Looking back to when you first started training Jiu Jitsu you likely remember the anxiety of trying to learn the names of all of the basic positions along with the handful of submissions an escapes that were being taught as the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu.
Closed guard, side control, back mount, front mount… So many things to remember. It’s likely that the closed guard position had challenges more so than some of the other positions. For starters, if you’re not used to training something similar to Jiu Jitsu, something that puts people in your “bubble” of personal space, for lack of a better term, then it can be awkward for you to start off with someone between your legs , with your legs locked around them. Additionally, depending on your physical capabilities at the time, some new students struggle with the flexibility to lock up the closed guard on bigger training partners.
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The things about the closed guard is, it’s a staple of Jiu Jitsu fundamentals, and from a self defense perspective, a very useful position to control your opponent and setup sweeps and or attacks in the event you find yourself on your back being attacked. Additionally, from a women’s self defense perspective, working techniques from the closed guard is likely the best thing you can do to for realistic self defense training. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is certainly better than being attacked and not knowing what to do.
As we start to learn as we progress along our path in the Jiu Jitsu journey, no matter how much training we have done, there is still a ton to be learned. That is how I feel about the closed guard. While I have been using it for years, as many of you likely have as well, there is always room for improvement. When I am looking to improve a part of my game I think it is smart to look at who is doing whatever technique I want to improve, well, and how can I learn from them. In this case, we have the luxury of learning from the king himself, one of the greatest grapplers of our time, Gordon Ryan.
Gordon recently released a video instructional titled “Systematically Attacking The Guard” where he breaks down in detail his systematic approach for attacking (aka passing) the guard. This video instructional is over 10 hours and spread out across 8 parts getting you into the mind of Gordon Ryan and his approach in training and in competition. With all this content, it is virtually impossible for you to not improve.
In this preview video Gordon breaks down the closed guard position for us and dives into the details we need to know to take our closed guard and closed guard passing to the next level. Let’s dive in and breakdown “Understanding The Closed Guard With Gordon Ryan” .
Starting out Gordon discusses the proper way to use closed guard when you don’t have the lapels or other Gi grips available to you. First, we need to determine the goal of using closed guard. The goal when utilizing closed guard is to turn a neutral position to a position where we have small advantage positions.
To quote Gordon Ryan “These are micro adjustments, not macro adjustments”. Gordon goes on to show starting from a typical closed guard position with Professor Faria wrapped between his legs and Bernardo’s hands on his hips. Gordon goes on to say, “We can all agree this is closed guard, and this is a neutral position”. Next, he goes through a series of micro adjustments that lead to still being in closed guard, but in an advantage position.
For example, from the closed guard Gordon moves Bernardo’s elbow from outside of his hip line, to inside his hip line, thus putting him in a position that is no longer neutral and gives him a slight advantage. He also shows pushing the arm all the way across his body to the other side and breaking Bernardo’s posture down, essentially exposing the back and setting up the beginning stages of a back mount take, which clearly is an advantage position. The focus here is to look for ways to off balance your opponent, and create the opportunity for an advantage, even the slightest advantage is an improvement over the neutral position of “standard” closed guard. Gordon goes on to say, in most matches in competition the majority of the match is spent in a neutral position, your job and focus needs to be creating the “angular advantage” over your opponent through a series of micro adjustments.
It seems too often we want to see big change, macro change. We get the mindset that from closed guard the only options are to start launching attacks on the opponent or sweep the opponent. While in reality, either of these options are great, when grappling with an opponent of similar skill we may not have the ability to force such a macro change, we may need to instead focus on the micro adjustments that lead up to the macro change. Starting with small micro changes such as getting the opponent’s arm across the center line is the key to success in these types of situations.
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Gordon goes on to further clarify by saying we need to focus on 2 things from closed guard, movement that allows us to create an angular advantage. Doing this on an opponent that is skilled can be difficult. Gordon’s direction for this is to use misdirection to allow you to create the movement that ultimately leads to the ability to create the angle. For example, in the this video Gordon uses a knee pull (pulling his knee in towards this chest forcing the opponent to shift to one side expecting a sweep, or at the very least the opponent is off balanced) on one side immediately followed by a knee pull on the other side to confuse the opponent as to which direction he wants to go and therefore forcing the opponent to react, which is the movement he needs in order to change his angle for the angular advantage.
As with every position in Jiu Jitsu there are reactions created by the opponent’s actions, in this case the action is where the opponent places their hands while inside of our guard. If the opponent where to place their hands in such a way that the elbows are inside our hips, we want to work to move one arm over the centerline of our body creating the angular advantage. If the opponent places their hands in such a way that their elbows are outside our hips, we want to work on something different.
As an additional tip, Gordon talks about what the opponent needs in order to break your guard and begin passing. In order for the opponent to open your guard, they must stand. Passing from the knees is not effective as it forces the opponent to give up their back when trying to open the guard by pushing down on the knee. In order to prevent the opponent from standing with vertical posture, which is required in order to pass the guard, we want to control the opponents head. Gordon looks at the upper body as a liver with the head being the end of that lever. That being said, we want to use a combination of pulling our opponent down at the hips with our legs, but also using a collar tie grip to pull the head down as well. The collar tie is a very strong grip that will be very difficult for your opponent to fight out of, when done properly.
This is only one breakdown, of one part of the video instructional “Systematically Attacking The Guard” by Gordon Ryan. It should be obvious at this point the level of detail and thinking that Gordon puts in to his training, and teaching, having a system for each action or reaction. It is about more than just having a plan, but about having a plan that is progressive, a plan that moves the match forward and works to create an advantage for you.
If you are interested in learning all of the details about each guard passing system from one of the best grapplers of our time, check out Gordon’s video instructional “Systematically Attacking The Guard” where he breaks down the approach in all types of guards. This is over 10 hours of video content that gives you the ability to watch, re-watch and truly study each of the techniques. It is impossible for you to study this video instructional and not see a substantial increase in your guard game.
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