Some people will tell you never, ever to pull guard. “Fight from the top,” they tell you…
In general that’s good advice, but what if you run into someone with vastly superior takedown skills? Or someone who is good at defending takedowns and determined to fight a completely defensive battle?
It’s good to have some takedowns in your arsenal. But it’s also good to have some other ways to get a match down to the ground. That’s where pulling guard comes in, and if you can set up a killer submission on the way down, well so much the better!
We’ll get to a really cool method of pulling off a flying armbar guard pull in a second, but first we have to talk about the setup. By which I mean the gripfighting
One of the most neglected aspects of pulling guard is the gripfighting that precedes it. As I’ve often said before, gripfighting is one of the most critical skills to develop, both for offence and for defence.
Gripfighting is important both on the ground and on the feet. Some people think they can avoid standing gripfighting by pulling guard, but it’s a giant mistake just to flop to guard without gripfighting first.
If your opponent’s arms are still in position when you pull guard then he can deflect your legs, neutralise your hooks, and work directly into a guard pass the second you hit the ground. Not good…
Here’s the deal: before you pull guard you’ve first got to clear the way with gripfighting
The following video on pulling guard takes you through one way to do just that (i.e. clearing the path).
In this short (2 minute) Youtube video my friend Elliott Bayev shows an innovative way to pull guard, force your opponent to the ground even if he’s much bigger and stronger than you, and convert it into a super-powerful armbar.
(I’m a lot bigger than Elliott – 50 lbs at least – and when he pulled this technique on me I felt like I had no choice but to go down.
Elliott and I filmed this above video after a long day of filming our Spider Guard Masterclass series in September of 2014, but I only got around to releasing it recently.
Interestingly Firaz Zahabi from the Tristar Gym in MMA where Georges St. Pierre used to train also recently released a video with a very similar flying armbar attack. (I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism, only suggesting that there are sometimes interesting synchronicities in the evolution of grappling)
Firaz sets it up his armbar from an overhook (and, occasionally, an underhook) rather than from an arm drag, but it’s a very similar technique.
Now I’ve got to add a caveat to this whole flying armbar business. Pulling guard can be dangerous.
I’ve seen people pulling guard knock themselves out when they landed on the back of their head. And I’ve seen people hurt when their partners pulled guard on them and landed on a leg.
In truth I haven’t played with it enough with either of the above methods of pulling guard yet to be sure, but because it involves jumping to the side of your opponent, which then means that there’s a possibility of slipping down and crashing onto the side of his knee. In fact it’s basically a flying leg scissor takedown (also known as Kani Basami in Judo), except with your legs reversed.
All’s fair in love and MMA, and the risks of brain damage in MMA far outweigh the orthopaedic concerns, so if you find yourself in a cage then fill your boots. Go for the flying armbar and if you tweak your opponent’s knee in the process, well, that’s just part of the risk of fighting in full contact Mixed Martial Arts.
But it’s unfair to extend this risk to the people you train with, so be careful in training: hitting either version of this armbar in a sloppy manner on an unsuspecting training partner could lead to you having one less training partner. And your training partners are your single biggest resource for getting better at grappling.
Go ahead, experiment with these armbars – they could save your butt some day. Just be precise, be technical, and be careful!