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Why is the Closed Guard Losing Popularity?
As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to evolve, dynamic guards continue to grow in popularity. There are so many positions these days that were not often utilized in the past. We see complex open guards like the worm guard, lapel guard, 50/50 and many other guards. As these guards continue to grow in popularity they become more and more complex offering the bjj practitioner a myriad of attacks from them.
Old school guards like the beloved closed guard are now being neglected and underutilized. Unfortunately, this is a shame to see given the fact that these “old school” guards have been tried and tested in combat. We have seen positions like the closed guard and the half guard be used successfully in MMA, bjj competitions, and self-defense. Some of the best competitors to ever do it have won a multitude of times by using the close guard.
Although these new guards work, and we have nothing against them, it is not wise to neglect these simple and effective old school positions. The closed guard is considered by many the foundation of the guard. This is the building block of many different guards and submissions. The closed guard is a great place to do submissions, sweeps, and it is a great place to be defensive from.
The Closed Guard and Submission
The closed guard continues to be one of the best places to submit your opponent from in Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and any submission grappling tournament. It is the foundation of the “guard.” So many people choose to neglect the power of the closed guard and don’t take the time to master the mechanics of it. The closed guard has long been renowned as the first guard to learn and the last one to master.
Many of the people who waltz into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy are probably familiar with the position. Some would say that the closed guard is popular among “main stream” MMA fans. This could be true, but they probably have no idea how to have a functional closed guard. One of the best things about the closed guard is the abundance of submission opportunities that present themselves in closed guard.
Depending on whether it is a gi bjj match, a UFC fight, or a self-defense confrontation, the closed guard is going to be one of your best options to submit somebody off your back. The ADCC is the most prestigious NoGi grappling tournament in the world and this year, Jiu Jitsu legend, Xande Ribeiro submitted 3 world class competitors with a simple and flawless closed guard arm bar. It was an absolutely phenomenal display of fundamental Jiu Jitsu. The closed guard is one of the best positions to submit your opponent off of your back because there are endless submission opportunities and chains.
For example, there are several arm bar set ups, triangle set ups, guillotine set ups, kimura set ups, wrist lock entries, lapel chokes, and so much more. Depending on the rule set and whether it is gi, nogi, or MMA, you have a multitude of options. In the gi, there are so many different gi chokes that you can set up from the closed guard. You can also mix and match moves, for example, you can attempt a cross choke and when your opponent defends, attack the arm. Check out this instructional with Rickson Gracie Black Belt, Luis Heredia on how to do the perfect cross choke from closed guard.
Closed Guard Sweeps
Just as much as the closed guard is a tremendous place for submitting your opponent, it is also an excellent position to sweep your opponent. The combination of submission attacks and sweeps can make you develop an absolutely lethal closed guard. It is unfortunate that we do not see more people today playing the closed guard. Some people do not understand the depth of technique involved with playing closed guard and when they see someone using closed guard for a whole round in MMA or match in bjj, they may find it boring.
Closed guard is far from boring. There are hundreds of different sweep combinations from the closed guard. Many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners will learn a lot of the basic sweeps from the closed guard such as the scissor sweep, the hip bump sweep, the pendulum, or the elevator sweep. Out of the people that learn these sweeps, only a few will take the time to develop a well-rounded game from the closed guard.
What makes sweeps effective from the closed guard is not the sweep itself but the timing, the details, and the combination of going from one sweep to another. Another big contribution to a successful sweep in the closed guard is having dynamic set ups. So maybe you set up an arm lock just to ultimately get a sweep. The leverage attained in closed guard is what will allow a skilled practitioner to have his way with his opponent. Check out this cool overhead sweep below and see some key details to this technique.
Being Defensive in Closed Guard
Being able to have a strong defense is one of the fundamental keys to closed guard. What we mean by being defensive does not mean to stall. Not at All. We simply mean that when you have someone in closed guard, it is a safe position. Theoretically, it is almost impossible to be submitted while playing closed guard. There is no attacks that your opponent can apply from inside your closed guard. Yes, if you are a smaller guy going against a much larger opponent they may be able to do a neck crank or wrist lock, but it is extremely difficult.
When you have someone in your closed guard, you are safe from many of the common attacks, your opponent should have one goal in mind and that would be to break open your legs and force you to play open guard. Therefore, the closed guard can be such a powerful position. You can play one of the most offensive positions without much risk. It is extremely high reward and extremely low risk.