The Art of “Grappling Without Grappling”

Ok, this is possibly the most powerful thing I’ve ever written about.  

It’s from the best non-grappling book I’ve ever read to help my grappling. 

But you don’t have to read it. I’ll explain it to you here…

It was called Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, and it’s how I managed to do thousands of repetitions of my techniques (both grappling & striking) without actually “doing” them.

Real or Imagined Training?

The whole idea is that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you IMAGINE…

…and what is REALLY happening.

Check out this excerpt from David R. Hamilton PhD (from

Volunteers were asked to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for five consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the finger muscles. Another set of volunteers were asked to imagine playing the notes instead, also having their brains scanned each day.

The top two rows in the image show the changes in the brain in those who played the notes. The middle two rows show the changes in those who simply imagined playing the notes. Compare this with the bottom two rows showing the brain regions of the control group, who didn’t play nor imagine playing, piano.

You can clearly see that the changes in the brain in those who imaged playing piano are the same as in those who actually played piano. Really, your brain doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary!

So guess what?

You can do hundreds of repetitions of your submission and techniques without ever physically doing them, and your brain believes you’ve done them.

Does This Actually Work for Grappling?

I learned this concept from a phenomenal athlete over 40 years ago. He made me read Psycho Cybernetics, then literally tested me on the book as part of my training.

And now, it’s so second nature that I do it without even realizing it. I see a technique I want to learn, picture myself doing it repeatedly, then MAYBE do it a couple times on a partner or my Submission Master dummy just to be sure I’ve got it.

I can tell you that I have never physically performed many grappling techniques before I tapped out training partners with them. It works that well.

I’ve done this so long, I can’t even tell anymore what I’ve physically practiced and what I’ve mostly just visualized.  In my mind it’s all the same thing. I actually FEEL the opponent’s limbs, his resistance, and my body moving and hitting the mat. My mind even hears the sound of the training.

I’ve had people check my heart rate when I do this, and it speeds up just like I was actually doing the training. And my breathing gets heavier.

You can see Dr. David Hamilton’s entire article here (it’s a great quick read).

Keep training!

Bob Dorris