Artemis BJJ (Impact Gym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/08/2014
Using your legs is key in closed guard, and perhaps even more so with open guard, our new Position of the Month at Artemis BJJ. 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.
In open guard, 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 also little tricks you can use here, like sitting on their foot.
If they're standing, then grabbing behind their foot is the main grip you'll look for with your hand. 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 (unless you don't have a gi, in which case you're stuck with grabbing the heel). 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.
Kev has a great tweak on grabbing with the heel, where you pull that heel into your hip. That makes it harder for them to do the classic escape of kicking their foot out in a circle to break your hold. Even better, try to pull the foot off the floor slightly as you clamp it to your hip. That will unbalance them, setting you up perfectly for the tripod/sickle sweep combination (which I cover in another lesson I'll be teaching next week).
If they're 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.
I finished with those sparring drills again, learned from Kev: they're 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 (or behind your back if you don't have a 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.
After teaching, it was straight into the open mat.
Teaching Notes: This is the first time I've taught a nogi class, but that didn't really impact the way I generally teach this particular lesson. The only difference was that I didn't talk about collar and sleeve grips. I've been cutting down the amount of technique chatting I do each time I've taught this: now it's down to talking about feet pushing and pulling along with some details on grabbing their heel. I think that's worth emphasising especially in nogi, noting that to stop them kicking out of the grip, you can sit on their foot. There's also the Kev method of pushing them back, so you can pull the heel up and against your hip.
I also had enough people in class that I could do the double line method for sparring, where you step to your left while the other line stays in place. Seemed to go well. Also on the plus side, nogi means I can wear ridiculous training gear. Next week, I'll be rocking the new rashie from Scramble/DSTRYR. ;)
So, the bits I didn't include this time around:
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.
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.