Beginner Tips for a Strong Open Guard
The open guard can be a scary place.
Disconnection creates uncertainty and especially when you’re a beginner, it can be tough to know where to start. Some type of plan must be established so that we can spend our time here playing the guard, not defending the pass. When we’re in a seated position, one thing is for certain, the passer has the advantage where movement is concerned. Moving in all directions using the feet is much faster than the rate at which we can escape our hips.
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Connection here is key. I’ve always told my students, even if they don’t have a clear plan yet of what they’re doing, get connected. Get connected with all four limbs and just begin trying to make life difficult for the passer. Before we learn different guard configurations and you become drawn to what will ultimately be your guard of choice, it's important to foster this idea of connection just as the first line of defense against passers in the open guard. If you keep this in mind, it does help tremendously during your stints in the open guard. The passer should be suffering in your guard, not choosing the routes they want to take. We must make this position unpleasant for the passer.
So how do we do this? What should we be focusing on?
Let’s look at some open guard concepts that can help us on the path to becoming more successful in the position and get our brains in the right mode.
Let’s start with some instruction from Priit Mihkelson. IN this video he’ll give us some important things to think about and cover some common scenarios you might run into as you begin to play in the open guard. Have a look!
Mihkelson begins with one of the most common situations you may face from the open guard, the stack. More than likely it will be the passers intention to first get you on to your back and then begin passing. The stack is a great choice here for the passer but Mihkelson has a great answer.
As his partner begins to push his heels backward over Mihkelson’s head, he glues his tail bone, shoulders, and head to the mat. This makes any forward progress incredibly difficult. As his partner continues to drive forward Mihkelson just begins to slide, creating a ton of work for the passer. Notice how Mihkelson is relaxing his hamstrings here. If he remains stiff, his body will be moved much easier. Relaxing the hamstrings will allow his heavy connection to the mat to be much more effective.
To get his feet back in the game, Mihkelson will have to choose a route for his feet to reenter the fold depending on the position of his partners wrists and hands. If his partner has taken a thumb up style grip, Mihkelson can pommel his feet to the inside to regain position. If his partner’s palms are facing upward, circling outside will be the play. From here Mihkelson can choose to sit up, stand up, or reconnect to his partner and get back to work.
This is a very small detail, but the concept is incredibly important. Anything we can do to maximize our time in the open guard will certainly be helpful in creating a successful game from the position!
Let’s move on to some tips from Alec Baulding. Baulding has a great talent for speaking to the beginner, and this segment of instruction is no different. Take a look!
Baulding begins with addressing a very common problem. Sometimes we tend to focus too much on our upper body controls that we don’t pay enough attention to what we should be doing with our lower body. Failing to couple our grips with the proper lower body connection can send us directly in to a situation where we are far behind our partners movements and ultimately, we must turn our offensive efforts in to defensive ones to stop the guard pass.
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Here, Baulding helps us with options to couple our grips with the proper lower body configuration. For example, as Baulding secures a sleeve grip, he prefers to pair it with a lasso guard or some form of open guard with a foot on the hip. With a grip on the pants, Baulding likes to work to set up the De La Riva guard. As Baulding suggests, we need to make sure that we have ideas for how to connect with each grip set before we engage!
Continuing on with a second concept, Baulding reinforces the idea that we must develop a gage to know when our guard is being passed so that we can reset. Though we can have everything we need to begin implementing a great game from the bottom, we need to know when to bail out and reset. Here, as Baulding’s partner begins to pass, he simply bails out, making retention the priority instead of attacking. There are many ways to retain your guard but in this particular scenario, he uses a simple hip switch and places his opposite side foot to his partner’s hip, an incredibly common form of guard retention.
Let’s end with a drill from Tom DeBlass. This particular movement will help you create the proper amount of space between you and your partner until you are ready to make contact in an open setting. Check it out!
From a seated position it seems many of us are content with laying on our backs and playing. If you’re experimenting, or working a particular skill set, then by all means, knock yourself out. The truth is we really should fight to stay upright until we make the proper connections to engage.
DeBlass drives home a very important point here. Your partner is much faster than you are, if you are seated and they are standing. If they begin to move around us, we will lose the race of trying to turn and face them.
DeBlass recommends that as your partner creates an angle, we create distance, and then re-engage. This is a battle that we can win, because we are now meeting our partners efforts to move around us with distance, and closing the distance is essential to passing. As DeBlass scoots back in to reset each time he looks to gain inside control and can now get back to work.
Putting some repetitions in to this idea will payoff bigtime. Just as a good striker needs to understand range, we as BJJ players also need to foster this in ourselves to make sure we understand safe distances.
We covered lots of basic ideas here that can help us manage our open guard. These small details will lend themselves to your game in a big way. Hope you enjoyed it Good luck!