Now, occasionally, through the fog of sweat, adrenaline, ripped-out-leg-hair, eye pokes, testicle shots and gi burn, I will actually learn something on the mats! Every now and then, I will have one of those enlightening moments where you understand something fundamental about a certain aspect of jiujitsu, whether its part of your game, why you can never pull off that x guard sweep or why you keep getting those nasty red, circular rash spots when you don’t shower after training (duh!). I was lucky enough to have one of these moments during class this evening, and thankfully it wasn’t about staph or ring worm!
We recently covered a deep half guard sweep combination which I used to use a lot as a white belt. Over the past few months I have been trying to work as much De La Riva as possible, as I feel it very comfortable in this position and it fills an important gap in my game plan. However, while my De La Riva game is coming along nicely, I have found myself struggling in what I used to count as my strong guard, namely the deep half guard.
This led me to take a step back and assess the situation. Several nights spent tossing and turning, with uncomfortable dreams involving Ricardo De La Riva, Jeff Glover and Raphael Mendes (yes, insert gay joke here – very funny), I realized that I would need to revisit some of my old techniques to bring them up to par.
With some wise words of wisdom from Fabio Gurgel resounding in my head, I decided to focus on working on my closed guard. When Fabio came out to Alliance Bahrain, he discussed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities of the closed guard before moving to your favourite open guard. Now, many of us at that time were really working on our open guard games, whether it was De La Riva, Spider guard, or Ali Seena’s particular brand of guard torture, and were always quick to jump straight to these positions when sparring.
Well, it seems this post has gone on quite the tangent! Anyway, back to my main point for the evening; leverage. Continuing on my plan to work on techniques which used to work well for me but have slipped to the wayside, one technique we recently went over was the deep half guard. Back in the UK, this used to be my go-to position, and I used to relentlessly fight for the deep half guard, much to the dismay of my sparring partners who had had enough of me kneeing them in the balls during my sweep attempts. So for the past week I have been attempting to work my closed guard game, and if things don’t go to plan and my guard is threatened, I will go to the deep half guard instead of the De La Riva. As usual, the more you use a particular position the better you will get at it, I have been having a rising success rate with one particular deep half guard sweep. And this evening, an opportunity presented itself to utilize this move! So off I went - fight for the under hook on one side, shoot the other arm under your opponent, move hips to opposite side, sneak in a quick ball buster, etc. But as I attempted the sweep, my opponent resisted and put all their weight on one arm, the other being stuck between us. As I was hanging there with my head upside down and various thoughts on the hygiene clenliness of my opponents groin guard (who wears these things for BJJ anyway?) running through my head, I had my enlightening moment!
In crystal clear clarity, I realized that my opponent’s weight was distributed between his one leg and his one straight arm. With my foot mere inches from his cursed arm, I simply gave his arm a little kick, and he toppled like an obese red neck trucker after 50 beers and a spare ribs eating competition! And in that moment, I truly understood the ins and outs of this particular sweep I was using. Once I understood this, it was easy to predict where an opponent might be able resist and stop my sweeps, therefore providing me an opportunity to think of a counter strategy.
Now I know this is quite a simple lesson, but there is more here than meets the eye. I feel every now and again the Fate Gods will give you that little push which is the beginning of a BJJ growth spurt. Everyone knows training isn’t linear, and many of us will go through plateaus before experiencing a sudden improvement in our game. And I think this might just have been one of those moments!