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Physics of Disdain

I hate losing more than I even wanna win.” — Billy Beane, Moneyball

I am secure in my knowledge that I’m pretty good at jiu-jitsu, but I’m also very aware that I can only get better while being one injury away from never getting on the mats again.  Ultimately my goal is to be able to blow through anyone on the planet and submit them at will. Realistic, no. Inspiring, yes. Recently I’ve been less than happy with my ability to pass the guard (not that I’m thrilled about my ability to play guard) so I’ve been watching the best and thinking about the rest. Part of my conceptual thinking was inspired (stolen) from Jeff Serafin’s Art of Uncomfortable guard passing concepts and the Mendes Brother’s Leg Drag.

Fighting is essentially trying to get ahead and if you are ahead, staying there. In combat sports that has to be done within the rules of game. For example, get grips first, if you’re not first, get a better grip than your opponent.  When I pass, for whatever reason, I am often faced with an open or spider guard.  I’m not light and I’m longed limbed so it is difficult to contain me in a closed guard, passing on the ground while certainly feasible does leave a certain amount of space for opponents to re-capitalize given my length of limb and spaces it provides. This is a long way of saying, I often finding myself standing and trying to pass the open guard.  I’ve been watching how Rodolfo Vieira passes and it has been inspiring, BJJ Scout has an excellent analysis of this:

When I first watched Professor Vieira pass, it seemed to me as if he had nothing but disdain for his opponents guard. It would have been called cocky if it didn’t work.  The key that I noticed, which is true for all top competitors, is that they do what they do not regardless of their opponent but because it prunes the decision tree of possible actions by their opponent.  The open and spider guard work by getting the legs at a 45° angle with the floor, this provides the maximal amount of force against your opponent with your feet having the greatest amount of friction. Vieira destroys this by changing the angle reducing the efficacy of his opponent’s legs and the ability to control the open guard with their feet.  He increases the angle by advancing, contemptuously appearing to walking into the guard. By driving in, dropping and then lifting the hips, your opponents feet are displace upward, they lose contact with your arms or hips.

Obviously I try to get a good grip on their pant legs to help facilitate good posture and re-positioning of their legs as I glacially displace their open guard. Either I grab first, or break their grips to get there. Sometimes simply to slow them down, I step in first and then break the grips, if I’m a step or two behind.  It is important not to hunker over your opponent but to try to lift their hips off the mat as you approach.

My first iteration was the “horse stance” I ended up moving in but with my feet parallel and both within reach of my opponent.  While this was effective it is is limited because they can bump you backward and have a choice of legs to snare.  Remember that you are trying to get them off-balance and defensive, no trying to climb on top of them, you climb on top of someone and you will be swept.  You will notice, as BJJ Scout points out, inserting a knee either inside or outside their knee is a more effective way of breaking them down.  So my second iteration was to try to control the pant leg and drive my knee on the medial side of theirs, bending and abducting their leg laterally.  Do not allow them to hook inside. A third variation is step slightly laterally and pull their leg in the contralateral direction, placing your opposite knee on the lateral side of theirs, bending it medially and adducting it, into a leg drag-esque position.

From the medial knee insertion, you can start to pass by knee slide, by “hiking” their opposite leg through your own, or switching to a leg drag. From the lateral knee insertion you can practically drop into the side mount from there, if they turn back fast enough you can drop into their half-guard and pass from there (after getting your advantage for placing their shoulders on the mat).  You will also notice that Vieira switches directions, so drive for your pass but if it’s not working try passing on the other side by switching to another pass, e.g. “hike” to one side, knee slide to the other.  One thing that I found effective, when I couldn’t hip lift in well enough was to grab both legs and toreador pass, they’re fighting your pressure so much that their legs are easily extend and get stapled to the mat.

Attention to this concept will make you do something else: when you play open guard you will not want them to do this to you, so you will get good grips and stretch them out, making sure their posture is something their mothers would bemoan.

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