In recent weeks Gracie Barra Blog has published several articles on developing your guard. In the first couple of years of learning to defend the guard, there are certain mistakes that instructors commonly see in the newer students.
Here are three mistakes that white belts typically commit and get passed.
1) Staying flat on your back
Once the guard has been opened (either by the passer or voluntarily by the guard player) the passer has more mobility and can move more freely than the guard player. The guard player now has the more difficult task of switching their defense as the passer moves from side to side.
If the guard player remains flat on their back, the friction between their back and the mat slows their ability to move significantly. The result is that the passer gets around the legs and passes the slower, stationary bottom player.
Moving the hips on the ground (shrimp movements) is not intuitive to most students starting bjj. These movements must be learned over a period of time.
The best designed warm-ups will include different types of shrimp drills to help teach the body how to move the hips quickly and efficiently.
One of the most frequently heard pieces of advice from your instructor is “Move your hips!”
2) Hanging onto useless grips too long
A common metaphor in describing brazilian jiu-jitsu is that it is a chess game. As you make a movement, your opponent counters with one of their own and you are forced to change in turn.
Many times I have witnessed the following scenario in a match (and been guilty of hanging onto grips for too long). When you are playing guard you may feel most comfortable with closed guard and attacking with a triangle, but your opponent counters by getting a good posture and attempting to pass standing.
The triangle is not effective now that the passer has postured up – the grips you had that were effective while the opponent was down in closed are now not working. However, the guard player persists in trying to desperately hang onto the triangle. The passer throws the legs aside and the guard is passed.
You need to adjust to the new situation in a hurry! If the guard player had acknowledged that their guard was being passed earlier, they could have abandoned the triangle attempt, switched grips and moved to playing spider guard to stop the pass.
Stubbornly hanging on to useless grips is one of the mistakes in guard playing that will get your guard passed.
3) Not making your grips count
Often, I will see a white belt student trying to play open guard, flat on their back with no hand grips, hands waving in the air while they try to play guard with only their feet.
Predictably, the guard is soon passed and they find themselves under heavy side control pressure.
Even of your hands are not waving in the air, you must do more than simply grab a sleeve or create a hook.
You must make that grip / hook COUNT!
Are you using that grip to unbalance your opponent and make them uncomfortable? Are you pushing and pulling the opponent so they can never really get set and start their pass? Are you really using that hook to create strong leverage to block the opponent’s pass or have you just stuck the hook in there without much thought?
There is a difference between just mimicking the foot and hand positions you see in any type of guard and REALLY using those grips and hooks to make the passer’s job difficult!
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan