THE GUARD: My heretical view …
Before everyone starts jumping up and down – in either anger or disbelief at this heretical point of view – remember, it is only that, a point of view – bear with me.
The ‘Closed Guard’ concept, is certainly a powerful and worthy strategy – there are many potent and workable ‘Closed Guard’ techniques that we can use – it’s just that I don’t think it should be our ‘first port of call’. I think that the Closed Guard, should be the second or third rung on the ‘bottom defence’ ladder – not the first! The logic, as I see it, goes like this …
Lesson One: if we hardwire ‘pulling to Guard’ as our automatic response to being on the bottom position, but we have no skills as yet, we may well find ourselves in more trouble than we would like – particularly if the opponent is wailing away with punches from above (read: Ground & Pound). I think the closed Guard has evolved from a purely grappling-based point of view, as a way of preventing the ‘grappling oriented’ opponent from easily ‘passing’ and gaining a strong position on side control or the mount. For street or MMA applications, I believe it is far better to start with a Neutral Guard and maintain DISTANCE CONTROL, when first starting out.
Imagine this, you’ve had your first lesson in BJJ and you are taught to ‘pull to closed guard’ – told also that there are many powerful sweeps, armbars and chokes you can use form that position (and there are) – but that very night, as you leave the mat to go home, you are assaulted – in the real world – and finding yourself on the bottom, you ‘pull to Closed Guard’. WHOOPS! Now what? As your attacker reigns down a barrage of punches or starts clawing at your face – you begin to bemoan the fact that this fight couldn’t have been postponed for six months or so, until you had been better introduced to the big swag of closed guard techniques that had previously been hinted at.
So what’s the alternative? Open Guard: FEET IN THE OPPONENTS HIPS – Control the distance. In my view, this should be the ‘first port of call’ – from here we can later on (as we learn more) easily transition to a whole range of Guard possibilities: Hooks Guard, ½ Guard. Closed Guard, etc. if I had to choose a ‘centre of operations’ in terms of the Guard landscape – it would be the Open Guard: starting with both feet on the opponents hips, controlling his ability to strike us and maintaining distance control. From there we can always kick him off, get back to our feet, run back into the school and ask the instructor for another lesson. Alternatively, if we have had a few lesson, and learned a choke, an armlock or a sweep or two – we can take the Open Guard a step further by taking hold of our attackers collar (thereby controlling the distance in two directions) and start to make him pay for his indiscretion.
I’ll finish this up by pointing out that I find it is easier to instruct beginners in the ‘scissor sweep’, the ‘figure 4 armlock’ and the ‘cross lapel choke’ and other basics, from the Open Guard, than it is to do so from a Closed Guard. I have also found that they then find it easier to transition to other Guard (Closed, Hooks & Half Guards for example) from the Open Guard, than they do from the Closed Guard. They’re on the ground, underneath – GET THEIR FEET IN BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THEIR ATTACKER – simply put, they GET IT!
JBW (qualified heretic)