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1/29/13 6:19 PM
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Stubbsy
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Guard learning structure...

In many sports I have encountered there are tried and tested learning patterns - gymnastics being a a great example. In this blog entry I will try and put together a structure that will help for the practitioner to learn a particular new guard. I don't profess to be an expert by any means, and I haven't 'mastered' any particular guard as of yet. I do however have a solid half guard base, and am successfully bringing in other guards at this time. Whilst learning half guard, I started to notice certain patterns or stages of progress, and me being me, I jotted them down. As I am starting to bring Reverse De La Riva and De La Riva into my game, I am applying these stages and really trying to hit them to ensure that I am making progress. It's helping. Some natural players out there may wish to incorporate a guard in a more organic fashion, but I don't learn like that personally and I am certainly not a 'natural.'

Stage 1: Grips and Contacts

The first stage of any guard should be grips and contacts. Grips are the things that you tangibly hold to get the technique working, and contacts are either positions where a part of the body is enclosed (think closed or half guard), hooks, or what I like to think of as pillars. Spider works with Pillars, usually against the hip and the inside elbows, but it also works with some hooks aswell. Half guard is simply a guard where the bottom leg 'encloses' one of their legs, usually beind the knee. You MUST have a working knowledge of your grips or contacts within a guard or it will not work. Try variations, because you may just hit on something that will really work for you. In half guard, the far collar grip and the defence against the cross-face were the keys to finding a good sweep, and once I hit on those grips, success started to come. You can not develop within a position if you do not know the position itself.

Stage 2: Posture Control

This is the most important part of any guard and whilst learning you should spend a lot of time here. Knowing 25 sweeps from that guard position you love will mean nothing if you cannot deal with their posture. A classic example of this is Spider guard. If the top played can posture up and remove the pillars of the bottom player for a smash pass, then the guard has already failed. Learn to keep distance where you want to keep distance; be in control. I hate getting flattened in half guard, so a good proportion of my game incorporates a knee shield to control posture, with a smattering of Z guard and a hell of a lot of arm drag (I like taking the back). If I get flattened, it is my job to use my guard knowledge to lift or divert that weight from me and regain/attack. Without this basic skill, the fundamental base of your guard is shaky at best. Ignore sweeping and subbing for as long a time as you need to nail the fundamentals. Play with their weight, learn where is dangerous and where is not dangerous, and most of all, learn to 'feel' when their weight is just right for an attack. Oh yes, prepare to get passed, a lot.

Stage 3: Re-gains and Passing

This is the bit that is most often forgotten. How does a top player pass your guard..? What steps do they use to make progress? What are the danger signs? How do you pull the guard back? All of these are fundamental questions and if you can't answer them then a part of your game is failing. You may have rolled with someone who has an awesome [insert guard name here] guard. The guard was so good that they weren't used to being passed, so when you finally passed, their regain and post defence was awful. Let the good people you train with pass your guard, and see how they are doing it. Watch what grips they take and which holes they exploit, and then fill them. Once their pass is successful, how do you get your guard back..? Is it easy..? Which pass makes it difficult? Work your knowledge out of these circumstances and build your guard into a wall. To give an example, Lucas Leite is the classic example of this in half guard, whilst Michael Langhi is the Spider Guard king. There is a great side offect of this in that the bottom player will also learn how to pass their guard, and when they come up against a specialist in their guard, they will be able to deal with them in the best possible way.
1/29/13 6:20 PM
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Stubbsy
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Stage 4: Sweeps

Notice that this is Stage 4... Can you control posture..? What's your re-gain like? Can you take balance? Can you nullify pressure? If so read on...

Sweeps are intricate movements in many cases and there are so many variables within one sweep that they are lengthy studies all by themselves. I am still working on the 'Old School' now after using it heavily for two years. I am always playing with the Dogfight position and have worked out some tiny little adjustments that make this a very dangerous position for me. I have also trained the various posts and changes that the opponent can use to stop/slow down the sweep, and in turn I have worked on incorporating them into my sweeping game. Half guard for me is no longer a maze, I know the routes and the twists and the turns and I enjoy working on them in class. My advice in this area, is pick three. Three sweeps that are different, and that come at differing places within your guard. So to use an example, from half guard my 'money' sweeps are the 'Old School', the 'Arm Drag Back Take,' and the 'Shaolin' sweep. One works from the underhook, the other an arm drag, and the last from a completely different angle. I have a range, and these three are easily enough, it is the set-ups, the grips, and the balance control that I need to set them up from different places that makes each one a project within itself. Let's not forget that the exits from these sweeps are very difficult too, so ensure that the next steps after each sweep are considered. If you miss out the ending, you might as well not even bother with the beginning! Allowing a Scramble versus a good wrestler/top player can be suicide.

Stage 5: Submissions

These should be one of the last things you add into your game. I'm still working on mine now in half guard! Subs will usually come as a result of misakes from the top player, so the above steps are vital if you want to submit from your guard. Enforcing a posture mistake will lead to openings, instigating a sweep will lead to openings, the correct grips will lead to openings... See how it all begins to fall into place..? Marcelo Garcia has so many examples of this within his game. He is always submitting from a post that he has forced, or looking to catch the head for a guillotine after forcing a bad posture mistake. Submissions are a by-product of the knowledge of your guard, they will come far more often if your production line is fully functioning. Work on getting your conveyor belt running smoothly and the submissions will start running off nice and quickly.

