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Saturday, April 6, 2013

BJJ for MMA

Submissions from the guard are just so damn cool. You're lying there on the bottom in a position that looks like you're losing, and a few seconds later, BAMM, your opponent is tapping out and you win! But eventually people will figure out your main submissions and not let you catch them as easily anymore. Now you work, work, work for those submission, but now your opponent blocks, prevents and thwarts them... All that's happening in this stalemate is that you're getting tired and frustrated.. The problem is that you've gotten locked into a category, meaning that the only thing you're thinking about is submitting your opponent. When you ask most beginners what types of techniques you can do from the guard they often answer "submissions" and "sweeps." Well that's true, but it's also a very incomplete answer. Actually there are FIVE categories of techniques from the bottom of guard. Category 1 - Survival Techniques. The first type of technique you need to learn is how to SURVIVE in the guard. Let me explain what I mean... Obviously you can't launch any offensive techniques from the guard position if someone has passed your guard. 'Survival' in this sense means stopping your opponent from setting up and executing the most common guard passes. You can do this by breaking his posture and/or countering his specific guard passing techniques with your own specific techniques. Secondly - and this is missed by many sport BJJ practitioners - you need to know how to stop your opponent from hitting you. Even if you NEVER intend to compete in MMA you still need to have basic strike defense. I hope it never happens, but if you do end up on the bottom in a self defense situation then you'd better know what to do to stop your face from getting smashed in. (In fact this guard-as-self-defense-position concept is so important that I'm going to devote my whole next email to it). Category 2 - Strike Striking from the bottom of guard position isn't a great option, but nevertheless you still need to know about it. If your opponent is on top then obviously he has the advantage when it comes to striking - he has gravity on his side after all. But even on the bottom you DO have some striking options, especially from the long range open guard (e.g. bicycle kicks to the chin, which have won a significant number of MMA matches, and probably some streetfights too). Another way to use strikes in the guard is to 'persuade' your opponent that passing your guard is a bad idea. If your opponent is trying to pass with both arms under your legs, for example, then he's leaving his face exposed to your fists and elbow. Just so we're clear, striking from the bottom ISN'T usually a great option. But I'm also pretty clearly saying that you shouldn't forget about it completely... Category 3 - Sweep Knocking your opponent over and getting on top is a bread and butter options for the bottom guard player. In sport BJJ a successful sweep scores you points and gets you a little closer to winning the match. On the street or in the ring it puts you in a position to land some heavy leather on your opponent from the top. Over time you will learn many sweeps and learn the setups and combinations to make them work. You can sweep your opponent from the closed guard, open guard or half guard. Category 4 - Submit So here we finally get to the submission option (and it's a very legitimate strategy). Most BJJ students learn a lot of different guard submissions, so they don't need to be reminded of this option. All I'll do here is to remind you to learn and include armbars, bent armlocks, shoulder locks, wristlocks, chokes, kneebars and footlocks when you're attacking from the guard. 5 - Standup If you can't submit or sweep or strike your opponent from the bottom then it's time to move on to the final option. Stand up and get the heck out of there! There is no rule saying that you have to stay on your back once you end up there! Most of the time you CAN get back to your feet, and this strategy will catch many opponents by surprise. Heck, if you do get back to your feet and don't like it there, then you can always pull guard again. At least you'll be mixed things up and controlling the pace of the match a little bit. Guard standups are easily one of the most neglected aspects of many people's training (especially sport BJJ practitioners). If you want some concrete examples of how to stand up properly then check out the links at the bottom of this email. Summary Keep in mind that each of these five options can help set up the other options. A standup attempt can set up a submission. Defending against a strike can set up a sweep. Your sweep attempt can create the room you need to get back to your feet. The point of today's lesson is NOT to minimize the importance of guard submissions. OF COURSE if your opponent gives you the opportunity then take the low-hanging fruit and tap him out. But if your submissions aren't working then remember that you do have other options. Don't get fixated only on one area; instead try keep all FIVE categories of options in mind and use them in combination.

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