Saturday, July 18, 2015

Layering Your Guard (Thanks Jeff Shaw)

Jeff Shaw's post (CLICK HERE) got me thinking of an analogy I used to explain my guard to a blue belt the other day. 

He remarked my guard was hard to pass and that whenever he thought he was close I would recompose and most of the time he was simply confused as to where to go or how to pass.
At which point I told him the quote I think of when someone asked Michael Langhi about his "unpassable guard" and he quickly laughed and say, "Oh, Cobrinha, he pass my guard all the time."

I include above anecdote because it's a good reminder against the voice of hubris that follows in your mind after a compliment. I'll also include that despite winning the adult purple belt absolute recently, largely in part due to my guard retention skills, I lost the purple belt adult featherweight on a guard pass in the finals after submitting my first two opponents.
Clearly....the work and development continues.

I'm also quick to give any recent development to my guard retention repertoire to my coach, Sean Spangler. Having a black belt who is a bit heavier and has a longer frame, has given me daily practice in guard retention.

At any rate, the analogy/explanation I offer is that when I came back from ACL surgery, I couldn't do a lot of things. I didn't have the flexibility back yet in my left knee, closed guard wasn't an option from bottom so I began playing Reverse De La Riva with my right leg as the RDLR hook. I got comfortable hitting the waiter sweep from there and spinning underneath because I really had nowhere else to go that I didn't feel put my knee in danger/strain.

Later, I would add deep half guard as a plan B if my RDLR was passed and then later sometimes X-guard or single leg X-Guard as more offensive sweeping positions when they didn't pressure enough to force me to deep half guard or weren't really pressuring to pass. As I kept working and learning and experimenting, I now use a lot of inversion and leg lasso + a RDLR hook/hybrid position with much more free flowing combination of guards and transitions to hit the most available sweep or back take. Because I played Judo before beginning Jiu-Jitsu, if the guy makes too much space or retreats to disengage, I can always simply get to my feet if given the opportunity.

Deep beneath that though is that when I started Jiu-Jitsu, coming in from Judo, my coaches told me specifically to work closed guard and submissions off my back. I'm in the course of now combining the closed guard to break down the opponent or to retreat to when I fear my open guard will be passed and to give the guy a different look and thus, I think the idea of not particular guard X or Y or Z or half Y and half Z,  but rather guards that layer in both offensive and defensive conjunction is how you can develop a cohesive guard game (at least this analogy sticks in my mind).
As the guys get better you can't just sweep or just try to submit off your back. You absolutely must threaten them with both and back takes in order to really force mistakes and positions against your opponent. One of my first Jiu-Jitsu coaches, Billy Dowey said, you'll beat guys who suck if you just sweep or perhaps just submit from bottom. You'll beat guys who are pretty good if you sweep and submit - threaten both.....but he then said, keeping a guy down who is trying to sweep, submit, and get to his feet, is actually really hard.
This came from back when I fought amateur MMA. The goal was always "GET OFF YOUR BACK." Even if you catch a nice submission, you are prone to punishment for considerable lengths of time....and there's less variety of sweeps so getting off your back is always of primary concern. The old school c-grip to throat, stand and base BJ Penn escape off your back is something I still continually go to when frustrated by a guy who's grip fighting, not really looking to pass but basing low and preventing my sweeps and back takes and submissions.

None of these work however, I believe if you don't have a good bit of half-guard and closed guard at the end of the day as fundamental or essential positions at the core of your Jiu-Jitsu, in particular as a smaller BJJ practitioner.

For me, belief above all else in the danger I can put my opponent in off my back and the ability to recompose my guard makes me more willing to aggressively hunt for submissions and/or sweeps without fear of being passed or ending up in a bad position (moreso in a sport Jiu-Jitsu context).
But it's only by pressing your guard to the very limits of being passed that you'll develop that confidence for sport Jiu-Jitsu competition.
I have days where I purposefully do very little offensively with my guard rather than say establish grips or hooks or points of control and try to be largely reactive in open guard to really stretch the boundaries of my guard retention.

It takes a lot of hours and time to develop the layers of guard in this way. There's simply no substitute for the long hours logged on the mat and seeking out the bigger, better, and more competent guard passers in your academy or at open mats. Open guard is like this give/take open ended constantly evolving conversation between you and the other person where at the highest levels you're threatening sweeps, submissions, back takes, and simply getting to your feet along with frustrating guard passing attempts that result in this spider-web of danger for the top player.

Anyhow, those are some of the analogies I utilize.

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