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Knee Shield Heaven with Tom DeBlass, Lucas Valle, and Bernardo Faria!
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Knee Shield Heaven with Tom DeBlass, Lucas Valle, and Bernardo Faria!

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The knee shield has been a sworn protector of the guard for many years.

Its saved countless BJJ players from begin smashed by bigger stronger opponents, and it’s been claimed by many of the elite level titans as their favorite utility of the half guard.

The knee shield provides an extra layer of defense in the half guard and its structural integrity is second to none. It can be used to keep loads of weight at bay and it's incredibly effective when it comes to relieving that heavy passing pressure. Used correctly in combination with our skeletal structure the knee shield has the ability to buy us time until we can figure out our next move.

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When I first began playing with the knee shield, I really enjoyed what it had to offer. Being in half guard in general seemed to be more favorable for me, as I wasn’t charged with the task of keeping someone’s entire body inside my legs. I’m a smaller player, and found right away that it was difficult to manage aggressive passers in my closed guard. When I began opening up and using the half guard, with the addition of the knee shield, I felt so much more solidarity and structural integrity in my guard. I could slow the passers down, I was able to keep larger opponents at bay, and my reversal game really started to flourish.

There are those that have made incredible careers in BJJ with the half guard and knee shield as the cornerstone of their practice. These top tier athletes have made seemingly impenetrable brick walls from the knee shield resulting in a guard that’s nearly impossible to pass.

Let’s take a look at some technique involving the knee shield. We’ll pluck some techniques directly from some of the greatest half guard players and see if we can add some value to our own arsenals.

We can’t do a study on the knee shield without mentioning Tom DeBlass. DeBlass possesses a half guard game that’s ranks among the best of all time and his use of the knee shield commands attention. In this first video, DeBlass gives us a great place to start when we’re trying to create structure, using the not only the knee shield, but other elements of half guard framing as well. Watch and learn.

DeBlass begins in half guard by explaining the placement of his frames. He likes his top arm to ride under the chin, and keeps his elbow tucked inside of his knee. His knee shield rests across his partner’s body, much like the position of the seat belt. He’s careful to not allow his shield to become too flat, as this will make it much easier for his partner to smash his knees together and begin passing.

Often times one of the goals of the goals when we’re playing the knee shield is to allow it to collapse on our own terms to achieve an under hook. This is exactly what DeBlass is demonstrating here.

As the knee shield goes away DeBlass’s partner begins to come forward (as most would) and begins to apply passing pressure. DeBlass hides his top frame in between his partner and himself and as his partner begins to come forward, he reaches in to the under-hook space and raises his hand high to the far shoulder. From here DeBlass has set the stage to force a number of different scenarios.

DeBlass provides us with a great knee shield adjustment here as well. If his partner begins to rise up to apply more pressure, DeBlass steps on his partners thigh with his knee shield leg. This will provide a little more resistance when trying to keep an aggressive passer at bay.

There’s a great question here at the end of the video. Bernardo Faria asks DeBlass what he likes to do if his partner stands up. DeBlass answers by saying that he likes to make contact. To do this he brings his bottom leg across to his partners far hip and plants it there. This again keeps distance between DeBlass and his partner and does the job of keeping contact.

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If the passer is attempting more of a knee slice option, DeBlass reaches under with his bottom arm and secures the ankle. His top arm then reaches around his partners thigh, and he uses his hand to cup just above the foot on the shin. With these anchors in place, his partner cannot continue passing without consequences. Great stuff.

Let’s move on to a sweep where the knee shield is a player. This one comes to us from Lucas Valle, and he calls it “the coin sweep”. Have a look.

During this particular reversal, Valle causes a reaction from his partner, and he uses the power of his knee shield to do so. Setting up in the half guard with a knee shield, Valle Takes a cross grip on his partners far sleeve, as well as a grip on the pants on the inside of the leg. He then lifts his hips and uses his knee shield to drive in to his partner. You can see where this would have an off-balancing effect, and in the previous technique it looks like this would have been the reversal. But, as his partner defends the sweep, Valle uses his knee shield to create a pendulum style swing of his leg. This loads his partner’s weight over his body, and with a quick motion, Valle pushes his partner’s arm and leg back underneath him and kicks his legs over his head to complete the reversal.

As Valle explains, there is not time to stop for a break during this sweep, Momentum is a key factor in making this one work, and you must make use of it. This appears difficult at first glance, but I feel with a little practice you may be hitting this one quite often. Very nice!

Here’s another technique involving the knee shield that from Bernardo Faria. Watch how Faria applied the knee shield in a no gi setting. It's a bit different than what you may be used to, but it looks to be incredibly effective. Give this a watch!

With the absence of the gi, Faria sets up his knee shield a bit differently. He crosses his feet and projects his knee into his partner’s belly button area. This creates an uncomfortable setting where forward progress has been made a little more difficult.

Faria’s next order of business is to secure a two on one grip on his partners near arm. He uses both hands to acquire his partners wrist and then forces the arm to travel to the inside of his body. He then transitions to palm up grips on the wrist as well as the elbow/triceps area. This creates a tight bite on the arm that’s tough to shake.

With a tremendous amount of control over the arm, Faria now forces it across his body. He then removes his knee shield and comes up on a single leg. The options are many from here.

So, you can see how integral of a role the knee shield plays in a variety of different half guard scenarios. It would serve us well to learn the basics of the knee shield and begin applying them to our own game. With so much content, applicability, and proof of success, how could we not give the knee shield the attention it deserves!

With all of these key elements in place, it gives us the freedom to transition to other guards, and start to become offensive. A good knee shield can give you the ability to take your time, and slow the game down a bit, helping us to become more successful half guard players. Keep all of these details in mind, this is a great place to start!

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