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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

07 May 2014

07/05/2014 - Teaching (Grips & Breaking Posture in Closed Guard)

Teaching #150
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 07/05/2014

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 start to lift up, 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:


Teaching Notes: I'm still not completely certain about this class, as I don't feel the structure is quite there yet. I remember most of what I wanted to teach, although I didn't go into detail on the Akins hip shift sweep, which might have been useful. Interestingly, I had an immediate opportunity to use the combat base counter Josh showed me last weekend in Florida, as Chris was asking about what to do against combat base.

The answer (or rather, one possible answer) is to simply shrimp out a bit, hook their ankle with your outside foot, then pull it outwards while also using your collar grip to pull them down. That can help you move right into a submission. I'd like to do more work on the deep collar grip, as I'm keen to get better at sequences from there (e.g., choke attempt, then collar drag, reversing into a sort of collar-based sit-up sweep if they resist, along with the loop choke option when it presents itself). The downside is that requires a gi, which is fine for me, but not everyone in the club has a gi yet.

Fortunately the Bristol Sports Centre location tends to be pretty good on having people attend wearing a gi, so if I do teach it, best for me to do it there. I also upped the number of BJJ specific drills in the warm-up. I may have gone on too long with that, but I'll review as time goes by.


  1. Totally doesn't require a Gi to do that combat base hook, btw. The rest of the sequence with all of the collar shenanigans does, but the shin pop you just need triceps control on the combat base side so that your opponent can't immediately base, or head control on the non-combat base side.

    1. Cool, although it should be less of a problem soon either way, as most of the beginners are now looking to pick up a gi. There's also a new nogi class on Saturday (which I will probably never go to), which should provide an outlet for anyone who really isn't keen on gi. :)