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

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.

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