6 Mat Tips to Improve Your Closed Guard Defense! Part 1

August 17, 2008

Here’s the magic question:  If I said that I could provide you with
6 simple tips that could make your closed guard defense more
threatening to your opponents, would you be interested?

If you’re a grappling nut like I am (and at this stage in your
grappling journey, you need to accept the fact that you are), the
answer is yes and these tips were made just for you!

Be advised that the simplicity of these tips is the reason that
they are so effective, easily applicable to anyone’s grappling
game, and should not be underestimated because they seem “too
basic.”  They could mean the difference between you surviving long
enough to pass your opponent’s guard or being revived and informed
that you were just put to sleep and the match is over!

Here are the Tips 1-3 for improving your closed guard:

Tip #1:  Always maintain good posture every minute you’re in the
guard – This may sound like a “no-brainer” comment, but the reason
most (if not all) grapplers get triangled, swept or armbarred is
because of bad posture.  Good posture is established when you are
sitting back on your heels with your hips in front of your head
while staring at the wall in front of you.  The minute your head
moves in front of your hips (e.g. when you look down at your
opponent), it’s easier for your opponent to pull you forward and
break your posture.  When you look at your opponent, move your eyes
only to focus on him as if you would get into trouble if someone
saw you move your head. This will allow you to see what your
opponent’s doing while maintaining your position and making them
work harder to pull off their closed guard attacks.

Tip #2:  Don’t ignore or keep fighting thru your opponent’s grip
when they grab your gi or wrist, deal with the problem – All too
often, I see grapplers inside their opponent’s guard ignore it when
their opponent grabs their lapel or another control point while
they’re passing the guard.  What they don’t realize is the fact
that their decision to ignore a grip has created a problem which
will make passing the guard more difficult, even if it’s not
apparent to them at the moment.  This is what usually happens when
a guard pass fails and the grappler gets snatched back into the
guard position or into a triangle.  Fighting through a grip may
work early in a match when you’re not fatigued.  But as the match
goes on and your energy declines, it gets harder to fight through
control grips.  So, stop fighting thru them and remove them when
they occur.

Tip #3:  Use your hands to control your opponent’s body on the mat
and to break their attacking rhythm – When you’re sitting back in
good posture, your hands (which also includes elbows and forearms)
are responsible for keeping your opponent’s back on the mat,
monitoring your opponent’s hip movement, and grabbing your
opponent’s hands, wrists, and forearms (not the biceps because it
requires you to lean forward and takes you out of posture.  It’s
not wrong, just something I don’t recommend unless someone is
punching you in the face or you’re an advanced grappler), which
will force them to stop their attack so they can free themselves of
your grips.  If you control their body movement while tying up
their hands during an attack, you will stifle their attack while
frustrating them at the same time.

Apply these three tips and you should notice that your opponents
will find your guard more difficult to pass as well as providing
you more opportunities to set them up for your favorite attacks.

In the next article, I will reveal Tips 4-6 for improving your
closed guard defense.

The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my students and he wanted to know what gave me the idea of using a folding chair to demonstrate and teach the proper posture for the “Bullfighter” Guard Pass (as he saw in on the OG Clinic DVD) since he had never seen anyone use furniture to teach a grappling concept before. I told him the reason I was able to use the chair to successfully teach the concept of proper body placement and weight distribution was based solely on the fact that no one ever told me that I couldn’t use a folding chair to teach my students. And since no one told me I couldn’t use a chair (or anything else that comes to mind), my teaching was bound ONLY by my creativity.

The motivation for using the chair was to teach my students the proper hand positioning and to show them where the weight should be distributed to neutralize their opponent while doing the pass. The reason I used the folding chair was the fact that they’re light and mobile, which allows me to put several on the mat at one time to create a unique drill for the students that immediately catches their attention and presents them with a simple training tool that most of them have in their homes and workspaces. Once they put their hands on the chair in the proper position, the feeling they feel in their hands lets them know exactly where the weight is being distributed and if their feet and hips are properly positioned for successfully neutralize their opponent for a successful guard pass.

The whole idea of using a folding chair seems so foreign to many grapplers (of all experience levels and ranks), but that’s one of the reasons that so many grapplers can’t improve outside the traditional setting or without black belt level instruction. They lack the imagination and creativity required to help them learn, understand, and to teach grappling techniques and concepts outside of the traditional setting that you see in lots of training academies, grappling books, and instructional DVDs.

Would I consider myself an innovative genius for using chairs (among other things) as training props? Well…yes and no! I am innovative because I haven’t seen anyone else doing it and no one’s accused me of stealing it from someone else…yet! At the same time, I know that I don’t own the patent on training creativity and quite certain that there are TONS of non-traditional training methods being used in gyms around the world that teach grappling concepts that are unknown to the masses.

