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The Shower Technique: Biomechanical Concepts of Protection Against the Guard

Today I went to a seminar by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu faixa preta (black belt) Octavio Couto focusing primarily on the biomechanics of defending protecting yourself inside the guard.

Palm-Up Concept
The core biomechnical concept was using the forearms in the palm-up rather than the palm-down position, to allow more activation of the back, e.g. the position you are in when doing pull-ups, deadlifts, or lifting a box.  The angle of flexion of the elbow should be approximately 90°, increased flexion (more acute angle) will collapse, increased extension (more obtuse angle) exposes you to submission (see below).  This is a stronger biomechanical framework than palm down, i.e. "grabbing the pajamas" (kimono), which makes it a structure for obtaining posture, negating offense, and creating space.  That does not excluding grabbing the kimono, i.e. pronating the hand once more, once you have optimized your posture or position, but the supinated position allows you to apply greater strength with less effort.  In general, avoid grabbing/pronating unless your grip is below the belt.  The palm-up concept can have the arms in any position, i.e. they can be parallel, triangular, square, or opposite.  A similar concept is used in Filipino martial arts in knife and stick passing drills.

Horizontal Visual Plane Concept
The secondary biomechanic was head position's influence on posture, by keeping the eyes on a horizontal plane while still being aware of your opponent, you establish a straight spine.  A straight spine has been demonstrated to be stronger, it's the position we (should) use to do any Olympic lift.

  1. "Obtaining closed guard versus the palm-up biomechanic": Allow your partner to obtain grips in the open guard, using the above two concepts keep them from obtaining closed guard.
  2. "Protecting from guard attack using the the palm-up biomechanic": In this drill your opponent has you in the closed guard and attempts to attack, e.g. arm bar, choke, sweep.  Use hip movement and the above biomechanics to shut down your opponent's offense and enlarge the space they have already created when attempting offense.
  3. Combine #1 and #2 above
Straight Arm Bait, Palm Up Defense
Once you have obtained an erect posture, inside their closed guard, supinate and grab the gi collar at the level of the shoulders.  Lock the arm, this allows you to not only hold your partner to the mat efficiently but also baits the arm bar.  The other arm is kept back, shielding that side, palm towards you, elbow on their leg  If they open their guard, immediately release and supinate the hand, returning to the protective palm-up position  If they attempt to triangle, use the shield arm to guide their leg over your head, and presenting the pass.
While Octavio taught a guard pass to the white, yellow, and blue belts, we worked on this.  After having us train this he had the black belts teach small groups of students while he observed and provided feedback.  I've never had to teach at seminar before, but it was an effective way of learning.

Palm-Up Guard Pass
From the hooks inside guard with your partner set-up to sweep, take one hand and grip the opposite pant leg, palm toward you, elbow parallel to slightly away from you.  Your other arm is in the opposite direction, in the palm-up position.  Now follow the elbow pointing away from you to essentially walk around their hook.  Keep a low base, place the knee nearest the direction of the pass proximal to their body near the heel of their foot.

The palm-up position allowed Buchecha to take Rodolfo's back in with 2013 World Championships (see about 5 minutes in):
Octavio points out that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is about technique, strategy, and efficiency.  One cannot explode for 10 minutes straight, no caliber of athlete can.  However, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is also about taking risk, as demonstrated by Buchecha when despite being ahead on points risked being swept to take the back.  We can simply roll staying within our safety zone, but we cannot improve without taking risk.

As for the Shower Technique, the continual movement of your hands in the palm-up position, looks like someone lathering themselves up for a shower.


Can Sönmez said...

Interesting. I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean, but I look forward to checking out that video later. I don't suppose there are any pictures that would illustrate the concepts you discussed?

Mike Aref said...

I didn't take any pictures personally. I know that other people got both pictures and video, so stuff may show up on YouTube. I'll ask around and see if anyone got anything informative.