A reader writes: Hi Stephan,
Thank you for the newsletters! I started training BJJ and MMA about 5 months ago – it’s been life changing for me. Do you have any tips for keeping someone in your guard and not letting them pass?
======== My Answer ========
First of all, congratulations for jumping into such a challenging and hugely rewarding sport. Most of the people around the office water cooler only talk about the MMA, but you’re actually doing it!
With regards to stopping your opponent from passing your guard: there are at least two answers to your question….
First, there are specific TECHNIQUES that you need to know.
This means having specific technical answers to the specific technical problems that you encounter most frequently when you’re using a specific form of guard…
It would look kind of like the picture immediately to the left…
So in this case your specific technical problem is that he’s standing up, your guard is closed, and you’re hanging off of him.
If you stay there for long enough (especially if he gives you some added physical ‘encouragement’) then your legs will eventually open, you’ll flop to the ground and he’ll be in a standing position ready to rocket past your guard.
Now there are MANY different technical answers to this problem.
There are techniques to break his posture, to submit him, and/or to sweep him and get yourself to the top.
So there’s no getting around it: getting good at BJJ and submission grappling does involve learning lots of techniques…
And to “keep someone in your guard and not let them pass” you’ll need to add specific techniques for specific situations in specific guard positions to your arsenal…
But there’s something EVEN MORE POWERFUL than knowing a bunch of techniques…
Which brings us to a second solution to keeping someone in your guard…
Techniques are good. But strategies, concepts and principles are better.
If you’re using a concept, or are being guided by a strategy, then the specific details of a technique you’re using (e.g. precisely where to put your hands, exactly how to move your hips, etc.) become less important to memorize, and the original move becomes a lot easier to execute.
So I’m going to share a STRATEGY that you can use anytime you’re in the guard, and with any type of guard.
Ready? It’s GRIPFIGHTING!
A key part of the battle to keep someone in your guard is constantly fighting the gripfighting battle and never conceding the grips that your opponent is trying to get on you.
Many people only think of gripfighting in the context of standup Judo or pummeling for a good position in wrestling…
But gripfighting is JUST AS IMPORTANT in maintaining the guard and attacking effectively from there.
It’s critically important to constantly fight for the grip, whether you’re doing gi or no gi… With or without striking… For the closed guard, the open guard, the butterfly guard, the inverted guard, spider guard, and every other guard position out there!
Grips are everything.
If your opponent has good grips then you can’t attack, and he can make posture and start the guard pass.
If you have good grips then you can break his posture, attack him with sweeps and submissions and dominate the fight.
Never concede the grip!!!!
Hope this helps!