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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

23 June 2011

23/06/2011 - Teaching (Maintaining Closed Guard)

Teaching #009
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 23/06/2011

Maintaining closed guard could arguably be called stalling. However, I'm looking at this from the perspective of the old "position before submission" mantra: you can't be offensive from the closed guard if you can't hold it for more than a few seconds. I didn't have quite so much material to draw upon when researching this, as I can't think of too many instructionals that focus on this aspect of the guard.

The warm-up went as normal, with one addition. I wanted a drill to help people maintain their closed guard. I thought that if one person stands in the guard and other person then does sit-ups from there, that could help them build their leg strength and stamina, in a specific closed guard setting. It might also benefit the person standing, in terms of developing the base and balance required to stand and effectively pass.

For technique, I decided that I would start with grips, which is one of the more obvious ways to keep the position. I'm certainly no master of grips, so I just went through the main ways of setting up a good attacking position. A basic but very useful grip is to get a really deep grasp of the collar: you may find it helps to sit up to get that in really deep. Once you have it, that provides three main advantages. Firstly, this gives you great control, as you can pull them down towards you. Second, it could be the beginning of a choke, and perhaps more importantly, it will make them start to worry about that choke rather than thinking about passing.

Thirdly, it means you can establish a collar and elbow grip. There are various attacks you can do from there, the most common of which are probably armbars, scissor and push sweeps. I'll be going through the latter two options in my next class, so for now I just briefly showed how it could be used as an entry, rather than getting into detail about the attacks.

Something I've found a few times when teaching, such as when going through the trap and roll, is that it feels like I could give them more to practice. I therefore wanted to do a few more grips, particularly as it doesn't take long to show them. Adding to the collar and elbow, I then suggested double wrist control. This also meant I could re-emphasise the two main types of sleeve grips: either make a pocket with your thumb and insert your four fingers (rather than putting four fingers inside the sleeve or trouser cuff: that's not only competition illegal, it's dangerous), or get a pistol grip, where you grab a heap of cloth in your fist.

That will lead into the other sweep I want to teach next week, the flower sweep. There are various other ways of setting it up, but double wrist control is a simple entry. Another grip that could get you to the flower sweep (among others) is to grab their trousers by their knee, the other hand on their sleeve. This also helps to stop them getting a knee into your tailbone, and will normally make them nervous, as they'll assume you're setting something up.

Finally, you can simply grab them around the head and pull them down. Again, this could help you set up various other techniques. It might be that you could start making space for a choke. You might start sneaking under their arm to get an armwrap. It could also be the start of the aforementioned scissor sweep, if you also trap their arm across their body as you pull them down.

Progressive resistance on grips was a chance for people to get used to knowing when to release and re-grip, rather than burning out their fingers. This is an obvious thing, but I've certainly forgotten to do it in the past. Having an iron grip is great, but being able to flow through is even better, as then you don't waste energy.

Normally, I have everyone do four minutes of drilling each, then move into resistance. However, getting the grips didn't take much drilling, so I had them start upping the resistance about every minute. Training like this does put some responsibility on the students, which is interesting: some people make sure to really test out the technique, whereas others start just playing around with stuff they want to work. For example, there were a few people moving from the grips into triangles, or going to take the back.

I could step in and insist people stick with just those grips I showed, but like I've said before, I want to give people a certain element of choice. What I'm offering are suggestions and ideas, rather than an awesome competition-tested game. I'm a noob purple belt who doesn't compete, which means I always feel uncomfortable stating "this is the right way, so don't do it like that." So, having a relatively open approach to drilling works for me: time will tell if it works for people attending the class.

Next, I moved into breaking posture. If you want to maintain closed guard, then you need to stop them setting up their pass. If they try to pass from the knees, the first thing they normally do is put a knee into your tailbone, or somewhere else on your bottom. The easy way to scupper that is to grab onto the gi material by their knee and shift your hips back over to the middle.

That can be very frustrating for the person trying to pass, which is good for distracting them and working an opening to attack. On the downside, it can consume a fair bit of energy, as you might find yourself doing it repeatedly if they're really persistent.

You can also try pulling their elbows out and then towards you. This is particularly handy if they've got both hands on your hips, or something like that. Using your legs is key here, to help you pull them forwards. This is a general point for the guard: make sure you involve your legs, as they're a lot more powerful than your arms alone.

This is also true if they want to stand. Carefully time the right moment, then as they stand, pull your knees towards your chest. That should knock them back onto the ground. It could also put you in a better position than before, as they may end up falling into you, meaning you can get superior control. Ideally, they'll make the mistake of posting on their hands, as that means you can go for various attacks, like the kimura.

Finally, you need to be able to break their grips too. A simple method is to wrap up their wrist, then yank upwards. You could try and add to the power of doing that by raising up slightly with your hips first, then dropping back down with your hips as you pull up with your hands. This is a good set up for moving into the arm-wrap, which I mentioned earlier. There are various attacks from here, which I'll show at a later date. For the moment, try it as a controlling position.

As a general tip, you can also try raising your hips, so that you're closer to their hips. This is something Braulio recommends in the most recent issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, which I've also seen suggested elsewhere (might have been Saulo). I often forget to try this, but it is an option to play with.

Again, everyone did this for four minutes, gradually upping the resistance. This time, there was a slight difference in that I had everybody stay on their knees. Standing changes things, so I wanted people to have an opportunity to focus solely on control from the knees to start with. When we moved on to the three minutes each of progressive resistance, I added standing to pass back in.

The warm-up, demonstration and drilling didn't take so long as usual: I had a good forty minutes of the ninety left to play with. Fortunately, jiu jitsu has an easy solution when you've got more time than you'd expected: sparring. I had everyone line up, then did the Gracie Barra Birmingham method of counting them off 1-2-3. All the 1s then went on their backs, where they stayed for five minutes. The parameters for specific sparring tonight was the person on top wants to pass, whereas the person on the bottom wants to sweep or submit, from closed guard.

I didn't want people to start flying off into many, many variations of open guard, so kept reminding people to keep their legs closed. Of course, that does make things a little awkward if the person on top manages to open your legs and start to pass. I left it to people to use their judgement: you can of course go for the various basic sweeps like the ankle grab or handstand, but the goal should be to recover your closed guard if they've broken it open (given the topic of the lesson).

When the 1s, 2s and 3s had all had a go, there was still time for them to each have another five minute round. This time, it was guard passing, but with the person on top allowed to stand. There were about eight or nine people, which meant the 1-2-3 arrangement worked fairly well this time.

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