If you don’t know Gokor Chivichyan, you’re not really into grappling. Disagree all you want, but you can’t dispute the fact that Gokor Chivichyan is the go-to guy for submissions techniques, especially leg locks. He was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1997 as Judo Instructor of the Year, but his curriculum vitae extends so far beyond that art. In addition to his ninth-degree black belt in judo, he holds a sixth degree in sambo and a sixth degree in jujutsu. Long before he earned them, he entered his first competition—and went home victorious. That was in 1971, and he hasn’t stopped winning since. The Armenian expatriate now oversees 27 affiliate schools in the United States and 43 in Europe, and organizes 10 Hayastan Grappling Challenge tournaments a year in the United States and seven in Europe. Before plunging into Gokor Chivichyan’s world of submissions techniques—specifically, sambo submissions, which are the subject of this article—the uniform just has to be addressed. OK, those fabric flaps attached to the shoulders look funky—kind of like the shoulder pads that were all the rage in the fashion of the 1990s—but they’re there for a reason. “The uniform top—called a kurtka—is similar to a judo gi, but it’s designed for grabbing because sambo has a lot of techniques that involve shoulder throws,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “When my students go to judo tournaments, they use throws that are not common anywhere outside of Russia. It’s one of the reasons my school is No. 1 in the national rankings.” As he says, Russia is the birthplace of sambo. Its name is actually an acronym derived from SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya (roughly, “fighting without a weapon”), the moniker given to the Russian military fighting system. “In combat sambo, you can do what you want; you can attack with a knife or anything,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “It’s not so much geared toward mixed martial arts fighting as it is toward blocking, twisting and takedowns—stuff that’s more like Japanese jujutsu.” Years after combat sambo was rolled out in the Russian military, it spawned a sport. “I think sport sambo is more effective; it’s like grappling,” he says. “It has a very big name in Russia. It’s spreading around the world now—it’s in Japan and most other countries, including the United States.” Now that MMA is the hot topic in the martial arts world, sport sambo is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame. And for good reason. “In sambo, you plan a lot of combinations so that if one doesn’t go, you have another 20 ready,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “You don’t punch somebody and wait to see what happens. You choose a combination based on the opening you see.” If the first move or two don’t take, you have 18 more on deck. Although it’s not the most comprehensive system under the sun, sport sambo shouldn’t be described as merely Russian judo or Russian jujutsu. “Sambo has leg locks, but judo doesn’t allow them,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “Judo allows chokes, but sambo doesn’t. Sambo rules look more like wrestling rules: Pin your opponent on his back and get one point, and so on. Of course, you can finish him with an armbar or leg lock and make him tap. “In sport sambo, we don’t do twisting leg locks. Straight leg locks and the kneebar are OK, though. The twisting leg locks and everything else you see my guys do come from the Hayastan Fighting System, which Gene LeBell and I created. You can’t use them in sambo or Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments because the people who organize those events want to avoid joint damage.” It’s not that the leg locks are inherently wicked, Chivichyan explains. “The damage occurs because few people know how to escape from the submission techniques. Injury comes from being stubborn—stubbornly trying the wrong escape or stubbornly not tapping. That gives our system a bad reputation because they think that twisting is intended to create more damage.” Sport-sambo stylists are by no means limited to straight leg locks. “Sambo has a lot of them—if you train in sambo, you know it’s a leg-lock world,” Chivichyan says. “But we also do upper body. To get the advantage, we go to our opponent’s weakness. If you and I fight and I know you’re well-versed in armbars, chokes and controls, I’ll go to your weakness, which is your legs. It allows for faster finishes.” Sambo practitioners are also skilled at takedowns, he adds. “In jujutsu, which is a very beautiful sport, they have no takedowns. People throw themselves down without any reason because they want you to fight them on the ground. That happened a lot in MMA, but now when they lie on their backs, they get beat up from the top with punches and elbows. That can happen whenever you drop yourself, which is why we teach students the best ways to take an opponent down and control him.” No matter which submission technique or tactic you’re using, speed is of the essence, Gokor Chivichyan says. When two professional fighters meet in the ring, things unfold quickly. On the street, however, it’s even faster. “Most of the time in street fights, people don’t know what they’re doing,” he says. “They just hit each other wherever they can. You don’t have time to waste. Either way, it’s very important to be fast.” (About the author: S.D. Seong is a freelance writer and grappler based in Southern California.)
Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.
Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDM0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5MTk2MDE3M30.ITCjBPu9aE5EUzwZEIKpzlPE_6ovW911ir-ZjIonfP4/image.jpg?width=1500&coordinates=131%2C345%2C357%2C203&height=2000" id="e612a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3072885226e45985dad115a8f6031564" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><em><a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/jeet-kune-dos-combat-philosophy" data-linked-post="2645906483" target="_blank">Jeet kune do</a></em> is a scientific approach to street fighting, a method for developing complete martial artists who are not bound by any style or system. Rather, they're able to adapt to all styles, systems, situations and circumstances. JKD, of course, is the result of Bruce Lee's search for the truth of combat, and part of that truth is that those who have mastered attacking the eyes and groin while weaponizing their awareness will have a distinct advantage in a street fight.</p><p>A street fight is like a very brief game of combat chess involving two strategists. In this context, the "queen of all moves," the most versatile technique of all, is the <em>bil jee,</em> or thrusting finger jab executed with the lead hand. Simply put, it's the fastest, most effective strike in the martial arts. It can be found in all traditional styles and reality-based self-defense systems. It even appears in MMA — think about how many times you've seen an accidental finger to the eye stop a UFC fight.</p>
Defend The King<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDQ1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODEzNjc1OX0.auDCI_jr0vTBCXxwU6R-V0Dd-C78ZMvJawePlK8OBSg/image.jpg?width=980" id="4af8d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42aa0521105d1a2d677d7e77fef723cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="As Harinder Singh demonstrates breathing techniques and its importance on conserving energy." /><p>As you attack with your queen, you must not forget to defend your king. The king, in this case, is your breath. In chess, the king can move only one square at a time. Similarly, breathing can be managed only one breath at a time. If you lose track of your breathing, you're doomed — in a fight and in life.</p><p>Proper breathing is important for two reasons: It allows you to conserve energy, and it helps you weaponize your awareness. When you fight, fear, stress and anxiety create tension, which can cause you to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your energy gets depleted. Feeling slower and weaker, you start to panic. Obsessive thinking sets in, and the chatter in your mind robs you of the present moment, making you your own worst enemy.</p><p>Controlling your respiration in tense situations is a skill that must be developed. Learning to relax on demand during conflict, chaos and the ever-changing circumstances of a fight is often overlooked and usually undertrained.</p><p>Fighting changes from moment to moment based on you, your opponent and your environment. Victory is not in the end result. Rather, victory is gained by making the right decisions and adapting from one moment to the next. To effectively adapt to your opponent, you must learn to weaponize your awareness. To weaponize your awareness, you must learn to come from the center of time and space. The center of time and space is where you, the observer, should live. An observer has no thoughts, judgments or attachments. An observer knows without knowing and acts and reacts on his own. That may sound mystical, but it's really not. Consider:</p><p>While driving your car, have you ever swerved out of the way at the last moment and barely avoided an accident? It's almost like you moved before you had time to process the event, and only afterward did you realize what you'd done.</p><p>In sparring, have you ever just hit your opponent and then, in the next moment, realized that he was open? This is the phenomenon you're after. Awareness is always there; it's just that some people have lost touch with it. By reconnecting with awareness, you're not creating anything new. Rather, you're connecting with something you may have forgotten.</p>
Weaponize Your Awarness<p>My <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_chi" target="_blank">tai chi</a></em> master taught that to weaponize awareness and orient from the center of time and space, a martial artist needs to know the four pillars of the mind: imagination, sensation, intention and attention. They're considered the keys to weaponizing awareness because they teach you to task your mind with orienting from the perspective of the observer and not the thinker. Outlined below is the three-step process that I teach all my students, from military and law-enforcement personnel to civilian martial artists.</p>
Step 1: Orient From The Still Point
