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Building A Fortress: Guard Retention with John Danaher

Building A Fortress: Guard Retention with John Danaher

 

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu few things are less sexy than the principles of guard retention. Like flossing your teeth, retaining your guard is absolutely necessary, but a boring hassle that always gets left until it is almost too late. I had a terrible guard, and I knew it. Whenever we had situational sparring from open guard positions, I had about nine seconds worth of safety before my guard was passed. I simply had no framework to understand what exactly I had to do to build a strong guard. When I eventually was awarded my blue belt, I knew that nothing would be more important for me to spend a majority of my time on than to learn all of the standard guards. It was going to require a lot of time being smashed, but it had to be done if I was ever going to become a legitimate purple belt. 


The first challenge that most people face with guard retention is that while many of the essential movements are taught, there is little or no context given to their usage. I have been shrimping since day one and, four years later, I am just starting to understand its actual value. After almost 400 classes in gyms across North America and Europe, I have never had anyone explain exactly what we need to do to retain our guard beyond not letting our opponent pass our legs. When BJJ Fanatics announced the release of Guard Retention as part of John Danaher's Go Further Faster series, I knew that it would require me to save up a few bills to buy the series, but that it would be worth the money and time spent watching the hours of content. 


How To Do Perfect Guard Retention in BJJ by John Danaher



 

For the past four months I had been practicing the principles of Priit Mihkelson's Grilled Chicken Guard, and I found a lot of success playing from this specific paradigm. What I loved about Mihkelson's approach was that it focused on positions and principles that made sense: Active Turtle, Grilled Chicken and Sitting Panda. The positions flow together, but can be played independently as basic survival stances until an escape presents itself. 

 

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Within the first six minutes of Danaher's series, he presents a comparable, but different paradigm, for these positions as posture skills: Turtle, Supine and Seated. What is comforting is that after examining the initial presentation, I believe that both instructors' concepts work in tandem. Priit's series might be a little more accessible for those who do not desire the massive content included in Danaher's series or those who want to work on a specific posture.


Guard Retention begins with Professor Danaher explaining the theory of his entire system of retention for twenty-four minutes as slides and a series of movements are repeated on the screen. If you are a fan of hearing John explain the premises behind his systems, then this opening might be played repeatedly just as audio for months. For those who are more used to visual learning, then the next section may prove to be more accessible as a place to begin. 



Guard Retention 1st Skill by John Danaher


As Professor Danaher notes in the preceding except from the first volume of Guard Retention, "If you cannot perform the basic body movements which make all of those techniques possible none of what I say later on in the video will be of much use to you." For those who were hoping for a simple heuristic and magic bullet, this might feel a little discouraging, but let me assure you that with a bit of discipline most students can re-master these movements within a week or two of practice pre-class. In my own case, I specifically chose to work on the first skill, scooting. With mindful attention to what I had gleaned from this brief lesson I was able to dramatically improve my ability to defend and attack from the bottom. While I knew the movement, I did not know the movement, and that is what I find Danaher does so well: he contextualizes what many of us know in a shallow manner so that we begin to see how that piece fits into the deeper puzzle. 


Guard Retention Theory by John Danaher



As the series progress, Danaher begins to look at specific guard passes which you will encounter, such as the Leg Drag, the Over Under, the Double Under and the Toreando Pass. While the temptation for many students would be to simply skip ahead to specific defenses, I agree with John's assertion that the movements are the true key to guard retention, and that mastering those skills first will make the greatest difference in your game. I also know that you may want to kill your mat nemesis' Over Under Pass that he has been crushing you with for the past year. So perhaps the best approach to this series for most people is to take one movement and one guard defense to focus on weekly. In this way you will not just be drilling, but able to build up a repertoire of applied knowledge for your personal game. 


While it may not feel like what the cool kids are learning, guard retention is undeniably the most important and neglected skill set for players who have mastered a few basic escapes. Guard Retention is the fourth Danaher series that I have purchased form BJJ Fanatics, and it is the series that has almost instantaneously improved my game in a significant way. Perhaps it is just the stage that I am currently in at blue belt, but Guard Retention is a keeper for the remainder of my jiu jitsu journey. 

Guard Retention: BJJ Fundamentals - Go Further Faster by John Danaher
IF you are beginning your Jiu-Jitsu Journey NOW is the perfect time to  learn from one of the LEADING minds in Jiu-Jitsu. The Go Further Faster Series by John Danaher is designed to shorten the learning curve required to become proficient. Take the first step in ENHANCING your Jiu-Jitsu forever!

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