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BJJ / Grappling Tips: Half Guard Top Theme Part 3

In my previous 2 posts I explained the main concepts a Half Guard Player can dominate your trapped leg from the half guard by controlling your foot, your knee and / or your hip. I explained that I’ve found that the key to unraveling their control is to negate their control of the trapped foot using a “Lockdown” style control. Once I freed and hid my foot, I noticed most of my training partners tried to control my hip instead and yesterday I discussed what I have found to be the most important concept to prevent the opponent from controlling my hip (plus 3 auxiliary ones) and outlined my counters to their counters. Lastly, I promised I’d show two approaches I’ve been playing with to how I deal with the Butterfly Half Guard and today is the day.

The Butterfly hook in the half guard serves the purpose of creating space but also stickiness to the top player. If you are to negate that, you need to address both these consequences of the butterfly hook.

As promised, I give you two expressions of the same set of principles. First is Master Pedro Sauer’s version and second is that of the legend that is Mr Roger Gracie. Notice that while they deal with the problem (having space created against them by the bottom guy) slightly differently, they achieve the same objective, albeit using different tools:

Master Pedro Sauer:

Professor Roger Gracie:

I hope you enjoyed this extended and detailed style of blog and that you spend the upcoming 5-6 weeks putting one or two tips out of it into your own practice. I welcome all feedback, just drop me a line through the link at the top of the blog.

Next topic: The side mount (AKA Side Control or even Cross Side).

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BJJ / Grappling tips: Foot Sweeps – sasae tsurikomi ashi combinations

Both jiujitsu and judo have an extensive repertoire of standing techniques. Gracie jiujitsu mainly concerns itself with defensive techniques and tactics that allow you to close the distance against an armed or unarmed opponent, sportive jiujitsu focuses on transitioning to the ground (mainly) and while that is also the focus of judo, the international judo federation rules add an element of explosiveness and finality to the standing portion: A good throw that lands the opponent flat on their back will not just score highly in judo, it will end the match!

Studying for me black belt theory in judo, I read that while jiujitsu had always been a fighting and, consequently, battlefield art, it never quite developed the foot sweeps much. Hip- and hand-throws (such as O goshi and Seoi nage, respectively) were king and queen. It was only with the focus of judo on indoor training on tatami (traditional straw-mats) that they flourished. Always training and competing on predictably flat and smooth terrain meant judoka could design competition strategies that centered around the timing-based foot sweeps or ashi barai.*

One such technique is the sasae foot sweep: Sasae Tsuri Komi Ashi. A beautiful technique centering around correct timing and weight distribution disrubtion. Here’s a nice demonstration of the throw by none less than BJ Penn:

With that said, foot sweeps, or any other technique, work best in combination and since Sasae is a forward throwing technique, it’s best combined with a technique that throws the opponent backwards such as O soto gari:

The best part of Sasae? No matter how much you commit to the technique, even if you do not throw the opponent, you lose very little and can immediately commit to your next level of attack and when you do nail it, the opponent will fall right next to your feet (often) with an arm dangling up.

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*They existed within koryo (old school) jiuitsu, but not as thoroughly developed and studied as within judo.

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BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to leglock like Garry Tonon

Leg locks of all variety are gaining a huge momentum in both Brazilian jiujitsu, MMA and of course Submission Grappling. There are many different ways to attacks the joints of the leg such as straight foot locks, heel hooks, figure – 4 footlocks, knee bars…etc. But how can we learn to leglock like a champion of Garry Tonon? Well you need to know how to set up the leg lock from a variety of positions. In this video we see the standard basic entry to the straight foot lock from the open guard by Professor Ryron Gracie, head instructor at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California:

What is often missed when entering the foot lock (and the guillotine, as Garry explains below) is the invisible details during the transitions. These are the details that will win or lose the leg lock battle:

I remember Master Rickson Gracie telling us once that his son Kron’s guillotine is so tight from beginning to start that by the time he had jumped and closed his guard around Otavio Sousa at ADCC China 2013, Otavio was screaming and tapping. Here’s the video of that -76kg final match.

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BJJ / Grappling Tips: Escape Side Control

Thursday sessions at Eddie Kone Academy of jiujitsu focus on NoGi training and Striking For MMA. It is not unlikely to walk onto the mat and see the main class to be run by an experienced coach while Eddie is on the side taking a student through their paces on the pads or through grappling drills. I remember recently walking in and seeing the grappling coach taking a class thru side control escapes / guard recovery and he was doing a great job emphasizing the importance of creating space by constantly establishing frames and moving away from them. As I turned to my left I saw Eddie and one of his higher blue belts drilling and discussing the finer details of leg locks, laying a clear focus on staying tight on the opponent thru-out the series of movements.

It was a beautiful moment. The contrast couldn’t have been clearer between the two sides of the same coin and I’m positive neither party was aware of what the other was doing. Fantastic BJJ / Grappling Coach Roy Harris once said that when you are attacking, space is your enemy. You want to be on your opponent like a wet towel on a basketball. When you are escaping, however, space is your best buddy.

I’d like to add that when in transitions (whether between positions, attacks, postures, escapes…etc.) then space becomes a more complex question! Tightness alone just isn’t enough and too much space is definitely not the answer. What you need is a state of negotiation.

Think about it. There is a moment when you are passing the guard when you definitely need to create space and that is usually followed by one where you need to eliminate all possible space to secure the new, more superior position you have negotiated for yourself.

Also, there is a moment after you have broken someone’s posture down in your guard and eliminated space where you need to actually give them a little bit of space to correctly affect the palm-up palm-down choke or spinning armbar. That’s where sensitivity can overcome strength. That’s where the magic happens in BJJ.

How do I get there? Through relaxation and thousands of repetitions against a variety of levels of resistance. You need to dare eliminate the space but also dare negotiate some back to be able to move in the most optimal way.

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BJJ / Grappling Tips: How to take the back from closed guard

Taking the back from the closed guard is a basic transition that no one in jiujitsu should get to blue belt without learning properly. It features in sports jiujitsu (gi and no gi), MMA and of course when defending yourself against a bigger, stronger aggressor who managed to take you down in an altercation.

Below are three version of how to take the back from the closed guard that I really like:

Getting their arm across your belt line, as demonstrated by Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida:

Pushing their arm sideways when they’re attempting to pressure your throat, as demonstrated by Rener and Ryron Gracie:

Off the under-overhook control from closed guard, as demonstrated by Machado black belt Dave Johnson from Machado Utah*:

Experiment with these back takes from the closed guard and make your guard a lethal platform of attack.

*There’s a fantastic and very detailed explanation of this technique on Saulo’s Freestyle Revolution – NoGI series. In fact I later learnt this technique from Master Rickson Gracie in Amsterdam in 2013 and Saulo’s breakdown was incredibly detailed.

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