Brazilian jiu jitsu is probably most famous – and indeed most innovative – in its use of the guard position. Although this was certainly a part of BJJ’s parent art, judo, it is in BJJ that the guard has arguably reached its highest level of sophistication.
Closed guard is where it all begins. From the perspective of the person on the bottom, you need to control your partner’s posture, breaking them down so that they can neither sit up nor stand up. When you’ve broken their posture (Can taught the basics on that topic last week), they will also find it harder to avoid your submission attempts.
The closed guard has numerous submission opportunities, such as chokes, armbars and omoplatas. The transition between the triangle (a powerful choke, introduced by Dónal on Tuesday), armbar and omoplata is particularly effective. However, If they manage to stand up, it becomes quite difficult to submit them, as they now have gravity on their side.
On the other hand, a standing opponent is still vulnerable to sweeps. We will be covering various sweeps this month, enabling you to move from the guard (essentially a neutral position) into mount, side control and the back (all dominant positions).
For the person on top, we will examine various methods for passing the closed guard, as well as basics like posture and grip breaking. Unlike open guard, you first need to break the closed guard, a topic in itself (here’s one method). Once that is accomplished, there are many methods for moving around their legs, most of which also have applicability in other types of guard.
We hope you enjoy exploring the closed guard with us this May!
We’re moving on from the mount to a new position this month in Bristol, the back. Together with mount, this is the highest scoring position in most BJJ tournaments (if they use points), due to its dominance.
The back can be divided into several sub-positions, the most common of which is demonstrated in the picture at the top. This is what people are normally referring to when they talk about ‘the back’. Something called ‘the turtle’ (where your opponent is facing the mat on their elbows and knees, compacted tightly for defence) is another important variation, then there are less commonly used options such as the body triangle.
If you can reach the back, you can attack your opponent with relative impunity, whereas there is almost nothing they can attack in return (be careful of crossing your feet, as that presents your partner with an easy ankle lock opportunity). There are many submissions available to you here, especially chokes, both with and without the gi.
The most iconic choke of all is probably what is known as the ‘rear naked choke’ (because you don’t need to use a gi to apply this choke), or more fancifully as the ‘Mata Leão’, which translates as ‘Lion Killer’. Royce Gracie used this choke to good effect during his seminal fights in the early UFCs and it’s been a staple of mixed martial arts ever since.
We’ll be learning that choke, among others, this April. You will also learn how to maintain and escape the back position, as well as how to bail to mount if you feel your opponent is slipping free. It’s a versatile and powerful offensive platform: we look forward to sharing it with you!
At the end of last month, we learned how to transition from side control into mount. The mount is one of two positions that are generally viewed as the most dominant in BJJ: the other is back mount, the reverse of this position. That dominance is reflected by the value ascribed to mount and back mount in competition, where either will net you four points (unless it is the superior format of submission only, where there are no points).
Although mount is arguably a better position than side control, it takes a little longer to become comfortable in mount. A beginner may feel less stable, as they are still getting used to controlling their opponent’s hips and learning how to best distribute their weight.
As with so much in jiu jitsu, the hips are key in mount. If you are sat directly on top of their hips, they can significantly affect your balance by thrusting those hips up. Therefore you need to either establish control with your legs and arms as well as your weight distribution if you’re on top of their hips, or you need to move up their body so that their hips no longer have as much impact on your balance.
Broadly speaking, mount can be split into two main variations, low mount (as per the picture above) and high mount (where you move your knees up into their armpits). There are several sub-positions, the most important of which are probably technical mount (also known as seated mount) and s-mount (a good platform for launching armbars).
From a self-defence perspective, mount is especially dangerous, because the person on top can strike bolstered by gravity, while the person on the bottom is rendered fairly ineffective. Fortunately in our classes, you don’t have to worry about anybody punching you in the face! 🙂
As March progresses, you will be learning the classic escapes from the mount this month, the upa and the elbow escape. We’ll also look at holding the mount, along with a few submissions from that powerful position.
At Artemis BJJ, we believe the optimum way to learn is by focusing on specific positions for extended periods of time. That’s why each month, all lessons will cover the same position, enabling students to really concentrate on enhancing that aspect of their game. We’ll be looking at maintaining, escaping and attacking the position, through drills, specific sparring and multiple techniques.
For our first official month of operation (we’ll include the last week of January, as we started on the 27th), that position will be side control. BJJ terminology is not standardised, so this has a few other names. The most common alternatives are ‘side mount’ and ‘cross side’: for a listing of some others, take a look at Can’s BJJ glossary.
In jiu jitsu, you will find that – especially early on – you will spend a lot of time trying to escape from under side control, so it’s an essential skill to develop. Can covered one method last week and there will be further lessons on the topic as February progresses.
Maintaining the position is also important. Side control tends to be the preferred top position for beginners, as it is initially easier to hold than mount (though as you’ll discover in the coming months, mount is just as powerful, if not more so. However, the nuances of holding mount can be a bit tricky when you’re starting out).
That was the topic of our first lesson, where Dónal went over some excellent concepts to help you solidify your side control. We will of course also be investigating a few attacks from side control as well. Once you can maintain side control, it becomes a great platform from which to launch your offence.
As always, Can will be writing up every class he attends over on his website. So far, you can read about the session Can taught on escapes here, while Dónal’s lesson about maintaining side control can be found here.