Guard retention

Guard retention: One of the most exciting aspects of learning Jiu Jitsu is that of developing strong attacks with submissions and sweeps/reversals from bottom guard positions. Most people believe that in any combat situation a person in top position will have an advantage over an opponent underneath them. It is very eye opening to a beginner to see how powerful certain bottom guard positions can be if used well. However, EVEN THE BEST ATTACKING ABILITIES FROM BOTTOM POSITION WILL BE OF LITTLE VALUE IF YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN A GUARD POSITION LONG ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY PUT THEM INTO OPERATION. The bottom game of Jiu Jitsu is entirely predicated on the idea that you must be able to engage your opponent with your LEGS (Guard) If you are to be effective. If your opponent quickly passes your legs you can’t do anything from underneath until you recover your legs back between yourself and your adversary. As long as you have connection of your legs to your opponent or least alignment of your legs with your opponent, you can play an offensive game from bottom, but the moment he passes your guard, you are 100% defensive. As such, the ability to hold a guard position for extended periods of time against resistance is the single most important skill in building a foundation for offense from bottom position. While it may not have the sex appeal of submissions and sweeps, you won’t be submitting or sweeping anyone from underneath if they pass your legs - so when it comes to developing bottom guard skills - EVERYTHING STARTS WITH RETENTION. Only when you have that skill will you be able to constantly attack and play an offensive game from bottom position. AS LONG AS YOU HAVE YOUR LEGS/ HIPS POSITIONED BETWEEN YOURSELF AND YOUR OPPONENT YOU ARE A THREAT TO HIM - AS SOON AS HE PASSES YOUR GUARD YOU ARE NOTHING TO HIM BUT A TARGET. Work hard on those unglamorous but essential retention skills - they will provide more value to your bottom game than any other and create a foundation upon which you can build a truly impressive set of bottom offense skills


The greatest vulnerability of the human body - the back

The greatest vulnerability of the human body - the back: The human body is entirely set up to deal with threats directly in front of it. The further around the body you go, the less well it can deal with any threat. That is why ANGLE is such a cherished commodity in all combat sports. The ultimate angle is to be directly behind someone. There are many ways to get an advantageous angle - in grappling sports probably the most successful route is to get control of, and then move outside of, your opponent’s ELBOW. While there are other very effective routes to the back, it is probably fair to say that domination of the elbow is the royal route to the back in grappling sports. Learning to get control of an opponent’s elbow when you are in any dominant or even neutral position, and getting a position outside of it, is a great thing in Jiu Jitsu, as you now have a clear path to the back. SHOW ME ANY NEUTRAL POSITION IN JIU-JITSU AND I WILL SHOW YOU A POSITION WHERE, IF YOU COULD SLIDE OUTSIDE YOUR OPPONENTS ELBOW, IT WOULD NO LONGER BE NEUTRAL BUT DOMINANT. learn to look for elbow control at all times and look to use that control positively get getting your body outside and past your opponent’s elbows and I promise you that you will soon be scoring more back points than you ever did previously. Here, Nicky Ryan, young master of the back, climbs skillfully around an opponent’s elbow from bottom guard. Guard is a neutral position - but once the elbow is beaten it becomes highly advantageous. Just a few seconds after this photo was taken he had successfully applied a strangle.


Start with head and hands

Start with head and hands: One of the most important concepts of grappling is that of CONNECTION. Only when you form some sort of physical connection to an opponent can you begin the process of controlling an opponent’s movement in ways that lead to submission (there are some ways to affect an opponent’s movement without touching them (feints, motion etc) but this is a different set of skills). Note immediate a general rule - THE MORE CONNECTION YOU HAVE WITH AN OPPONENT THE GREATER DEGREE OF CONTROL IS POSSIBLE. So as a general rule as we grapple an opponent we are constantly seeking to get good position with greater amounts of body contact in order to maximize control. However, this process of seeking greater connection must have a starting point - and the vast majority of cases, CONNECTION BEGINS WITH THE HEAD AND HANDS. Good head position and strong hand fighting skills are a BIG part of success and one which you must start practicing until they become instinctual. Your head and hands are the basis of your defense in grappling and if you can gain some sort of advantage with them it will start your offensive cycles that can lead to victory. SET YOUR HEAD AND HANDS PROPERLY AND THE REST OF YOUR BODY WILL HAVE A MUCH EASIER TIME GETTING ADVANTAGEOUS CONNECTION.


