I've recently had a chance to delve into my newest BJJ acquisition, Ed Beneville's Strategic Guard. After looking through this a few times, I'm very impressed: I was already excited about the book due to the Fightworks Podcast interview with Beneville, and this volume definitely lived up to my expectations. It is also a considerable improvement over The Guard, Beneville's previous book, which is saying something given that The Guard was also a very good instructional. Strategic Guard is not only longer, but the picture quality is significantly improved, with a better standard of paper too. The descriptions also feel more in depth, with new brief examples of what not to do as well as the correct methodology.
I like to play from the bottom, and I'm especially keen on improving my escapes to guard, which is exactly where Strategic Guard excels. Beneville covers pretty much everything, with sections on side control, north-south, half-guard, open guard, knee-on-belly and a few submissions later on. That's broken down into even greater detail, such as side control with centred, upper and lower base (i.e., if they're on your chest, towards your head or nearer your legs).
There are also a number of interesting variations I haven't seen before, such as the 'shin in elbow trick' to escape side control. I'd never thought of using my shin to help spin back to guard, so I'll definitely be looking to try that at some point in the future. Each technique is shown from multiple angles, often with finer details included lower down (such as specific grips, hand positioning or hip movements).
The only thing that isn't there is some discussion of getting out of mount, but I can't really complain given the huge amount of ground Beneville covers. The open guard stuff should be especially useful, as I've been needing help with that for a while. Its going to take time to digest all the information Beneville provides in his book, but I'm hopeful that I can put some of the techniques into practice.
The inclusion of some tactics currently most associated with Eddie Bravo was interesting, such as the lockdown. Beneville refers to it as a 'grapevine', which is a little confusing given the common usage of that term in wrestling for a different position. Then again, I'm pretty unfamiliar with both wrestling and the lockdown itself, so perhaps that's in wider usage than I realise. Either way, Bravo didn't come up with the move, he just thought up a catchy name and an effective application: seeing it in a more orthodox book is probably a good indication of the lockdown's viability. Beneville also made the important point that getting yourself into that hold, while secure, can also have the effect of reducing your own mobility – unlike Bravo, Beneville's dissection of half-guard includes the lockdown as an option, rather than a fundamental part of the game.
Another very positive part of Bravo's book I'm reminded of by Beneville is the flow chart layout, which in Mastering the Rubber Guard serves as a contents page format. Beneville goes further, ending each section of Strategic Guard with a flow chart detailing the various techniques and their connections, complete with a summarised visual display running through the movements.
This also motivates me to revisit the information in Ed Beneville's previous release, The Guard: still lots in there I need to absorb. You can read more about both books, along with the earlier Passing the Guard, on Beneville's Grappling Arts Publications site. As for buying them, stock seems to run out fast: I couldn't find Passing the Guard except at very high prices. Strategic Guard is currently available to buy here.
Update: Passing the Guard has since been re-released in a new, updated and expanded edition. My review here.
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