Class 2014-05-14: Closed Guard Break and Sweep

This class covers the fundamental closed guard break and a scissor sweep that takes advantage of it.  Done correctly, they are both difficult to prevent, but everything has to go smoothly for each one to succeed. 

escapesFundamental Closed Guard Break

This escape from the closed guard is often the first guard break you learn.  It works great in drilling, then you try it in sparring and it works . . .sometimes.  Against lower level guys it’s fine and you get it reliably.  Yet when you try it against a good blue belt or higher, you end up getting broken down or swept.  The timing and positioning are going to be more difficult against higher level players, but when you get it right, this guard break is pretty reliable.

To start, you must have already won your defensive goals.  All grips must be stripped, and your opponent’s hips need to be on the ground.  If either of those two elements are missing, your opponent has too much ability to take advantage of your initiation of the guard break.  They will be able to break your posture and keep you down.

First, you are going to need to elevate your hips just enough to allow you to slide a knee to the center.  Be very careful as you are doing this that you keep your head back away from your opponent as much as possible.  Think about keeping your head behind your knees and that will help you keep your head far enough away from your opponent’s grips.

Next, take your opposite leg and step back and turn your hips sideways into your opponent.  Make sure that your leg is far enough away from your opponent that they can’t grab it for a sweep.  As you turn your hip to the side, you’ll feel your opponents ankles slip into place onto your hip.  Now, keep their hips pressed down and sit back on the leg that is still centered on your opponent’s butt.  This will increase the distance between your knee and your opponent’s ankles while your hip acts as a wedge to open up the guard.

If you are unable to get this with the first sit back, climb your hands up your opponent’s legs and grab the gi pants, scoot your centered knee back, and repeat the process while pushing with your hands.

When your opponent’s closed guard opens, immediately go to a combat base by jumping up your centered leg’s foot while bringing in your other leg to be seated on.  Keep your hips low and your centered shin vertical.  Your opponent has a greatly reduced set of options with you in this position, and you can either disengage out of the guard, or you can immediately start a guard pass.  The important thing is you’ve opened the guard and now have many more options available to you.

TransitionsScissor Sweep

The scissor sweep has an easy trigger.  When your opponent is in your closed guard and they elevate their hips, you hit a scissor sweep.  Of course you have to evaluate if it’s worth opening up your guard, but if there are no immediate attacks available, and you are worried they might open your guard anyway, it’s a good idea to capitalize on the elevated hips as soon as possible.

At a minimum, you will need wrist or sleeve control with one hand, and preferably a lapel grab with the other hand.  When your opponent elevates their hips, place on the ground the foot that is opposite of your wrist/sleeve grip.  You are going to pivot off that foot and the opposite shoulder to get your hips out to the side.  You want to be completely on your side after this pivot.

From here, you are going to drive your knee across your opponents hips as you drive the opposite leg and foot against your opponent’s leg.  This scissor motion is what the sweep is named for.  It should be a fast and aggressive movement that has your foot slapping your opponents hip to rotate it over the other leg.  At the same time, you are pulling your opponent up and into your leg to get their center of gravity past their knees.

The timing of this motion can be a little sloppy against a lesser skilled opponent.  It doesn’t take long for opponents to realize that the primary defense is to put your hips back down and keep your knees spread for good base.  For this reason, it is very important to aggressively pull your opponent off their base, and the more you are able to pull them onto your leg, the better your timing will need to be.  Pull too early and you make it difficult to slide your knee across.   Pull too late, and your opponent will be able to drop their hips, flatten their body, and effectively resist the sweep.

One question that comes up is should you sweep one way or the other depending on which leg your opponent attempts to put in the center for the fundamental closed guard break.  In the grand scheme of things, you can get the sweep going either direction, so if you have a stronger side, simply choose that side and work on your timing.  However, you have more followup options if you sweep towards the leg that is being stepped back to break your guard.  As long as you are hooking the leg before they can get it completely out of range, your sweep should remain effective, and if it fails, you have a better angle on a push sweep since their leg you are going to push against is already out of position.  If they were able to get that leg all the way back before you could hook it, your guard would be opened against your will, and your sweep was too late anyway.

Another detail is when you are working with an opponent that is much larger than you, transferring their weight onto your leg is very important.  You must remove their ability to drop their hips back down, which will absolutely kill your sweep attempt.  As they are getting their hips up for their guard break, use the momentum and do everything you can to get your knee across just before you pull on their upper body as hard as you can.


These two techniques go hand-in-hand, and they both see a lot of activity during pass/sweep drills.  Both opponents can be trying their respective technique, and the person with the better positioning and timing will win.

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