When you have strong submissions in your arsenal - as long as you have a heartbeat and time on the clock - you’ve always got a chance

When you have strong submissions in your arsenal - as long as you have a heartbeat and time on the clock - you’ve always got a chance: One of The greatest things about submissions is that they can turn an entire match around in a moment. Regardless of what has transpired already in a match - no matter how far behind you are on the scoreboard - a submission overcomes everything and can give you the win. One of the greatest favors you can ever do yourself is thus to train deeply in submission skill. It will be your equivalent of a KO punch. Submissions make you dangerous and at a deeper level, they create a sense in you that you always a chance of victory no matter what. Here, blue belt junior Nathalia Santoro finds herself down 9-4 in a wild match with just seconds on the clock. Training with back master Gordon Ryan pays off as she locks in a strangle on the buzzer to take a great win. Nothing gets us through adversity better than a sense of hope - and strong submissions create a very strong sense of hope indeed because they are the one weapon that can instantly overturn the entire narrative of a match so far and give you victory out of defeat.


What comes next? If you can count on one thing for the rest of your time in Jiu jitsu it is this - every opponent you face will strive to resist every attack you make upon them. ACTIVE INTELLIGENT RESISTANCE is the fundamental feature of all combat sports and what makes them so challenging, so frustrating, so rewarding - and so effective. How well you do in Jiu Jitsu will come down to one thing - HOW WELL DO YOU DEAL WITH YOUR OPPONENTS RESISTANCE IN COMPETITIVE SITUATIONS? A great first step is to begin with a question. For all your favorite moves, list the most common responses (usually a very manageable number) and list a strong follow-up move to enter into when your opponent stymies the initial move. Just this simple act will greatly improve your performance on the mat. NEVER THINK IN TERMS OF SINGLE ATTACKS BUT ALWAYS THINK IN TERMS OF CLUSTERS OF ATTACKS so that as resistance escalates you can automatically go around that resistance into a follow up attack. Look at this photo of talented squad junior Frankie Rosenthal beginning to lose control of a nice initial triangle attack - where would you go from here? How long did it take you to formulate an answer to the question? Your two answers to these questions will say a lot about your current ability to deal with resistance and go on to victory.


The hardest skill for beginning students to learn - Guard retention

The hardest skill for beginning students to learn - Guard retention: There are many skills that a student first beginning Jiu Jitsu must start to learn. While none of them are easy to apply on a resisting opponent, there is one that always seems to be especially difficult - this is the skill of maintaining your guard (keeping your legs between you and your opponent) as your opponent works to pass your guard (get past your legs and into an upper body pin). Nothing really prepares you for this. While some physical attributes such as flexibility help to a degree, they won’t allow a beginner to hold off a more advanced training partner for even a respectable amount of time. This is not good news, as THE ENTIRE BOTTOM GAME OF JIU JITSU IS BASED AROUND YOU ABILITY TO GET TO GUARD AND STAY THERE LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE EFFECTIVE ATTACKS. I always felt that guard retention was probably the most poorly taught subject matter in Jiu Jitsu. Too often people with excellent guard retention are seen as physically talented, as though physical attributes were the main reason why they were good at guard retention, rather than having a sound game plan and set of skills, tactics and knowledge that made them effective. So what can we do to improve this situation? I believe the first big step in the right direction is to begin teaching guard retention in a way that reflects the way the game is actually played. Guard PASSING is among the fastest and most dynamic aspects of BJJ. There are constant feints, push/pull action/reaction movements, switching sides, combined attacks etc. In this fast moving atmosphere where you can go from being safe and comfortable and then one second later be in total crisis mode with an opponent almost past your guard, it pays to have a guard retention methodology that reflects this dynamic nature. As such, I greatly favor a conceptual approach that gives useful, broadly applicable rules of behavior in response to guard passing threats that are loose and flexible enough to be workable in fast changing and chaotic situations. This is a big topic and I will be coming back to it quite often as it will determine how successful you are in bottom position on the mat


The versatility of front headlock position

The versatility of front headlock position: one of the most commonly occurring positions in all of submission grappling is the front headlock/guillotine position. From feet to floor, top or bottom there are so many ways to enter into this position whether as a reaction to an opponent’s move, or as a proactive entry that we initiate ourselves that it is almost inevitable that it will occur on multiple occasions in the course of a match. As such, it must be part of your game. The good news is that there are many fine stranglehold’s that can be done from there - many guillotine and kata gatame variations - all of which can turn a match in your favor in a very short time frame. Here, developing junior @drewthewickd_mma uses a nice sequence that begins as an arm in guillotine and transitions to a high elbow guillotine attack from top position as the changing circumstances of the scenario unfold. This ability to get quickly to a controlling front headlock and then use that control to move through all the many potential strangleholds from there is a truly valuable combat skill that you can use every day you train.


