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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

30 November 2013

30/11/2013 - Private with Kev (Closed & Open Guard)

Class #538 - Private #017
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK - 30/11/2013

I've taken a private lesson with Kev before, three years ago. Since I started training at the Wycombe branch in 2009, RGA Bucks has remained a home base for me, even though I have moved to various bits of the country in the ensuing years. Kev is still the black belt overseeing my rank, which also hasn't changed since 2009.

I wasn't making it back as often as I'd like in 2012 and 2013, so I decided in October this year that I was going to get down to RGA Bucks more regularly. I can combine that with visiting my parents in Aylesbury for birthdays, which I try to set aside for family time. I've got two nieces with a third on the way, so in addition to the rest of my immediate family that makes for eight birthdays a year plus xmas. So, at worst that should average out to a trip to the RGA Bucks mats about every two months.

A long-distance instructor/student relationship isn't all that common in BJJ, but with regular contact I think it can work. For the first of what should be many private lessons over the next few years, Kev and I started off by talking about where I'm at in my jiu jitsu game, as well as how things went in sparring during the preceding lesson. As any reader of this blog will know, I am an inveterate self-analyser, so I've got a reasonable idea of my weak areas. That means it's extremely useful to run through them with a black belt (especially a black belt close to my size who also happens to be a very good teacher, like Kev).

The main problem I've always had is my passivity, which in large part is down to my personality. What I need to start doing more is 'pulling the trigger' on techniques, rather than getting stuck thinking about the ten different options from that position, or going for it but then backing off when it doesn't seem to be as immediately effective as I'd hoped. That old "if you think, you're late" Saulo quote is relevant, so although I'm wary of anything that implies thinking is ever negative, I do need to try and be more streamlined in my reactions.

Kev went through a number of principles and technical tweaks that would help me with that, focusing on one of the biggest gaps in my jiu jitsu: an effective offence from open guard. Most of the time, I use open guard to simply keep people at bay, but as I just stay defensive, it becomes a matter of when rather than if they pass. I can manage to tie people up in spider guard for a while, pushing against their hips, but rarely move into any sweeps or attacks.

Similar to how I worked with Donal on improving what I already know and use, the main attack from open guard remains the tripod to sickle sweep combination. Kev suggested that I should be approaching open guard from an upright starting position, basing behind with one arm. That's more mobile and also less vulnerable than lying on your back with your feet flailing at them. From that seated position, grab their collar with one arm.

If you do the collar grip, be aware that there is a potential attack they can do here, if you're not careful. By basing on the floor with an arm, they can jump up into a armbar on your outstretched arm. Kev noted that Dan Strauss is a big fan of that. If you see them base on the floor with an arm when you have the collar grip, be prepared (e.g., elbow back, shift the grip, go for your attack, etc).

Presuming you aren't getting flying armbarred, with that collar grip, you can do a collar drag and take the back. You can also use it to swing in for their ankle with your other hand. That sets you up for either an ankle pick (a bit like last month at RGA Bucks), or moving into the tripod sweep. Interestingly, Kev advocates the heel grip, not the trouser grip. This isn't loose though: pull that heel up onto your hip, which both puts them off balance and makes it harder for them to kick free.

Particularly if they are futher away, you also want to follow the Roy Harris advice (Kev pointed to Michael Langhi, who says the same thing) about always keeping your feet on your opponent: that could be hooking behind their knees or leg, pushing on the hip, the chest, the biceps or their shoulder. To counter a leg drag and certain other passes, push off their opposite shoulder with your foot.

If you mess up and they get further along, there are two options Kev noted. The first one is when they drop their weight onto you. Shove their hand towards your legs (to prevent them turning towards your head and securing a cross face), bringing your other arm around their hip. From there, you can roll them over.

The second one was something Kev said he's been having a lot of success with. He calls it the nappy grip, which is an odd name but makes perfect sense when you see it. I've been told that the same grip is used in a number of guards, such as what gets called 'lapel guard' (specifically the grip switch Keenan does here at 01:18 or so). Kev also mentioned it has been used by Bernardo Faria at the highest level (some people apparently refer to it as the 'Faria grip', which would make sense).

As there doesn't seem to be a widely used standard term, I think I'll use mawashi grip: that's the thing sumo wrestlers wear and should help me remember what it looks like. The position reminds me of the de la Riva sweep position I learned at Gracie Barra Birmingham back in 2010, where you feed their sleeve between their legs to your other hand, then knock them over. If you can't get their hand, you can use their belt or lapel, which is what Kev does for this grip.

However, he takes it a step further. You've pushed their belt or lapel past their leg, then fed that to your other hand, which is reaching around the outside. You're then going to switch grips around, bringing your first hand around the outside and re-gripping. This clamps the lapel or belt tightly around their leg and bum, hence the name. It's the same kind of grip as the Roy Dean/brabo/lapel from closed guard, taught to me by Donal a few months ago.

Once you have that grip, you can then grab their hip and sweep if they put their weight on you like the earlier technique. If they don't have their weight on you, it's possible to move around and sort of old school sweep them. It also makes it very hard for them to push the knee through for a knee slide. I found that last time I visited RGA Bucks in October, as Kev did it to me repeatedly. The defence is to do a crescent kick, TKD style, as soon as they get that belt grip (be careful you don't smack them in the face, though).

In this private lesson, we had a brief spar at the start and end to first work out some weak areas and then to shore them up: again, Kev used that mawashi/nappy grip to great effect. The same principle can work in side control, like Roy Dean shows, as well as when passing, especially passing butterfly guard. When there is any clearance under their back, pull their gi lapel under their body, then do the same outside switch grip.

Donal's closed guard grip functions well too, of course. Kev has a tweak on that closed guard option, as he grips the same way, but deeper, securing his final grip by the armpit, not the neck. That also leads into the final bit of this write-up, where again it is something I've already been working on for a while now (Kev's lesson kept perfectly addressing those questions I've been raising with myself over the last year or two, possibly longer).

The general principle is that if your open guard isn't that strong, then why open your closed guard in the first place? Another way of putting it (I'm not sure who first said this: might have been Carlson?) is that they should be have to struggle to open your closed guard, don't give it to them. Either way, I have wanted to improve my closed guard for a good while, having taken several privates with Donal for that purpose.

I have been playing with chokes and sweeps. Kev prefers to take the back, an area I have considered but not concentrated on to the same extent. Break the grip on their left side, as most people are weaker there. Drag the arm across, then stiff arm, making sure you stay on top of their wrist rather than letting your grip slip underneath. With your other arm, reach around to their hip or their armpit.

Ideally, you want to be able to rotate them into your back control, relying on leverage rather than force or lots of agile scrambling (again, this builds on something I have already covered with Donal). That combines nicely with what Kev calls the kimura sweep, essentially a variation on the sit up sweep.

When you break their grip and drag their arm across for the back take, they will most likely resist, trying to pull their arm away. At that point, switch to a sit-up sweep, but keep hold of their arm, rather than posting behind for base. Knock into their opposite hip, then pull your gripping hand back to your armpit.

This will mean they can't post, so there is no barrier to knocking them to the mat apart from the knees and posture. That could potentially also fit into the windscreen wiper sweep, unsurprising because Donal's private lesson on that technique combined it with another sit up sweep variation where you grab their sleeve.

All in all a very helpful private: I'm looking forward to trying to implement this into my jiu jitsu. I am not training as much as I would like at the moment, but that should hopefully resolve itself soon, meaning I'll finally be in a long-term position where I can train as much as I'd like in a conducive atmosphere . :)

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