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Guard Retention with John Danaher
John Danaher is one of the most sought after coaches in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today. His ability to break down concepts and techniques into systematic and easy to understand elements sees both his athletes performing at unbelievably high levels and his online tutorials in very high demand.
Today we’ll be looking at a core technique and principles within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, maintaining the guard.
John starts with a fascinating distinction about the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu. When we think of the fundamentals we tend to think of either techniques or concepts but John details an area that is always present but often overlooked; body movements.
Certain core body movements are essential for the execution of techniques and can be learned and refined without a partner so that we can apply them with skill against a resisting opponent.
John distinguishes between seated, supine, and turtle and this video looks at the body movements associated with retaining seated guard.
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The first body movement for seated guard retention is scooting. Scooting is the seated guard equivalent of the supine guard movement of shrimping.
As John’s opponent circles around John’s legs to begin passing his guard John moves the arm on the same side as his opponent is moving outwards to plant with his hand on the floor. This means that as his opponent circles around him John moves the center line of his upper body to match his opponent.
At this stage John’s legs are still facing the original direction and so by scooting backwards John recovers space and direction to be once again fully aligned with his opponents center line and can maintain his legs in between himself and his opponent.
The central aim of scooting here is to increase the distance between us and our opponent.
As John’s opponent circles around to pass his legs the distance between both players is starting to close down. This is exactly what the guard passer wants, and what in this case we want to avoid.
In a similar manner with striking when we increase the distance between both players the easier it becomes for one person to see and respond to the actions of the other. The more distance between us and our opponent, the easier it is to keep our legs in between them and us.
The beauty of John breaking this down to a body movement is that we can practice this by ourselves, much like a student of a musical instrument can practice core skills that transfer over to the entirety of their art.
To practice scooting one posts the hand to one side, takes the opposite foot to the opposite side and uses these two points of contact to move the hips backwards. Gaining fluidity in this movement will pay dividends throughout our practice of Jiu-jitsu.
In his Guard Retention tutorial John has two sections to understanding how to retain our guard. The first is broad principles and concepts to guard retention. This is known as a heuristic approach to learning.
The second approach is known as an algorithmic or, when x happens do y, approach. In this area John breaks down 7 of the most often used and successful guard passes in modern jiu-jitsu. These 7 types of guard pass account for over 90% of successful guard passes we will see in high level competition.
John then looks at what specific problems these individual passes present, and how to combat them so we can retain our guard.
Our opponent can cycle through multiple kinds of guard passes at a rapid rate and so in order for us to retain our guard we need to fluidly move through the next stages that John outlines.
- Identify the guard pass
- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of that guard pass
- Neutralise the guard pass at its points of weakness
- Begin our own offensive cycle or, if our opponent changes guard, revert back to step 1.
The fourth step here is crucial because we must understand that in any combat sport, if we are only defending then no matter how well we defend we are leaving the field wide open for our opponent to dedicate all of their resources to attacking us with impunity.
One of the difficulties of an algorithmic “if they do x, we do y” approach is that guard passing is an incredibly dynamic and rapidly changing process. Trying to identify what guard pass our opponent is using at high speeds is a skill that can be developed but we risk playing a constant game of catch-up.
This is why John focuses in his tutorial on an approach that includes specific techniques, but concentrates on a conceptual based approach that gives us an overall understanding of what we should broadly be aiming for, and when.
For beginning students retaining the guard can be one of the most difficult skills to learn and is sometimes unfortunately dismissed as something one can only have success with due to one’s body type or flexibility.
If we don’t have a systematic and broad vision for why we are doing what we are doing and what we are aiming for with our guard then we are left with a haphazard approach to our own development. If this is the case we risk bailing out on one of the core skills in jiu-jitsu.
The guard is a core skill because the assumption in the martial art of jiu-jitsu is that our opponent is bigger, stronger, and more athletic.
We do not want to be on the bottom of a fight, but if we have no choice we must now how to both defend ourselves and set up a control offensive game through our guard.
Failing to understand the guard means we miss something at the heart of our art.
Tired of getting your guard passed?
Want to be able to impose your own offense from your back?
Learn more and win more by checking our John Danaher’s world-beating approach to teaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu with ‘Guard Retention: BJJ Fundamentals - Go Further Faster’ here!