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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

22 August 2016

22/08/2016 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Passing Posture & Kneeling Break

Teaching #550
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 22/08/2016

First thing I wanted to cover was posture. Stay upright, with your head up. Curving your back slightly, arching it like a cat (so, convex rather than concave), can help too. Don't let them bend your arms: keep at least one of them stiff into their hip. It is important to control their hips, as they need to angle off to attack effectively (though there are other methods, like Christian Graugart's 'samurai sword' grip, where both arms are near the chest). Your other hand is ready to push them down if they attempt to raise their torso towards you, or more typically, gripping both collars and keeping their back on the mat.

Be aware that you don't want to extend that arm too far or they can break your posture: it's also likely that they will primarily be looking to dislodge your arm and gain control of it, so be ready to disengage and then quickly re-engage the grip. Having said that, there are numerous other ways of posturing up, so it's good to experiment.

A photo posted by Artemis BJJ (@artemisbjj) on


For a strong base, widen your knees, sitting on your heels. Alternatively, you could try squeezing your knees to their hips to stop them moving, but that will result in a less sturdy base. Make sure you do not put your elbows on the outside of their legs: keep them inside, or they can start kicking up into your armpit for triangles, armbars, flower sweeps etc.

A key detail is to come up on your toes. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but it provides you with much better base than having your insteps flat on the floor. With your toes up, you can resist their attempts to pull you around. It also enables you to drive forward and improves your mobility.

Another way they'll be looking to disrupt your base is to angle their hips away. To prevent that, you can simply follow them, making sure you keep squaring back up so they don't have that attacking angle anymore. You could also try caging their hips by squeezing your knees together, but that can result in a less stable base.

In order to attack, they are going to want to disrupt your base and break your posture down. The first way they'll probably do that is to establish a strong grip, on your sleeve and collar. You don't want that, so try to strip any grips before beginning your pass. Not to say that it's impossible to pass if they've got grips, but you'll find it easier if they don't.

If they grab your collar, you can use both of your hands to grab either side of that sleeve or wrist. Push it forcefully away from you, while simultaneously leaning back slightly. Another option is to put both your hands on their gripping arm, trapping it to their torso. Posture up forcefully to break the grip. Alternatively, you could try simply re-establishing your grips on their collar and hip over the top of their arms, meaning you can press your arms into theirs. That way, it's possible to use arm pressure to loosen their grips to the point they become less effective.

The basic method of opening from the knees starts by setting up your own 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.

From there, get your knee underneath their butt cheek, meaning they are slightly raised up onto your leg. Your other knee slides out to the side, so you're now making a right angle with your two knees. 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.

Saulo's version, as per that earlier picture, has the knee off to the side with the leg stretched out, using a sort of dip rather than relying on scooting back. As ever in jiu jitsu, there are numerous variations: you can reach your destination following a multitude of paths.

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Teaching Notes: I have been trying a number of different incarnations for this class. I will give this combination another go next time, though I'm still not certain it's the best option. I think it is useful to go over posture and base, though possibly not essential to go into lots of detail on breaking grips. That might be better done in another class, but I'll see how people do in sparring. I rarely find myself breaking grips all that often in closed guard, as you tend to compromise your base and posture when you do. But I'll keep a close eye on people in sparring, see how grips affect it.

Anyway, I need to add some more detail to the kneeling break, I was too quick today. The important part of the placement of the hands, then how you shift them as you shuffle back. That wouldn't take much more time, but it makes the break more effective. At the same time, I kept emphasising that standing up is higher percentage. I made the mistake in my own training of not standing enough, a bad habit I don't want to pass on. It's something we drill every lesson, so hopefully that is becoming ingrained.

Ross mentioned something interesting on inserting the knee. He said he was thrusting his hips forwards, to stop them sliding up and regaining the space you've created. That's something worth investigating, as it's a common problem with the guard break. Also, I'll put my grip breaking material here, in case I do want to use it again next time:

If they get a grip on your sleeve, then grab their sleeve with your free hand. To break the grip, yank your trapped hand back as your gripping hand drives forward. TrumpetDan has a good video on this, here. I don't generally recommend YouTube, but he is one of the better teachers on there. A simpler option is to circle your hand either inside or outside of their arm, then chop downwards to break the grip: there is a good explanation of that in Beneville's excellent Passing the Guard.

There is also a one-handed grip break you can try, which Xande shows on BJJ Library: he calls it the 'y grip break'. This has some similarities to circling your hand, but this time you circle it underneath their hand, shoving the 'v' between your thumb and index finger into the heel of their hand. Thrust your arm forward forcefully to free your sleeve. You might also be able to use your hand position to grab their wrist, putting you in control and negating their own grip.

Should they get a hold of the material by your knee, grab their gripping wrist with your same side arm and press it to the mat, then kick your trapped leg back. Ideally, as with the previous grip break, this will now give you control of their arm, which you can immediately use to initiate your pass.

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