Escaping the Guard Suffocation
Tom Wong Student
MMA is now probably the most popular sport that hit the mainstream. Growing up as a child I was always intrigued by how a fighter who seems disadvantaged at the bottom during a ground fight can still control and beat bigger, stronger opponent. Royce Gracie was the first fighter I saw who was able to control opponents from the bottom using the guard in a very effective way, making it very difficult for the opponent to execute their techniques effectively. I always disliked being trapped in the guard and I realized recently that there are smarter options in escaping. The guard is widely used amongst many fighters to control from the bottom. The average guard is when the fighter with the back on the ground controls the opponent on the top by wrapping their legs around the lower torso locking tight with their feet at the ankles, limiting the fighters mobility. This position can be extremely frustrating for the fighter at the top. Experienced grapplers when trapping their opponent in the guard usually try to keep the opponents head low close to the body (chest) in order to keep the opponent on the top from rising and allowing the space to create leverage to throw full force blows and or advance offensively. Some fighters in the guard also throw punches to the side of the body or the head of the opponent. Some also kick their heels into the back and side of the opponent momentarily making life very uncomfortable, before trapping with the legs again.
When I was younger, some of the options that I thought of when trapped in the guard was either eye gouging, biting (illegal in tournament rules), and digging knuckles into the ribs of the opponent to cause a reaction that would allow me to escape from the head control of the guard. Since still trapped with the legs, the only option that I could think of to advance is to throw shots to the body and face. If the person is skilled, being stuck in the guard can be a frustrating place to be.
In class we practiced the “Bat Stance”. We go on our knees open legged and on our forearms like when we do groin stretches. We then keep our hands flat on the ground forming a diamond shape with our forefingers and thumbs in order to fit our head into locking our head in place when we do neck exercises. We hold our position starting facing down then facing to the left and right. When in this position, straightening the legs forces more weight on the head while keeping balance (like tripod) with the feet making the exercise even more effective. Little did I know that this exercise also has application when trapped when say in the guard.
When trapped in the guard, instead of resorting to rabbit punches to the side of the body and head like what most mma fighters do in attempts to cause reactions, I found out that there is an even more effective way to deal with this situation. I felt it first hand. Sifu Tom Wong had some people in the class attempt to escape my guard and it proved to be pretty difficult to escape especially when locked tight. When I put Sifu in the guard, he simply straightened his legs like when we practice the “Bat Stance” and applied weight onto the side of my face with the top of his head. At this time this is what I was thinking…..Ouch! If I keep his head close to my body…the more I feel his weight of his skull pushing against the side of my face..squeezing my head more to the ground…not cool. Second if I tried to throw shots to the body or head, I can’t generate any power to do anything especially in this extremely uncomfortable position….this hurts. My legs were wrapped around, but at the same time not as stable due to the higher angle change of his body. Even if I hold tight with my legs hoping for something great to happen….I still feel the top of his head pushing my face sandwiching my head with the ground. I felt helpless at this point. All of a sudden his elbow entered where there are sensitive nerves in the inner thigh, suddenly shifting his weight to the side trapping my leg on the ground with his forearm while at the same time creating space to escape the guard. All of a sudden I was stuck in a side mount….like magic. The “Bat Stance” was applied without the use of struggling with so much muscle…makes total sense. When trapped in the guard: Step 1. Straighten legs while shifting body weight onto opponents head with the top part of forehead (hard part of skull) keeping opponents head sandwiched to the ground while maintaining balance with feet like a tri-pod. Step 2. Keep elbows close to the body in order to enter the inner thigh region with the elbow to create discomfort while slipping in. Step 3. Transfer and shift body weight resting on top of the opponents inner thigh, pining leg to the ground allowing you create space to escape using gravity as your friend. At this point you will be in a side mount position and the doors to other opportunities just opened up.
I find this escape technique to be extremely clever, effective, and efficient. Just another piece of knowledge to be thankful for.