What Is Chain Wrestling?


Whether you’re an amateur wrestler or casual wrestling spectator, you’ve probably heard the term “chain wrestling.” As a newcomer to the sport, learning chain wrestling techniques is essential to your wrestling growth. The question is, what exactly is chain wrestling?

What Is Chain Wrestling?

Chain wrestling is a methodology of wrestling where a wrestler fluidly moves from one move to the next without thinking. Rather than focusing on a particular strategy, a chain wrestler switches their approach throughout a match to best counter their opponent. 

To start, I’ll take a closer look at what defines chain wrestling. Then, I’ll break down a chain wrestling sequence from pioneer John Smith. Lastly, I will explore a few drills to boost your chain wrestling skills.

An Introduction to Chain Wrestling

Beginner wrestlers often stick to one strategy amid a match. While their strategy might work against other novices, an experienced wrestler will easily read their approach and take them down.

Chain wrestling ensures that won’t happen. The moment an opponent counters an approach, chain wrestlers switch their attack to take advantage of his opponent’s new defense.

A wrestler needs to have a high-level knowledge of a variety of wrestling techniques to chain wrestle. Beginners typically struggle to chain wrestle simply because they don’t know enough moves to chain together!

Subconscious Adaptations

Chain wrestling, however, is more than just learning a bunch of new moves. Chain wrestlers also must string their moves together without thinking.

If you’re caught trying to figure out your next move in the heat of a match, you might as well have already lost. Rather than having to determine your next attack, your body should automatically do it.

Chain wrestling isn’t a thought process; it’s an instinct.

What Is an Example of a Chain Wrestling Sequence?

Now that you’ve learned the concept of chain wrestling let’s look at chain wrestling in action. One of the innovators of chain wrestling is two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and five-time NCAA Championship Coach John Smith. Keep reading as I discuss his chain wrestling.

In this sequence, John Smith begins with the intent to land a high crotch takedown. However, as he gets down-blocked, Smith changes his approach to a drag takedown to counter his opponent’s defense. Then, he highlights the various techniques he could use now that his opponent is on the ground.

Let’s break down this sequence in more detail. 

John Smith Chain Wrestling Formula

This sequence is a written version of this clip from John Smith’s Chain Wrestling Formula (available on Amazon.com):

Attempting a High Crotch Takedown

Smith’s initial intent for this sequence is to score through a high crotch takedown. 

He begins by putting himself in his best position to land a high crotch. This approach is up to personal preference, whether you want to grab or pass your opponent’s elbow. Either way, Smith is in position.

Cross-Down Block and Switch to Drag Takedown

As Smith goes for the takedown, his opponent moves his legs back and counters Smith with a cross-down block. The high crotch takedown is officially out of reach. 

Immediately, Smith starts to pull his opponent’s elbow, changes his knees, takes an outside step up, and scores a point as he lands the drag takedown.

He has successfully switched his approach on the fly and scores a point despite missing his initial move. 

Options To Finish the Match

From here, Smith highlights a few more moves he could chain now that he landed a drag takedown. Potential approaches include:

  • A breakdown
  • A wrist grab 
  • A bar 

Regardless of the next move, Smith emphasizes that chain wrestling is never-ending until your opponent is on his back pinned. The possibilities of chain wrestling extend as far as your knowledge of the sport. 

What Are Good Chain Wrestling Drills?

Building proficiency in chain wrestling does not happen overnight. To gain competency in chain wrestling, a wrestler must first become fluent in the other aspects of wrestling technique.

If you’re a beginner at chain wrestling, try to get started with basic wrestling drills. Then, begin to chain those moves together to work on your chain wrestling technique.

Let’s look at a set of drills by Olympian Kyle Dake, which I will discuss shortly.

Excellent Tips for Chain Wrestling From Kyle Dake

To watch the full video referenced, watch the video below:

The purpose of these drills is to get used to being on your back without getting pinned and scoring your points. To do this, Dake takes us through 3 different holds, starting with the two on one tilt. 

Two on One Tilt Drill

Dake takes his two on one tilt and exposes his opponent’s back. His bottom knee is pointed at the ceiling while his back knee controls his opponent’s bottom leg. 

From here, Dake pulls and rotates his opponent’s head over the top of his face, elevating him with his bottom leg. His bottom leg becomes his plant foot as he turns, while his back leg becomes his elevator. 

He proceeds to interchange this positioning back and forth. Additionally, he pops his hips to move his opponent from side to side. 

Dake finishes the drill atop his opponent.

Half Nelson/Claw Variations

Dake continues to do similar floor drills, first from a half nelson, then from a claw position. Each of these drills has the same set-up as the former, being:

  1. Grab your opponent.
  2. Take your opponent to the ground.
  3. Interchange your place using your hips and legs.
  4. End up on top.

Putting It All Together

Now that you’ve practiced three separate moves, it’s time to put them all together. 

Dake begins with his half nelson sequence. Once he finishes on top, he shifts into his claw sequence and ends up back on top.

Dake emphasizes that a chain wrestler should never be satisfied with just a few sequences. To be great, you must work similar drills to chain together as many moves as possible. 

For more from Kyle Dake, check out Signature Moves: Kyle Dake’s Claw Series on Amazon.com.

Chain wrestling is an essential skill to develop if you wish to succeed as a wrestler. Through hard work and consistent drills, you, too, can chain wrestle like legends such as John Smith and Kyle Dake.

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