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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

05 March 2013

05/03/2013 - GrappleThon Reaches £1500 & Teaching (Open Guard Retention)

Teaching #096
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 05/03/2013

The disturbing revelations surrounding Team Lloyd Irvin have continued to emerge online. It is therefore good to see a statement on the matter from the Jiu Jitsu Style editor, here, particularly given the response of a certain other BJJ magazine editor. In another positive note, the GrappleThon 2013 total continues to rise: we're almost at £1500 now, which is pretty good after only a month. If you'd like to help us reach our £3500 target, please donate here (donations work from anywhere in the world, so dollars, yen, Euros etc are all fine ;D).


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 the 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. There are little tricks you can use here, like sitting on their foot.

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. Finally, you can also use your arms to break their grips on your trousers: wrap an arm behind their gripping wrist and kick your leg between their legs. Make sure you are kicking straight on: if you kick off to one side, that may set up their pass as you'll be moving sideways.

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 think sticking with a minute each for the drills at the start works ok. I'm not so certain about how to bring in the technical portion, as it's a load of basic pointers rather than a specific technique. John's theoretical framework could be of use here once again, so I might start off with that, like I did with side control.

On a more selfish note, I'd quite like to get in more sparring myself. I've currently been using the method of lining people up in two rows, with one row staying in place, the other moving to their left after each round. I thought that would be simple, but it still got mixed up somehow (I think just one person got confused, but that's enough to knock it out of whack).

So, I will try shifting back to the counting people off method, with everybody being either 1 or 2. Then I can say "1s on your back, stay there, while 2s cycle through". That will give me a chance to join in if it's even numbers. If it is odd numbers, I can do the other method, taking one of the spots.

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