21 Jan 2010
Hands up if you have heard of the spiral guard before?
Nope, me neither, well I didn't until a few weeks ago when the name suddenly started appearing on forums with people asking about this mysterious new system. Youtube and a google search (at the time) wasn't much help either. Then I read Slidey's review of the Japanese instructional DVD called Paraestra and his description of spiral guard grabbed my interest. Being small and, seemingly by default, a bottom player, I loved the idea that I could spin around under and beneath my opponent trying to weave a web of confusion - so I bought the book/DVD and decided to test if this spiral guard thingy actually works in real live sparring...
The DVD and Book
First things first, there is no need for me to repeat Slidey's excellent review of the Paraestra instructional, but I will add this, like much Japanese language print and moving footage media, is beautifully produced. I mean it's just so cool. all them funky kanji graphics - wacky packaging and bright colours. If I ever visited Japan I would probably go nuts over adverts for milk. By the way, the Paraestra instructional has tons of other techniques, but I picked on spiral guard cos it was something completely new to me.
Okay, what is the spiral guard?
Some have said it is a bit like the 50-50 guard. Some have said it is a variation of the reverse de la Riva guard. My interpretation is this: yes, it is similar to reverse de la riva in that you lock both your legs over one of uke's legs (let's say his right leg), control his hips by placing your left foot on it and hooking your other foot around his hamstring, or maybe behind the knee. From the various techniques demonstrated, you either grab his right ankle with your right hand or control sleeve and collar with both your hands.
(Reverse de la riva has a different hand grip and your legs are placed more as a triangle lock above the knee rather than on the hips, but that's just how I've been taught it).
But, as with any guard positon, the holding position is not really the point of the guard, it's what you can do with it after that is the point. And the spiral guard is no exception. What this guard position seems to offer, is an awsome angle of attack to sweep or spin underneath the standing uke and take his back. I wanted to try this for real...
Trying it for real
I got the package on Wednesday and watched the first few techniques. I then set myself the target of trying it out in the very next class (wed evening). This is a first for me. I very rarely go into class with a set plan of exact moves I want to try out in sparring - I usually just go with the flow. But not tonight.
At class, I was determined to (i) hold someone in spiral guard, and (ii) sweep someone in spiral guard. Not a hard task you might say, but given how loose and weird the position seems, it was far from easy to initiate.
The picture above shows the basic spiral guard 'holding' position. I say holding but I doubt you could stall for very long here without getting passed, so speed of delivery seems to be the key for the various sweeps that follow.
I tried and succeeded in getting into the spiral guard on several white belts tonight. My opponents have been training for several months so were not complete newbies but I did take advantage of the gaping holes and quirky balance in order for me to effect the guard position. I did not have any success attempting to get spiral guard when I sparred with my purple belt buddies, but then I rarely get any decent position apart from closed guard.
The photo above shows where you can end up if you manage to rotate your body around the trapped leg (going under your uke) and ending up behind him. Again, I was fortunate to be able to try this out on a couple of white belts and I could at least get this far. The next stage is unbalancing uke by kicking away at his legs whilst pulling his belt towards you, allowing you to take his back - the so-called 'waterslide' as described by Matt from Martial Farts in his recent trip to Japan.
When I tried to displace my uke by pushing the legs forward, they just staggered but I could not take the back, so more work needed on this.
Finally, during open mat after class, I asked one of my team mates if I could drill some sweeps. In fact I drilled the very first technique shown in the Paraestra book - it is a sweep with sleeve and collar grips and basic spiral guard leg position. You direct uke's arm under his own body whilst simultaneously kicking out your outer leg and (I think) pushing with your hooking leg, oh and I think you have to spin under your uke too. When I drilled it, it did seem to work and I think the key is breaking uke's posture. I might try to do this one in live sparring next session.
Well I've only had the book and DVD a mere couple of hours and managed to speed read the first two techniques - for me, getting the spiral was not a problem. But I'm not sure yet how to 'feel' the position, especially with regards to my foot placement. Do I push? Do I hook and pull? Do I squeeze my knees? etc etc. Lots of questions that I guess only Sasa himself can tell me or if I experiment a lot.
One instant problem I encountered was my foot on hip placement. Hana, who postures really well standing up, just flipped my foot off her hip with her hand and passed my guard. This was annoying, since my reverse de la riva is usually pretty tight, I could not get that same sense of security with the spiral.
How can little old me can dare to critique the work of respected black belt Yuki Sasa? Well, I dare. Why? Because I have only good things to say about his offerings. The spiral guard looks like something I will try and explore further in the next few weeks. Although my initial try-out was inconclusive, it did seem to offer promise as another weapon in my open guard arsenal.
Luckily, the Paraestra book does include a ton of other, more standard, open guard sweeps, the Sasa sweep being one of my all time favourite sweeps.
This book/DVD cost me £26, quite a bargain I reckon considering the wealth of material. Yeah there's a language issue, but you know what? I never listen to instructional vids anyway, they send me to sleep. I just speed through them, watch the best bits and I never listen to the verbal anyway.
Photo: Hulk is not impressed with spiral guard, he's more of a top player.
Paraestra DVD and Book is available from Scramble Stuff - a store selling exclusive imported Japanese BJJ-related merchandise.