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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

25 January 2016

25/01/2016 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Kneeling Break & Single Underhook Pass

Teaching #455
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 25/01/2016

There are three main ways of opening the guard. The most reliable is standing up, bringing gravity to bear on them, though this has the disadvantage of leaving you more vulnerable to sweeps. The most risky is baiting a submission to get them to open, as that obviously puts you in danger of getting caught if you're not careful. Finally, you can open the guard from the knees, which has the advantage of using less energy and leaving you with good base, but it does keep you in the 'submission zone'.

That last one is what I wanted to cover today. The basic method of opening from the knees starts by setting up your grips, grabbing both collars with one hand, by their chest, your other hand by their hip. Dónal has a handy tip about twisting up those two collars, rolling them over each other so that there is no slack when you grip, though that may sometimes be tough to secure.

Also try to jam your palm or fist into their sternum to lock it in place. Regarding your hand on the hip, measure your gripping position by bringing your elbow back to their knee. Once your elbow gets to their knee, grab whatever trouser material is then under your hand, pressing your weight through that hand into the mat to try and pin their hips.

A photo posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on

From there, you want to get your knees into a right angle. Up until now I've always put the knee under the bum cheek first, then slid the other knee out to the side. However, Jason Scully recommends sliding the knee out first, also turning to face that knee (he finds that gives him improved balance. That has the additional advantage of driving your hip into their feet, which is a little easier to use as a 'prod' compared to your lower back. Try both versions.

Either way, you're now making a right angle with your two knees. With the orthodox version, still keeping your back curved, slowly wriggle backwards, shifting your sideways knee back and continuing to wriggle until you can pop open their ankles. As soon as you do, immediately shove their leg to the mat with your elbow and/or hand, then begin your pass. Note that putting the knee underneath the bum first is also common: Jason Scully recommends sliding the knee out first, then knee under the bum, due to superior balance.

Saulo's version is different again, as per that earlier picture. Rather than keeping his sliding knee on the floor, he bases on that leg and stretches it out. He can then use a sort of dip rather than relying on scooting back, more in keeping with Scully's version. As ever in jiu jitsu, there are numerous variations: you can reach your destination following a multitude of paths.

The first guard pass most people learn is the single underhook, sometimes known as a smash pass (although confusingly, there is also a completely different pass you might see called the 'smash pass'. The joys of BJJ's non-standardised terminology). After you've opened their guard (this can also work off a failed armbar or triangle attempt on their part), you need to get one of your arms under their leg. Your other elbow – and this is absolutely key – must not slip in front of their other knee. If it does, then you're at risk of being triangled: they simply need to pull the arm forwards to move into a triangle set up, as your first arm is already out of the picture.

You don't want to leave that first arm under their leg, as unless you're much bigger, their leg is always going to be able to outpower your arm. Therefore you need to get their leg up onto your shoulder, either bumping it up with your arm, or dropping down to put your shoulder in place behind their knee. At that point, drive forward so that you're shoving their knee into their face. When you've got them stacked, reach your stacking side arm around their leg and grab their collar. I tend to go four fingers in, but a thumb in grip sets you up for a simple (if somewhat crappy, so it's mainly for distraction) forearm choke. You can also try grabbing their opposite shoulder.

Establish a wide base with your feet, pushing off your toes. As is generally the case with jiu jitsu, stay off your knees. Otherwise, you're transferring the pressure into the floor rather than into your partner. Keep on driving forward, turning the shoulder you have behind the leg downwards. Combined with your forwards pressure, that should slide their leg out of the way.

Although it's tempting, try to avoid lifting your head to get past their legs, as that could provide them with space. Instead, you want to rely on your weight and pressure, finishing with that slight shift of your shoulder. To further enhance your stack, you can grab the back of their trousers, or alternatively put your other knee there as a wedge.

Teaching Notes: This is the main basic guard break I know from kneeling. However, it is tough to get with resistance, so I have been considering if there are higher percentage alternatives. The one I've been trying is what Scully calls 'eat the belt', though I always end up grabbing the top of the trousers instead as the belt moves too much. If I stick with the classic one, I should also try the hip variation too next time, see if that helps. It would also be worth emphasising that you can shifting your arms further down as you move back, so you don't end up stretched out. I haven't spoken about baiting a submission to open the closed guard for a while. It's worth a mention, though a risky strategy so not one I generally recommend.

The pass is straightforward, though people do sometimes have trouble getting their legs out wide and really driving through that shoulder. Bum in the air and legs wide seems to help: I'll keep on emphasising that. Also, as a note to myself, I must remember to check my notes and videos from Oli's class in Leuven about this pass before I next teach it. ;)

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