Heed The Wisdom of Musashi<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDYzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzA5ODY2NH0.Cr5sdMob-cL2ZUz6YeCKrDy4qXrQvmewqxnKR_DWqxY/image.jpg?width=980" id="dbd7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="06e28928368d80e6122fd83d3f5e2991" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Implement the wisdom of Miyamoto Musashi" /><p>Tactics, strategies and weapons are just knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. You can learn about awareness, understand strategy and know the fastest move (the bil jee), but if you can't apply this knowledge, it's just useless information.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Miyamoto_Musashi" target="_blank">Miyamoto Musashi</a> said, "The way is in training." Your confidence stems from experiential knowledge and knowing that you've embodied your tools and strategies so they can be adapted for use in changing situations. Only then can you be wholly in the moment and surrender to the experience by letting go of victory or defeat.</p><p>The best way to develop this ability is by using a training method that's fun and functional. It should develop your physical attributes, strategies and weapon selection while sharpening your awareness. It should be equal parts feeding drills, counter-for-counter drills and sparring against resisting opponents. Because a fight is a living exchange, your training must incorporate timing, angles, distance and progressive resistance. To help you with this, I have developed a method that gamifies the learning process.</p>
Play Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDY2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTU3ODUzOH0.vSW3w8FWGRGcNpc1Mfq1ToqiV5SWYm3v3CjqjupG54A/image.jpg?width=980" id="0ddc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4cf3438b091244ad0911b735b4f7e6d3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Develop your strategy for your own game of combat chess" /><p>To absorb all the benefits of training, you need a step-by-step progression that chunks pieces of information and installs them in your subconscious mind. The greatest chess masters isolate individual pieces — for example, a king versus a king and a pawn. Chess masters learn how these isolated pieces move together on the board, and this information is stored in their subconscious. This isolation method of training accelerates the learning process, which is why <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/bjj-advice-from-rickson-gracie-grapplers-must-also-learn-to-strike" data-linked-post="2645906301" target="_blank">Rickson Gracie</a> made it part of his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_jiu-jitsu" target="_blank">Brazilian jiu-jitsu</a> training philosophy. When you isolate tools or positions, you have fewer options and are forced to focus on energy, awareness, timing, and the space between the strikes and positions.</p><p>The four "games" listed below can be used to functionalize any tactic or strategy, but to mesh with this article, you should focus on bil jee attacks to the eyes and lead-leg attacks to the groin. For best results, experiment with opponents of different body types and martial arts backgrounds. Start by feeding each other techniques with no resistance so the correct mechanics can be learned. Next, introduce counters so you can start to understand timing and the appropriate responses. Finally, incorporate resistance and intelligently spar using the isolated weapons and positions.</p>
Game 1: Coordinate Awareness And Movement
Put The Art In Martial Arts<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDg0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDk0MjA5NX0.0jd8wnRcjl7VKjc4pNL79z15oj0AKSBzmgq2B4N_RGM/image.jpg?width=980" id="5309c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b3a9ebb138722b70f6bf83ef5cea4934" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"Creation" refers to making something that didn't exist before. When you create art, there can be no fear of the outcome, just honest self-expression. By following the combat-chess methodology, you'll start chunking information and installing the chunks in your subconscious. Your subconscious has the ability to connect the various groupings of information and create responses without conscious thought, leaving you to be the observer of the experience.</p><p>Operating as the observer will make time seem to flow more slowly and allow you to "start after but arrive before" your opponent. It's the most freeing phenomenon that can be experienced in the martial arts. It's the instinctive response that Bruce Lee was referring to when he said, "It hits all by itself."</p><p>The master key to success in this fighting process is you. Remember that results rule. Question everything and always look to explore, discover, grow and create. </p>
Sifu Harinder Singh<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDgzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDk0NTA4MX0.pQ62IzGNpu-B8rhQSCD36VDY69Uq3yBtH8ceH-bYYfA/image.jpg?width=980" id="eeb1c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3359e3406b7d7fd2004ee7ac41a6cf92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Portrait of Harinder Singh" /><p><em>Harinder Singh Sabharwal teaches jeet kune do, wing chun, tai chi, savate, kali, boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's the founder of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association and Black Belt University. For information about his new online course, visit <a href="http://jkdathletics.com/" target="_blank">jkdforblackbelts.com</a>.</em></p>
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