First contact - hands or feet?

First contact - hands or feet? Grappling is all about connection. No connection to an opponent means no grappling. At some you have to come to grips to make the action start. When you first come to make grips from open guard you have a choice between feet and hands. In truth, much of that choice will be determined by your opponent. If he positions himself in certain ways - hands will make more sense - in others - feet will make more sense. When ever he denies you one, the other will be available. Generally in no gi you will initially use your feet to establish contact at the ankles and knees. Hands at the wrists, elbows and collar. Here, Nicky Ryan uses feet first due to distance and stance - use that first contact to read the opponent and move into establish more contact for greater control. Just as you test water with a single hand or foot before jumping in, so too, test an opponent with a single hand or foot before jumping in to full connection.

It’s hard for an opponent to attack you from guard if you don’t allow his feet to make effective connections to your legs and arms

It’s hard for an opponent to attack you from guard if you don’t allow his feet to make effective connections to your legs and arms: Effective attacks in Jiu jitsu are predicated upon effective grips that form connection between you and an opponent. You can use that connection to control and attack. If you can’t grip and connect - you can’t attack. Now guard position has two major forms of grip. The first is the more obvious one - your hands to your opponents body. The second is your FEET to your opponents body (usually the legs). Your feet do almost as much grilling as your hands in Jiu jitsu. When passing, if you can shut down your opponents ability to grip you with his feet, then you will have gone a long way towards shutting down his offense, and with his offense shut down, now you can focus on the fun stuff - passing his guard - without the distraction of being attacked as you try to pass. Seek to control his feet and prevent them making effective connections to your legs - your passing game will thank you

Carry your opponents weight easily through posture

Carry your opponents weight easily through posture: When you work in bottom position you will have to carry your opponents weight on top of you for extended periods. This can be tiring and fruitless if done with poor posture. IF YOU WANT TO EASILY CARRY AND MOVE HEAVY OPPONENTS FROM BOTTOM KEEP YOUR KNEES TO CHEST AND SOINE CURVED LIKE THE BOTTOM OF A ROCKING CHAIR - just as a rocking chair can easily carry and move heavy bodies, so too will you. Look how Nicky Ryan uses the banana curve in his spine to topple an opponent forward and easily move him into a position where he can lift himself into a cross ashi garami entry. If your spine is flat on the floor you will feel every ounce of your opponents weight and won’t be able to move him an inch. Put a healthy curve in your spine and you will bounce him around from one attack to another.

From guard almost everything begins with an attack on the opponents balance

From guard almost everything begins with an attack on the opponents balance: Here I am demonstrating a double leg entry into cross ashi garami. Note how it begins, as almost all attacks from guard so, as an attack on the opponents balance that forces hands to floor in reaction and then going from there. Your opponent can’t ignore such an attack, his reaction and your preferences will determine the direction and choice of your response - but it all begins with balance.

Pressure passing - the power of half guard

Pressure passing - the power of half guard: There are many ways to create pressure whilst passing an opponents guard, but in my opinion half guard passing is the best for pressure for the simple reason that it offers direct control of the opponents HEAD, which creates the strongest forms of pressure. The ability to exert pressure over time is perhaps the single biggest determinant of success or failure at championship level. Working your way to half guard and getting control of the head gives you what I consider the best pressure passing method in the game. It works equally well in all three areas of sport Jiu jitsu, gi, no gi and MMA. Here, Georges St Pierre, who uses half guard passing brilliantly throughout his MMA career, trades pressure with Gordon Ryan, who used it brilliantly in his double gold medal performance at the ADCC Grappling World Championships.


Obstacles: Sometimes when you run into a skilled guard player and it seems nothing will get you around their legs it gets frustrating. How you react to that frustration will determine your success or failure as a guard passer. We all have a natural tendency when frustrated to get the mentality of a ram and just go on butting heads until one drops. Don’t get into this mindset. Remember always that it’s always better to go AROUND obstacles rather than THROUGH them - guard passing is no different. No matter how tired and frustrated you get, focus on moving from one side to another - as feel strong resistance on the left, move to the right and renew the attack and keep working aide to side until you get the breakthrough you seek. Don’t just kept hammering away on one side against a good guard player - that’s a ticket to frustration and eventual failure. If you feel yourself getting frustrated it’s ok to back off a little and start again. The main thing is to stay on top and work side to side - that alone will usually result in the bottom player working harder than you over time and thus become less effective as fatigue becomes a factor.

Nothing good happens when you’re inside a closed guard

Nothing good happens when you’re inside a closed guard: In a grappling match, as long as you are locked inside a closed guard there is an undesirable asymmetry insofar you don’t have any form of offense while your opponent has many attacks that he can employ against you (obviously fighting is a very different story as there are many effective strikes that the top athlete inside the closed guard can employ). As such, you want to spend as little time as possible inside the closed guards of your opponents as possible so that you are not caught on the wrong side of this asymmetry any longer than necessary. As such you MUST develop reliable ways of opening a closed guard in a timely manner so that you don’t waste long periods of match time in a position from which you cannot advance and score and where he can submit you with many of the best moves in the sport but you have only a few long percentage attacks on him. I strongly prefer standing methods of opening a closed guard and believe that these work best for most people in most situations (though some athletes have specialized methods of opening closed guards on their knees). Learning to stand inside a dangerous closed guard can be rather discouraging at first as you will often be knocked down - don’t get discouraged - getting knocked down a few times before you succeed is perfectly normal even at world championship level - it’s not as bad as sitting passively inside a closed guard letting time waste and defending yourself from submissions. Opening a closed guard is one of the first skills you must master if you are to make progress in the sport since without it you couldn’t even get started in top position. Find a method that suites you and get to work!

Sweeps can do more than sweep

Sweeps can do more than sweep: When we go to sweep an opponent from guard position we typically do so with the goal of getting up to to top position and scoring two points. Understand however, that sweeps have TWO major functions. The first is exactly what we just described - the attempt to put an opponent down to bottom position and gain top position. The second is much less talked about. A failed sweep almost always creates SPACE and EXTENSION in our opponent. Space, because he will need to move away to break connection and lessen the power of the sweep; and extension because he will need to base his hands/feet outwards to prevent being turned over. These defensive reactions of space and extension will make it surprisingly easy to switch from the goal of REVERSING an opponent to SUBMITTING an opponent (or standing up to your feet). As the opponent bases out wide with feet and knees - leg lock entries become easy. As he bases out with hands, arm locks and triangles become surprisingly easy. Here, Georges St Pierre is getting ready to test the strong base of Gordon Ryan with a shoulder crunch variation of sumi gaeshi sweep. Mr Ryan is already starting to widen his base in anticipation - ask yourself where you would go with regards submissions in this situation


Overlap: Many of the most popular standing takedowns in Jiu jitsu can also be used as sweeps from guard position on the ground. This really helps the Jiu jitsu student speed the process of learning them as standing takedowns. If you already have a strong single leg sweep from open guard, it won’t be so difficult to lead a single leg takedown from standing position. Once you learn standing set ups and elements of stance and motion etc, everything is quite similar. Quite a few takedowns have very significant overlap with commonly used guard sweeps - double legs, Tomoe nage, sumi gaeshi, collar drags, ankle picks - these (and others) all are excellent takedowns from standing as well as excellent sweeps from the floor. By focusing on these overlap takedowns, the Jiu jitsu student can shorten learning time by taking what is already familiar and applying it in a different context. I’m sure that many of you have been applying these moves as sweeps for many years - it will be easier to apply them from standing once you make the necessary additions than learning an entirely new takedown that has no relation to the ground game you are so familiar with. If you’re looking to develop a good standing takedown game in a short timeframe - ask yourself what some of your favorite guard sweeps are and whether they can be applied in standing position - a surprising number can - perhaps they can be your short cut to developing some takedown skills

Sweeps AND submissions

Sweeps AND submissions: Very often there is a natural tendency to divide our attacks from open guard into sweeps and submissions and to see them as as an either/or option - you either sweep the opponent or you submit him. There is nothing wrong with that, but you will get much better results when you understand that they operate best when used in unison. Every time you attack with a sweep, your opponent will be forced to base out with his limbs to prevent it. This will immediately created extended limbs - and extended limbs are breakable limbs. THE MORE YOU CAN GET AN OPPONENT EXTENDED AND OUT OF BALANCE, THE MORE YOU WILL SUBMIT HIM. Don’t see sweeps as an alternative choice to submissions - see them as an essential precursor - and watch your submission percentages increase overnight. Here, Gordon Ryan launches an opponent into some serious air time at the world championships. A sweep attack as powerful as this will either result in sweep points or at the very least, an extended and off balanced opponent who can easily be attacked via submission at both upper and lower body.