The Movable Frame Concept in BJJ (a Guard Maintenance Deep Dive)

Updated on March 26, 2020
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Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Movable vs Static

Making frames is something you tend to learn in jiu jitsu very early on. Every positional escape begins with proper posture, and that tends to always involve proper frames. The transitional period during a guard pass offers the opportunity for longer-distance frames, and there's a particular type of these frames that you can add to your game: the moving (or movable) frame. This means you're not only keeping your partner away, but moving a part of their body as they try to pass your guard.

Knee Cut Example

A great place to begin with movable frames is during a knee cut guard pass. In this situation, your partner is nearly past your guard already, having gotten past your early-stage guard maintenance. Not only do they have their knee already on the ground, but they have also achieved the outside underhook and are well on their way to establishing a modified kesa gatame. However, assuming they are passing to your left, you still have your right arm free. Turn your right palm up, making a "C-grip" on your partner's biceps. As your partner slides through to finish the guard pass, make a circle with your right arm, all the way around their body and then to the other side of your body. As your partner's arm travels to the far side of your body, use this opportunity to build your base up, coming up onto your left elbow. Now, your partner has a simple choice: either they fall over and let you get a reversal, or they will have to switch their hips, offering you ample space to scoot away and recover your guard.

Another Look

Here's another example of the same move in action. This time, note that, as your partner moves back to stay on top, you are going to have a great opportunity to practice some very basic guard maintenance, centering yourself with static frames. The general rule is that once your movable frames no longer move, you need to scoot yourself away.

Double Unders

Another great example of the movable frame concept is during the double under guard pass. In this case, you're late to the draw, having missed your opportunity for early stage defense, and your partner is lifting your hips off the ground with their hands clasped together. Start by making a static frame with your spine (do this by lifting your hips off the ground as your partner tries to stack you). This will at least give you the opportunity to defend the rest of the pass. Next, as your partner tries to turn the corner, push their elbow up (in the gi, feel free to grip the fabric of the sleeve as well). As your partner's elbow begins to move away from their body, they are going to have no choice but to follow with their hips and base. Once again, you will have a good chance to scoot away, even as your body is turning away (momentarily) from your partner's body. Finally, use the space between you to recover a solid guard.

Head Redirection and the Over/Under Pass

Another great movable frame concept to explore is redirecting the head. An example of this arises during the over/under guard pass, as your partner attempts to pin your hips. If they're "under" on your left side and "over" on your right, they'll be trying to smash their head to the ground across your left hip. Before they get all of their weight in place, you might be able to simply push their head across to the other side with your hand, but don't expect this to work against a strong opponent who understands this pass well. Instead, rely upon your hips by gluing your left elbow in tight to your hip and bridging. As your "bridge" comes down, hip out to your left, redirecting their head to the other side of your body. From here, it's a relatively simple matter of transitioning to the crucifix.

Which is easier to redirect during a guard pass?

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Frames, Frames, Everywhere Are Frames

The concept of framing is fundamentally important at all levels of jiu jitsu, including the brand new white belt. Fully extended frames are fundamental to keeping anyone decent from passing your open guard. Movable frames add yet another layer of defense, and they are worthy of study in their own right.


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    • slideyfoot profile image


      18 months ago from Bristol, United Kingdom

      Love it! That frame/stiff arm concept is wonderfully versatile, really helped my open guard when I first got heavily into it (thanks to Jeff Rockwell and Ryan Hall).


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