CLOSED GUARD BJJ
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been around for over one hundred years, as the formidable game style has secured a cult like following. Since the beginning of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the early twentieth century, the art was built more purposely for self defense combat. There were many aspects like judo throws, and striking elements, which coincided with vale tudo events that took place on the streets of Brazil. The Gracie family were synonymous with utilising the bjj open guard to drag their opponents to the ground, in order to hand out beatdowns. Many challengers came the Gracie's way, as pro wrestlers, body builders, luta livre fighters all tried their hand against these formidable ground fighting specialists.
What this article covers:
- What Is the Closed Guard
- Sweeps from The Closed Guard
- Closed Guard Submissions
- How to Break and Pass the Closed Guard
As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has evolved over the last century, the art has become more modernised, and drifted into more of a sporting aspect. Even though this may not have been what Helio Gracie had intended for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, nevertheless the iconic system of grappling is now better than it has ever been. Many high level black belts have added significant development into many of the grappling systems. This includes takedown maneuvers, guard passing prowess, positional control, and many different guard systems like the bjj butterfly guard, the lasso guard, the single leg x guard, the 50/50 guard, and all of these systems have stemmed from the most iconic guard position of all, the bjj full guard.
WHAT IS THE CLOSED GUARD
The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu closed guard is the most iconic, and reliable guard to ever be created. These days there are a multitude of intricate guard systems that directly relate into specific submission maneuvers. However, the closed guard still remains as one of the best guards that can be used as a defensive tool to help an athlete escape from dangerous opponents. This guard can also be used as an offensive weapon to set up numerous attacks like choke holds, and joint locks. There have been numerous closed guard systems created, all with slight variations by many high level innovators. To secure the most traditional closed guard an athlete will basically wrap both of their legs around the abdomen of their opponent, hooking their feet behind their back, while grabbing hold of some sort of grip like a collar and sleeve grip in the Gi, or a necktie and a wrist grip in No Gi. Athletes can also utilise two wrist grips, or a body lock, as these are all reliable grips to keep an opponent in the closed guard.
HOW DOES GI VS NO GI CHANGE THE GUARD
The closed guard is a valuable tool for an athlete in both the Gi and the No Gi disciplines. In the No Gi division utilising a closed guard is extremely important, and this is because of how easily an opponent can escape, due to not having any grips to hang on to. In the No Gi division athletes will get sweaty, and slippery, making it harder to neutralise, and control opponents. Because No Gi is more of a transitional game style, there are more positions being secured throughout a competitive match. This means that athletes will be constantly trying to escape from control positions, as they will be constantly moving into the bjj half guard, before they can use their closed guard system. A No Gi closed guard will traditionally use a necktie and a wrist grip, or two wrist grips, or other control systems like a tricep grip, two hands on one grip, over hooks and under hooks, or body locks.
The closed guard system in the Gi discipline is extensively different to the No Gi variety. Utilising the specifications of the Gi means that an athlete can use dominant grips to stifle, and neutralise their opponent. Using different collar grips, sleeve grips, shoulder grips, and pant grips are extremely valuable in the Gi discipline. There are a multitude of different ways to keep an opponent trapped inside of the closed guard, and they can utilise many submission maneuvers without even opening their guard. There are many different systems that can be used from inside of the closed guard, like the bjj lapel guard system, where an athlete will use lapel wraps to stifle limbs, or choke the neck of their opponent. There are other tricks like using lasso controls, and the bjj spider guard controls that can also be used in conjunction with a closed guard.
SWEEPS FROM THE CLOSED GUARD
Using sweeping mechanisms from the closed guard will help to move a heavier opponent, so the guard player can take a dominant position. There are many different kinds of sweeps that can be achieved, with many of them really simple, and some much more technical. An easy sweep to execute, especially for a beginner, is the hip bump sweep. This is one of the most basic concepts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and most students will master this early on in their journey. From the closed guard an athlete will secure one of their opponents wrists, pushing it to the mat. From here the athlete will shift their weight, as they look to reach up over the elbow of their opponent's arm. The next step is to use their other hand to post up high, as they use their hips to destabilise their opponent's base, and move their opponent onto their back. From here it is an easy transition to land straight in the full mount, which can be one of the most attacking positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Utilising Gi grips is a great way to trap an opponent, and achieve a sweep. A good technique is for the athlete to pull out one side of their opponent's Gi, and a good way to do this is by breaking down their posture, and unhooking the lapel in an unassuming way. From here the athlete will pass the tip of the lapel up behind their opponent's back, and feed it around the back of their neck, passing it to their other hand. This will create a strong handle, which can be a threat of a choke to the opponent. The next step is to switch the lapel grip to the athlete's opposite hand, while they secure an over hook. Now the athlete can feed the lapel back to the hand that is securing the over hook, and use their free hand to take a four fingers in grip on the lapel. Finally they can insert a butterfly hook and use this position to sweep their opponent over. What makes this sweep really cool is that they will land with a baseball bat grip around their opponent's neck, and if that is not enough to finish the opponent, they can switch to a loop choke.
