One of the most common mistakes white belts and blue belts make when playing guard, be it closed guard or open guard, is sitting flat on their back. This is usually picked up from watching high level guys do it, but if you actually play close attention, those grapplers are quick to get on their side once the top player approaches.
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Playing from a flat back position is ineffective for a few important reasons. The first reason is that it’s actually harder to move your hips when you are flat. Try shrimping from a flat position, you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t work. The other reason is because the top player has way more guard passing options that they wouldn’t have if you are on your side. Think of the X-pass, one of the most commonly utilized guard passes. For this pass to work, the guard player needs to be flat. Knowing this, it’s easy to realize that you should avoid staying flat at all costs.
In the following video, Priit Mihkelson explains why you shouldn’t play off your back and how to effectively use the correct angles to play guard.
If you examine the guards we use in Jiu Jitsu, namely closed guard, half guard, de la riva guard, and so on, you will learn that they are most effective when you are cutting an angle. You may even have heard your instructor mention this or should have. Think of how you pass half guard; in order to pass, you need to flatten the guard player out. So again, why ever play guard flat in your back?
You might argue that closed guard is playing entirely while flat on the back, and I can see why you would think that. If you are in closed guard and just holding the position, yeah, you’ll be flat on your back, but you won’t be able to execute any techniques. The scissor sweep, flower sweep, arm bar, and so many other moves absolutely require you to get an angle. So, if you are interested in holding the position for some time, sure you will be on your back, and that’s fine, but it’s important to know that when you are ready to go and execute a sweep or submission, you need to get an angle.
Being at some angle isn’t just important when playing guard, it’s also important when trying to escape various positions and submissions. To escape side control and mount, you have to be able to get on your side, shrimp, and bring your elbow to your knee. If you just lay flat in your back in those position, you will eventually get caught, and if strikes are involved, it’s even more dangerous.
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