BJJ keeps evolving, and people always come up with new moves. You do need to be familiar with these moves, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them. You can beat skilled opponents with fundamental techniques alone if you sharpen them to a higher level.
Roger Gracie is the best example of using the kind of techniques you learn in your first few BJJ lessons and winning at the highest level.
Brianna Ste Marie is a more recent example of grapplers who use fundamental techniques. She is a new favorite grappler of mine.
One of Brianna’s main positions is the closed guard. Brianna beat Bianca Basilio, a former ADCC champion, by sweeping Bianca with the hip bump sweep and getting to the mount position directly in the last 15 seconds of their match at ADCC 2022.
If you are interested in developing your closed guard game, especially for no-gi, and are much smaller in size than Roger Gracie, it’s worth checking out how Brianna sets up her closed guard attacks.
In most of her matches I could watch online, she constantly hunts for Kimura, guillotine, armbar, or triangle from the closed guard. She mixes her submission threats with sweeps, including the hip bump sweep.
One of the reasons her closed guard is so effective is that she seems proficient in all the major submissions mentioned above. So her submission attempts create real threats to her opponent. If her opponent doesn’t respect these threats, Brianna will get her opponent. And if her opponent tries to deal with these threats, that will usually create an opening for Brianna to do something else from the closed guard.
It sounds ridiculously simple when I explain it this way, but this is probably why Brianna’s closed guard works. Most people aren’t great at (or don’t even try to be great at) all the major submissions from the closed guard. I’m fine with triangle, but not so good at armbar from the closed guard, for example.
If you are wondering whether you should work on developing your closed guard game, here are a few reasons why it would be a very good idea to do so:
1. You can keep going for different submissions and sweeps without compromising your position so much, even when your moves don’t work.
2. There aren’t many surprises in this position. Your opponent typically needs to open the closed guard, and you know they will try to do so either by standing up or staying low. In other words, your opponent’s options are limited.
3. You are safe for the most part. Your opponent can hardly create submission threats inside your closed guard.
4. It’s great for slowing down your opponent. They can’t run around you when they are inside your closed guard.
Observing Brianna’s closed guard, I think a good way to develop your closed guard attacks is to become proficient in every major submission from the closed guard, and the standard closed guard sweeps, like the hip bump sweep and the flower sweep on both sides. If you spend a couple of years on these options and learn how to put them together, you could become pretty good at playing the closed guard.
The closed guard may not look as appealing as trendy techniques, but don’t overlook it!