have, however, beaten a number of the world’s best players.
As Billy also said to me that trip:
“There is no excuse for not being good on the floor……. or for getting beaten down there”