THAT’S what I consider “thinking outside the box” in grappling. So, if you’ve got some “crazy” idea that helps you or your students understand a grappling principle, keep up the good work and continue to think outside the box. And if you think using a folding chair as a guard passing training tool was cool, wait until you see how I use a stationary bike seat and an umbrella in my OG Shadow Grappling DVD, which will be available within the month!

————————————————————————————————————–

Paul M. Greenhill, “The Wise Grappler”, is the creator of The Wise Grappler System and author of The Wise Grappler Ezine, a weekly ezine that provides grappling and mental mindset training tips for the older (over 35) and non-traditional/non-competitive martial artists. To learn more about “The Wise Grappler” and to sign up for more FREE tips like these, visit his site at www.thewisegrappler.com or contact The Wise Grappler.


OG Testimonial of the Week

August 8, 2008

This week’s OGTOW is from OG Dave Milner and his entertaining story
of how he just got bitten by the competition bug and decided to
jump into a competition since he was in town on a business trip one
day and saw his old school was hosting a BJJ tourney. What follows
in the testy is a quick overview of all the things that happened to
Dave before the tourney and all the opportunities that he had to
take the backdoor and not compete after making the commitment.
Enjoy!

Hello Wise Grappler,

After reading your e-mail newsletters for almost a year, getting
one of the OG Training DVD’s, and talking to you on the phone about
the mental game once during a call-in time, I have been convinced
that the mental side of the game for OGs is a very real and vital
aspect of training.

I live in Colorado and enjoy training at a good school there. I
was on a business trip to Phoenix, Arizona and saw that my previous
BJJ School was hosting the state BJJ grappling championships. I
decided to sign up and compete in my first tournament.

One of the reasons, besides being 44 years old and consistently
going up against the young punks, I had for not competing before
this was I am working through an injury. I just found out 2 weeks
ago through an MRI that I have no ACL in my left knee – the injury
is about a year old. I had toughed it out on the mat protecting
that knee for months, and just before tournaments I would bump it
and it would hurt again.

Finally, after finding out what was wrong, I adapted my game to not
do any strong cutting takedowns towards that side and protected it
more. My doctor said everything was healed up and that John Elway
(NFL Hall of Fame QB) played most of his football career without an
ACL but I probably will need to get surgery at some point.

So, the last week before my trip I was feeling pretty good and
decided to compete. I told my instructors and everyone in my
school up front so I would not be able to
chicken out.

The tournament was on Saturday. Thursday night, I stopped by my
old school and trained. During training, I got caught in a kimura
by a purple belt and it tweaked my elbow somewhat. I couldn’t
really make a tight fist after that without it hurting, but it
wasn’t really bad.

Saturday morning, I was a complete mess. I said to myself, “What
are you doing? You’re 44 years old, you have a knee injury that
will require surgery, you have a tweaked elbow, you’re on the low
end of the unlimited weight class, and you are going to do a
statewide grappling tournament in a city with 6 million people?
You are going to die, or seriously hurt yourself. You are really
stupid.”

The #1 hardest part about the tournament was parking my car and
walking through the doors of the center. I was making up all
kinds of reasons in my mind to just slip away incognito and make up
some excuse not to do it.

When I walked in, it was truly intimidating. There were
loudspeakers, stadium seating, multiple mats cordoned off, a
staging and weigh-in area. There were black belt instructors and
competitors I recognized from all over the region. There were
semi-famous MMA fighters. There were Brazilians saying “boa” in
matches. There were black belt coaches shouting instructions to
students. There were MMA gear vendors and really tough looking
people all over. In one of the first matches I watched, someone
got choked unconscious by a triangle choke and they had to revive
him.

I checked in and changed into my gi, and stretched out a little
bit. I had no coach there and nobody else from my team. It was
just me. I asked some other guy standing by to do pummeling drills
to warm up because everything was taking forever and running behind.

The #2 hardest part about the tournament was walking onto the mat
thru the staging area. My mind was frozen blank, I couldn’t think
of anything. I had really short breath. My match started and I
kicked into what I had worked on with my teachers for a game plan
from the feet to protect my knee, circling the other way. We
circled, switched grips a few times, and he came in hard. I
reacted with angle and leverage and got the takedown into side
control! I saw an opening, and finished the submission within 1:30
of the match starting!!

My second match, I was a little less nervous, but my opponent was
taller and bigger, and was from one of the top teams in the state.
His coach was our referee! He had 3 or 4 people yelling
instructions to him from the side. I had not another soul in there
even cheering me on. He had a lot better judo and takedowns too.
I stuck with my game plan, defended some throws, and got the
takedown into half guard! I saw another opening, went for the
submission, and got my grip locked. His team was yelling “get to
your side, get to your side”. Then as I adjusted my balance,
locked in the technique and got in perfect position, I heard
“ohhhhh” from their team. I cranked the submission gradually, and
he tapped! I had won 1st place in my division, a gold medal, and
got to stand on the middle #1 platform for the pictures!

I was actually in shock for about 24 hours.

