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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

20 December 2012

20/12/2012 - Teaching (Drills for Maintaining Open Guard)

Teaching #083
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 20/12/2012

The next fortnight is guard, which tends to be the GB Bristol lesson category with the greatest freedom in terms of content. As this is the last class I teach before xmas, I wanted to go with something fun: I reckon my open guard maintenance class is probably the most fun out of the ones I teach, so went with that. Or at least I find it fun. ;p

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 I've taught a few times now. 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. 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 more sparring than usual, as I think the method I learned from Kev is really useful for maintaining open guard. 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 about to fall on your face!). 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.


Teaching Notes: I finally got round to buying a cheap digital timer, which means I can get more involved in the sparring side of things because I don't have to look at the clock all the time. However, I probably shouldn't have gotten quite as involved this time, as my injury was complaining a bit the next day. I can just about move around on the ground, but it is hard to do any kind of sweep or lock in submissions from the guard. On top it is much less of a problem, so next time I should just stick with passing and top positions.

There wasn't much technique tonight, as it was all about drilling. I remembered to emphasise that you want to get your feet inside the legs rather than outside when you swing back to guard, but that's about the only change I made from last time. I also did a quick review at the end again. I'm not sure if it is better to do that right at the end or just before the stretching: I'll have to check with the students to see what is better for their technique retention.

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