No matter what level an athlete is, one of the most important sweeps to master is the scissor sweep. This movement is an extremely dynamic submission from the closed guard. This sweep will not only score points in an IBJJF competition, it will give the athlete a definitive opportunity to land in a significant control position. To execute this sweep all an athlete needs to do is start off by securing a collar grip, and a sleeve grip. From here they will open their guard, and slide one of their knees into a knee shield position. It is important that the athlete raises their knee to a greater than forty five degrees angle, pushing up into the sternum, and this is so that the opponent cannot push the knee down in an attempt to pass the guard. From this position the athlete will pull their opponent's weight further over their own abdomen, as this will help unbalance them, making them lighter. Finally the athlete will drop their leg against their opponent's leg, as they kick inwards, and scissor with their other leg kicking their opponent into the direction where they cannot post.
CLOSED GUARD SUBMISSIONS
The most iconic submission achievable from the closed guard is the triangle choke. This choke is in the top three of the most highly utilised submission maneuvers in the IBJJF by all world class black belts. The triangle choke has been around for a long time, and dates well back to the beginning, where Helio Gracie used this choke on many of his opponents. To execute a triangle there are many different variations of this choke that an athlete can utilise. One method of securing the triangle begins by securing two wrist grips. The athlete will push one wrist into their opponent's ribs, while pulling one out, and pinning it towards their own chest. From here the athlete is free to step their leg off of the hip, which will allow their other foot to shoot up high, and over the shoulder of their opponent. This is how the athlete will close their opponent into the mix. To finish the choke it is a matter of refinement, as the athlete will pull down on their shin, cutting the angle to a forty five degrees, and locking on the triangle deep, as they begin to squeeze. To make the choke even tighter they can pull the head down, or scoop their hand underneath the leg of their opponent, making the angle even greater.
The triangle is a great submission that goes hand in hand with the arm bar, and the omoplata. These three submissions work together cohesively in a chain of submission maneuvers. An athlete can set up an arm bar, and as their opponent defends they can switch to an omoplata. The same can be said as an athlete will set up the triangle, and move in between the arm bar, and the omoplata. All three of these submissions fit perfectly together, and what is great about all three of these submissions is that they can also be utilised adding in a lapel grip to make the traps tighter. All of these submissions have variations like the triangle has the reverse triangle, and the teepee, the arm bar has the double arm bar, the cross arm bar, and the arm cutter, and the omoplata has the darceoplata, the kimura, and the wristlock.
The closed guard is full of sneaky traps, where most of these are set up with the use of lapel grips. There are many different types of Gi chokes like the cross collar choke, the ezekiel choke, the baseball bat choke, the loop choke, and all of these submissions are extremely dangerous, and can be set up from inside the guard. One of the most dangerous setups in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the kimura from the full guard, and when the opponent defends the arm lock, they can switch into a guillotine choke. The kimura is applied just like the hip bump sweep, as the athlete will secure a wrist grip with their left hand, using their right hand to reach over the back of the elbow, threading through and catching their own wrist. This is the kimura grip, and all the athlete needs to do to finish this submission is angle their leg over the back of their opponent, as they reef the arm up behind their back. If the athlete defends the kimura, then there is an easy transition into the guillotine choke. To execute the guillotine the athlete will sit backwards slightly, as they wrap their arm over the head of their opponent, threading underneath their neck. The athlete will then connect their hands together, trapping the top of the head with their chest, and pulling up the blade of their wrist into the bottom of the throat like a guillotine action.
HOW TO BREAK AND PASS THE CLOSED GUARD
Trying to break a closed guard is extremely hard for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes, and this is due to the fact that the legs are stronger than the arms. It is much easier to hold on with a strong pair of legs, than it is to try and open a guard with weaker arms. Guard passers these days are extremely well adept at using heavy pressure, and dynamic movement to help pass the guard. However, the guard player can be just as intelligent, and know just how to stifle a guard passer at every turn. This brings about an inherent need for an athlete to use more technical guard breaks to get past their opponents. One of the first passes that is taught in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the cat stretch. This involves securing a staggered grip on their opponent's hips, and then putting one of the athlete's knees into the backside of their opponent, as they spread the other leg backwards forcing the guard to pop open. From here they can utilise a knee cut, or a knee slice pass, or even attempt to back step their way out of the guard. They can also use double under hooks, as a way of stacking their opponent, and moving from one side to the other, as they secure a more dominant control position.
Passing the guard can be fun if an athlete lets it. There is nothing worse than being stuck in between a guard player's legs, and being unable to open the guard can be extremely frustrating. Another good way to break the guard is by securing one of their opponent's wrists into their abdomen. This will allow the athlete to step up onto the closest leg, trapping the arm, before stepping up on their other leg in more of a defensive position. Now that the athlete has achieved base they will then use this as a way to escape from the guard. The athlete will use their knee to slide in between their opponents guard, so that when the guard does pop open, they are ready to straight away attempt a knee slice pass, a knee cut pass, or simply just back away from their opponent's legs.
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