Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 05/01/2015
Using your legs is key in closed guard, and perhaps even more so with open guard. 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.
While your legs are key and your first line of defence, the arms can act as a handy second or even third line of defence should they beat your legs. 'Stiff arming' into their legs, shoulders, arms etc can give you the space you need to recover back to an earlier line of defence. An alternative is to sit up into what is, appropriately, known as 'sitting guard', stiff arming from there. That can open up several sweeps and attacks.
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.
Teaching Notes: So I don't forget for next time, I just (as in, three weeks after I original wrote this post) came across this awesome Cane Prevost video (so happy he's started posting regularly again!), which starts off with those same Kev drills then adds some more. Brilliant stuff and exactly what I need to beef up my open guard warm up drills:
I still don't have this class in a structure I'm entirely happy with. I've trimming it down over the years, but I think I've trimmed it too much. Adding back in the grips and possibly grip breaks would be worth a go next time. I might also try structuring it as a 'your feet are your first line of defence, then your knees, then your arms' type thing, a la the Ryan Hall DVDs I've been watching a lot recently.
Tonight was also a good reminder that I don't know everything (not that I need a reminder: I'm well aware of that ;D). There was a visiting Spanish blue belt in class, who looks to be a fan of the modern competition game, so lots of inverting, spinning and lapel stuff. He was doing a good job of using Keenan Cornelius style worm guard: when another student asked me how best to pass that kind of guard after class, I couldn't offer much advice. Fortunately, the worm guarder in question could, which looked much like this:
It's important for instructors to keep in mind that they don't know it all, and especially not to pretend that they do. Better to say "sorry, I don't know, but I can find out" rather than coming up with a half-arsed answer. Though admittedly it's still galling when you can't offer an answer. Hopefully that blue belt sticks around, as it's really cool to experience a totally different game from what I'm used to. This is exactly why I'm a big fan of an open-door policy: it broadens everyone's horizons. :D