This article was written by New Zealand's Jahred Dell, author of Articulate BJJ.
I love playing guard, especially the Shin-to-Shin variation. Using this option has really helped me to develop my seated guard and entries into the powerful ashi-garami position, which is great for setting up sweeps and leg-locks. Below I have outlined how I use both the shin-to-shin guard and the ashi-garami. I use these particular attacks often and find them to be high-percentage. It’s important to understand that no sequence is a one-size-fits-all solution. With this position (and all others), remember to stay flexible for other entries and attacks depending on the responses of your opponent.
There is a lot of anti- guard pulling propaganda out there at the moment. Many people criticize a practitioner who sits to guard in a match and knock the “butt scooting” that occurs when the still-standing opponent does not engage. I’ve always been taught that pulling guard is one of the quickest, most efficient ways of getting down to the business of Jiu-jitsu. Our martial art (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) transpires predominantly on the ground, so why not put the fight there as quickly as possible? Hating on guard pulling is like saying “I like maths; but I hate adding, I only want to subtract.” Pulling guard is just another part of the equation in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Of course, it is the prerogative of the practitioner who sits (or pulls) to guard to impose his guard on his opponent. This needs to be done with effective grips & hand fighting, leverage and control of range if it is to be effective. This is the main focus of this lesson: to work from a seated guard effectively, to efficiently enter & establish control with a strong Single Leg X (ashi garami) and then to sweep and submit our opponent.
Context: I used to hate starting in a seated guard position. I was worried that the kneeling or standing opponent had a much quicker path to pass my legs and establish a position of control. As a result, I was very slow to develop my guard and my jiu-jitsu suffered as a result. The problem was that I was simply sitting and waiting for my opponent to engage my seated guard on his or her own terms, this usually meant, because I was simply sitting there, that they would step around me with little to no resistance. I had to learn to establish control and impose my guard. One of the most important things I learnt to do from the seated guard was to impose controlling conditions on my opponent or training partner. Creating a shin-to-shin position was one of the most important techniques that I learned (and still use every day when I train) when it comes to implementing a strong, controlling position in the seated guard to prevent my opponent passing and using his footwork. Once I have established the shin-to-shin position, I have some options. I can begin establishing a superior guard, I can manipulate their legs and start to control their upper body posture with my free hand(s) if I choose to. As discussed earlier, my goal is to enter into an Ashi Garami (Single Leg X), sweep my opponent and then submit him. I’m going to use the Simple Sweep from the Single Leg X position and then finish with a straight ankle lock.
Step 1: Establishing Shin-to shin
This is the position we are trying to establish in order to establish a guard or to begin mounting attacks. My outside leg has crossed to the inside of my opponent’s and both of our shins are meeting to create friction. This prevents my opponent from crowding my hips or applying pressure to my chest. It will also become my source of leverage.
I hook behind her knee with my outside arm to prevent her from escaping backwards. I can either connect a gable grip or simply attach my hand to my shoulder. I then suck myself in close to give my weight to her leg. This prevents my opponent from shifting their weight until I want them to. There are still a lot of things you need to be aware of when establishing shin-to-shin. One thing I like about shin-to-shin is you have limited a lot of your opponent’s options, but they will still have a few that you will have to anticipate:
The guillotine: Some opponents are going to get the blinders on and dive for your head and neck, which they perceive at being perfect height for a guillotine attempt. If this happens, the key is remaining calm; moving out to the side where you can take advantage of his now trapped hands.
The sprawl: Aggressive wrestlers or frenetic passers may sprawl. Once again, if you position yourself to the side and not in front of your opponent, you will be able to avoid being sprawled on.
Knee drives: Some people will try to cook you with pressure by driving the knee of their trapped leg into your and driving your back onto the ground. Anticipate this and, once again, orient yourself to the side to avoid this.
Hand fighters: From what I’ve discovered so far, the people who have the most success against the shin-to-shin position are those who stay patient, attend to their balance and centre of gravity whilst engaging in an intelligent hand fight to prevent you from improving your controlling conditions. Disrupt their base and do not allow them to set, try to distract them and force them to use their hands to post by upsetting their balance while you continue to progress your technique.
Step 2: Elevation
Once I have established my shin-to-shin, I then have the ability to start adding elevation to the leg I have trapped. I am going to make sure I keep my foot in a strong hook, this will stop her foot from sliding off my shin as I elevate. When I’m ready, I lean to my side and kick my shin-to-shin controlling leg upwards, raising my opponent’s leg off the ground.
From here, I can begin to enter into guard play and start to work towards my sweep. Elevating the leg as high as possible shifts the opponent’s weight to their other leg, leaving the elevated leg pliable and easier to control.
Step 3: Ashi Entry
Once I have her leg fully elevated, I allow my elevating leg to slide off and behind her leg, shooting it upwards and aiming my heel for her hip. At the same time, I shoot my hips up. My objective is to trap as high up her leg as possible and then clamp both of my legs down hard to establish the Ashi Garami or Single Leg X. My hooking arm loosens in the transition and falls down to her ankle and I loop the hand underneath and around her leg to maintain control.
Step 4: Single Leg X position
Now, I have established my Single Leg X. You must make sure that you have a strong clamp on your opponent’s leg. This guard relies on my friction and weight completely disallowing them from retrieving their leg once I have it trapped. Trapping above the knee allows me maximum control of their leg. This is achieved most effectively by shooting my hips up as far as possible; if my hips are flat on the ground, it is unlikely that I am effectively going to be able to sweep my opponent. Face the toes outwards on the outside foot. This is mainly for controlling purposes, as you get a good solid bite on your opponent’s hip with your heel. It may also ward off a pesky reaping disqualification in competition.
Step 5: Simple Sweep
To perform the simple sweep, I am going to elevate my hips and rotate hips and knees outwards. When my opponent’s leg is trapped, her base will be disrupted and cause her to fall as long as I have secured her leg from foot to hip. My main objective in completing the simple sweep from Single Leg X is to ensure that my inside knee comes over the top of my opponent’s knee to buckle it and totally compromise her balance.
Step 6: Straight ankle finish
My opponent falls directly into the straight ankle lock from the simple sweep, and it will be just a matter of cinching up the details to submit her. I do not release my Single Leg X control and maintain a strong clamp to control above my opponent’s knee. I make sure that I get right onto my opponent’s heel and feel her toes on the back of my shoulder. Before I begin to arch my back and apply the hold, I take away all the space around her ankle, I move my weight off of my elbow and tuck it under my body to prevent her fighting my hands or grabbing my head to defend. I can connect my hands with a traditional guillotine-style grip. I finish by turning my head up and around to face away from my opponent, I arch my back and roll my shoulder back over the toes of the trapped foot for maximum pressure on the toes as well as the joint itself. This leaves no space for her ankle to move and applies huge amounts of pressure to the joint. She has no option but to tap at this point.