No guard, no jiu-jitsu. That’s something I try to remind everyone in my jiu-jitsu classes. Even though there are numerous styles of classical jiu-jitsu that don’t use the guard, the way I see it is that jiu-jitsu begins with the guard. It’s not the mount, side control, or even the back position. It’s the guard.
The most important skill in jiu-jitsu, to me at least, is guard replacing. Guard replacement simply means getting to guard from any and all positions. After all, if you can’t get guard, how are you ever going to use it? If you suck at guard replacements, what’s the point of learning to submit from it?
Guard replacement is a rather simple science, but like all skills it requires dedication to repetition. It should be the skill that precedes all others. Learn how to get to guard while you’re mounted, side controlled, etc. Work three or four solid replacements and then you’re on your way to learning how to use the guard. Instead of learning the upa, (the bridge-and-roll mount reversal), learn how to go from being mounted to getting your guard. Once you have confidence in replacing your guard, only then try to learn other escape methods.
Since we’re on the subject of the guard, let me say that the second most important skill is breaking your opponent’s posture and establishing solid control. Instead of learning how to submit, learn how to shift in such a way as to set him up for those submissions. We tend to be too eager to learn submissions at the expense of the foundation that provides for them.
Learn to replace guard, and then learn how to break your opponent down in the guard. Only then worry about your submissions. Just a thought.
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