Too many people end up in closed guard and try singular attacks.
Armbar attack! Damn, that didn’t work.
Sweep attack!! Damn, that didn’t work either.
Take the back!!!! My opponent shut that down too… what am I doing wrong?
The thing is that singular attacks (or, even worse, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake) might work at white belt level, but this sort of strategy just won’t work against good people. After all, they’ve seen the individual moves before aren’t just going to give you a free attack, and know how to shut your moves down!
That’s why you need to approach the guard holistically and have actual SYSTEMS for controlling the position, securing and maintaining your grips, and linking your attacks together!
When you’ve got a system it means that it’s not the end of the world if your first attack doesn’t work. Instead his response to that first attack gives you the opening you need for your second attack, and his response to that gives you your third attack, and so on.
Once you start incorporating systems into your game then you’ll start being able to hold your own against and even dominate better and better opponents.
Let’s talk specifically about the guard…
In every guard position it’s useful to build a mini-system or series around specific grips. And typically in most guard positions there will be 3 to 5 major grips you’ll alternate between.
For each of those grips you’ll then have to develop tactics for getting the grip, maintaining the grip, switching to other grips, and launching your attacks from there.
And for each of these moves you need to understand what the most common reactions are and how to shut them down or circumvent them.
The key is connection. Connection between gripping strategies, attacks, and transitions.
To give you a sense of what that might look like let’s look at just one grip from one position, the cross collar grip from closed guard.
Inserting our hand into your opponent’s cross lapel is probably the first grip you ever learned from the closed guard. But it’s definitely NOT just for beginners: it’s been used to win a LOT of matches in the black belt division.
The problem is that a good opponent isn’t just going to let you reach up and get this grip; he’ll fight you tooth and nail because he knows that the the first person to get a dominant grip has a huge advantage.
So you need a system just to sink that grip in the first place.
Here’s Jon Thomas’s approach to getting and maintaining that cross lapel grip against resistance…
OK, so now you’ve got that grip and are controlling the position. That’s awesome, so now it’s time to move onto the offensive!
Not surprisingly, the most obvious attack from the cross collar grip is the cross collar choke.
The cross collar choke is a very legitimate attack. Lots of people have watched the world go dark after they let an opponent slip his hands into position and squeeze.
But it’s also a choke that a lot of people mess up on. They think they have it and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Next thing they know they’ve completely burnt out their own grips and their opponent still hasn’t tapped out.
That’s because they’ve been doing it wrong. For this choke the devil really is in the details, and without those details it’s just isn’t going to work properly.
Here’s Jon Thomas to the rescue once again with the all the details you wish you’d been taught initially about actually finishing the cross collar choke!
Check it out…
Now let’s say that you’ve got a canny opponent who’s dedicating all his energy to make sure that you don’t choke him from the cross collar system.
Do you give up, release the grip, and go home?
Not at all.
The advantage of having a system is that you haven’t come to the end of the road. Instead you’ve already computed the next move that you’re going to do and can move onto that without hesitation.
If the cross collar grip doesn’t work then you’ve got lots of options for where to go next, including triangle chokes, armbars, sweeps and backtakes. It’s your system that binds them all together!
The takehome lessons are these…
- Think about the main grips you’re looking for in each guard position
- Research and figure out how to to get to those grips and how to maintain them
- Learn the highest percentage attacks from those grips, and
- Learn the highest percentage followups to those attacks.
If you do all that then you’ll be well on your way to having a system for each guard position instead of a random collection of techniques!
Good luck with your training,
More Jon Thomas BJJ
Jon Thomas’s Closed Guard System
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