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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

14 July 2011

14/07/2011 - Teaching (Maintaining Open Guard)

Teaching #012
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 14/07/2011

Last week, they managed to open your guard, so now we're going to work on stopping them getting any further. One approach is to develop a strong open guard, so that you can confidently choose the moment to move out of closed guard, rather than being forced to by their passing attempt.

Using your legs is key in closed guard, and perhaps even more so with open guard. To help develop that ability to use the legs, I wanted to start with a great drilling sequence I learned from Kev Capel up at RGA Bucks. The idea is to improve your guard recovery. It begins on your back, while they pass your legs, but only to the level of your knees. Bring your outside foot over and hook inside their nearest leg.

Use that to pull yourself back into position, bringing your other leg through to re-establish a square-on open guard. For the next stage of the drill, they pass to your hip rather than your knee. That requires you to frame your hands against their leg and shrimp out, before recovering guard as before.

Finally, they pass through to knee on belly. Here, you're going to use a running escape motion, which is something I'll be teaching a few months down the line in the context of escaping side control. The motion takes a bit of getting used to. Put your near hand (not far, as there's an armbar risk) on their knee, then turn your hips away, so that your bum is in the air. You then swing your legs over back to guard, as per the screen cap from Jiu Jitsu Revolution 2.

Next up, I wanted to explore grips, just as with closed guard. I began with the legs against standing, or more specifically, the feet. Your feet can be used both for creating distance and for maintaining control. In terms of pushing, the main areas are on the knees, the hips and in the biceps (as you would with spider guard). You can also hook behind the knee with your feet, which is part of many open guard sweeps. Make sure that you always have both your feet on them, rather than the floor.

Gripping with the hands has some similarities to closed guard, as again you're looking to grab their sleeves and collar. If they're standing, then grabbing behind their foot also comes into play. I've heard conflicting reports from black belts on whether it is better to grip the bottom of the trouser leg or the heel, so I'd suggest experimenting with both. Generally speaking, you always want to be grabbing something with at least one of your hands: as with your feet, keep them engaged on your opponent, rather than on the floor.

Obviously you're going to be combining your arms with your legs. A good basic open guard is to grab a sleeve, then use your feet to hook a knee and push into a hip. This will set up a sweep. Another option is to grip their sleeve and same side collar, while pushing into a bicep and hip. That has the advantage of breaking their posture, making it more difficult for them to pass.

Frequently with open guard your opponent will stand up, because it isn't as easy to keep them locked to the floor as in closed guard. However, if they are on their knees, then your own knees come more into play. You can use those for control in a similar way to your feet, again putting them into their biceps and hips, along with areas like their chest and shoulder, depending on their positioning.

Your arms are of particular importance if they are trying to pass. Use them to create a barrier, straight-arming into their bicep, shoulder and/or hip, on the side they want to pass. That pits your skeletal structure against them rather than just your muscle. Drive your knee across for further support, also pushing on their hip to create space to recover guard. You can also push on their head.

I finished with sparring, again based on what I've learned from Kev. As before, the idea is to build up leg movement. To do that, the first round is sparring open guard, but only using your legs: both of your hands are tucked into your belt, whether you're on top or on the bottom (make sure to pull them back out if you're being swept!). That's followed by sparring with legs and one hand, then finally normal open guard sparring, with the proviso that you aren't allowed to close your guard.

If there are any GB Bristol students reading this, I'm off to a wedding up north next Thursday, so I'll be continuing with open guard the Thursday after that. We'll be looking at open guard attacks.


  1. Thanks for the lesson Can, though I've got to say I struggled in this class. I'm definitely weak against standing opponents, possibly because I don't have a clear game plan. If I don't have the right grips/position for the tripod sweep I inevitably get passed via bullfighter. Did take a good lesson from this class: I need to be far more vigilant with grip fighting and strip any grip they get on my trousers with some urgency. Thanks again.

  2. Ah, good point Mike: I didn't talk about stripping trouser grips, which I could done. A simple one is to sit up, wrap an arm behind their gripping hand, then kick out your trapped leg.

    I also find the 'ball' posture useful against standing passers, where you basically bring your knees into your chest and curve your back. The idea is that you can then spin with them as they try to pass. A lasso spider grip is handy too.

    I shoild be training tomorrow, so can show you what I mean then.