28 Dec 2013

Instructional review: Ryan Hall - Inverted Guard

Ryan Hall's famously plain speaking, constructive method of teaching, allows anyone to learn techniques using the inverted guard position. It takes the length of almost two whole discs however to get to actual techniques involving the inverted guard - the preceding two discs ensures that the viewer has a firm grasp of the cross grip and a position Ryan calls the Tilt Position or Roleta Position.

Further Information
Triple disc DVD box set available from GroundFighter priced $124.99 plus shipping
(I bought mine as part of a Black Friday 50% off promotion).

Disclosures: I have no personal or business relations with Ryan or the publishers World Martial Arts. I am a BJJ brown belt but I have rarely attempted to use inverted guard in normal training apart from my attempts to land the tornado guard sweep that I learned Cyborg's seminar.

Here is my breakdown of the content of the discs - all opinions written are my own. I have tried some of the techniques in regular class during sparring and I offer a few comments based on this experience.

(Note: for brevity, throughout my report I use the term 'he' instead of 'he or she' to describe the actions of the opponent.)

In many ways, this disc is the most important of all the discs in this set. I consider myself a newbie when it comes to using the inverted guard so I watched this disc several times in its entirety before writing this report.

The first thing to notice is that Ryan Hall talks very fast. He crams a lot of information into his monologues and intersperses the technical advice with (possibly unintentional) humorous anecdotes and quips. Ryan does not repeat positions excessively and thankfully there is no slow motion or freeze frames or any distracting visual gimmicks at all. He demonstrates what he is talking about from a couple of angles and moves on. There is just enough instruction to take on board without needing to rewind or pause though of course a set like this serves more use with repeated viewings.

I guess at this point I should bring up the subject of Ryan's blinking. He blinks a lot when he talks which is initially very noticeable but it didn't bother or distract me from observing what Ryan had to teach.

On disc one, Ryan discusses the concepts behind the inverted guard. In fact on disc one, he doesn't actually teach anything from the inverted position but something he does state early on, and something that really excited me, was the notion that the inverted guard is a counter-puncher's game. This statement piqued my interest as I consider myself to be very much a counter-puncher type of BJJer (ie I like playing guard and let people try to squish me!)

Disc one is almost entirely dedicated to ensuring the foundations of the inverted are laid before going upside down. That pre-inverted position is what he refers to as the Roleta position or 'tilt position.'

In his peak competition days Roberto 'Roleta' Magalhaes was a pioneer of applying the inverted guard successfully at elite level during the late 1990's. Ryan refers to Roleta with very high regard early on in the disc. The Roleta position relies heavily on securing the cross sleeve grip - ie your left hand grips the opponent's left sleeve or right grabs right. This alone causes instability in the opponent (and takes away one side for the opponent to base out on) which is maximised by your other hand gripping under the opponent's heel (assuming he is up on one knee). With your own legs held high (one leg placed around the opponent's thigh area and the other right ontop of his shoulder), all four limbs work to destabilise your opponent using a concept Ryan refers to as 'becoming the ball'.

The Roleta position (aka Tilt Position)

'Becoming the ball' is the principle where you yield to your opponent's weight and pressure and allow him to move so his centre of gravity (or as much as you can manage) is over your own. The key aspect here is that your opponent is not allowed to stabilise himself on the ground.

Ryan Hall demonstrates structure

Another major principle that Ryan repeats several times on Disc One is the way you can use parts of your own body as a supporting structure to avoid being squished completely. For example, Ryan demonstrates how his opponent applies direct body pressure on top of him but by using his upper torso to basically act like a straight stick, it prevents his opponent from moving any further. Ryan comes back to this concept several times. It is probably something that more experienced players eventually learn to do instinctively, but when Ryan explains it, it seems like something so basic and simple that a child could learn to apply it in one session. This small section alone I think is highly valuable and would instantly boost a beginner or intermediate player's guard game.

At this point, Ryan quickly runs through the 'Granby Roll' which is the basic manoeuvre from being on your back and rolling over your shoulder blades (not your neck) swiftly into inverted position and back onto your original position. The Granby roll is also demonstrated when applied on an opponent who is in your open guard. High hip position ensures less friction with the floor and in turn, ensures smoother and more effective rolling.

Ryan also refers to the Roleta position as the Tilt Position and in fact on Disc Two, he calls the basic sweep from here as the Tilt Sweep. Before closing Disc One, Ryan covers some basic tactics to counter common guard passing attempts while holding the Roleta or Tilt position.

Before my description of Disc Two, it's worth watching this clip of Roleta in action. Note how he insists on the cross sleeve grip throughout the match.



Disc two is primarily concerned with performing an effective tilt sweep and taking advantage of the elevated position once you have swept your opponent. One of the immediate drawbacks to the tilt sweep is that the bottom person can tangle their legs around yours and work their deep half guard. Ryan assures the viewer that it's not a big deal if you know how to handle deep half, but he prefers we anticipate this in advance and reveals a number of adaptations to the tilt sweep that avoid this scenario.

One of the interesting comments Ryan makes is that he tries to offer techniques that would work against a very good grappler. He comments that there is little advantage showing techniques where you have to assume that your opponent will give you a lot of space or will move needlessly. In one section, he demonstrates how one counter to avoiding the tilt sweep is that the opponent simply shifts his weight backwards (while still in combat base ie one knee up). A less experienced grappler will leave enough space for you to work a decent deep reaching de la Riva guard (which turns into a sweep and back take). But Ryan explains that a good grappler would not be so generous with that space so it would be dangerous to attempt the deep DLR. Ryan instead offers a variety of options assuming the lack of space a good grappler gives in this position.

