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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

20 August 2013

20/08/2013 - Teaching (Grips & Breaking Posture in Closed Guard)

Teaching #120
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 20/08/2013

I wasn't able to train much last week, as I was visiting friends in Lincolnshire (where I had the chance to look at the beautiful Burghley House: amazing baroque artwork and a cool 'Garden of Surprises', so Burghley refreshingly lives up to its high entrance fee). Getting back on the mats, I began with a discussion of closed guard grips. 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. As Roy Dean discusses in Brown Belt Requirements, an especially deep grip can help your choke as well as give you authoritative control. 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 then suggested double wrist control (emphasising to keep your elbows close to your sides for added leverage), which meant I could 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.

Another grip is to grab their trousers by their knee, the other hand on their sleeve. This again can be useful for sweeps. It also helps to stop them getting a knee into your tailbone, as you can use that grip on the knee to bounce your hips back over their knee. It might also make them nervous, as they'll assume you're setting something up, whether or not you actually are. That’s when they’re liable to make mistakes which you can then exploit to your advantage.

The most basic method of breaking posture is probably 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.

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. Another option is a very simple sweep from Henry Akins, where you just pop your hips over to the opposite side and knock them over.

On the topic of closed guard fundamentals, it is worth taking a look at the video Henry Akins put out recently, here:


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Teaching & Sparring Notes: I tried to include the most basic grips tonight, but I'll be looking for feedback to work out which are the most useful to learn. There are lots more I could add, but it feels as though that's something that could (and has, in the past) be split across multiple lessons. E.g., under and overhooks, which can both be powerful grips.

The other important topic is breaking grips. Again, I didn't cover that as it feels like another lesson. However, as the first thing anyone is going to do when in your closed guard is grab your collar by the chest, I could just include a simple break for that. It leads into a whole other lesson, where you can take the back or go into the overhook guard off the grip break, but I don't need to cover that in the same lesson. I'm not sure I'll bother including the Akins sweep next time, as a number of people had trouble with that, so I could replace it with a basic grip break.

Sparring reminded me, for the millionth time, that my closed guard remains quite poo, both on top and underneath. For the sweeps I'm looking for, I generally need to get a sleeve grip, which isn't always straight forward. I'll be looking to drill some sweep combinations from closed guard at the next study hall, along with closed guard passing and more work on back escape.

I have gotten complacent about passing, because I've gotten used to starting with the guard open. Hence why specific sparring is so useful: it forces you to confront the positions where you're weaker. I still suck at standing up, so I have to make myself stand up again (this is a problem that hasn't gone away in seven years! ;D). On the flip side, it would also be good to get better at passing from the knees, as I like the option of being lazy if it's there.

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