Attack mimicking impulses in opponent twitching tactics applied in greco-roman wrestling and arm wrestling

PhD, Associate Professor O.B. Malkov1
PhD, Associate Professor A.I. Rakhmatov2
Dr.Hab., Professor V.L. Dementiev3
1Russian State University of Justice, Moscow
2Russian Transport University, Moscow
3V.Y. Kikotya Moscow University, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Moscow

Keywords: tactics, opponent’s action control, twitching tactics, psychomotor responses, arm wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling

Background. New tactical solutions offered by the sport theoreticians and practitioners need to be substantiated by sound theoretical grounds and tested and verified by practice. Modern theory of combat sports ranks the twitching techniques among the pre-attacking moves [1]. In tactical terms, the twitching technique may be interpreted as the action startup impulse followed by a retreat/ attack cancellation imitating move to provoke a counterattack of the opponent. When the attack is resumed after the retreat imitation, the defense responses of the opponent may be caught unprepared due to fast switching, inhibition and discomposure in the latent response time. It may be emphasized that the semi-instinctive twitching action targets the latent response time when the opponent (and an external observer) fail to detect the attack. It is the response inhibition moment on the brink of transition to an action that is most favorable for the attack on the ‘paralyzed’ opponent caught in between the countermovement phases. It should be mentioned that most of the athletes fail to fully understand in trainings the nature of the twitching action to make it organic and effective, and this is the reason why the action efficiency and effectiveness is not always high enough due to the poor timing of the technique versus the opponent’s response rate and style.

Objective of the study was to provide theoretical grounds for the twitching technique excelling trainings geared to control and imbalance the opponent’s responses and neutralize the defenses by confusing micro-moves.

Results and discussion. In our analysis of the modern twitching techniques applied by the Greco-Roman wrestling elite, we defined the technique as the ‘two one-sided rotations with a reverse move – that means that the defense counteraction of the opponent is responded by a short counter-impulse followed by the resumed rotation’ [2, p.164]. Our analyses of the competitive video records showed that the turn-over with body-hold in Greco-Roman wrestling is often stopped by an effective defense counteraction against the rotation, with the force and counterforce coming to the dead point. In this case the attacker may confuse the opponent by a short counter-rotation immediately followed by the resumed rotation. This kind of a twitching action confuses and derails the defenses. The lower athlete may still keep the defense position but his counteraction turns ineffective and uncontrolled due to the momentary discomposure and inhibition instinct forced by the abrupt back rotation. Such motor inhibition in the defender is due to the fact that a wrestling sport makes the fighters excessively focused on the counteractions i.e. develops a sort of a counteraction instinct, and that is why when the attacker’s action is fast reversed they are automatically responded by the counteraction reversion. The same is true for the other forms of the twitching technique that is generally designed to fast reverse the attack vector and employ the instinctive response of the opponent for success of the resumed attack on the derailed defenses. In other words, the instinctive response of the defending opponent helps and contributes to the resumed attack.

Furthermore, we analyzed video captures of the modern arm wrestling bouts in the top-ranking events and found that that the twitching tactics in the turn-over with body-hold in Greco-Roman wrestling are much the same as in arm wrestling where the attacker ‘swings’ the opponent’s hand before pressing it down. When the swings coincide with the startup phase, they are virtually unnoticeable albeit may be detected as micro-pauses in the video records. It should be noted that the rate of 25/30 frames per second is not fast enough to track the fast reverse move followed by the action resumption. These moves are detectable by the videos recorded at the rates of 50+ (ideally 100-120) frames per second.

The twitching technique in the modern elite arm wrestling may be noticed in the final press-down or in the counterattack when both hands are semi-vertical; with the twitching  detectable as a micro-pause with the reverse move (not always noticeable on the record) followed by the decisive attack. It should be emphasized that the arm wrestlers unskilled in this kind of attacking impulses with the inhibitions and reverse micro-moves immediately followed by the resumed attacks to discompose the opponent – are not that efficient and successful. The twitching techniques are the most successful when sensitive to the individual response specifics of the opponent.

Conclusion. Swinging tactics is quite common for the modern arm wrestling, with the attacker effectively mobilizing his fast twitching instinct to win the bout. When the swinging action is not fast enough, the attack may not be successful, and that is why modern trainings should be designed to develop reasonably versatile twitching skills so that the attacker could test the motor responsiveness of the opponent, find the latent response gap and target it by the focused twitching action to discompose the opponent and win. Tactically, the twitching technique is designed to hit into the latent response moment by activating the instinctive opponent’s counteraction by a reverse impulse and resume the attack along the same line.


  1. Gozhin V.V., Malkov O.B. Teoreticheskie osnovy taktiki v sportivnykh edinoborstvakh [Theoretical foundations of tactics in martial arts]. Textbook. Moscow: Fizkultura i sport publ., 2008. 229 p.
  2. Mamiashvili V.G., Gozhin V.V., Malkov O.B. [ed.] Tipovye startovye situatsii, ispolzuemye kvalifitsirovannymi bortsami pri vypolnenii perevorotov nakatom [Typical starting situations used by skilled wrestlers when performing rolls turns]. Teoreticheskie aspekty tekhniki i taktiki sportivnoy borby [Theoretical aspects of technique and tactics of wrestling]. Moscow: Fizkultura i sport publ., 2005. pp. 154-164.

Corresponding author:


It may be beneficial for the theory of modern martial arts and wrestling sports to analyze how the attack mimicking impulses work in the opponent twitching tactics for success. The attack mimicking impulses (threats) are common nowadays in the wrestling, kicking and punching sports – and intended to provoke defense responses of the opponent to use the passive response time for an unexpected real attack. Such tactics are commonly referred to as the opponent twitching in a few sport disciplines including Greco-Roman wrestling and arm wrestling. The article analyzes the modern range of twitching tactics applied in Greco-Roman wrestling and arm wrestling. Bout video replays were analyzed for the study purposes to track the twitching tactics, opponent responses to twitching and how they are used by the highly-skilled competitors to effectively neutralize the defenses. It was found, among other things, that the twitching tactics in the turn-over with body-hold in Greco-Roman wrestling are much the same as in the arm wrestling where the attacker ‘swings’ the opponent’s hand before pressing it down. It was found that the swing action should be fast enough for success. Therefore, modern training systems are recommended giving a special priority to the swing action speed to effectively form the necessary motor skills with the perfectly timed response to the opponent’s passive reaction to twitching. On the whole, the twitching tactics are intended to capitalize on the opponent’s primary instinctive response to the attack mimicking impulse, with the attack being immediately redirected in an unexpected way.