Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The BJJ Tree: Why you should stop being interested in Rubber Guard

Based on posts over on /r/bjj I had another discussion with a white belt about Rubber Guard and why he should or should not be playing it. As I normally do I recommended against it and suggested he concentrate on closed guard instead. Now, some people who are fans of the 10th Planet system might at this point start berating me as a closed minded hater, but that's not the case. I loves me some rubber guard and I enjoy playing it, but let's take a look at something real quick:


Take a look at that tree and think about it for a moment. Look at the what you are doing if you start out your journey concentrating on Rubber Guard. You've gone out on a single lone branch of the JiuJitsu tree with very few connecting branches. There is no transition from Rubber Guard to butterfly guard. There is no transition to X-Guard, there's not even an easy standup option from Rubber Guard. What you've done is locked yourself into a single, very small, branch of jiujitsu. The only way for you to transition to anywhere else is to move backwards along your tree back to Closed Guard and then move from there.

If you instead concentrate on the Trunk of the Jiujitsu guard game, Closed Guard, then you have multiple transitions to High Guard, to Open Guard and its variants, even to Half Guard, or the easy Technical Standup. If you choose to transition to Open Guard you have options that combo back and forth. Butterfly to Spider guard to Leg Lasso Guard and so on. You have more options available to react to your opponent.

In Rubber Guard you have a very small library of techniques available from each sub position. If your opponent is unfamiliar with those options then you can destroy them. You will have great success at white and blue belt, and maybe even some success at purple belt because your opponents will not have developed well enough to prevent you from reaching Rubber Guard yet. Then suddenly it will stop working. It will stop working because you have to successfully make two transitions to reach your preferred position. You have to establish high guard, and then convert to Rubber Guard.

If your Closed Guard isn't strong then you will never make the transition to high guard or rubber guard. You will be stuck trying to play in a less familiar setting every single time because you are far more likely to START in Closed Guard or Open Guard. If your opponent has spent their jiujitsu career working in and developing their Closed/Open guard game and passing, and you've spent yours developing your Rubber Guard game then you are going to be starting each match at an immediate disadvantage.

This does NOT mean that Rubber Guard is total crap and you should never use it. The same thing goes for Deep Half Guard, X-Guard, and any other guard position that is option limited. If you START your focus on that option limited position then you are handicapping yourself against people who have trained in a more option rich position which also happens to be a far more common position to be in.

So, begin your training in the most option rich positions and slowly specialize. Work the Closed Guard first, then Open Guard, then Half Guard, then High Guard. Develop your transitions and then once you have that fundamental framework of technique built up you can start working on your Rubber Guard or your X-Guard or your DLR guard.

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