One of the most powerful ways to defend against the guard pass is with a movement called ‘the Frame and Hip Escape’.
In fact it’s fair to say that learning this concept and movement completely revolutionised my guard game, especially my ability to defend against the guard pass!
In this article we’ll break down this exact movement for you. Then we’ll discuss how to train it on your own and with a partner. And then, finally, we’ll look at an example of how the legendary Carlson Gracie used it in an MMA fight with an ultra-tough opponent.
The Frame and Hip Escape Guard Defense
Let’s start with the Frame and Hip Escape. As implied by the name, this moment consists of two parts:
- Making a frame, and then
- Hip escaping
First, what exactly do we mean by ‘making a frame’?
As defined by my friend Rob Biernacki, a frame is created when you use your skeleton to support weight rather than your muscles. You can do this in a variety of ways, but most common application against a guard pass – and the one we’ll be discussing today – involves sitting up, planting your hand (or your elbow) at the correct angle behind you, and supporting your opponent’s weight with a straight arm, an elbow, or your shoulder.
In this alignment it’s hard for your opponent to simply bully you back down to the ground. Sure, you still need to use a bit of muscle, but much less than you would otherwise because now your bones are carrying the weight.
Then, after you create a structure that manages his weight allows you to be mobile, you then bring your feet back towards your butt, plant them on the ground, and then escape your hips backwards to re-establish guard (or stand up, or sweep, or whatever).
This is the ‘hip escape’ phase of the movement, and it’s basically the same as doing a backwards shrimping movement sitting up.
Check out this video for the breakdown of the Frame and Hip Escape as a guard passing defense…
Solo Drills to Train Your Guard Defense
Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques can get a little complicated; in any given technique it’s not unusual for your left hand is doing one thing, your right arm doing another, your legs to be pushing one way, and your hips are moving in the opposite direction.
That’s a whole lot of plate spinning, which is why it’s sometimes easier to get the basic movements figured out on your own when there isn’t a training partner actively trying to tear your head off.
The video below is called ’10 Ways to Shrimp and Improve Hip Mobility on the Ground’ which is well worth checking out: hips really are the key to jiu-jitsu, since they are the power source behind most of the techniques you’re going to use in class on a daily basis.
However if you’re rushed for time then the part of the video that’s most relevant to today’s discussion are moments 9 and 10: the ‘Elbow Shrimp’ and the ‘Hand Shrimp’.
If you look at those two movements they’re essentially solo versions of what Rob was doing in the Frame and Hip Escape guard defense section. Drill these moments on your own until they’re smooth and instinctive, and then you’ll find them much easier to apply in sparring and competition against a resisting opponent.
Here’s the video breakdown…
Partner Drills to Improve Guard Defense
I often like to start my sparring sessions with some easy, cooperative movement drills. This helps get my body warmed up and accustomed to rolling around on the ground.
Plus the best part is that if you do this part of the warmup right then the repetitions will help improve your technique.
In the video below are 3 drills where you’ll defend against your partner’s folding pass, matador pass, and smash pass using the frame and hip escape movement.
You’re not going hard in this drill; you’re just trying to get the repetitions in so that sitting up, making a frame, and then scooting backwards becomes second nature.
My guard retention and guard pass defense has really benefited from drills like this, and I hope you’ll start seeing the benefits too! Check it out…
The Frame and Hip Escape Guard Defense in MMA
Carlson Gracie, the son of Carlos Gracie (one of the co-founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) was a legend who trained an entire generation of jiu-jitsu competitors and fighters.
Carlson himself had 17 Vale Tudo fights, but none were more famous than his series of matches against Waldemar Santana. Waldemar had previously beat Helio Gracie in an almost 4 hour marathon battle, and the Gracie Family was eager for revenge.
In this particular match the formidable Santana rushes Carlson, takes him down and almost gets past Carlson’s legs.
To avoid having his guard completely passed Carlson posts one of his hands on the ground, sits up, and forms a frame with his body and shoulder so that Waldemar’s weight is held up with body alignment rather than pure muscular force (so it’s not exactly the same alignment as what we concentrated on above but it’s exactly the same concept applied with a very similar technique).
Once has blocked the guard pass itself Carlson then hip escapes, hip escapes, and hip escapes until he gets close to the ropes, at which point he executes a technical standup to get back to his feet.
This particular fight ended up in a draw, but without Carlson’s answer to the takedown and guard pass it might have ended very differently.
This sequence to prevent the guard pass lasts from about the 33 second to the 50 second mark in the video below….
So there you have it: one of the best and most universally applicable guard retention methods broken down for you, shown as both a solo drill and a partner drill, and then applied in a serious MMA fight. If it was good enough for Carlson to use when the chips were down then it should be good enough for you!
P.S. The first video in this article (The Frame and Hip Escape) is an excerpt from the guard retention section of the Guard and Bottom Game Formula instructional that Rob Biernacki and I did together.
There’s a lot more in that volume, but in my opinion just that one guard retention section is worth the price of the entire set!