21 Jan 2010

Spiral Guard

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.

Some drawbacks
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.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Jiujitsunista said...

Wow! That looks really interesting! I've never heard of spiral guard, but that is no shock considering I am a white belt, and didn't even know there was a reverse De la Riva guard. lol

I am going to have to poke around with that, with my training partner who also happens to be a white belt. I doubt we could do much with it, but it looks like fun. =)

A.D. McClish said...

That looks like something I'd like. It actully reminds me of a take-down/sweep we learned last night. You slide in between the legs of the person standing up, hook one leg with you arm and place the bottom foot on the teardrop of the knee and the shin of your other leg across the back of the thigh. You land in that position when you go for the takedown/sweep. Then, you sweep, arcing your arm in a cartwheel-like motion, pushing the other leg at the knee. The person goes over. Even if they don't, you can stand up, pinning the leg down with your foot.

slideyfoot said...

Heh - looks like your c&p went awry with the link back to my review. Should be this. ;)

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks Can, your link back is now fixed.Lord knows what happened there. Perils of writing at 1am in the morning.

slideyfoot said...

Blogger seems to do funny things if you miss out a quotation mark or put in extra spaces in HTML, which coupled with Word's tendency to do even stranger things with no provocation means links often go nuts. ;)

Savoxao said...

Hey! Nice insight on the DVD :) If they posture cant u just take the back twisting under them and than with waterslide or whatever its called and if they stack u than go for the overhead-collar-sleeve-grip sweep?? just my 2 c of ideas.

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks Maciej,
Yes I guess you can come to think of it. There's certainly lots more I need to do in order to feel comfortable with this position. The whole 'spinning under' aspect is rather newish to me so I'm kinda learning 3 or 4 things at once by trying this. But that's progress!

Jason said...

I'm glad you reviewed the Spiral Guard DVD, Seymour. Being a big guy I don't think I'd be able to go through the legs of the little guys. I think I'll get Paraestra.

Meerkatsu said...

What I also like about the book and DVD is that Sasa shows his Sasa Sweep, Spider guard, Spiral of course, X-guard and other stuff and suddenly you see how they all are various sides of the same coin.

XOXrachyXOX said...

spiral gaurd hehe i want to learn it just because i love the name "spiiirrreell" haha does look quite interesting though

protput said...

aargh.. I've never heard of the spiral guard.
But it looks pretty damned interesting.
And to be honest, first time I hear about the "reversed" De La Riva as well although I practise De La Riva a lot. Me so n00b :(

by the way, does the book/DVD also cover info on stuff like "if opponent does this, then you do that" ?

Meerkatsu said...

I've since learned that the spiral guard is a favourite with Ary Farias and the Mendes brothers. Although I'm not sure if they call it that. Ary is over in the UK this week so I will hopefully get a chance to ask him.

@Proput, the book offers a dozen or so variations to each position so there should be enough scope for a 'what if' scenario. But as with most instructionals, it's never as good as having a proper coach who can tell you at the time of trying it out.

x said...

This was a very cool read. I realize I'm a bit late weighing in here, but thought I'd offer my two cents worth. I've used this, or some variation of it, but without having a name for any of the positions. I'm 6'1" tall and find it a lot easier to control a smaller person. When transitioning to the position to take the back, I've found it advantages to have my hips back just a bit rather than directly under my opponent. A short tug on the belt at the center of the back, combined with kicking out their legs, does the trick. Now that it's been about one month since you first posted on this, have you still been working with it?

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks Conan, yes I do like it since the hand grips allow me to control one entire side of my opponent much easier than the reverse DLR.
I find that, depending on the balance distribution of my opponent, if I just push my foot on their hips, it's a fairly straightforward sweep where he falls backwards. If he spins round to try to take my back, I can turn to X-guard, or just kick out the leg and sometimes I get a sweep.

But yeah, I haven't got it to work on much bigger guys. There is a whole ton more I need to play with this before I ever use it in competition.

BTW. Look out for my forthcoming review of the second Paraestra book coming soon.


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