Oct 31

Open guard principles that will help simplify the game

Right now, if I held up a hand and starting counting out open guard positions with my fingers, I would run out of room in an instant.

There’s a lot of them!

It’s glorious.

Countless people are on the mats every day, innovating and brainstorming. They’re expanding the game. And it presents both a challenge and an opportunity. How can we maximize our learning experience? What’s the best way to approach all this new knowledge? Is there any way to simplify the complex?

That’s where concepts come into play.

No matter the innovation, there are still some elements that are universal. Identifying them and applying that knowledge in the right way can give you instant advantage even when you encounter situations that you’ve never dealt with before.

Open Guard – Four Points of Control

One of the inherent advantages of a person playing guard is that they can use all four of their limbs to control their opponent. Hands, forearms, feet, and shins can all be used in many different combinations to establish control, and each limb plays a role. Understanding that is the first step.

The second lies in making connections.

Take an open guard position that you play or want to play. Identify your points of contact. Where are your hands? Where are your feet? What transitions are required for you attack? Is there any point in particular where you lose control? Are you getting passed at any point? What grips are broken the easiest?

There’s a whole line of inquiry and study that opens up. And it starts from taking the concept and developing it to a deeper level of understanding.

For me, this was one of my first major concepts when I was a white belt. I heard it once, and it has influenced me ever since. I don’t expect it to be new to you, but there are levels to it.

You can take it further.

Open Guard – Tension

I once heard someone say that Jiu-jitsu is all about creating space and taking it away. It blew me away because I like simplicity, and that concept really sums up the game.

Since then though, I’ve realized that there is also third aspect. We must do more than just create space and take it away. We must also maintain space. Stopping opponents from pressing in too far and pulling away too much is just as important.

And we do it all the time.

In open guard especially, it is an essential control mechanism. It’s called tension, and we create it by pulling and pushing at the same time. You’ll notice it in in spider guard with the greatest ease. You pull the sleeve as you push the bicep away. That tension gives you control of the limb, and and if you maintain it in the right way, it magnifies your control of the whole body.

Lately, I’ve been using this concept to deepen my understanding of specific passing strategies. I’ve noticed that there is an imbalance in several open guard positions. I noticed it first in DLR, which consists mostly of pulling grips. There are only one push in the standard variation of the position, and that one point of contact can be focused on.

And once it is, a massive gap in the guard is created.

It’s something that has broader applications, and you would benefit from identifying what each specific grip in doing. Is it pulling you? Or is it pushing you? Recognizing that can help both on the bottom and top.

Open Guard – Entanglement

One place where four points of control becomes less significant is where entanglement happens. An example is lasso guard. The entanglement of the arm acts as both a push and pull at the same time. And the increased amount of control can lessen the need for four points of control.

But the rules of tension are still in play.

You have to attack either the push or pull functions of the grip combination, no matter what it is, from the top. And the from the bottom, you must maintain those elements of control.

The First Step to Application

The key to applying these concepts in a meaningful way lies in focusing only one type of guard.

Spider guard is a great place to start. But any open guard position that would be good. Pick something that you already know about. Create connections between technical knowledge and concept, and see what makes sense to you.

Oct 04

The beginning of an endless chain of technique

Imagine a puzzle that has no defined shape. You can add a countless amount of pieces to it, but it will never be complete. All you can do is form little structures or images in the mass.

That’s Jiu-jitsu.

It’s endless.

But learning how to start piecing it together is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn. No technique works in isolation. You may learn it that way, but that’s not enough to make it really work. It’s just the start. And from there, you must take it further.

To give you some ideas, I’ve started a new project.

The Endless Chain

Starting with the technique you’ll learn below, I’m going to show you a ridiculously long sequence of technique.

One clear path will be taken through many different positions. Many different techniques will be shown. And you will also be able to influence the journey, if you so wish, by commenting with problems you would like to see addressed.

