As part of my tournament prep work I've been focusing on two things, my defensive halfguard work, and my guard passing.
Largely my issues in halfguard have come from originally learning the 'lockdown' in my first year of training and latching onto it as a way not to get passed. As I get better at guard retention and open guard I drifted away from halfguard and never really updated my game. Once I hit purple belt all of a sudden my open guard game and my defensive guard work were no longer sufficient to avoid halfguard as reliably as had been the case in the past, so all of a sudden I was stuck using a whitebelt level lockdown game against purple belt level passing. Not a good place to be.
During my refocus on halfguard I quickly came to the conclusion that I no longer liked the lockdown at all. It pinned my hips and interfered with my mobility in a way that was counter to the entire rest of my game. I started exploring other halfguard options and found Caio Terra's DVDs and adopted the Knee Shield halfguard as more what I wanted to have in place. I also revisited Marcelo Garcia's X-Guard material and began working on ways to transition from Knee Shield half and Z-guard to the X-Guard. Progress has been slow but steady and already I'm getting bogged down in halfguard much less than I was a month ago.
Now, my halfguard progress is great, but that's not what I wanted to write about. My largest developmental improvement and the one that I think represents the larger fundamental shift in my thought process is in my guard passing.
After my last visit to Alliance HQ when EVERYONE was standing to pass I decided that I should give serious thought to standing more and working against standing passes. Only one guy at our affiliate gym REALLY uses standing passes, so I grabbed him a few times and worked against his style and took mental notes about how he moved and what he used to set the passes up, then I looked at some black belts and how they passed standing (Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu is a good one) and took some notes on what the commonalities of successful passing were. I then revised my own passing game and moved away from trying to force my knee cut passes when they weren't really there and developed a few tricks for backing out, standing, and passing.
My passing game now much more often involves looking for a leg drag, then if that fails I retain control of the foot as much as possible and move to a knee sweep pass (Dunno any other name for it), if that fails I frequently am setup for an ankle lock, or I am able to step in with my other leg and pass by moving to reverse KoB. I also switch back and forth a lot and pass to either side. This is a much more active and dynamic passing game than my previous game that involved a lot of pressure and grinding my way through to side control. I still like that method and use it, but having a more comfortable standing passing game has opened up a lot more options for me.
I'm hoping those new options will help me out at US Grappling Charlotte in May.