Stage 6: Interdependencies

BJJ Guard play is an interchangeable system. My Half Guard is running into De La Riva and Reverse De La Riva very nicely, and a single butterfly hook from the bottom leg is also slowly beginning to work. These have started to happen as my experience has started to grow, and certain positions and passes start the movement between guards automatically. Look at which guards work from yours, and where to begin pursuing them. This should be the last stage of your guard game and something that you should use to widen your knowledge and grow your skills base. Whatever you do, don't jump here after you can hip bump from closed guard. Fully explore before moving on and make sure you have a solid base before working on more advanced and technically difficult guards.

So there you have it. A solid, step by step into how I am learning my guard games. I am still on the Posture Control and Regain/Passing parts of my DLR/RDLR game, but I can feel that I am slowly beginning to generate some control when in those positions. It's a good feeling because I will soon be working on some solid sweeps from there. All in all, I guess the main message here, is 'don't rush.' BJJ is huge and each guard could be a TMA black belt all on its own ;-) Take your time and don't skip from sweep to sweep, learn your fundamentals and get your guard working for you. I don't know what I would do without half guard to fall back on!!!

Visit http://www.jiujitsuevolution.com/journalofabluebelt.html
1/29/13 6:51 PM
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demandango
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In Phone Post
1/29/13 6:58 PM
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chrisbaker
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In, thanks. Phone Post
1/29/13 11:07 PM
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Shinsplint
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Wish I had this structure when I first started BJJ. In my own experience I focused too much on the techniques themselves. I was unable to see the forest for the trees so to speak. When I began to spend more time experimenting with variations of a position it really helped me understand what was effective.
1/29/13 11:21 PM
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XmmaAddictX
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Good read Phone Post
1/30/13 7:52 AM
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tbarchard
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Good read, I like the way you broke it down. I would put the submission before the sweep. The ultimate goal is to submit not sweep. Just my 2 cents Phone Post
1/30/13 10:17 AM
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Bionik Careca
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tbarchard -  Good read, I like the way you broke it down. I would put the submission before the sweep. The ultimate goal is to submit not sweep. Just my 2 cents Phone Post

I agree I wish I would have started concentrating on my sub rather then my sweeps when I first started . Thus my submission game is far behind my sweep game which I wish it wasn't . Great read .
1/30/13 10:24 AM
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Seul
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Very interesting! Phone Post
1/30/13 11:07 AM
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X_Rated
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tbarchard -  Good read, I like the way you broke it down. I would put the submission before the sweep. The ultimate goal is to submit not sweep. Just my 2 cents Phone Post

The way I see it is that it's from chaining sweeps that people leave themselves open for submissions.. I find it generally a lot more difficult to have someone in my guard and my first thought is "Im going to submit you"

1/30/13 4:50 PM
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Stubbsy
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Great feedback guys, thanks. I have a sweep heavy game because I like to submit from top. I guess we have an MMA influence in the gym too so it has always been about being in the dominant position. Carlson Gracie style sweep-smash-submit :-) Phone Post
1/30/13 6:05 PM
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ElPulpo
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Here's my structure:

Shut guard -> Break Posture -> Sweep/Submit

I'm a bit of a minimalist. I call it Ernest Hemingway Guard.
1/30/13 7:04 PM
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tbarchard
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X_Rated -
tbarchard -  Good read, I like the way you broke it down. I would put the submission before the sweep. The ultimate goal is to submit not sweep. Just my 2 cents Phone Post

The way I see it is that it's from chaining sweeps that people leave themselves open for submissions.. I find it generally a lot more difficult to have someone in my guard and my first thought is "Im going to submit you"

I understand but in the flip side a lot of sweeps open up from submission techniques. I guess it's just the way you look at it. My professor drilled it into me that the submission is first so I am sure that's why I think that way. Phone Post
1/30/13 7:08 PM
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tbarchard
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Stubbsy - Great feedback guys, thanks. I have a sweep heavy game because I like to submit from top. I guess we have an MMA influence in the gym too so it has always been about being in the dominant position. Carlson Gracie style sweep-smash-submit :-) Phone Post
I favor the dominant position too. I am not a submission machine from guard but I attack the submissions and it opens up a lot of sweeps. If they are defending the submission they usually are open for a sweep Phone Post
1/31/13 3:03 PM
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Sub Reactor
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Subadubdub Phone Post
1/31/13 3:42 PM
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Stubbsy
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tbarchard -
Stubbsy - Great feedback guys, thanks. I have a sweep heavy game because I like to submit from top. I guess we have an MMA influence in the gym too so it has always been about being in the dominant position. Carlson Gracie style sweep-smash-submit :-) Phone Post
I favor the dominant position too. I am not a submission machine from guard but I attack the submissions and it opens up a lot of sweeps. If they are defending the submission they usually are open for a sweep Phone Post
I agree with that. I like to have control over their center of gravity with my guard though, and there are lots of subs that you can use that don't necessitate this. I think that having control over their weight takes precedence over the sub, which is why I would also like to be able to sweep before sub. Completely subjective though! Phone Post
2/1/13 3:46 PM
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Tarado Safado
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nice analysis

will give this a thorough read
2/6/13 11:36 AM
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sirvejlance
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In Phone Post
2/12/13 4:45 AM
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subjitsu
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2/12/13 6:17 AM
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burner22
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Great read. Thanks op Phone Post
2/12/13 11:16 AM
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deepu
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Good read. Wish I had been that structured in my learning when I was a blue belt.

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