How to Break Posture in Closed Guard
Posture Makes or Breaks
Closed guard has long been understood to be a strong position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, both from a sport and from a self defense point of view. However, what really makes or breaks your effectiveness from the closed guard is often whether or not you can control your partner's posture. This represents at least 90% of your submission attack game when you're on the bottom. Here are three distinctly different, but effective ways to break your partner's posture when they're being frustratingly tall in your guard.
One of the simplest maneuvers you can use here is the "elbow flare." Start with your partner in your closed guard, with their hands on your ribs or sternum (classic posture). It is important for you to understand that their strength in this position derives from their ability to straighten their arms completely, creating a powerful frame between you and them with their outstretched arms. The solution: attack the most vulnerable part here, the elbow. Sit up and simply flare both elbows out with your hands. As your partner begins to crash down, be sure to parry to avoid any inadvertent headbutts (just move your head out of the way). From here, if your partner's hand ends up on the mat, you may want to go into one of the classic overhook closed guard sequences.
This has fast become my favorite gi technique for breaking posture, even though I've likely been using variations of this for the past 20 years or so. Here, you really just need to start by grabbing both lapels of your partner, once again ideally when your partner's hands are in that classic lower position, typically on your solar plexus or lower rib area. Once you have a solid grip on the lapels, you can try pulling downward in a straight line, but remember that your partner is making a very strong frame with both of their arms outstretched (you can think of it as 100% bone, since their forearm and biceps line up via their elbows locking out). Instead, swing from side to side (using these same lapels!) in order to find a weakness in your partner's ability to grip and frame. You'll find it.
Since their hands are preventing you from sitting up, try moving one of them out of the way. Here's one way: as you begin to sit up, "swim" your left arm under their (right) posting arm. This should enable you to snag an overhook, or else at least get their hand out of the way so that you can continue sitting up. In the video example, I use the movement to set up a triangle, but the concept works just as well for routine closed guard posture breaks.
Breaking the Grip
Grip fighting can also be an integral part of the battle to break posture. Here's a way to deal with a strong grip, plus enter into a completely different posture break (back take scenario). Start with a cross-sleeve grip on your partner. As they dig in on a solid lapel grip, snake one arm underneath the other, creating a figure four grip. This will facilitate and easy grip break, and you can go right into the arm drag, leading to a back take/armbar/sweep scenario that's very tough to stop.
How do you like to control posture once it's broken down?
Easy and Simple
Keep in mind, when practicing these posture breaks, that while they might look incredibly simple, they're not necessarily going to be easy to get. Simple does not equal easy in this case; your partner is likely to adapt and adjust to whatever you're working through, especially from a common position like closed guard. Figure out which option works best for you through trial and error, and keep the others on the back burner for a later time! As always, please let me know how these techniques are working for you.