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2/12/16 - I have to learn to control Nogi Open guard, and I have to fight to obtain the top position

Friday February 12th, 2016 (Nogi)

Nogi control from open guard

So this Friday, I had a Brown Belt (Fabio) from another local gym come in to show his support of my new school, and I had a blast rolling with him. Along with having a great time, I picked up a couple lessons to focus on along the way.

Fabio and I started off rolling, and I conceded the top position (I started on my back and allowed my training partner to take any variation of top guard control that he wished as I normally do.) Fabio, being the smart grappler that he is, took a standing position in front of my legs and attempted to work his open guard passes from standing. This is a great decision from his position regardless of whether it's gi or nogi, but in nogi especially, this can make it very difficult for the guy on bottom to do anything. From my perspective on bottom, Fabio has absolute control of the space. If he wants to ride his shin far forward to try to jam my legs, he can. If he wants to keep his feet far back and come in with this hands first, he can. I have very little control over which way he decides to attack my guard which puts him in an advantageous position. (Which becomes 10x more advantageous when talking about self defense with striking invovled).

Now in the gi, I can often use a De La Riva hook to bring my opponent close enough in order to grab sleeve control or to grab the lower part of the lapel. In nogi, as long as the top guy keeps his posture, I can't control his head. I can try to get wrist control, but against a standing opponent, it is very hard to keep him from being able to pull away. I have had trouble with this kind of situation in the past, and rolling nogi with Fabio was just a nice little reminder that this is a problem area for me. My thought process for this is that I have to start playing more sit up guard, get in tight, and start wrapping his legs with my arms. If I can get to the position where I can wrap one of my arms all the way around one of his legs, this allows me to dictate and control the space to some extent as I can now keep him from backing away much easier. From this position, I can work to stand up with single- and double legs, I can shoot into X-guard, and I can shoot into 1 leg X guard. These are games I used to play a lot before I began focusing on a more tradition style of Jiu Jitsu, but I may have to start focusing on them again if I want my open guard attacking ability in nogi to become more dangerous for my opponents. Also, I want to do some problem solving from here so that I can figure out how to break my opponent down so I can establish my closed guard and prevent him from standing up and backing away from me. Speaking of limited options from the bottom nogi open guard...

I have to fight harder to stay on top, especially in Nogi

One thing the Fabio did great was he stayed on top. There were several instances where I would get a near sweep, I would start to come on top, but Fabio would fight hard to retain the top position and refused to relinquish it. I have a much more laid back (lazy?) rolling style, and I will often forfeit the top position and the first sign of a struggle. I have developed the habit of doing this due to engaging in rolling with a very mellow and playful mindset. I was always like, "alright, if you really want to stay on top that bad, I'll just keep playing guard," and I would sit back to my butt. This is a GREAT way to train for longevity. By allowing people to get back on top if I can tell they will fight tooth and nail to keep it, I have avoided ugly, HARD scrambles which has decreased my instances of injuries. However, thinking from a BJJ competition and especially a self-defense mindset. This is NOT ok. I have to make it a point in my training to fight to stay on top harder. And now that my top game has developed so much over the past 2-3 years, that should be even more incentive for me to fight for the top position. When Fabio finally gave up the top position, I started to work my passing / top game and he quickly tired. This should help to burn it into my mind, (and I need it too since I want to compete in 2 months), I absolutely have to fight to get on top.
Note* That does not mean try to sweep, check his balance and get on top if it's easy. This means I need to try a sweep, and then make every effort that I can to follow through and get on top, no matter how hard he fights and struggles to remain in the top position. I need to start implementing this into my training ASAP, if I want to have the right mentality and style to win the IBJJF Chicago Tournament.