Breaking the Guard Open – BJJ Fanatics

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Passing closed guard represents one of the biggest challenges in jiu-jitsu.

It’s difficult, exhausting, and the passer is under constant threat of attack just trying to break the guard open. In a competition setting where time is limited, you don’t want to waste minutes of a match just trying to get out of guard before you can even start trying to pass and score. 

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To make matters worse, competent opponents will have seen all the basic ways we get taught to break the guard open and will be ready to counter them. Below, Travis Stevens has three ways to break the guard open that you have never seen before. Stevens is an Olympic Silver medalist in judo and a Danahar black belt.

Guard Break 1

Steven’s first guard break is a psychological trick. He shifts his angle off to the side, creating a bow in his opponent’s body. This causes the guard player to think that Steven’s is going to continue attacking that side to open the guard (Stevens cut an angle to his left, so his opponent is concerned about him pushing on that leg). This is a common guard break from the knees. 

Instead, Stevens steps his right leg up and turns so that his knee comes down on hip/ribs area. His other leg steps back, creating distance and pressure on the ankles and causing them to open. Stevens also keeps his right hand planted on his partner as a post to stop them from trying to come up and break his posture. 

From here, the passer backs off, getting themselves completely clear of the guard before going on the offensive. This keeps you clear of any submission attack well you set up for passes.

Guard Break 2 

This one is an aggressive version of the basic guard break. Stevens rocks himself forward and up (note in the side view he is lifting his opponent’s hips off the ground) places his knee behind the opponents butt well taking a grip on the opponent’s belt and stiff arming. He angles his other leg and slides his entire body back hard to pop the ankles open. His arms come in close and reinforce inside the opponent’s thighs well Stevens backs out and steps over the leg. 

This opener isn’t intended to be a methodical setup, but a fast and aggressive one. Go quickly and forcefully before they have time to react. 

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 Guard Break 3 

In the third option, Stevens grabs the end of a loose lapel in a pistol grip and drives it down and across the body. Then he turns his base and entire body to the side so his other hand can reach back and fight the feet. The opponent thinks that there is a back take here, and when they open their legs and try to come around the back, Steven’s starts passing. The hand holding the lapel acts as a wedge, with the forearm pressed across their hips to prevent the back take. This gives enough time to step over the open leg and turn into them. 

As with the other two guard breaks, breaking and backing out of danger is the goal, rather then barreling straight into a pass attempt and getting caught in something. Give these guard breaks a try tonight at practice and see how much easier the passing game will become. 

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