Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/10/2013
Passing the closed guard is something I've always found difficult, so I'm particularly keen to break down the methods in order to make it easier for everyone else. That will in turn hopefully help me as well. Working out exactly what to teach takes some thought, as there is a lot to cover, even at the basic level of how to initiate your attempts to open the guard.
First thing I wanted to cover was posture. Stay upright, with your head up. Curving your back slightly can help too. Don't let them bend your arms: keep at least one of them stiff into their hip. It is very important to control their hips, as they need to angle off to attack effectively. Your other hand is ready to push them down if they attempt to raise their torso towards you, or more typically, gripping both collars and keeping their back on the mat.
Another option is to grab their belt instead, but be warned that can come undone, automatically removing your grip. Whichever one you use, if possible, jam your collar gripping hand just under their sternum, to wedge it in place. You can either use the heel of your hand or possibly a fist, depending on how you're gripping their gi.
For a strong base, widen your knees, sitting on your heels. Alternatively, you could try squeezing your knees to their hips to stop them moving, but that will result in a less sturdy base. Make sure you do not put your elbows on the outside of their legs: keep them inside, or they can start kicking up into your armpit for triangles, armbars, flower sweeps etc.
A key detail is to come up on your toes. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but it provides you with much better base than having your insteps flat on the floor. With your toes up, you can resist their attempts to pull your around. It also enables you to drive forward and improves your mobility.
Another way they'll be looking to disrupt your base is to angle their hips away. To prevent that, you can simply follow them, making sure you keep squaring back up so they don't have that attacking angle anymore. You could also try caging their hips by squeezing your knees together, but that can result in a less stable base.
In order to attack, they are going to want to disrupt your base and break your posture down. The first way they'll probably do that is to establish a strong grip, on your sleeve and collar. You don't want that, so try to strip any grips before beginning your pass. Not to say that it's impossible to pass if they've got grips, but you'll find it easier if they don't.
If they grab your collar, use both of your hands to grab either side of that sleeve or wrist. Push it forcefully away from you, while simultaneously leaning back slightly. If you remember the grip break from the maintaining closed guard lesson I taught a while back, this is a similar principle, but from the opposite position. Another option is to put both your hands on their gripping arm, trapping it to their torso. Posture up forcefully to break the grip.
If they get a grip on your sleeve, then grab their sleeve with your free hand. To break the grip, yank your trapped hand back as your gripping hand drives forward. TrumpetDan has a good video on this, here. I don't generally recommend YouTube, but he is one of the better teachers on there. A simpler option is to circle your hand either inside or outside of their arm, then chop downwards to break the grip: there is a good explanation of that in Beneville's excellent Passing the Guard.
Should they get a hold of the material by your knee, you can use a similar grip break. Grab their gripping wrist with your same side arm and press it to the mat, then kick your trapped leg back. Ideally, as with the previous grip break, this will now give you control of their arm, which you can immediately use to initiate your pass.
There is also a one-handed grip break you can try, which Xande showed recently: he calls it the 'y grip break'. This has some similarities to circling your hand, but this time you circle it underneath their hand, shoving the 'v' between your thumb and index finger into the heel of their hand. Thrust your arm forward forcefully to free your sleeve. You might also be able to use your hand position to grab their wrist, putting you in control and negating their own grip.
Finally, I finished off with the kneeling guard break, building on the private from a while ago. There are three main ways of opening the guard. The most reliable is standing up, bringing gravity to bear on them, though this has the disadvantage of leaving you more vulnerable to sweeps. The most risky is baiting a submissions to get them to open, as that obviously puts you in danger of getting caught if you're not careful. Finally, you can open the guard from the knees, which has the advantage of using less energy and leaving you with good base, but it does keep you in the 'submission zone'.
That last one is what I wanted to cover today. The basic method of opening from the knees starts by setting up your grips, grabbing both collars with one hand, by their chest, your other hand by their hip. Saulo's version, as per that earlier picture, has the knee off to the side with the leg stretched out, using a sort of dip rather than relying on scooting back.
Dónal has a handy tip about twisting up their collars, rolling them over each other so that there is no slack when you grip, though that may sometimes be tough to secure. Also try to jam your palm or fist into their sternum to lock it in place. Regarding your hand on the hip, measure your gripping position by bringing your elbow back to their knee, then grabbing whatever material is then under your hand.
From there, get your knee underneath their butt cheek, meaning they are raised up onto your leg. Your other knee slides out to the side, so you're now making a right angle with your two knees (this differs from Saulo's version: your leg stays on the ground, not raised up). Still keeping your back curved, slowly wriggle backwards, shifting your sideways knee and continuing to wriggle until you can pop open their ankles. As soon as you do, immediately shove their leg to the mat with your elbow and/or hand, then begin your pass.
Teaching Notes: I'll see what feedback is like in regards to the amount of content, but I think this is getting towards being a useful lesson. I could easily teach the guard break and pass as a separate lesson, but judging by the feedback I had last time, it feels like the guard break is a useful thing to add in after the details on posture and grips.
A number of people were stepping their leg up and back for the guard break, which is how Saulo demonstrates it (as per the picture). That works too, but I personally have had more success with Dónal's method, as that feels more stable. To explain it during my John Will style review at the end wasn't as simple as I'd thought, given that a lot of people were still lifting their leg. I eventually just went to the front so they could see me: I could do that all the time, but at the moment I think it's more helpful if I'm facing the same way but also able to see them, which tends to mean I'm sat behind them. Then again, as they're all facing the same way, if I'm in front of them and running through it, they should be able to both see me and follow along with my words. Something I'll try next time.