My first exposure to trapping was the iconic scene in Enter the Dragon. Bruce is forearm to forearm with the Ohara (Bob Wall). Bruce executes a pak sao and backfist. The speed amazed me, and while I knew I would never be that fast, I thought I could clear the line with a pak sao. I was intrigued enough to buy The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, which sank the hook. After my short experience with Shotokan, the Tao of Jeet Kune Do seemed like graduate level studies in martial arts.
This was pre-internet, pre-YouTube; so, all I had was books and pictures. I lived in a small town where the Shotokan school left due to poor enrollment four years prior to my Enter the Dragon viewing. All I had known was kicking and punching, both of which were not my strengths. I was not and still am not very flexible. I can kick people in the head but only right after they fall on the ground. I am a much better puncher than I am kicker, but my reaction times mean I’ll never be a competitive striker. So, the introduction of new ranges – trapping and grappling – opened new possibilities.
I never did find a JKD school, but in college, I found jiu-jitsu. I met Jim Theobald, who fought in amateur Mixed Martial Arts competitions. He was teaching jiu-jitsu on the weekends, and eventually, I got an invitation to workout with his class. It blew my mind. I got a little focused on the grappling range. During a summer home visit, I found a Filipino Martial Arts instructor who also taught Wing Chun. As I started learning both, the Filipino art appealed more to me. Wing Chun was a bit too formal for the classes that I was used to taking. The FMA training got right into trapping whereas the majority of the Wing Chun training was learning the first form. For my young and eager self, the Wing Chun lessons were a drag. Even though, it’s a cool martial art, the way Wing Chun was taught just didn’t appeal to me.
But I jumped into FMA and, in particular, trapping. When summer ended and I got back to working out with the MMA folk, I couldn’t make the trapping work. Usually, this meant that I would drop it. Get rid of what didn’t work, but the trapping and the FMA were still a lot of fun to me. The fun and challenge was enough to keep me working on it. This ended up being a good thing as it eventually led me to Counterpoint Tactical System.
In CTS, I’ve learned a lot more about trapping and a little about how to actually apply it. At this point in my study, I’ve only dipped a little in the application and still have a long way to go. It’s still as fun as it’s always been, but it’s starting to come out during play. Part of the reason that it never worked for me was that I had massive misconceptions about what trapping actually was. I believed it was a way to tie up the hands so that my opponent can’t hit me or into some type of control. Maybe for advanced practitioners it is exactly that.
I, however, cannot pull off the tie up or control off the jab cross. Believe me, I tried. It’s even harder to attempt to trap with your eyes watering from being popped in the nose with a quick jab. (At least, I think it was a jab.) One way I have started to use trapping is shown above in the picture of UFC fighter Matt Brown shown. I use it to check a hand of the opponent while it’s in guard position. The other way that I like to use trapping is to clear the line for a strike. Jordan Mein pulled off a beautiful trap against Matt Brown in their fight (see below). Actually, this trap to the right elbow shows up in the Counterpoint Tactical System curriculum.
I’m still learning a lot about how to apply trapping. It’s strange to see just how wrong I was when looking back on my first impressions. I worried that this aspect of the martial arts was impractical. As I began my study into CTS, I’ve found ways to apply it. A large portion of the martial arts population think that only the techniques that show up in MMA are the ones that work. As with techniques from other traditional martial arts, trapping is showing it can work in combat sports. I enjoy watching trapping tactics making their way into Mixed Martial Arts. Deeper understanding of what is actually happening in the fight makes each competition richer for me. Trapping’s entry to MMA combines two things I love. I know trapping can work with the correct training method, the correct mindset, and the correct teacher.
Part two examines Counterpoint Tactical System’s training methods for trapping skills. (Coming next week.)