Look Mom…No Hands! A Great Drill to Develop Your Open Guard

One of the students in my bjj academy had recently injured one of his hands and was forced to miss several days of training. When he returned, he had a hand brace on but you could still tell how painful the hand remained. Unable to grip with it, his training was severely curtailed.

The next week I was teaching spider guard techniques –  and seeing how the student was temporarily one handed, it reminded me of an excellent training drill I like to use for open guard. Read also: 3 Tips to Help Your Guard Passing


The drill goes something like this:

Both students tuck their left hands inside their belt, leaving only their right hands to use to grip. One student takes the bottom open guard, starts with a sleeve grip and the other must attempt to pass.

The student defending guard, not having two hands to grip with, can not rely on the pulling power of the hands and must instead, make greater use of their legs to defend the guard. This is the main benefit of using this drill (in addition to it being fun!)

I have heard traditional martial arts instructors teach one-handed techniques with the explanation that should you be injured in a fight and have one arm incapacitated, that you must be able to fight with one arm. I think there are more valid (and less kung fu / action movie dramatic scenario) reasons to practice one-handed open guard drill:

no-admittance-98807_12801) It teaches you to move your hips from side to side – one of the most difficult skills to learn in jiu-jitsu
2) It teaches you to use your various hooks to impede the opponents efforts to pass

The majority of us are used to using our hands in our everyday lives and have less ability to use our legs and feet with dexterity. This drill will also demonstrate to you that your guard can be very difficult to pass if you use side to side hip movement and defensive hooks!

A few tips on how to best perform this drill:

– start with both students with same hand (both have left hand tucked in belt). This will start with you having a cross grip on your partner’s sleeve
– try a collar grip, belt grip, grip the ankle De la Riva style, or opposite hands tucked in sleeve (starting with same side sleeve grip). It is about experimenting
– the passer will also learn that passing the guard is more than just grip strength controlling the pants: it is more importantly about side to side movement and removing your opponent’s hooks.
– Use short rounds: ex. 2 min and have the partners switch top and bottom

A few practices with this drill will provide a new perspective on how you can use your hooks and hip movement to defend your open guard.
Good training to you!

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