Another Way to Drill for the Impassable Guard
Your guard is one of the first lines of defense against an opponent. Being able to keep the opponent controlled and at the proper distance is a crucial skill that you will work on for the entirety of your jiu jitsu life. Having a good guard is one of the most important aspects of jiu jitsu for my instructor Tom DeBlass and he is fond of saying that 'having your guard passed is a tragedy".
For him, having the guard passed can be the beginning of a complete breakdown of the game. If our guard is impassable, then the rest of our game can fall in line. The endless nature of this aspect of your game comes from that fact that there are dozens upon dozens of guard variations that can be used against the equally vast number of guard passing styles and techniques.
Having started jiu jitsu in my mid-30's, the first guard I gravitated towards after closed guard, which like everyone I was in a hurry to break out of and learn "new things", although I've come to change that way of thinking, was the butterfly guard. The butterfly guard allowed me to keep my legs retracted and strong, while presenting a barrier to the opponent trying to pass. In addition, the butterfly guard made it easy to "chase and follow" an opponent who was trying to circumvent my legs. Essentially I was able to stay more spherical and be where I needed to be quicker.
The butterfly guard also allowed me to play on a strength which was strong legs. Because of that strength, the butterfly sweep became a early favorite back when I was a blue belt. Though I'm still not at Adam Wardzinski's level in my usage of butterfly guard, I feel pretty confident in that position.
Since butterfly guard, I've come to focus on half guard and more importantly what I've come to realize over the last decade is that nothing comes easy in jiu jitsu. Yes, we can gravitate to certain moves or positions that feel more comfortable in the beginning, but to really understand and perfect a technique, you must put in endless repetitions. Now I'll be the first to admit that I do not do a lot of repetitive drilling. This is definitely an area that I continue to work to improve and incorporate into my training. But where I lack in specific and separate drilling practice, I make up for in my live training. This is a style of drilling similar to what Kit Dale espouses in his teaching.
By this I mean that when I'm working on a specific position or pathway, I work to find a way to put myself there as many times as I possibly can during a round. My training partners and teammates know that during most of my rolls, I'm going to pull half guard or Z guard and work from there over and over. My goal with this practice is to "drill" a starting point and play with different pathways from that point and depending how the next few minutes go, if I end up submitting or being submitted by my partner, I will go right back to that position. In this way, I am able to start from the position I'm working, in this case half guard three to five different times (or more) during a 5-6 minute roll.
Over a one hour open mat, where I might do 8-10 rounds or more, I'm able to actively drill half guard set ups 50 times. The training partner is going to be working their own game plan trying to pass my half guard and work their submission game, while I explore all of the different options that can be presented.
So find a guard game that interests you, or maybe seems to "fit your style" more quickly and then spend some time working it, over and over. It will be passed over and over, for sure, but with perseverance, you will eventually make it as strong as it possibly can be. Also be open to other guard styles along the way and try new things as you develop as a martial artist.
The Miyao Brothers are well known for their marathon training days and endless drilling sessions. In the video below, Paulo works different guard set ups with a training partner setting up various submissions. There are many ways to drill positions and one of the great things about BJJ is that there is no one right way to get where you need to go. Check out the video below!
If you liked what you saw in that video, check out the Miyao Brothers and their "Berimbolos and Beyond" series from BJJ Fanatics, available in convenient On Demand format. You can get it here!