The Tripod Position: A Tool to Help Any Athlete Move Better
The tripod position, otherwise known as “standing in base” or the “technical get up,” is a movement I first learned in Brazilian jiu jitsu, but later learned more about in MovNat training. Simply put, it is using your arm and opposite leg to make a frame that allows you to go from a lower position to a higher position.
BJJ black belt Valerie Worthington demonstrates the tripod position
The purpose of this article is to give MovNat practitioners, BJJ students, and anyone interested in movement arts in general a basic concept of how the tripod works, as well as a broader sense of how it can be applied as a transition between different skill sets and activities.
The Spaces Between
Transitions are the spaces in between. The spaces that link the beats of a drum together. The links of a chain. In terms of movement, they can be the places that link one phase to another.
If you look at sport, there is a transition point between the running phase and lift-off in pole vault. There is a transition from striking to grappling or from standing to the ground in mixed martial arts. In self-defense and law enforcement situations, there is often a fighting phase that transitions to running or giving chase, and perhaps even vaulting (a fence or wall) or carrying (an injured person). Transition is the transformation from one distinct phase of action to another.
"Your activities take on a whole new shape when you link them together, and they become more true to the practical skills needed in urgent situations."
As generalists or multi-discipline athletes, not only are we concerned with the nuances of the individual arts we practice, but also with the way these arts intersect. As teachers concerned with helping people learn practical skills that may serve them in real life, we must be especially concerned with how different disciplines intersect. In personal practice, we can simply run for distance or intensity, but in real life, we may have to run, fight, vault something, and run away or give chase.
Here, I first show technical details for getting back to your feet if someone tackles you to the ground or if you end up there during a scuffle. The second part is concerned with escaping once you get back to your feet. This is a good example of how context can change things. It’s a different feeling to run when someone is chasing you and even more complicated when this follows a fighting situation.
The specific technical transition I want to focus is this movement sequence:
- Technical stand up/get up
- Standing in base
- Tripod position
I chose this sequence because of its versatility. There are many places where you can plug this movement in to facilitate what would otherwise be clumsy, awkward, and slow. This move is also extremely efficient in many situations and, lastly, it is something that is more readily available to a broad demographic of people, as opposed to movements that accomplish the same goals but might only be appropriate for those with a higher level of athleticism or specific body types.
In this next video, I demonstrate six different variations of this get-up sequence, as taught in Brazilian jiu jitsu schools. The differences between these are largely based on experience level, though some are situational. These are all techniques you can practice at any time and anywhere you want to get up off of the ground. Another nice thing about these movements is the ease with which you can insert them into different types of workouts and circuit training.
In grappling, mixed martial arts, and fighting, this movement is used to transition from the ground phase of movement to the standing phase, which can lead to continued fighting or to running away.
In MovNat training, this can be used to get up to your feet from the ground; to vault over an obstacle, such as a park bench, fallen tree, or hood of a car; and to get on top of an obstacle after a climb, such as a wall, tree branch, or fence. It can also be used to descend from something high, transitioning from a balancing phase to one of descending/climbing.
"Give your body new problems to solve and it can freshen up and add life to a routine you currently find boring or repetitive."
Lastly, it can be used as a method of lifting something heavy off the ground, as in a Turkish get up, for example. As you can see, the uses of this movement as a transition are plentiful and varied - and perhaps in places you don’t even expect.
Natural Movement Uses
In this video, I demonstrate some simple uses of this position to vault and get up or get down from a wall. Obviously, this particular wall is low, but it gets the point across that we can use this technique to go easily from a climbing phase to a balancing, walking, or running phase.
The working concept is that you can create a frame with your arms and use the strength of your legs to press or support your body weight to such a position where your free leg can move forward and backward and your free arm can reach, push, pull, or manipulate an object. In a way, this mimics the architecture of a swing set on a playground in that there is a supporting structure in place to allow mobility within the structure.
When choosing beginner transitions between phases of movement, there are some rough guidelines I follow, which I believe the tripod position follows perfectly:
- Simplicity - This movement is pretty intuitive and does not have many complicated parts or fine motor skills involved. This means it is easily trainable and more likely to be useful under stress or in an emergency situation.
- Universality - A good transition for beginners should be one that a relatively large amount of people can perform without too much trouble. There are more advanced ways than the tripod position to get up off the ground, get on top of a wall, or vault over something, but not many of those can be done by your average Jane/Joe.
- Bang for Your Buck - The tripod position can be used to link movement phases in many different circumstances. This gives it a lot of return on investment as far as something you can practice that will make the most out of your training time.
A Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It
Think about the ways you can link your skill sets together and notice where the hinges are. Try linking balancing to climbing or running to climbing. Fighting to running and running to vaulting. Lifting and carrying to walking, and then climbing.
"A morning jog is just running until someone attacks you. Then, it becomes fighting, running, and perhaps even vaulting, jumping, or climbing."
Your activities take on a whole new shape when you link them together, and they become more true to the practical skills needed in urgent situations. A morning jog is just running until someone attacks you. Then, it becomes fighting, running, and perhaps even vaulting, jumping, or climbing. By linking your skills together, you create variety, as well as force your body into new situations to which it must adapt.
Give your body new problems to solve and it can freshen up and add life to a routine you currently find boring or repetitive. Many people enjoy jogging, and eventually add new challenges in the form of longer distances or faster times. But what if we took your jogging routine and added new skills to it to increase the challenge instead?
Try to find simple, universal, and time-efficient techniques that allow you to smoothly transition between these phases.
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