A few weeks ago I was practicing technique with a big, strong rock climber who had a grip from hell and tenacious isometric strength. I noticed how much he liked controlling my gi, breaking my posture and attacking with collar chokes. Since I knew we were going to spar soon I formulated a simple sparring strategy: I told myself that as soon as I ended up in his guard I would stand up and not go back down onto my knees until I was past his guard.
Why did I do this? The answer should be obvious at the end of this article.
A coarse classification divides guard passes into either standing or kneeling guard passes. If you wanted to break it down a bit further you could say that there are standing and kneeling methods of opening a closed guard, and standing and kneeling methods of actually passing an opened guard. Both standing and kneeling methods have their strengths and weaknesses – I use them both, but I try to choose the appropriate approach for the situation.
Kneeling in your opponent’s guard makes you a little harder to sweep because your center of gravity is closer to the ground. If you are kneeling in an opponent’s guard your arms and neck are more easily available for him to attack, but it is quite difficult for him to leglock you.
If you choose to stand in order to pass the guard you make yourself a little more vulnerable to sweeps and leglocks. The advantage of standing passes is that you are more mobile and that it is harder for your opponent to attack you with chokes and armlocks.
How can you use this information?
If you have both standing and kneeling guard passes in your repertoire you can tailor your game to avoid your opponent’s strengths. If your opponent specializes in chokes and/or armlocks then get to your feet whenever you end up in his guard and try to work your standing guard passes. If your opponent is a leg locking machine then consider engaging him on your knees.
Additionally, guard passing methods vary greatly from club to club. In some clubs kneeling guard passes predominate, whereas other schools tend to mix standing and kneeling guard passes. Schools that do a lot of MMA or no-gi grappling tend to use more standing passes, although few schools use standing methods exclusively.
If you know that your opponent is from a school that uses only kneeling guard passes then you could try only using standing passes against him: he is unlikely to be as skilled at defending against a standing opponent and you could soon find yourself past the guard.
Good luck with this concept!
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If you’re interested in more information on this topic then check out the followup article called “How to Stand in the Guard”