I used to make a very specific mistake all up until about purple belt: I would just concede the guard.
By that I mean that in a competitive roll I would just give my opponent whatever kind of guard he wanted and then go from there.
If he wanted to play spider guard, sure, I’d give him spider guard and then try to pass.
If he wanted de la Riva I’d give that to him right at the beginning of the round and after every reset.
I never really thought much about this until I heard OG BJJ black belt Roy Harris answer a question about passing closed guard.
He showed some ways to break the closed guard, but then added that it’s MUCH better to avoid ending up in closed guard in the first place. He emphasised how important it was to use your arms and legs to prevent his legs from encircling your torso, crossing his ankles, and establishing the closed guard.
That made a lot of sense. Prevention is always better than a cure.
Why spend half the match desperately struggling to make posture in the closed guard when you can avoid it in the first place?
Chess champion Gary Kasparov once said, “The highest art of the chessplayer lies in not allowing your opponent to show you what he can do.”
You don’t want a closed guard expert to show you how good he is at the closed guard!
When it comes to BJJ this strategy applies to EVERY kind of guard.
A subject matter expert functioning within his area of expertise is always a problem.
So if you know what styles of guard your opponent is good at then you should definitely do your very best not to give it to him on a silver platter.
Don’t give the closed guard to a closed guard guy… Don’t give the spider guard to a spider guard guy…. You get the picture!
How to shut down each style of guard is a huge topic, but here are some quick examples…
DE LA RIVA GUARD
Never lead with one leg forward and give your opponent the outside leg position because that just gives him his guard. A de la Riva guard expert only needs his hook for a second to wrap you up in the ball and chain sweep or berimbolo you into a horrible position.
Never approach a butterfly guard specialist on your knees, give him inside leg and control over your upper body or – boom – he’ll find a way to elevate, sweep or leglock you. Try standing passes and fight like crazy to dominate the grips.
Never willingly let him grab the end of your sleeves. And if does get them then don’t let him flare your elbows out or he’ll sink a lasso hook in so deep that you’ll spend the whole match trying to get your arm back.
There are many different styles of half guard, but generally you want to keep him flat on the ground and deny him the underhook or he’ll scoot straight to your back. If he has the underhook then stop everything, back out, get your own underhook, and then advance again.
Trust me on this: your life on the mat will get a lot better if you fight like crazy to stop your opponent from getting his favourite guard position and force him to use a position he’s not as good at.
Take him out of his element and put him somewhere unfamiliar.
Play the move that’s worst for him.
A REALLY IMPORTANT EXCEPTION!!
Everything I just said totally applies IF you’re in a competitive roll.
(By competitive I mean that you’re literally in a competition, or you’re getting ready to spar a longtime rival frenemy.)
Deny him his favourite guard when the roll really ‘counts’.
But in training you sometimes want to do the exact opposite.
You might actually want to GIVE him his best position and go from there.
If you already have a large advantage (you’re bigger, younger, stronger, faster or more experienced than the other guy) then it’s no fun just to crush the guy. It’s not friendly, plus you won’t learn as much.
If you’re better than the other guy you want to let him into the game.
Do some worst case scenario training by giving him his position, his hooks, his grips and then try to win anyway.
If you get swept or submitted, who cares? No big deal. It’s only training.
By occasionally willingly going into a position that your opponent is really good at you’ll improve the chances that you’ll survive that position if you ever end up there in a roll that counts.
So to sum up… NEVER give your opponent the guard he wants… EXCEPT when you do it deliberately.
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