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the question

February 5, 2008

Today’s training session was alright.

Maybe it was an off day for me. Maybe it was too cold to be training (I could see my breath in our judojo – and then later steam off of Esteban – yikes!). Maybe it was because I spent a good twenty minutes out of our training time to go look for the key to the Budojo (first floor is the judojo, second floor is the kendojo). Whatever the case, we had an alright training session.

Perhaps it’s due the the question Brent asked.

I’m all for questions. I like questions. Gets people thinking, because isn’t that what questions are for? And I really appreciate our little group. Everyone brings something positive to the table. Esteban asks questions that are detail oriented and critical. Which are necessary for improving technique and spotting weakness. Brent asks questions that stump me. And that’s good. It shows I have much to learn. And the question he asked was this:

What’s the best way to open guard besides using your hips?

That means not putting the knee to the tailbone and pushing the guard open by twisting your hips back and to the side. And that’s not the particular way anyone in the UFC opens guard either so possibly not the best way to open guard when in an actual confrontation.

So I stayed there on the tatami mats in mock guard with my hands behind my neck offering support for my head thinking for a good 5 – 6 minutes.

I came up with a half-hearted answer that athletes in MMA have a lot more going on in the guard than trying to pass or submit. Strikes usually have that kind of effect. And if you don’t want to get hit in guard, the guard remains open because an open guard makes for an effective defense.

Now that I’m home and had some chili for dinner, watched the rest of UFC 81, watched other clips and vids online about passing the guard, I feel I can actually provide a better answer to that question – there is no best way to open the guard.

Everyone favors a certain technique to pass the guard and with that technique comes a specific manner of opening the guard. Also, different athletes and practitioners will demand different tactics or game plan. If someone has a good defense for my A-game I’d better have a good back up B-game. Besides, the ground game is always in motion, always flowing. An opening to pass the guard may present itself in time and it may not be always necessary to force a pass.

I personally like to open guard by standing up and sliding my knee up my opponent’s tailbone then sit back down which brings my knee inbetween the legs, hopefully that opens guard. I’m a tiny guy and usually guys with long legs still have closed guard, but either way it’s an uncomfortable position and this way the guard doesn’t stay closed.

Another way of opening the guard without using your hips is by pushing the bottom-guard’s knee to the ground. Knee to the tailbone, base widens (usually a knee/leg out 90 degrees or more), hand pushes the knee down and plants it to the ground. The guard should be open. This is difficult to prevent if strictly using leg strength to hold guard, because the leg is fighting 1)arm strength, 2)weight and 3) gravity.

Then you have standing passes which has the same qualities as the above manner of passing with the additional feature of the bottom-guard player’s legs supporting his/her own body weight.

Basically, it all comes down to these concepts: space, stability, and a breaking point(btw, these are off the top of my head, but it’s how – for the time being – I believe opening the guard works. I’m sure as the days go by my thoughts and concepts on jiu-jitsu will evolve).

In the closed guard there needs to be a creation of SPACE in order to open it. And all techniques to pass the closed guard will do this.

While in the closed guard there also needs to be STABILITY. In other words, there need to be good base or balance. As with all positions in jiu-jitsu, base and balance play a far greater roll in top-guard game. Too much weight to either side, or a much too high center of gravity, will lend itself vunerable to a sweep.

Finally, opening the closed guard requires a BREAKING POINT. The point in the technique where a small application of force renders the hold of the legs to break. It usually is point specific as well. Pushing down on the knees. Creating so much space beyond where the legs are unable to remain together. Reaching behind and actually prying the feet apart.

In most cases the most simple technique works. It would be to base out, push down on the knee and plant it to the ground. Usually, that does the trick. Unless of course you’re me and you find yourself in a big guy’s closed guard. And then the most simple way turns out to be not the best way at all.

Train until you think you’ve got it all figured out, then train some more.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2008 9:19 pm

    I literally only have one guard break / pass… secure the lapel with one hand, pressure the inner thigh with my elbow and turn my hips back. But I’ve done it so much it usually works.

    One other one that I have started using more lately is oen shown by Leo Vieira and probably most jiu jitsu coaches… secure one arm and the lapel, then stand up (the same side leg of the arm you are controlling stands up first so that he can’t hook under your knee.) Keep your hips forward so you don’t get swept back, then take your hand off the lapel and push down on his knee to open the guard. Bouncing your arm helps. Straight arm and move your body to do it.

    I like your “philosophies” of passing the guard. That gives you a lot of options.

  2. May 14, 2008 10:17 am


    I tried to make the “philosphies” be one-size-fits-all. Whenever I learn a new pass I try to see where these concepts are in the pass. Thing is lately I haven’t been doing this.

    I’ve been relying too much on strength and the element of surprise to open guard rolling no-gi. Then it becomes a contest of strength (cause they really want to keep me in guard) and then I get sweeped. Good times.

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