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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

17 January 2013

17/01/2013 - Teaching (Passing Knee Shield Half Guard/Z-Guard)

Teaching #087
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 17/01/2013

Geeza has shifted the teaching schedule around for this year, so that it is not in two week chunks anymore. Instead, we have one week sections, but each fortnight will still be related: i.e., top side control followed by bottom side control. This week works out as still being passing guard, so I could continue my half guard passing series. Next week will return me to my favourite teaching topic, escaping side control: I'll also be teaching more than usual as I'm covering some classes, so that should be interesting.

Tonight I'm continuing with half guard. As mentioned earlier this week in Dónal's class, one of the most frustrating obstacles when passing the half guard is encountering a knee shield, also known as z-guard or shin guard. I didn't want to simply re-teach Dónal's class (I'd completely forgotten this, but it turns out I've learned that technique before, at Roy Dean's first UK seminar), so instead I started with an attempt to look at passing the knee shield conceptually.

I wanted to emphasise the control points (worth noting here that John's excellent theoretical framework for control in BJJ applies here too) and movements that are key to the two passes I wanted to share, as well as the technique we learned on Tuesday. First off, if their knee shield is high on your chest, it will be more difficult to push down. You can try shoving it down with your hands, but that not only exposes you to potential attack, it gives them a chance to move away and you might lose your passing opportunity. Try to use your bodyweight if possible.

You then need to make sure they can't move their hips. Dónal did that by driving his trapped knee through, into their hip. You can also accomplish it by pinning either their lower or upper leg some other way, which we'll be covering. You also want to block their upper body: Dónal flattened them onto their back, but there are alternatives, such as pinning them in place. Finally, you need to get used to sliding over and past their upper leg while still maintaining maximum downwards pressure.

As ever with Operation Tattered Belt, my first technique comes from Saulo's book. On p219, Saulo has an option for what he calls 'open half guard', which in this instance is the same as knee shield. To pass the knee shield, Saulo (or rather his brother Xande) demonstrates the importance of switching your hips. Staying close, sprawl back, also grabbing their lower knee with your same side hand, while the other wraps around their back. This performs a similar function to driving the knee through like on Tuesday, as it blocks them from easily moving their legs and by extension their hips.

Base your free leg out and stretching your trapped leg back. Switch your hips, so that you're driving your hips downwards into their blocking knee. When you've made good progress on driving that knee to the mat, slide your previously trapped leg over theirs, then move around to side control, continuing to keep the pressure on. As soon as you get past their knee, you might find it helpful to then shift your hips backwards into their knee to clear the way for side control.

Jason Scully demonstrates some other options in what he calls the staple pass. Rather than controlling their upper body by flattening them like Donal or simply staying close like Saulo's book, Scully puts his head down onto the mat by their armpit. His far arm has the elbow close to the mat, which is similar to Saulo's version, although Scully notes you can reach for an underhook. Also like Saulo, he takes hold of the lower knee with his hand to stop them moving: this accomplishes a similar result to Dónal driving his knee across into their hip.

The 'staple' part is a little different. Similar to how you can circle back with your leg to add a brace for the half guard smash pass from a few weeks ago, to beat the knee shield you can circle your leg back to brace against the lower part of their bottom leg, in order to hold it in place. Cut your other knee across, basing the bracing leg out and stepping it forward. From here, it is possible to continue through and pass like Saulo.

However, Scully's version involves a change of direction. Shift your grip to their top knee, clamping that to the mat. Use that, your other arm and your head for base, then hop your legs over to the other side, establishing side control. It is much the same motion as in Kev's xmas guard passing drills last month.


Teaching Notes: I have had the pleasure of learning BJJ from two excellent instructors called Kev. Normally I'm referring to Kev Capel at RGA Bucks, but today I'll be referring to Kevin Webb, who taught me a few times when I was briefly at Gracie Barra Birmingham. Back in April 2010, Kev Webb demonstrated some half guard passing when they have a knee shield in place. I was thinking about it teaching it, but from my notes I'm not totally sure I can remember enough to do a good job, and it also looks as though it may involve too much jerking of the leg to be safe for my groin injury. Still, I remember it being a great class, so it's something I'd like to play around with once my injury is sorted.

I considered a few other variations too, like a simple one where you simply shifted your hips around and turned towards their legs, but plumped for the two that seemed to fit together. If it wasn't for Operation Tattered Belt, I'm not sure I would teach the version from Saulo's book, as I find people often get caught on that trailing leg. Stapling it seems more effective, or at least easier to understand.

Having said that, I did notice that at various points students had trouble reaching back with their leg. The key seems to be sprawling back onto the bottom person's leg, shifting across to make sure that your leg is folding theirs over. If they have enough room to stick their leg straight up, it may be difficult to snag it with your own leg, as they can stick their leg quite high and close to your butt. That makes it very hard to catch with your leg, but should also make it vulnerable to sprawling backwards on top of it.

Next time, I'll definitely emphasise the sprawl more when teaching. I kept mentioning staying on your toes, which is another point, but should also emphasise jamming that bottom leg into the mat with your grip. That makes a big difference. Pushing with your trapped knee, as in Dónal's pass, is something else I could mention during the teaching. Still, I need to maintain a balance between useful information and overloading people.

With the review at the end, I'm currently facing away and moving through the move on my own, shouting out the instructions. It would be better if I could get to a stage where I don't need to run through it myself, and can instead just run everybody else through the instructions. I'll have to reverse right and left in my head, but apart from that it shouldn't be too hard to institute.

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