Quite often on Sundays I train with my training partner, Ulric. Ulric and I started training BJJ around the same time; he’s about 170 pounds—25 to 30 pounds lighter than yours truly, but is incredibly strong for his size, and has a very solid understanding of the BJJ game. We have access to a bit of private mat space where we drill whatever we feel we need to work on, and then roll a fair amount. Ulric also trains in Judo, so we spend a fair amount of time working takedowns, and he’s really helped me gain a better understanding of the importance of grip fighting and obtaining and maintaining dominant grips.
One aspect of my game that I’ve been focusing on while training with Ulric is my transitions from closed to open guard. When I joined RPBjJ, I had a somewhat OK understanding of both guards, but have been struggling with transitioning from closed to open guard when someone stands up in my guard to pass. Ricardo’s done an awesome job with helping me become more aggressive with my closed guard by controlling the guy’s posture and working towards either a sweep or submission. However, there are times when people get pretty far along when standing to pass my guard, and he even concedes that when this happens, switch to open guard.
Part of my problems with open guard are psychological because I can’t see my opponent, and I often freeze up, lose my open guard connection with my opponent, and either transition to half-guard (which isn’t the end of the world) or get my guard passed (which sucks!!!!) I’ve really been thinking about when to transition to either Della Riva or Spider Guard once a fair amount of tension is placed on my open guard. A few weeks ago we worked a series of sweeps from the Della Riva Guard, and the timing of these drills was fantastic for what I have been needing to improve.
Rule number one for me when transitioning to an open guard is to stay connected by maintaining a dominant grip on one of my opponent’s Gi sleeves while creating tension by stretching him out by placing one foot on the hip. This gives me room to slide in the Della Riva hook on the opposite side from the hip on which my foot is placed. About 15-18 months ago, I had a hard time putting this hook in, for my leg would cramp up for some reason. I think the added work on my flexibility bending my leg in this manner has paid off because I feel really strong with this hook and am able to really affect my opponent’s balance by moving him around. Maybe it’s also the extra bananas in the LTrain’s diet to up the potassium level-just call me “LTrain, the blind monkey-boy”—LOL!!!!!
My second strategy is to really create tension with this hook by turning my same side hip that has the hook towards my opponent’s leg. I also try to ensure that my butt is sitting practically on my opponent’s foot of the leg that is hooked; to be fair, I have to credit my prior coach’s instruction on this last detail to really being an important way for me to keep a tight connection when playing this guard.
There’s a number of sweeps that can happen from this position. Yesterday, when rolling with Ulric, I really shocked myself from hitting a sweep by this guard whereby I went to this guard when he stood up, trapped his leg and moved my far leg from his hip to behind his knee and completed the sweep. I actually thought he gave the sweep to me, but he assures me that he didn’t. Ulric’s got a great base, probably because of his Judo training, and I really surprised myself by transitioning so smoothly to this guard and hitting the sweep. To be sure, I really need to work harder on these transitions, but yesterday was a turning point for me where I plan to really open up these transitions and playing a much more aggressive open guard.
With Much Respect,
Larry, The LTrain