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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

04 January 2016

04/01/2016 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Breaking Posture & Sit-Up Sweep

Teaching #443
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 04/01/2016

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 on grips, 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.

BJJ Bristol Artemis Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Side ControlPersonally the sit-up sweep (also often know as the hip bump) has been my highest percentage sweep from closed guard. It also fits well with the discussion on posture I've taught previously, because the reaction you'll get when you try to break somebody's posture is often that they will lean back. That's a perfect time to go for the sit-up sweep. Handily, it also makes for a classic offensive combination with the kimura and guillotine, which I'll show in future lessons.

Come up on your elbow, then open your guard, keeping your legs squeezed. Your other arm reaches over their opposite shoulder. Keep moving diagonally, progressing from basing on your elbow to your hand. This also makes it easier to lift your hips. Your second base point is your foot, on the opposite side to your basing hand. Your remaining knee is on the ground: you'll be pivoting around that. Use the two base points of your hand and foot to stay close to your partner, smacking them with your basing leg side hip. Keep swivelling, reaching further with your shoulder-arm to grab their triceps. If they try to put that hand behind them, you can pull back with your triceps-hand.

You're essentially swivelling on the spot around your knee. This should cause them to fall off balance. As you move on top, twist your upper body so that you're effectively doing a take down. Ideally, you'll end up directly into mount. Even if this doesn't work because they're resisting so much and knock you back, you should be able to follow up with a kimura or guillotine.

Teaching & Sparring Notes: I think the sweep went ok. I can remember Donal showing a combination with the windscreen wiper, which would be worth reviewing next time. That handily means you have a grip on their sleeve, lending itself to various attacks. Which brings me to sparring. I keep not controlling that arm properly before trying at sweeps, which unsurprisingly means they can base and stop the motion. I also didn't lock in the shoulder clamp right, as they were able to pull their arm out (I did try the forearm clasp, but possibly too late). My back take attempts were poor. I had the arm across, I had a grip around the back secured under the armpit, so should have managed to finish that.

On the plus side, passing went comparatively well. I went for the 'eat the belt' pass and eventually got it, though grabbing the trousers is definitely superior. With the belt there is just too much room. I sort of managed the Sao Paulo pass variation Margarida shows on his DVD, though only against a less experienced partner. When I tried it on someone who had been training longer, I couldn't get my base right, they were able to easily knock me off balance (I still managed to stay in position, but with a blue or higher, I'm sure I would have been in trouble with that posture).


  1. Can, yesterday (06/01) we did a drill related to the sit up sweep, where from closed gaurd we do the sit up, reach over and hip bump, back down and then do the same the other side.

    I'm not sure that drill was used in this lesson? (04/01) but I wanted to say that for me it was a really effective drill and had I done that as the first thing in regards to learning the sweep I probably wouldn't have found such difficulty in getting up on my hand and leg, haha!

    Plus that drill was an obscene abs work out, like extreme sit ups!

    1. Ha, yeah, it's a good work out! ;)

      And thanks for the feedback, that's very useful. I ran out of time to fit in more drills on the 4th (I wanted to make sure there was lots of gripping and posture breaking stuff), but I'll make a point of including it next time I teach the sit-up sweep if it helped learn the technique. :D