This is the second instructional book I added to my library, getting it as a christmas present in 2007. I had heard glowing reviews of Ed Beneville on the net, so wanted to get his highly acclaimed Passing the Guard (written with Tim Cartmell), but that was no longer available when I was looking around for books to add to my wish list. The Guard was still in stock, but only from second hand book websites: Beneville's books always seem to sell out fairly quickly. Fortunately for me, there is going to be an updated version of Passing the Guard at some point this year, and I think The Guard will also be revamped later on.
As this is an earlier book, The Guard is slightly less high quality than the glossy Strategic Guard, and doesn't feature the condensed technique charts at the end of each section. Nevertheless, The Guard remains an excellent discussion of techniques from the guard position, geared more towards offence than the largely defensive Strategic Guard.
It also contains the same well constructed flow of illustration, accompanying each picture with concise textual description. Key points of leverage and motion are often circled on the colour photographs, which is helpful for emphasising the positioning of your hands and feet - a beginner unsure of what to look for might otherwise miss those important details. Techniques are shown from multiple angles, and where space allows, simultaneously run across the page: this can be as many as three different perspectives on the full sequence.
I wrote earlier that Mastering Jujitsu is the first book I would recommend to a beginner: The Guard is probably the second. Unlike Mastering Jujitsu, this is a full-on instructional volume, without the extended historical and theoretical sections of Renzo's release. However, like Mastering Jujitsu, Beneville's book caters to beginners, as exemplified by the opening exercises demonstrating the correct usage of shrimping. That entails both forwards and backwards, driving off one leg or two, as well as progressing to related leg drills against a wall (handy for open guard). The drills are not shown in isolation, as Beneville includes further illustration detailing their application. Aptly, this chapter is called 'Fundamentals', and is perfect for somebody new to the sport, or functions as a thorough reminder for those at a more advanced level.
The starting point for Strategic Guard can be found in chapter two, 'Guard Pass Counters', but the rest of the volume is largely concerned with offence. Beneville includes sections on chokes and armbars, as well as how to attack certain positions, like when your opponent is stalling in your guard. The Guard tends to build through a position, such as moving from a kimura to a hip bump, followed by options if your partner defends the sweep.
This approach culminates in the chapter 'Flowing Attack', where Beneville goes through several well-known combinations, such as triangle to armbar, on to omoplata if your opponent defends both of those, then back to armbar and finally returning to a triangle, putting you back in the starting position. This is a significant difference to the principles and strategy led Mastering Jujitsu, as numerous techniques within The Guard rely on specific positions and reactions from your partner.
As with Mastering Jujitsu, this is a book that will benefit every BJJ beginner. Once you have been training for a few months and have read Mastering Jujitsu, this volume will provide an effective supplement to what you've learned in class. The solo drills at the start, promoting good fundamentals, are especially useful: these solid basics will continue to serve you well as you progress through BJJ. Available for purchase here.
Update April 2009: The new and expanded edition is being released this month. Even more exciting, Beneville's first book Passing the Guard is also being reissued with new material. Really looking forward to that, as I've heard nothing but awesome about it.