Movement Drills to Improve Your Closed Guard

Movement Drills to Improve Your Closed Guard

I’ve always thought of the Closed Guard is the quintessential BJJ position. For those of us old enough to have first been introduced to BJJ through the original UFCs, one of the most enduring memories is watching with wonder as a smaller guy on his back was able to mount attacks and finish people off.

For me it was also the great equalizer when I started training. I had two black belts both advise me to make Closed Guard a strength early in my BJJ career because if my opponent was between my legs he couldn’t pass my guard and I could slow the action down enough to mount some sort of offense.

I had one training partner in particular who drove this point home for me. He was a super athletic wrestler in his early 20’s – you know, the kind of guy that makes you realize all white belts are not created equal – and I found out quickly that if I could get my legs around him he couldn’t slice through my non-existent Open Guard and smash me as easily.

So I started to play more Closed Guard and quickly found out the hardest part of turning it from a stalling position into a real weapon – to mount an attack I needed to be able to change my angles.

Outside of a Cross Collar Choke, almost every sweep and submission from Closed Guard requires some sort of angle change to make it work. And, like most white belts, how to do this was a mystery to me.

Almost every time I would open my legs to move people would get out of my Closed Guard and smash me.

To help me figure out why I started to study the movements of people who were better than me and see if I could notice some trends and patterns. After watching and feeling some good Closed Guards I started to pick up on a few things.

The first was how the really good Closed Guard players would keep a constant pressure between their knees, even if their legs were open and they were changing angles on me. This pressure would keep me from being able to pop out of their legs as easily.

To do this I noticed that they didn’t rely on pushing with their feet on the hip to change angles as much as they relied on their Internal-External Hip Rotation. By being able to rotate their hips they could keep pressure between the knees while they moved.

Once I started to work on improving my Internal-External Hip Rotation and applying it to my movement in Closed Guard I saw an immediate improvement in my ability to change angles and not lose my position. Sweeps and submissions started to flow more easily and Closed Guard became one of my strongest positions.

How Hip Rotation Applies to Closed Guard

The good news is that improving your Internal-External Hip Rotation is pretty easy and doesn’t take a lot of time. Here are 4 simple exercises that you can do that will help:

Shin Box Stretch

Shin Box Switch 1

Shin Box Switch 2

Lateral Crab Walks

I suggest putting together a short routine and doing it daily for a few weeks. This will jump start your results and get you the fastest results on the mat. After you are seeing some improvements you can cut back to 3-5 days a week to keep improving.

  • Shin Box Stretch – 30 seconds each side
  • Shin Box Switch 1 – 10 reps each way
  • Shin Box Switch 2 – 10 reps each way
  • Lateral Crab Walks – 10 paces each direction

You can go through this 1-3 times depending on how much time you have.

I’ll be in touch next week I’ll be sharing some tips on how to improve your ability to use your hips to control someone’s posture when you have them in Closed Guard. This was another huge aha-moment when I realized how the best Closed Guard players where doing this one simple trick to easily kill your posture.

Until then…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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