Killing The Closed Guard

(Orginal article available at http://tombarlowonline.com/killing-the-closed-guard/)

Getting stuck in closed guard sucks but if your opponent is good in that position, it will be a miserable experience.

The first time I experienced this was at the 2007 European championships. My first fight was against good purple belt from Alliance called David Said.

I was a little nervous before the fight, but I’d just received my purple belt and thought I was invincible. How wrong I was.

Closed Guard Sucks

As soon as we hit the ground, he secured closed guard, and I realised I was in serious trouble. He was firmly in control of my posture, balance, and the fight. Every time I tried to regain my posture he would adjust his position and counter with a sweep or submission attack.

For about 3 minutes, I survived David’s attacks but did little more than that. Then I made a mistake and over committed to a guard break, in the blink of an eye, David capitalised on my mistake and secured a painfully tight armbar.

Attacking an Arm Bar in the finals of the 2015 European Championships
As I iced my throbbing elbow joint and fought back the tears of frustration, I made a promise I’d never get stuck in closed guard again.

Becoming A Closed Guard Breaking Monster

With the help of my coach, Braulio, I set about becoming a closed guard breaking monster. I wanted to get to the point where I could look at a closed guard, and it would wither in fear of my skills.

Ok, that’s probably not going to happen, but I wanted to develop an efficient way to break the guard against any opponent.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve now reached that point. I can honestly say I have no fear of breaking anyone’s guard, and I have against some of the world’s best Jiu Jitsu players.

Along the way, I learned three important lessons I want to share with you now that will help you kill your opponents closed guard.

Avoiding Closed Guard Is The Best Option

The first lesson I learned was that avoiding closed guard is much easier than having to break it. The simplest way to do this is bring one knee up (think combat base) anytime your opponent looks to close guard.

If you do this, it will make it difficult for your opponent to cross their ankles and it will give you enough time to stand, step over a leg, and avoid closed guard entirely.

Defend First, Then Posture

The second lesson (and where I went wrong in my fight with David) is you have to regain your posture before you try to break closed guard, and if your posture is broken you have to defend before you can regain your posture.

Then, and only then, you will be able to start SAFELY cracking open the closed guard. I do this by controlling the lapels with one hand and the hips with the other.

Check out this video that covers both avoiding closed guard and building your posture.

Key points:

  • if your posture gets broken, control both lapels, keep your head central and follow your opponents hips.
  • the moment your head is free, posture up and frame against their chest and hips
  • create pressure against their feet
  • whenever the guard opens, go to combat base and start passing
  • you can avoid closed guard entirely by posting one knee

Standing Is The Easiest Way To Break

The final lesson I learned is that standing to break the guard is far easier than trying to break on the knees.

When you stand up to open the guard you gain your secret weapon in guard passing; Gravity. And gravity is a powerful ally in the battle to open the guard.

Compared to breaking on the knees, standing has a higher risk of being swept but a lower risk of submission. You also have to close the space again once you’ve opened the guard.

In my opinion, the pro’s far outweigh the con’s and providing you’re aware of the potential problems you can neutralise them before they happen.

This video covers my favourite way to open closed guard from standing and how to train it.

Key Points:

  • look to stand as soon as possible
  • control one sleeve to avoid being knocked off balance
  • stand up tall, so you don’t provide a shelf for their legs
  • hang them from the sleeve grip
  • use your free arm and shake open the guard
  • as soon as their guard opens close the space or step back and start passing.

By using these three simple tips and practicing the techniques, you should be able open most people’s closed guard.

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