Thinking versus unthinking action

Thinking versus unthinking action: In combat sports there is often a need for very swift action and no time for thinking. So for example, if an opponent quickly shoots in for a takedown there is often no time to assess the situation and make a reasoned decision as to how to respond. In cases like this you must train to develop HABITS that kick in without thought the moment the danger arises. Automatic action is thus always a big part of combat sports and you must train yourself to develop good habits that you will automatically apply should the situation arise. Then there are many other situations where there is a considerable amount of time to respond to a tricky situation that you have gotten into. In these situations, reasoned problem solving thought is the way to go. Here you can take the time to avoid a rushed and ill considered action and think things through to solve a puzzle. As a general rule, the demand for quick and automatic reaction with good reaction speed is mostly seen in standing position where the overall pace and the speed of the major techniques is high. In ground grappling the pace slows considerably and there is often time to figure out solutions to problems as you grapple. Your training must reflect this. Develop good habits in response to the faster moves of the sport so that you can reflexively perform the correct response to a quick attack with no need for slow thinking. Drill these counters until they become automatic. When response time is a priority those habits built through repetition will be worth their weight in gold. When you are tangled up down on the floor, go the opposite route - take the time to slow things down and engage conscious thought to problem solve. Using both these approaches in the appropriate contexts will be of great benefit to your performance on the mat.


Amazing night for the juniors! Last night some of the junior students went out to compete at @riseinvitational and at @thirdcoastgrappling @frankrosenthal11 won a fine victory to retain his Rise title. @katerinaleontyeva has to tremendous submission victories, one via heel hook and one via high elbow guillotine to show her developing mastery of leg and front headlock systems. @drewthewickd_mma won with a savage guillotine that rendered his opponent unconscious - I’ve always said that when people visit the basement the thing that shocks them the most is the effectiveness of my students front headlock/guillotine attacks - everyone expects them to be good at legs and back attacks - but the power of their attacks from front headlock is a nasty surprise. Meanwhile, down south @heysonnyy won a thriller via stranglehold in the last second of the match to show the progress of the junior female squad members. Also incredible coaching work by @garrytonon and @gordonlovesjiujitsu who used their own competition experience to help the juniors through the same types of challenges they faced years ago at a similar point in their own careers. Amazing work!! The submission rate in their matches is extraordinarily high - a great testimony to their hard work and progress and a great example for all of my readers to follow. SET YOUR GOALS HIGH, SET YOUR DEMANDS UPON YOURSELF FOR EXCELLENCE IN TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT EVEN HIGHER - STICK TO THE PROGRAM AS LONG AS IT GARNERS GOOD RESULTS AND MAKE CHANGES IF IT DOES NOT - AND SOON YOU WILL BE HAVING SIMILAR SUCCESS


Making resistance work FOR you rather than AGAINST you

Making resistance work FOR you rather than AGAINST you: The fundamental feature of all combat sports is working in a competitive setting against a resisting opponent who is actively trying to defeat you as you try to defeat him. This means that every move you attempt upon him will be met with strong resistance. The natural tendency we all have when we encounter strong resistance is to TRY HARDER and if that fails, QUIT THE MOVE. Learning to go beyond this “try harder/quit” approach is one of the biggest developmental stapes you will have to take. Many never take this step and leave the sport frustrated and disappointed. You must learn to start seeing RESISTANCE AS OPPORTUNITY rather than as a barrier. Every act of resistance has a DIRECTION OF FORCE. When you can read that direction of force you can start to use it to your advantage by adding a second move that goes in the SAME DIRECTION AS YOUR OPPONENTS RESISTANCE. This creates a spectacular effect where your opponent’s strong resistance suddenly compliments your new move and an effortless follow up occurs. Here, Gordon Ryan goes hard to his right for a sweep variation I invented many years ago to allow powerful sweeps out of underhooks and arm lock attacks. His opponent, Dillon Danis has done a good job of setting his hips against the strong right side attack, but as a result will be easy to move back the other way. Gordon Ryan did exactly that - elevating left to enter into a cross ashi garami heel hook - unfortunately time ran out before the heel hook could be finished but the lesson remains. For all your favorite attacks you must be able to launch a strong initial attack that creates a big defensive reaction and then have a small set of complimentary moves in the opposite direction that will enable you to flow WITH resistance and get resistance working FOR you instead of AGAINST you.