Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter Cascao Vital. He runs Cascao Evolution BJJ out of Las Vegas nv.
I was recently at a major BJJ tournament in Las Vegas coaching our team against very tough top level opposition. Now with every competition comes an opportunity for our guys to not only test themselves, but also to see what techniques and strategies are being used or created, and there was one particular strategy that I saw used over and over again, and that was guard pulling. Almost no takedowns in sight. I knew few schools really put in the standup time, but this was far beyond what I thought. Ass to the mat before you could blink. So what happened to the takedowns? Where did they all go?
First let me state that I am not against guard pulling at all. I believe that some situations call for a technical guard pull. If your opponent is defending your wrestling shots or judo throws with precision, then pulling guard from a tight clinch might be your best option. If your opponent has incredible takedowns themselves, then putting yourself into the best bottom defensive position of guard is better then getting thrown into judo side control. So it’s a solid option that should be trained and put into the arsenal. However, it should not be your first option, and secondly it should not be your only option.
The down side to guard pulling is that it puts you in a bottom position instantly, which is not a good thing if strikes are involved, if your opponent is bigger then you, all that weight and pressure put you in a clear disadvantage, and there is a chance that your opponent has a great top game with pressure, passing and submissions that go beyond your defensive ability. These reasons should put caution into your back on the mat strategy. So it can be a good thing to get off your knee’s once in a while in class and start standing a bit.
An adjustment that needs to be made though, is that when you do decide to guard pull, it needs to be followed up by an immediate sweep or submission attack. The transition moment from standing to ground is when your opponent is the most vulnerable to your offensive game. If you wait however to establish the full position first, your opponent has the ability to stabilize and neutralize the position and your success rate drops drastically.
There are far more situations that call for a takedown then a guard pull, but with so many schools not putting the standup time in, students are pulling guard just to get out of an uncomfortable standup situation. Our arts foundation is to close the distance and get our opponent to the ground, takedowns are one of the crucial keys to getting our opponent to the ground while obtaining a top controlling position. Why would any school, instructor or student not want to train, work and test that part of their game?
We need to avoid the sport pitfalls that other martial art systems have been victims of. Taekwondo fighters don’t punch in the face, boxers don’t train against kicks or takedowns, and wrestlers don’t train off their backs. Sport rules have made these martial arts less effective. Avoiding takedown points and blindly pulling guard takes away from our arts purpose and effectiveness. The a*s to grass method should mainly be trained at the squat rack, not in battle.