Sam Kressin - Contrarian Grappling & Combining Catch Wrestling With Jiu-Jitsu

I talk to Sam Kressin, a Black Belt in BJJ who also trained extensively with catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson. Sam is also a talented visual artist with a degree in exercise and sports science and runs Embodied Strength. We discuss how he found jiu-jitsu and catch wrestling in his martial arts journey, his time spent training both, and the process of combining them. He also coaches grappling and catch wrestling workshops for Scientific Wrestling and gives an excellent insight into his coaching philosophy.

Listen To Sam Kressin






[00:00] – Introduction To Sam Kressin Interview
[02:39] – Sam’s Backstory About How He Got Into Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, and Karate
[11:42] – Being Open to the Idea of Bringing Different Martial Arts Styles Into Jiu-Jitsu
[12:43] – Sam’s Meeting With Chris Haueter
[14:14] – Jiu-Jitsu Has an Ego-Driven Culture — The Foundation Is to Impose Your Will on Someone Else
[24:11] – How Sam Came Across Catch Wrestling
[34:24] – Sonny and Sam’s Thoughts About Modern Jiu-Jitsu (Stylistically)
[35:49] – The Two Talk About the Different Styles of Jiu-Jitsu
[39:08] – The Way Wade Schalles Engineered His Wrestling
[44:03] – Billy Robinson’s Style of Coaching
[51:30] – How Can Techniques in Catch Wrestling Be Applicable in the Modern Jiu-Jitsu Game
[54:34] – Sam’s Approach to Teaching the Texas Cloverleaf, Karl Gotch Toe Hold, and Leg Turking
[1:00:35] – The Problems That Come up When You Go From GI to No-GI
[1:08:57] – The Ways That People Can Better Utilize Motor Learning and Exercise Science
[1:18:06] – The Way the Rules Have Evolved the Sports Themselves
[1:20:30] – With Rulesets Changing and Evolving, Grappling Styles Are Becoming Homogenous
[1:25:40] – The Way Beliefs of People Are Shaping Grappling and Its Rulesets
[1:38:00] – The Idea of the Contrarian Grappler
[1:43:57] – Common Mistakes When Drawing a Grappling Technique


How Sam got into grappling

For his whole life, he’s been involved in martial arts. He started Karate when he was eight years old and practised Tang-soo-do Karate, the Korean version of Karate. It’s not the same as taekwondo which is a common misconception. The forms and moves in Tang-soo-do are the same as in Okinawan hardstyle karate. Later, he started competing in Karate competitions globally and learned Jiu-Jitsu from Trent Suzuki.

The problems Switching from Gi to No-Gi and vice-versa

When you go from No-Gi to Gi, the biggest problem that the No-Gi guy faces is that the position is now contingent upon grips. So whoever wins and establishes the dominant grips will usually have the upper hand.

And when you’re going from Gi to No-Gi, the problem that the Gi grappler faces as they go is that they think it’s all attribute-based or more explosive. They believe that because they’re used to being in control of the pace of the match and the speed of grappling. That belief has been developed as they relied upon the friction of the GI and the grips.

You can slow things down and make the match move at a much slower pace in Gi because you can grab the back of the jacket, the sleeve, and the belt. You can hold onto so many places to make the match get into this isometric battle, a stalemate kind of position.

Motor learning: An analogy of tennis players and racquetball players

Motor learning has many different components, one of which is learning transfer. Learning transfer is when learning one skill helps you with the learning of another skill. To illustrate this concept, we can make a comparison similar to the Gi and No-gi situation between a tennis player and a racquetball player.

Both are very similar sports, but the difference is a racquetball player hits the ball with a broken wrist. This means when they hit the ball, their wrist snaps and breaks the plane, as their objective is to hit the ball as hard as they can and hit it on that wall in such a manner that it bounces back in a way that the opponent can’t return to hit.

In tennis, they hit with a stiff wrist, meaning when they hit the ball, they don’t break the plane of the wrist because they have to hit the ball into the court. They’re trying to get spin; they’re trying to return the ball with a bounce in a location where their opponent can’t return the hit. So right there, you see similar goals in both sports with a technical difference.

Generally, the tennis player has an easier time going over to racquetball than the racquetball player has in going over tennis. Because even if they continue to hit with a stiff wrist, they will not have a problem. They’re still going to be able to hit the wall and come back. But if the racquetball player starts hitting and falls back to their old habit of hitting with a broken wrist, the ball will go out of the court or won’t reach the target. So that’s where you can experience a motor learning issue, transferring from Gi to No-gi and No-gi to Gi.

How Wrestling could have evolved if it was not weight-class-driven

One of the things wrestling is criticized for is how a small wrestler cannot beat a bigger wrestler. In regards to this, Jiu-jitsu is better because it’s well known that a small guy can beat a larger guy as you can pull guard and win off your back.

The influence of rules in wrestling has been weight-class-driven for so long that it doesn’t develop wrestlers to compete in an absolute division. There are no open-weight wrestling tournaments where you might see a 120-pound guy against a much larger guy.

Wade Schalles said what he would do when he was in the wrestling room was to wrestle with the bigger guys to let them try to take him down. He would try to figure out their preferred takedown, and then he would lead them into that takedown, but make sure that they’re in a bad position when they get into it.

And so it was interesting because if wrestling had no weight classes, there could have been a style of wrestling like this that would have evolved. But it didn’t happen because the rules of the sport have been weight-class-driven for so long.

The rulesets are changing and evolving the sports

The different grappling rulesets are changing and evolving the sports, but all the grappling styles will eventually become homogenous. They’ll become the same because they will be defined by whatever the rules are, and the most prominent grappling culture will define the rules that everyone’s competing under. The practitioners’ rules and belief systems will influence the direction it evolves.

The idea of the contrarian grappler

The contrarian is the guy looking in places where other people aren’t looking, and he’s trying to pay attention to things that other people aren’t. It’s interesting because if you were into leg locks, you were contrarian for a while. But not anymore now that everybody’s looking at leg locks. So whatever is contrarian, it’s constantly in a flux of change.

Common Mistakes When Drawing a Grappling Technique

One of the common mistakes that someone would make that ruins the grappling move is we could always go back and look at the fundamentals of their drawing, like if there’s a perspective issue, meaning they don’t understand how an arm should look when it’s shortened at a specific angle.

Things are going back to a vanishing point on a horizon line. The vanishing point is when you’re looking down a highway and everything’s going to vanish on a horizon towards a point or two, depending on where you’re angled as the viewer.

So perspective issues can throw off drawings easily. You can go to the fundamentals of your perspective. Proportions can throw off the drawing if you don’t understand the figure’s proportions, meaning how long the arm is compared to the torso and how long the legs are in contrast to the upper body. If you know the proportions of the human body, then your drawings might look a little more believable.

Sam Kressin Resources

Sam Kressin Quotes

“A lot of moves in jujitsu are non-dynamic, meaning you can basically break it down into steps.”

– Sam Kressin

“Don’t practice the move both sides when you learn it, learn it on your good side first, and then let your good side teach your bad side later.”

– Sam Kressin

Sam Kressin Links

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