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!
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.