Oct 03

Structures are built and they are demolished


One of the ways that I like to teach certain techniques is by showing the exact change in position that breaks an opponent’s structure and weakens them in the position. Seeing it action makes the technical lesson more vivid, and it also becomes easier to apply the concept to other aspects of the game.

A quick example:

One of the first sweeps from half guard that I ever had success with was the kneetap. And at white belt, I struggled with it for sometime before it clicked.

The major breakthrough comes from an after class mat chat. Fred Ramie had come up to visit, and when we rolled, I tried the kneetap on him. Let’s just say that it did NOT work. I wasn’t able to budge him at all.

When I asked him about it though, he showed me how pulling out the ankle would make it the sweep harder to stop. Whoa, that was a game changer. And I’ve never forgotten it.

Now I teach that adjustment as more than just a step in a move.

It’s bigger than that.

That small adjustment is a clear attack on your opponent’s structure. In an instant, it weakens their base and creates an opportunity for attack. I like the demonstrate that by pushing someone from different angles while they sit on their hands and knees.

In that position, they have structure, and it’s for them to maintain balance in all four directions. Sometimes interesting happens when you pull an ankle outward though. It creates a hole in the structure, and it becomes simple to push them over.

That’s one example though.

Fundamentally, we play a game of creating and demolishing structures. It really is that simple. And your challenge is to become aware of exactly how technique works and then improve it to make it even more devastating.

Sep 14

Speed is the eternal enemy of perfection

Let me tell you about a curious phenomenon.

I can look at someone drilling a technique and know whether or not they will reap the maximum benefit from the experience. It has nothing to do with the technical mechanics of their movements though and everything to do with their level of focus.

And it’s a variable that changes depending on the day. I’ve noticed it in myself as well.

Quick story time:

In the room, I’ve often seen a certain kind of guy. He’s young, athletic, and he can move. You show him a technique, and zoom, he’s speeding through it.

The problem though is this: he’s going through the motions. Mechanically, he’s figuring it out as he goes, but just as quickly, problems arise. The reason?

He went on autopilot while drilling. And small errors started to appear in the technique over and over again, but they weren’t noticed because he was powering through.

Towards that situation, there’s a saying that really stuck with me, and I have no idea where I heard it first. But even now the wisdom in that sentence can’t be denied.

Speed is the enemy of perfection.

I was reminded of that fact a few weeks ago.

In the effort to continually expand my knowledge so that I can help my students more, I visited a different gym, and we only drilled one thing.

It was a variation of the X pass against knee shield half.  It was AWESOME, but it required me to change how I’ve done the pass in the past.

So I slowed everything down to snail’s pace.

In my mind, I reinforced the idea that every rep is of immense value, and I took my time. Slow. Slow. And whoa, I felt myself improve.

It was obvious.

And I was able to add that variation to my arsenal, even with the limited time I spent on it.

That’s the power of being present in your practice.

Every rep counts, if you focus.

Sep 12

Give em a choice between a rock and a hard place

The transitions were fast and furious. And sweat was pouring on the mat. Suddenly, there was an almost pass. He cleared the legs and was fighting to stabilize the position.

But then it happened…

Woosh, a quick transition led to a new position, and the action slowed down. The guy on top couldn’t escape. He moved here. He moved there. He tried to frame. He tried to pummel.

None of it worked.

Unfortunately (depending on your perspective), he had just fallen into an offensive loop.

Frantically, he defended against one attack but another followed right after and yet another after that one. It was endless, and eventually he succumbed to the barrage.

That story is a little dramatic (just a wee bit) but it highlights the power of offensive loops.

You can create situations where you can entrap an opponent in your web and just suffocate them with offense. And the key to accomplishing that feat lies in understanding defense as much as you understand offense.

No matter what you do, there will be a response.

And if your understanding of defense is deep and profound, the response is predictable. And anything you can predict, you can counter.

Today, I’m going to share a lesson with you from my underhook half guard course. It focuses on an easy offensive loop that I’ve been punishing people with for the last few weeks. And you’ll be able to do the same exact thing.

Study well: