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Killing the Spider Guard with Matheus Gonzaga
Getting trapped in the web of a good spider guard player's grips and bicep crushing foot pressure can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with for any BJJ player. The combination of ridiculously strong sleeve grips with foot pressure on the biceps, creates a pushing and pulling storm that can have you feeling like a puppet on a string being steered easily from side to side into dangerous sweeps and submissions.
It requires a high level of skill to get a strong spider guard unraveled. In the video below, world champion Bernardo Faria has solicited the help of good friend and fellow instructor at Bernardo's newly opened BJJ academy in Massachusetts, Matheus Gonzaga. Gonzaga won the IBJJF world championships as a purple belt and is a great example of a high level, featherweight competitor who can unravel even the strongest spider guard games.
Stand up and back off
First and foremost the endless push and pull of a strong spider guard must be addressed. In the video, Matheus begins by stepping back, creating distance between him and the opponent. This not only helps diminish the strength and power with which the opponent can steer us, but also keeps out of the danger of them hooking our legs or thighs, or grabbing alternatively at our ankles and sweeping us another way.
Close elbows and lift elbow up to escape foot
Once you've established yourself outside of the danger zone where they can grab at us, put feet in our hips or hook sweep us, you've got to address the foot pressure on the bicep. Gonzaga utilizes a closing of his elbows coupled with a slight lift of the body to essentially jump over the foot and free himself from the foot on his bicep.
Once space has been created and the foot control has been nullified, he will secure grips on the inside pant legs and create a push/pull motion of his own by driving one leg and hip forward and another towards him. This makes it extremely difficult to change Matheus as he forms and X with his arms and completes a sort of morphed X pass and Torreando combination.
Complete revolve and pass the guard
Matheus maintains the grips on the pants and circles the entire way around the head of the opponent until he is able to secure a strong side control. This complete revolution puts the opponent in an extremely precarious position and ensures that guard is not recovered.
As a larger practitioner and BJJ competitor, Bernardo definitely tips his hat to the much smaller Gonzaga. It is often the smaller instructors that are able to teach some of the most effective techniques because they are used to the fact that they need to be precise and perfect in their technique, whereas the larger, or stronger grappler can get away with less technical precision and still complete the technique or guard pass.
Look for more from Matheus on the competitive mats in the future and currently serving as an instructor at the Bernardo Faria Academy in Massachusetts.