11/08/2014

Roger Gracie guard study

When I started looking at Kron a while back, I wanted to understand what was his classical open guard like. Kron however, did most of his black belt jiu jitsu at lightweight. Therefore I now decided to look at Roger Gracie to see what a tall person's classical approach to guard might be.

Roger's seems to prefer closed guard even more than Kron, even so much that he keeps it locked while opponent has his knee up and has established combat base. This of course probably wouldn't even be an option for Kron who has considerably shorter legs.

Roger also doesn't really attack much from a collar grip position when his guard is open. Instead, he doesn't shy away from half guard quite as much as Kron.

So if Kron's structure would be...
A) Closed guard
B) Collar grip guard

…I would says Roger's structure is
A) Closed guard
B) Closed guard with opponent's knee up in the middle
C) Half guard

1. Sleeve drag to back/arm bar/flower sweep from closed guard

Roger always attacks the left arm if he can. According to his interviews, it is simply because opponent's defences are often not as good on the weaker left side.

The sleeve drag is initiated with a simple cross grip on the sleeve. As the drag is performed, the wrist of the hand holding the sleeve goes over your opponents wrist. At the same time, you do a sit up and reach for your opponents far arm pit. Roger usually hold the arm pit using the kimono material instead of a clamp grip.

The most common defence for the sleeve drag is the heavy elbow. Roger uses arm bar style mechanics to counter this heavy elbow outside the hip tactic. When the elbow is flared out he simply uses the foot on the hip and turns close to 90 degrees just like performing a regular arm bar from the bottom forcing the elbow to the inside. Then he switches the angle back to the back take side.

Some opponents, most notably Jacare and Xande Ribeiro did not want to accept the back take in their matches with Roger and instead postured up. This creates room for the leg to come in front of the face and often results in an easy arm bar.

There is naturally the third option which is the flower sweep. I have seen Roger get it in only one of his matches due to the way opponent's tend to react but here he is teaching it in Brasil

Link to Roger teaching flower sweep from sleeve drag

2. Tilt sweep from when opponent has a knee up in combat base between Roger's legs

Roger is so fond of closed guard that when to opponent approaches in combat base (knee up) he still tries to catch it. The reason for this is that Roger has a very strong tilt sweep from this position where he has his legs around the opponent's torso but the knee is up and "outside" the closed guard. This position is not attainable without long limbs so if your 170 cm you probably shouldn't even consider it.

The knee in sweep is performed by gripping the sleeve on the side where you are trying to sweep the opponent. Then you tilt your body, pushing the sleeve to the side and suddenly pull back and start coming up basing on your free hand. The reason why this works is of course that the opponent can not post neither with his hand not with his foot to the side where you are sweeping him.

Some opponents try to counter this by going to a "knee slide" without the underhook despite the trapped knee. This defence often exposes the back to easily which Roger has exploited in his past matches already at brown belt.

3. Half guard back roll sweep

Unlike with Kron Gracie, Roger often chooses half guard when he can not get to his closed guard (or knee up closed guard). He doesn't often go for the classical undertook sweep series but instead opts to use what I simply call a back roll sweep.  Roger performs this by pushing opponent's head across his body with his forearm and grabs the belt while blocking the cross face with a sleeve control. Then he pulls your base on top of himself and somersaults backwards while extending his legs.

Many passers like to cross the guarder's body in half guard and try to pull their leg out but without the cross face it is difficult to not get rolled over by this sweep. You hardly ever see Roger cross faced in half guard but when it happens, he uses his tall frame and tries to land a classical upa sweep instead.

Here is the 10 minute video analysis:


Conclusion:

Although Roger Gracie uses 50/50 guard and De La Riva from time to time, his guard game is very basic and focuses only on a handful of techniques.

One could say that Roger's overall game is all about picking the right basics for a tall person. Why do I think this is?
  1. The tilt sweep is not for everyone because most people can't cross their ankles if opponents have combat base
  2. The roll over is much more efficient if you're tall (more hip elevation)
  3. Roger's mount is much harder to escape because the upa doesn't work on him so well due to his frame

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