Trust me it'll make sense.
If Einstein trained a bit o' jits, I maintain he would have had a seriously frustrating open guard for reasons I will explain.
Much like in the striking arts, your weapons should be at the front of your body for the majority of your experience especially when dealing with a person passing your guard. Ideally as a beginner, you should always prioritise positioning yourself so that the weapons you have are facing into your opponent. There are other ways to divert the advances of your guard passing pal, but if you're reading this it is more than likely beyond your skill level or comprehension.
Defending the guard pass is rooted in time and space, which in terms of physics are relative (Einstein alert!). The more space you have between your opponent and their end goal of getting sternum to sternum with you in bottom side control is also more time you have.
So what is the longest part of your body relative to giving you more space and more time?
When the closed guard is not present, it is most likely the extended leg framed into the hip as above, not coincidentally part of the frame game from previous a previous blog. Think of the long extended leg as your lance like a jousting knight.
Adversely, the worst or shortest part of the guard pass sequence is, as mentioned before, when your opponent is so within your space that they are making maximum contact and in turn leaving you with no time to negate the pass. The guard is gone and the pass is done. In knowing that the leg extended and the chest-to-chest are two ends of the guard defense spectrum, there are also small steps or opportunities between the two that can buy you space and time.
Should you miss the extended leg, or your lance for the metaphor's sake, there is the knee as shown above. Think of your knee as one weapon shorter than a lance, let's call it a spear. Still useful, but with less space or length between you and the passer, there is invariably less time.
Your passing friend manages to trespass further and makes their way past both the lance and the spear to get within arms reach, think of your arms as swords. Definitely shorter in terms of weaponry and like in most sword fights, your opponent has a sword to equal your own in which they can attack back. In a grappling context, think of the dual of swords here as fighting for grips, head control, and under/overhooks. However, you are progressively more compromised and each step closer up the ladder your opponent climbs means more opportunities for them to attack and less range for your weapons.
The above picture illustrates an all but failure in limiting the progress of an opponents pass. The elbows framed are possibly the shortest amount of distance one can have without giving away side control entirely. One weapon shorter again, consider this your dagger. A very up close and personal weapon which is something you do not want in a side control scenario. Sure you can find yourself back here when escaping the full side control and in that case it is a much better position, but in the sequencing of this guard pass to go from the lance and find yourself here is undeniably not good.
This could be why you feel that people more adept are faster than you. They are most likely limiting your range and weapons with the added bonus of planning their next move 2, 3, 4 moves ahead and so on. Very often we see beginner grapplers defend the pass by going straight to their arms and trying to fight the opponent back in a dual of swords where regaining the lance and/or the option of the spear are an afterthought. It is much easier here for the passer to break down your swords and force you into a knife fight or worse.
So in closing, space = time so be like Einstein and remember there is a tiered series of weapons you have that can fend off an attacker before time and space have run out. Lance, spear, sword, dagger.
Always a pleasure, never a chore.
- Jake Anderson