Photos by Mike Calimbas
Here is an excerpt from Kid Peligro's e-book; 'Secrets of the Closed Guard':
What is the guard
The guard is a position where you have your back on the ground and your opponent is in front of you and your legs are either around his body or between the two of you. There are two main types of guard, the “closed” guard and the “open” guard. As we stated above, the guard allows you to not only defend and protect but also launch attacks against your opponent from what was once perceived as an inferior position in fighting: being on the bottom with the opponent on top.
Why the Guard Works
Whether you are new at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or an experienced practitioner, at some point you have wondered why the guard works. Simply put, the guards works because when you have your back braced by the ground or the mat, your opponent’s weight is now transferred or carried by the ground. This effectively diminishes or negates the weight differences between you and your opponent.
Closed and Open Guard
The closed guard is a position in which your opponent is framed between your legs; either with your legs locked around his or her waist or simply making a frame to contain his or her body. While some considered the closed guard strictly when your feet are interlocked, for the purpose of this instructional, we will consider the closed guard as a more broadly accepted definition in which your opponent is simply close to you and framed between your legs. In the open guard your opponent is outside of your “closed guard” but you still have your legs as a barrier between you and him.
Although both guards are effective in protecting yourself from strikes, generally, the closed guard is widely considered a more defensive position than the open guard. The closed guard relies on having the opponent close thereby denying him the proper distance to launch effective strikes.
Traditional Closed Guard vs. Modern Closed Guard
Everything progresses in life, and BJJ is fortunately not a stagnant art. There is a constant flow of ideas and evolution going on in every aspect of the art. While a great portion of this advancement is focused on competition or sports techniques, the fundamentals of the art still remain relevant. The closed guard however has been an element of BJJ that has seen very little attention in recent years, seemingly falling into disfavor with a sports competition minded crowd.
Perhaps it was natural progression, since early on, especially after the initial UFC’s, the closed guard got an inordinate amount of attention and arguably became the icon of BJJ. However, with the evolution of MMA and rules that encouraged stand-up action, the closed guard was seen as obsolete and the attention shifted to open guard techniques and its variations.
Around that time the same thing was happening in BJJ competition. It became quite common for practitioners and competitors to quickly give up on the closed guard and switch to the open guard. Like many other practitioners, I too took part; however in the last few years, with help from some great masters, I have found that the closed guard is a formidable weapon.
I feel the closed guard still is and will always be the BJJ practitioner`s first line of defense and a platform for many attacks. I like to tell my students that if the opponent is good enough to survive my guard attacks and force me to open it, so be it; but there should be hell to pay before he earns the right to force me to give up the closed guard and switch to the open guard!
My greatest realization has been that the so called “modern” closed guard that I like is nothing more than the “traditional” closed guard with a few adjustments. My closed guard evolved in recent years after I put together elements that I learned from my masters and mentors Rickson and Royler Gracie along with some great insights from Champions like Fernando Augusto “Terere” Da Silva and others. After analyzing the principles that I learned and applying them in practice, I began to further understand the position and develop a system that will help anyone improve their use and understanding of the closed guard.
Practice and Drilling
Some people seem to be experts in a certain submission, and you see them applying it constantly with a great deal of success. The reason for that is that they practice and use that technique over and over, and against a variety of different opponents. By doing that, they develop a sense of what they need to do to have success applying that particular technique in various situations. Practice and repetition is one of the main keys to learning a technique or a series of them. I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of practice and drilling of a move in order to develop an understanding of it. Practice and repetition will also help you develop the proper mechanics and learn the nuances of each move. This process will give you a much better understanding of any technique you want to master. Over the years I’ve heard from the masters that if you are not doing a technique well in the first ten reps it is ok, continue drilling it and it will be better after a hundred repetitions and even better after a thousand repetitions. They truly emphasize that drilling is one of the most important aspects of BJJ.
Consistently drilling a move can be difficult to achieve, especially if you attempt to do it in sparring or “live rolling”. Your opponents have a mind of their own and they may not be accommodating to your plans. If you try a new move in sparring and especially against better or bigger opponents, your rate of success will be very low and you most likely will abandon the technique and deem it “not for me”. To maximize your gain from drilling, you should begin with a willing partner that will be “soft” and accepting of the move you are practicing. After you get the basic mechanics of the move, then ask your partner to give you a little more resistance. After you are comfortable executing the move against your partner then you should try it in sparring. I once asked Royler what would be the best way to improve my technique. He told me: “When I learn a new move, I will first try it against the lightest and lowest belt rank athlete in the academy. Then I proceed to use it against bigger and stronger opponent’s, but still with lowest belt ranks. Once I feel I’ve mastered it against people on that belt level, I’ll start using it against the lightest opponents of the next belt level and so forth, until I can apply it fully against the toughest and best Black Belts in the academy.” That single piece of advice helped me tremendously and it is something I recommend you try too!