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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a purple belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

01 July 2015

01/07/2015 - Teaching | Open Guard | Maintaining

Teaching #348
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 01/07/2015

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.

For teaching, I decided to use an extended metaphor, as if jiu jitsu was an ancient battlefield where you are facing a cavalry charge. The best way to defeat a cavalry charge is with polearms, like a spear. Stab that at their hips, knees shoulders, stomach, arms, whatever makes for a good point of purchase. Or perhaps you have a different polearm, like a billhook, so you can also pull your attacker off their horse (i.e., pull against the back of their knees to affect their balance).

If they get past your spears, you'll need to pull out something shorter range. You could also bring your shield to bear at this point, which in this context is your knee and shin. Push that against their stomach, shoulders, arms etc to prevent them driving forward. That should give you enough space to draw your sword. You might have a straight stabbing sword, stiff-arming into their hips, shoulders and collar. Perhaps you also have a curved sword, slicing and swinging (in our BJJ context, that's grabbing the collar and pulling). But that curved sword/bent arm is no good for stabbing: if you're going to use a straight sword/stiff arm, if needs to stay straight to be effective.

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Or to put it another way without metaphors, 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.
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Teaching Notes: It was fun to go with the metaphor and I think it helps, as lots of people were laughing and smiling. I'm not sure how effective it is at getting the principles to stick, but we'll see over the course of this month. I may or may not try it again, depending on feedback. I didn't talk about grips so much as normal, but I think I can bring that in with the sweeps. Again, I'll see how it goes. Either way, I felt a lot less vague with the structure, thanks to my ridiculous military metaphors. Silly, but helped order everything in my head. ;)

In specific sparring, I did lots of bullfighter passing on top. Steve did a good job of blocking my hip. I tried to collapse his arm with my knee, which didn't work too well. Then I grabbed the back of trousers and rolled him over, but his defence was solid again, successfully getting his knee in the way before I could scamper round and establish side control. I eventually managed it, but be careful: elbowed him in the groin on the way!

Underneath it was back to sitting guard. That feels a little bit rusty, as I didn't hit the ankle pick when Ross moved backwards, but I was able to switch into tripod and land that instead. I came up a little slow, but was able to pass by quickly scrambling to north south and keep out of range of his legs. It will be good to work more on the sitting guard again this month. I'll be focusing on the loop choke and collar drag, as I've never felt comfortable with either of those.

Seeing as I again forgot to look at them, here's Cane Prevost's video of open guard drills I wanted to watch last time:



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