Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
I remember well when rubber guard started to become popular in BJJ academies across the United States. Several knees were blown out due to an overall lack of knowledge of the position. Nowadays, I advocate experimenting with some of the techniques with some reservations and caveats. Safety definitely comes first, and you should always, always listen to your knees and body whenever trying newer moves.
However, once you realize some of the limitations, rubber guard and the related types of closed guard with "leg overhooks" and the like can be incredibly useful tools. Here, we'll look at both the more flexible and less flexibility-required versions of rubber guard, and some very high percentage submissions you can hit from there.
In this first technique, we're wearing gis (although 90% of the stuff won't necessarily require your opponent to have a gi on).
- Start by using the lapel grips (same side on each lapel is fine) to break your partner's posture.
- Once you have them down, angle your hips to your left, helping to flare your partner's right elbow out away from their body.
- Next, swim around your partner's right wrist from behind, keeping their head under control by hugging (or just keep your right hand on their lapel. Either way, control their posture during this step!).
- Once your left arm has swum around, you're all set to overhook not only their arm but also your own leg. This older style of rubber guard can be utilized by those who are uncomfortable with doing modern rubber guard stuff (more on this later).
- Once you're here, all that remains to set up an easy omoplata is to get your leg in front of their face, and then to angle out for the finish. Here, we do some fancy stuff at the end, but you can just use the initial movement to set up the omoplata if you want.
2. Sneaky Armbar
Utilizing a similar setup, you can hit a beautiful, unexpected armbar from the closed guard as well.
- Start with similar posture control strategies. Get your partner down low, close to your body (if it's no-gi, try flaring out their elbows and bringing your knees to your chest).
- Once here, keep their head under control while you use the same swimming motion as before to set up your basic rubber guard. Alternatively, you can use "mission control" (as dubbed by Eddie Bravo) to keep their posture under control with your left leg, by grabbing your own shin with the inside of your wrist (not with your hand). Although many people can do this, you should never, ever force your knee to do this if you feel any sort of tightness in your ACL or MCL, or any uncomfortable outward pressure on your knee. Listen to your body! Either way, if you end up with the Shawn Williams guard (the "leg overhook" from before), you're in great shape. Your opponent is likely to expect you to set up the omoplata on their right arm, so they are likely to bring their left arm across to reach, and possibly to try to stack your weight over onto their right arm. This leaves their left arm perfectly exposed for a classic straight armbar! As always, if your partner tries to jerk their arm free from the armbar, you can also switch to a simple triangle.
3. Establishing the Position
Once again, posture control is the name of the game.
- Start by flaring your opponent's elbows out and bringing your knees to your chest (or whatever your preferred posture control method is, really), and then move on to controlling your partner's head.
- Assuming their hands aren't already on the mat, you need to swim to establish your overhook. Once again, angling your hips out to your left accomplishes two important goals. First, you now have the ability to reach your shin without having to torque your knee too much. Second, your partner's right elbow is flared out considerably more, allowing you more space when you swim through.
- Make sure your left leg isn't loose, or else your partner is going to pass your guard with a low, Tozi style pass!
- Next up, if your flexibility is an issue, just use Shawn Williams guard (or the "leg overhook" guard, or "London") from here on in. You won't control the posture quite as well, and you won't be as free to hug their back if you go for the omoplata, but you'll definitely still be able to use these concepts and techniques.
Aye, That's the Rubber Guard
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but really, really: listen to your body. If you're able to use flexibility in your knees and hips to get into a now orthodox rubber guard (using mission control and the like), go for it. If not, consider Shawn Williams guard. Either way, I hope you're able to expand your closed guard game by adding some of these elements and concepts in!
© 2016 Andrew Smith