In reflecting back on things, one of the things that stand out in
my mind the most was that the difference in the mental game between
victory and defeat is very small indeed, although it seems large at
the time. And in reflecting on the interaction with the OG
Community and the things Paul is teaching with the mental game is
that it’s like really good technical fundamentals; if you just put
a little bit of it into the brain cells, bit-by-bit,
thought-by-thought, attitude adjustment-by-attitude adjustment, and
do it faithfully, then it is there somewhere when you need it and
everything else around you is really, really wacky!

Thanks Paul, for all you do to help us OG’s build in the right
stuff.

Dave Milner

Dave,

OG, I don’t know exactly where to start because there were SO MANY
good things that came out of this experience for you! First, I
should congratulate you on deciding to compete, for the great
performance that you gave at the tourney, and for getting to the
top of the podium by getting the gold medal. The view from the top
of the podium is NICE, isn’t it? 😉

Next, you had a LOT of opportunities to quit on yourself, but
didn’t and I definitely need to give you your props for that,
especially when I’ve known people to give up on themselves while
enduring less than what you did. You had enough self-confidence
in yourself and your technique to make the decision to get into a
tournament when you were in town on a business trip. You made the
verbal commitment in class in front of your instructor and
teammates so that you couldn’t back out of it so easily. You
created a gameplan to work around your physical limitation. You
didn’t let the fact that you got your arm tweaked the week before
the tournament make you want to quit and not compete. You didn’t
listen to self-doubt and negative voices inside your head that
tried to scare you and make you lose focus when you arrived at the
venue. You didn’t let the tough-looking guys with the fancy Gis
and team t-shirts get inside your head and make you feel inferior
to them. You didn’t let the fact that you had NO coach, NO
teammates, NO family support, AND a final’s match where your
opponent’s coach was the referee keep you from focusing on your
gameplan. You ignored the crowd noises during the matches, stuck to
your gameplan, and your performance was rewarded with a successful
outcome by winning the gold. And on top of all that, you felt like
a millions buck for the next 72 hours after the tourney!

Knowing what you know now, how miserable would you have felt if
you’d decided to listen to that self-doubt when you got to the
venue to “just slip away incognito and make up some excuse not to
do it” like you mentioned in the testy above? I’ll tell you how
you would’ve felt… like a quitter! But you didn’t quit and that’s
what it means to be an OG; not quitting and always doing your best,
regardless of the match outcome! Keep up the good work, champ!

The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my students and he wanted to know what gave me the idea of using a folding chair to demonstrate and teach the proper posture for the “Bullfighter” Guard Pass (as he saw in on the OG Clinic DVD) since he had never seen anyone use furniture to teach a grappling concept before. I told him the reason I was able to use the chair to successfully teach the concept of proper body placement and weight distribution was based solely on the fact that no one ever told me that I couldn’t use a folding chair to teach my students. And since no one told me I couldn’t use a chair (or anything else that comes to mind), my teaching was bound ONLY by my creativity.

The motivation for using the chair was to teach my students the proper hand positioning and to show them where the weight should be distributed to neutralize their opponent while doing the pass. The reason I used the folding chair was the fact that they’re light and mobile, which allows me to put several on the mat at one time to create a unique drill for the students that immediately catches their attention and presents them with a simple training tool that most of them have in their homes and workspaces. Once they put their hands on the chair in the proper position, the feeling they feel in their hands lets them know exactly where the weight is being distributed and if their feet and hips are properly positioned for successfully neutralize their opponent for a successful guard pass.

The whole idea of using a folding chair seems so foreign to many grapplers (of all experience levels and ranks), but that’s one of the reasons that so many grapplers can’t improve outside the traditional setting or without black belt level instruction. They lack the imagination and creativity required to help them learn, understand, and to teach grappling techniques and concepts outside of the traditional setting that you see in lots of training academies, grappling books, and instructional DVDs.

Would I consider myself an innovative genius for using chairs (among other things) as training props? Well…yes and no! I am innovative because I haven’t seen anyone else doing it and no one’s accused me of stealing it from someone else…yet! At the same time, I know that I don’t own the patent on training creativity and quite certain that there are TONS of non-traditional training methods being used in gyms around the world that teach grappling concepts that are unknown to the masses.

THAT’S what I consider “thinking outside the box” in grappling. So, if you’ve got some “crazy” idea that helps you or your students understand a grappling principle, keep up the good work and continue to think outside the box. And if you think using a folding chair as a guard passing training tool was cool, wait until you see how I use a stationary bike seat and an umbrella in my OG Shadow Grappling DVD, which will be available within the month!

————————————————————————————————————–

Paul M. Greenhill, “The Wise Grappler”, is the creator of The Wise Grappler System and author of The Wise Grappler Ezine, a weekly ezine that provides grappling and mental mindset training tips for the older (over 35) and non-traditional/non-competitive martial artists. To learn more about “The Wise Grappler” and to sign up for more FREE tips like these, visit his site at www.thewisegrappler.com or contact The Wise Grappler.