Pulling Guard Is Killing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!
Like thousands of others, I fell in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the moment I saw a tall and scrawny guy named Royce Gracie dominate huge dudes in the early UFCs. Royce would often fall to his back (pulling guard) in order to ensnare his opponent. From there he would submit his opponent without relying on strikes. My fascination with the magical abilities of BJJ led to a 10 year love affair with the “gentle art”. I was a Gracie loving, guard pulling pussy boy. Jiu Jitsu was martial arts and no other style mattered. I had more faith in BJJ than in Jesus Christ, which actually isn’t saying much at all, but the point is that I was a BJJ nuthugger.
I have finally recognized my flaws and have reformed my ignorant ways. I think getting my ass beaten by a Greco Roman wrestler helped me realize some of the fundamental flaws in modern day BJJ. In this article, I will explain why modern day BJJ is beginning to suffer a slow death, and why pulling guard is at the core of this disease.
- Pulling guard is an absolutely ridiculous way to start any fight. I remember seeing a Simpson’s episode where a character got into a fight with Homer. The man said, “I am a master of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, crawl atop me and meet your doom.” In this clip, the absurdity of pulling guard was vividly portrayed as the man who pulled guard appeared to be preparing for a diaper change rather than a fight. If a fat, drunk, and pathetic human being such as Homer couldn’t be threatened by BJJ who can? Let’s put aside the effectiveness of pulling guard for a moment and take a look at some other reasons why pulling guard is bad for the sport. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-13UwnJ3Zg
- Pulling guard is going to get you killed in an MMA or self defense situation. I know some people will tell you otherwise, but they are retarded and are probably selling you something. What would you do if someone started a fight with you by sitting on their butt? A sane person would first laugh at them and then walk away, or kick them in the face and then walk away. Pulling guard in a street fight situation is suicidal. A typical street fight is short and chaotic. Executing a submission requires time, patience, and space. None of which are guaranteed in a street fight. Usually a fight will either stop or be broken up before a BJJ technique can be executed from the back and hopefully before the ground and pound begins. In either case, you will appear to be the loser. In addition, the dangers of being on your back in a street fight are intensified when you consider the possibility of multiple opponents, weapons, and not to mention the surface would likely be concrete.
Well what about modern day MMA? Rarely do mixed martial artists pull guard, and there are several reasons why. One of the most important reasons is because the judges favor the grappler with the top position. The man on top is typically in control and is able to land strikes more effectively. In the UFC in 2012 more fights were finished by KO/TKO than by submission. That alone should warn any would be guard pullers against falling to their backs.
- I feel I have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of guard pulling in a self defense or MMA situation, but what about sport BJJ you say? Surely pulling guard must be beneficial in grappling competition. Right? Wrong. A statistical analysis of a BJJ competition shows that not only are submissions more common from the top position but more points are scored from the top as well.
WWW.bishopbjj.com published a statistical analysis of the 2012 Jiu Jitsu World Championships. While the study is limited to one tournament, there are some interesting results. In this tournament 76% of the fights reached the ground as a result of a guard pull (10% were double guard pulls) and 24% of the fights reached the ground by a takedown. It is interesting to note that pulling guard is almost guaranteed at the lightest weight classes as 96% of those fights witnessed guard pulls. However, the reverse is true for the heaviest weight classes where guard is pulled only 27% of the time.
In all weight classes, the person who pulled guard won the fight 49% of the time, while the person who started from top position won only 40% of the time. In matches with double guard pulls, the man who obtained top position first won 55% of the time. What this portion of the analysis shows is that guard pulling is slightly more common among winning grapplers. However, the analysis goes on to show that the majority of submissions occur from the top position. 34% of fights were finished from either mount, side mount, or half guard top, while only 25% of fights were finished from the bottom. Still, the most common finishing position is from the back (38%). The study showed that only 13% of back takes occurred from the bottom position. The most common finishing position is usually secured from the top position. These stats clearly demonstrate that although guard pullers win their matches slightly more often, the majority of sport BJJ fights are won from the top position.
Another drawback to guard pulling is that it is easily evaded in all situations; street, MMA, and competition BJJ. Even black belts of the highest level struggle when relying on guard pulling. In a recent grappling competition, Metamoris 2, a controversial match occurred between Brandon Shaub (BJJ purple belt and UFC fighter) and Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu (high level BJJ black belt). In this fight the limitations of BJJ were clear as Cyborg, unable to take down Shaub, continuously pulled guard. From his back, Cyborg was never able to ensnare Shaub in his deadly guard. For evading Cyborg’s guard, Shaub was blasted with undeserved criticism. I think the criticism should be directed at modern day BJJ and the decreasing emphasis on takedowns. The bottom line is that Shaub out wrestled Cyborg, and proved that BJJ is an incomplete grappling art. An art that is becoming less functional with every guard pull. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEo3GMH66Q8
Now that I have shown why guard pulling is bad for BJJ in terms of self defense, MMA, and sport BJJ, I will explain the benefits of incorporating more takedowns in modern day BJJ.
1. One benefit of practicing BJJ from the standing positions that it provides a more complete workout. Very few of us began BJJ for the sole purpose of learning BJJ. Most of us had an interest MMA, self defense, or a desire to get into shape. Relying on BJJ for the entirety of your workout needs can lead to a pretty fucked up looking body. I am a case in point. I have a long and skinny body and my constant guard work (inverted, upside down, etc) caused a curvature of my spine. I was a tall, gangly guy with a hunched back and weak legs. From a purely fitness standpoint, I was ignoring a lot. Starting from the feet engages your back and legs and helps one achieve a more balanced level of fitness.
- Another advantage of beginning rolling sessions from the feet is that it prepares practioners for tournaments. When I talk to my teammates, their number one apprehension is starting on their feet. Getting comfortable with wrestling will increase ones confidence, and will motivate them to compete. Injury and lack of space are other concerns of starting from the standing position. While standing, injury to BJJ practitioners may be more prevalent, but that is more because of unfamiliarity with the position, rather than wrestling being inherently more dangerous.
As modern practitioners abandon the standing aspect of the art, BJJ is becoming too narrowly focused. By limiting BJJ to the ground we eliminate much of the advantages that wrestlers have over BJJ players, because we fear them. For example, judo used to allow takedowns below the waist until wrestlers began putting on a kimono and doubling and single legging the hell out of these judokas. Rather than incorporate wrestling into their art, judokas chose to change the rules and disallowed takedowns below the waist. This may be one of the reasons judo has seen a decline in popularity. By making an art too one dimensional, its practicality and effectiveness become limited. One of the reasons why MMA is so popular is because it is all encompassing. The rules don’t favor one style over the other. While arts like karate and judo are drifting off into obscurity, the foundational aspects of MMA (BJJ, wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing) remain or are gaining popularity.
There is a saying among BJJ players, “The ground is my ocean and others don’t even know how to swim.” For many years this was true and BJJ could have been considered the most dominant martial art in the world. Things have changed as other martial artists are learning how to swim, BJJ players are increasingly lacking the ability to bring the fight into the ocean. Step out of the ocean and learn how to force the penguins to the water, or the gentle art will begin to resemble a lesbianic sex scene caused by an endless amount of double guard pulls. Fights will be fought cock to cock and balls to balls. If you can’t image what that would look like, allow me to show you a clip of the inevitable future of BJJ, unless we put an end to guard pulling. For the sake of my beloved art, stand up you guard pulling sons of bitches. Branch out. Get slammed. And become a more complete grappler.