How to Break Frames

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The success of your defensive efforts in BJJ depends on how well you use frames against your opponent.​

You create a frame by connecting your body part with your opponent’s body, typically your elbow, forearm, knee, shin, or foot.​

And to achieve the best result, you should create a frame against your opponent’s bone structure rather than soft tissue.​

Frames create distance between you and your opponent and make it harder for your opponent to move forward with their offensive efforts. When you place your frames correctly, you don’t need to use much energy because these frames are structurally strong enough to support your opponent’s weight.​

From a defensive perspective, your job is to remove your opponent’s frames when you work on passing the guard.​

But how do you get rid of frames and move forward? Note that the function of frames is to stop you from moving forward.​

The thing is, one frame is good for one direction — what you want to do is to change your angle so you can generate pressure against a frame that’s easier to break. Keep repeating this angle-changing process until you are reasonably free of frames.​

Take a look at this segment from a Gui Mendes highlight video (around 0:50). In this sequence, Gui breaks his opponent’s lasso frame by changing his angle while maintaining his pressure.​

See below for my commentary on each step. Pink represents Gui’s pressure & blue represents his opponent’s force, though in this case, his opponent doesn’t have much force against Gui.​

1. Gui stands up and tries to open his opponent’s closed guard.

​2. Gui starts pushing his opponent’s right leg down. Here, his opponent has a shallow lasso hook to stop Gui from coming forward. Gui is probably bringing his right elbow close to his ribs and making it difficult for his opponent to go deeper with the lasso (i.e., typically, the lasso guard is more effective when the lasso hook is deeper and touches the top player’s shoulder blade).

3. Gui changes his posture, bringing his head down and leaning towards his opponent’s left shin. Gui’s opponent cannot use the lasso hook as a frame in this position because Gui changed his angle, and Gui is creating pressure from an angle that makes this lasso hook useless. No one’s leg is meant to be strong against force coming from this direction.​

​4. Gui uses his shoulder as his anchoring point and makes a pivot. This completely gets rid of the lasso hook.​

​5. Gui’s next step is to go back to where he was initially. But now, his opponent’s leg is trapped in front of Gui, and Gui can start working on the leg drag pass.

​6. It may seem as if Gui’s opponent has some connection between his leg and Gui’s body, but he doesn’t have a proper frame. Gui has an angle that covers and thus kills his opponent’s leg. Gui uses his left shin to pin his opponent’s right leg and goes for the leg drag here.​

​7. Gui gets into a proper leg drag position, controlling his opponent’s legs.

​Make sure to watch the actual sequence and how Gui subtly changes his angle throughout this guard passing process. You can use the same idea (i.e., going around your opponent’s frame) to break your opponent’s frames. Try it next time on the mat.