Whenever I’ve got someone in my guard I watch them very carefully for mistakes. If they make a mistake (and if I can capitalize on it quickly) then – boom – they’re gonna get swept or submitted. The best part is that, if they’ve really screwed up, then I don’t even have to work hard to finish the move. These mistakes all have to do with posture in the guard. Posture is the arm and body position that makes it difficult for your opponent attack you. It also gives you a launch pad for your own techniques. Posture is different for each position, and today we’re dealing with posture in your opponent’s guard. So let’s assume that you find yourself in your opponent’s closed guard. (Similar principles apply for the open guard too). Here are the three biggest mistakes you can make in when you’re trying to achieve posture in someone’s guard. If you make one of these mistakes you might as well cover yourself in wrapping paper and pin on a ribbon, because giving them a submission.
BJJ Guard Posture Mistake #1: Hand on the Ground
As your opponent moves around and tries to offbalance you from below, it’s a natural reaction to put your hand on the floor. Well don’t do it! Putting your hand on the floor opens you up to various armlocks, including the reverse armlock (pictured above), the Kimura armlock, and the Omo Plata armlock.
Pretend that the floor is a hot iron skillet and keep your hands on your opponent’s body (gripping his sleeves to control his arms is also OK).
BJJ Guard Posture Mistake #2: Elbow Across Centerline
Your opponent’s centerline runs along the front of his body. His nose, chin, sternum and belly button are all on this line. Don’t let your elbow cross his centerline, because that is the exact position he needs to slap on a very powerful armbar submission (shown above, on the right).
Sometimes an opponent will be hell-bent on getting your arm into this position. He’ll reef like crazy on your arm to get it across. Failing that, he might try holding your arm in place and move his own body to get you into this bad position. Once again, don’t let him do this. Fight to get your arm back and re-establish good posture!
BJJ Guard Posture Mistake #3: One Arm Under Leg
The third big mistake when making posture in the guard is putting one arm under his leg. If you do this you’re just begging him to triangle choke you (pictured above). The general rule is keep both hands over his legs, or both hands under his legs.
I should point out mistake isn’t as cut and dried as the first two posture disasters we talked about. There ARE valid guard passes that rely on getting one arm under his leg. These guard passes require a fair amount of sensitivity and attention to detail to make them effective and keep you safe. Feel free to use and develop these guard passes – they can be very effective – but just be very aware of the dangers whenever one arm goes under a leg (and know how to neutralize your opponent’s triangle attack).
The Take-Home Message
Unless you know exactly what you are doing, these three posture mistakes will get you into a lot of trouble (and probably submitted).
So keep these general rules in mind:
- DON’T put your hand on the ground – your hands go on your opponent!
- DON’T put your elbow across centerline – keep each arm on its own side of your body!
- DON’T put one arm under his leg – both arms go over, or under, his legs!
If you incorporate these rules into your game (and don’t let your opponent force you to break them) then you’ll get submitted far less often when you’re in your opponent’s guard!