Open Guard Bottom Tips

This week in BJJ the topic was open guard. Now that’s a huge topic. I personally find it quite overwhelming. How can you teach anything fundamental or useful about such a big topic? It’s the week I struggle with the most actually. There is so much material that could be covered that it’s hard to choose. Instead of going over what I taught this week I’ll go over a list of important points for a good open guard. This will be a brief post as my knee is still quite sore and it’ll be a few more weeks till I’m back on the mat. I’d like to be able to add some pictures and videos to this post as I can…

Basic Open Guard Principles

3 Points of Contact

The bottom player needs to always have 3 points of contact with the top guy. You have 4 limbs to use for this task so that gives you one extra. The extra one is used to help keep your hips mobile. This means you will have one hand and one foot on the other guy at all times. Sometimes you’ll have 2 hands and sometimes 2 feet.

Concentrating on this principle alone is really helpful. In order for the top guy to pass your guard he has to break you down to 2 points of contact or less.

Simple Drill

Top person’s job is to remove the bottom person’s points. Bottom person has to re-establish the 3 point connection. No guard passing, no sweeps or submissions for the bottom guy. Do a few rounds.

After the drill would be the time to introduce proper grips for the bottom guy. Review the where and how of grips. Then drill again.

Next, review the landing pads for the feet. Drill again…

No Tool Left in the Toolbox

This is an important principle. The idea is that you have 4 limbs and you are using them all effectively. The three things your limbs can do is push, pull, and lift. You should always be doing one of those with each at all times. At no time should your limbs be hanging limp. (Warning and not a rule.) The difficult thing about this principle is that it takes time to develop. Your 4 limbs will be doing different things all at the same time. Beginners will have trouble with this. Advanced students do it intuitively and that’s part of the reason that they have such great guards.

So, if you can consistently keep 3 points of contact, know where to put those points, and know how to apply pressure with those points you’ll have a great guard. Everything else that people do is style specific. From this idea you can play butterfly, half butterfly, X guard, Z guard, spider guard, upright guard etc. All can benefit from the same principles.

Warnings: You know you are in trouble if…

  1. One of your knees hits the mat. A good guard passer is always keying in on this. As soon as one of your knees hits the mat look for the top guy to try to kill it there. If he kills your knee AND has your hip locked down you are probably passed.
  2. Both your knees pass center line. A good guard passer won’t let this go unchecked. As soon as both your knees pass center he’ll isolate them to one side and use that to work a pass.
  3. Your knees touch together. When your knees touch together you open the door to getting passed. Often the top guy will bind your knees together and pass from there.
  4. The top guy grabs both your pants cuffs. When the top guy gets a double cuff grip on your pants you MUST either strip or regrip right away. You can never let this grip go unchecked. It’s too good of a passing grip to let it go.
  5. Your legs get too extended. The top guy will use this opportunity to staple your legs to the mat.
  6. Your knees get too close to your body. Your legs are structurally weak here and it’s hard to extend your legs if they get caught too close. A good passer will take advantage of this and initiate a smash pass.
  7. Your feet are hanging in the air. If your feet aren’t on some solid real estate and applying pressure to the top guy you are in trouble.

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