My Guard Training Model:

Let’s look at the “nuts & bolts” of playing guard.

This is universal for anyone, but again if youth and physical attributes are not on your side having a solid
training concept and model can be all the more valuable.

Now that you have seen those closed guard fundamentals, here’s how I approach the ESSENTIALS of developing a strong open guard.

As always, fundamentals are king so this holds for any level.

1. Keep Your Legs Between You and Your Opponent
I mentioned this before, but it is the single most “basic” principle of playing guard, yet one that eludes a lot of students who are too locked into thinking in terms of the guard as a series of “moves.”

Keep your knees to your chest (unless you are in the process of stretching your opponent out) and always maintain an obstruction between you and your opponent, and you will always have a guard.

2. Foot Placement
Wherever you put your feet there should be some pressure on your opponent — a transfer of weight when posting on a hip, bicep, thigh, etc. or pressure with a hook.

This does not mean your whole leg is tense, just that there is pressure. This is your sensitivity, your “feelers” to tell what your opponent is doing, not to mention it’s huge for protecting you from leg locks!

3. Grips
It often happens that whoever gets the dominant grips first in an exchange wins. The grip game is huge for gi or no gi (as it is for MMA, but everything happens a lot quicker there or you get popped!).

However, the grip game is most sophisticated at the gi level. Always think of what your dominant grips are, offensively and defensively, as you go through process of defining your routes. When you get them, don’t hesitate. When you lose a grip exchange, be ready to BUST A MOVE to intercept your opponent and immediately re-establish dominant grips.

4. Hip Movement
If leverage is the heart of BJJ, then use of the hips is the soul. The two work hand-in-hand to create
the postures and levers that make jiu-jitsu work so efficiently.

Developing good hip movement in all planes facilitates all the other aspects of the guard. It means creating defensive space and posture as well as angles of attack (remember peripheral offense).

Many times fixing a technical “mistake” in BJJ is as simple as moving your hips more or earlier.

5. Attacks
The first four were all essential for guard retention, although also important for attacking. As for the
attacks themselves, these include the constant pressure to submit, sweep, or reverse an opponent, or to sit or stand up out of the guard altogether.

Drill all four elements until your arms and legs work fluidly and in conjunction without thinking, and just as you have defined your positional routes, also define your offensive routes and ability to attack in combination.

Sound overly simplistic?

NO! As a matter of fact by spending the majority of time drilling in this way I have seen only improvements in students’ technique and speed of implementation vs. teaching in a more traditional “move by move”technical progression model.

We train posture and movement first, then work “backwards” to specific technical refinement from there.

Try it!

Stephen Whittier
40 Plus BJJ Performance Professor


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