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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

01 June 2015

01/06/2015 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Grips & Breaking Posture

Teaching #330
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 01/06/2015

To attack the closed guard, you are generally going to have to break down your opponent's posture first. That begins from your positioning in the closed guard. Bring your hips up into them to take away space, making it harder for them to start opening your guard. Keep your knees up into their armpits if possible, walking your legs up their back when you can. Your legs are much stronger than your arms: make sure you're using both to break their posture.

If they have managed to get their hands on you, 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. If they have one elbow digging back into your leg and you can't pull it back with one hand, reach across with both, then yank that elbow back. This could have the added advantage of enabling you to pull that arm to the other side of your body, very useful for attacking.

The same applies if they want to stand. Carefully time the right moment, then as soon as you feel their bum rise away from their heels, 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. As Jason Scully advises, you don't have to just pull straight towards you: twisting can knock them right into an omoplata, or at worst help you to start creating angles.

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.

Together with your legs, you'll also want to bring your arms into play. 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.

Scully suggests grabbing their same side collar with both of your hands, then pulling down hard. You can then move into the deep grip. Scully also emphasises the importance of connecting your elbow to them as soon as possible, as well as cutting your arm into their neck. If you can combine it with a cross-sleeve grip, even better, as then you may be able to pass their arm across your body, perfect for armbars and back takes.

Another handy grip you can establish from there is a collar and elbow grip. There are various attacks you can do with that, 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.

Yet another option 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.

Finally, consider adding in overhooks and underhooks, especially in nogi. If you can reach your same side hand under their armpit and around their back, you can lock it to your other hand to clamp in tight on the shoulder. That presents you with opportunities for pressing armbars and omoplatas, or butterfly sweeps if you move into open guard from there.

Teaching Notes: I've had issues with closed guard for a long time now, so I was looking forward to getting to this month, as that means I can really focus in and try to explore why I have those issues. I'm also keen to make these lessons immediately useful. A number of times I've wondered if it helps have a whole lesson on grips and posture, but for the moment I'm going to persevere.

Watching a Jason Scully video about closed guard concepts (from The Grapplers Guide, one of the earliest online instructional sites and still going strong), I was reminded of how jnp's control point framework could apply to all positions. Normally I think about it mainly as a side control and mount thing, but looking at what Scully was showing, I can see it as a closed guard thing too.

In the video, Scully talks about posture control and head control, familiar to most people, but also emphasises arm control. He talks about angles too, something I was trying to do more last time we did closed guard month. From a control point perspective, adding in that arm control as a key detail would seem to fit with the primary control triangle of the head and shoulders. Previously I've been focusing a lot on the head, which is helpful, but leaves the shoulders free.

Adding in underhooks and overhooks enables you to start getting the shoulder control points too. Like one of the Artemis BJJ students said a while ago, the shoulder clamp grip is kinda like the 'superhold' from on top of side control. Same idea, get control of the head and the shoulder if possible. I didn't talk about this as much as I wanted to: as often happens with the grips and posture lesson, it didn't feel as cohesive as I wanted.

I did remember to talk about what Scully calls 'active legs', getting them up higher on the back rather than just flopping on their hips. Hopefully that means you rely less on arm strength: I often end up with a sore right arm after playing guard, as I clearly rely on it too much. It particularly gets sore right above the elbow, which must be where I'm tensing too much when holding somebody in guard.

There's also the importance of continuously attacking, which in the context of this lesson would be going after their posture. I was also trying to keep in mind what submissions would be ideal to flow into: the deep Relson choke makes sense, perhaps the sit-up sweep sequence too. I think I'll go with the sit-up sweep on Wednesday, with a kimura on Friday, then onto the classic armbar-triangle-omoplata series next week.

I could show a lot of grips in this lesson, but stuck to the deep collar grip (adding Scully's suggestion, similar to Will, about grabbing the same side collar with both hands to pull them down), then the shoulder clamp. That seemed to fit well with flaring their elbows out and pulling them in. Though I am wondering if perhaps I should merge aspects of this lesson into other lessons on attacks. E.g., break the posture, shoulder clamp, pressing armbar. That might be too much though.

Another option would be turning the posture breaking elements into a warm-up drill. I tried that in this lesson, with pulling in the knees as they try to raise up. I think I could do more on that, maybe even sprinkle the whole of the posture and grips lesson through the warm ups this month. Something I'll play with over the rest of June.

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