A lot of the techniques on Disc two allude to previous instructionals Ryan has done. Especially interesting are his back take techniques. Ryan explains the process briefly in this set and I think in order to explore this aspect further, the viewer should watch his Back Attacks instructional set (I intend to buy this set and review it later in the year.)

Around midway through Disc Two Ryan shows a couple of alternative sweeps from the Tilt position (Waiter Sweep and Overhead sweep) that has him inverting for (almost) the first time in the set. It is at this point the viewer can see the usefulness of the Tilt position when moving to inverted. The Granby roll is utilised for taking the back on Chapter 17 which looks especially flashy - though with Ryan's analysis and context, it seems more than plausible as a viable technique, assuming you are comfortable with the Granby roll in the first place.

Granby rolling from deep DLR to take the back
Disc two closes with a couple of techniques where Ryan pays reference to two BJJ masters. The Shaolin (named after Vitor 'Shaolin' Ribeiro) sweep is a sweep that is useful when the opponent has compromised your tilt position. You switch to what is effectively a high half guard position and sweep from here in a similar in motion to the Waiter sweep shown previously. With the step-over omoplata, Ryan explains how it was made particularly effective by Pe de Pano.

All the techniques on this disc rely on the effectiveness of the cross sleeve grip. It is this grip that allows the user to unbalance the opponent and gain access to his unprotected side - either by sweeping him, or maneuvering ones own body to take his back. Ryan closes this disc with a statement about guard passing. He cites his own experience as a blue belt where he never used to work sweeps as he rarely knew how to pass the guard once his opponent was swept. He urged us all to develop a more rounded game (presumably by buying his Passing The Guard disc set - which I'll review at a later date.)



Ryan kicks off disc three with a reminder of why the inverted guard is a useful tool against stronger, more aggressive types of opponents. It is a tool designed to draw the opponent deep into your space in preparation for an attack. It is feasible that some viewers might want to skip discs one and two in order to go straight into these inverted guard techniques but I feel that this would mean missing out on key explanations and demonstrations of why the cross grip works so well as a strategic tool for the guard player. Nevertheless, the beginning 8 or so chapters of Disc Three are an excellent and detailed introduction to the fundamentals behind an effective and well executed inverted position.

How best to spin on your back

When most people - including myself - initially attempt an inverted guard position, it feels very odd. The most off-putting feature of this position is the odd sense that the guard is easy to pass and of course, the inverted position itself feels very compressed and uncomfortable one ones own body. Ryan addresses these aspects of the position very well in these opening Disc Three chapters - emphasizing body structure and alignment...back to the opening disc section about using ones own body parts to block the movement of the opponent. Another theme that is repeated throughout the discs is the fact that inverted guard does not require unnatural degree of flexibility.

The second half of Disc three concentrates on submissions from the inverted guard. Chief among those submissions is the triangle choke.

The triangle from inverted guard as shown by Ryan Hall is a logical end-game goal from the inverted position. The way Ryan prefers we execute it makes a lot of sense. When the inverted guard player spins under, his crossed legs are positioned so they are ready to snap out the triangle choke at the right moment. But before then, those crossed legs provide a safety structure that prevents the opponent from squashing or passing you. It probably makes sense to refer to Ryan's specific Triangle instructional discs in order to explore the finish from here but Ryan does cover several variations of the triangle eg inverted triangle and reverse triangle.

Reverse triangle submission
Due to the very close-contact nature of these techniques and the fixed camera viewpoint - Ryan spends a fair amount of time rotating his partner around so that the viewer can see all the key points. It's not that bad or annoying but just an illustration of the aspects that go unseen and may require careful repeat viewing.

Following the sequence of triangle chokes, Ryan demonstrates other attacks, eg the armbar or the armdrag to back take...but in nearly all these situations, the triangle is always there to threaten. What I like in this part of the series, is the fact that inverted guard looks a lot like spider guard - something I feel more at home with personally.

The very last technique is a fitting finale to the instructional. Here, Ryan shows the versatility of the inverted guard. He begins with the cross sleeve grip, steps over into inverted, plays around from this position to see how his opponent reacts then seeks out the deep DLR guard having seen the opponent place one knee up (into combat base). From here he sweeps and takes the back. It's a nice visual illustration of how playing inverted opens up new angles, exposes small holes in the opponent and utilises space that would not normally be accessible from orthodox guard positions.



For a visual appreciation of the inverted guard and cross grip, watch this Ryan Hall match at the Houston Open from 2012. It's a tense match but Ryan eventually takes the back using his patented rolling back take...yet only to lose on points - doh! Read the Youtube comments for people's thoughts on that! The tournament video segues in nicely with a comment Ryan makes in the instructional - he mentions that if an opponent is hard to engage and doesn't push their weight into you during normal guard play, then he is unlikely to do so when inverting, therefore you might as well try inverting and using that as a platform to draw them into your space (and therefore attacking  from there.)

Who is this suitable for?
My short answer here is everyone. It's not my place to judge whether learning inverted guard techniques is for those who are advanced, intermediate or whatever. It is my personal opinion that knowledge is knowledge. This DVD set will give you knowledge but, and here's the caveat, if your fundamentals in all other areas are not sufficient, then your time perhaps would be better placed to improve on those first. Maybe.

For example, on disc one, Ryan instructs on the importance of the cross grip, heel grip, leg position of the tilt position plus how to counter the common reactions of your opponent. All well and good, but if your guard game prior to getting into this position sucks, then learning these step by step inverted positions will be tougher to nail. It's just my opinion though and there's no harm trying some of these as Ryan explains the concepts, especially on disc one, so very very well that everyone can learn something.

A more accurate title for this series should ideally be called Cross Grip Fundamentals. But I guess marketing it as an Inverted Guard disc sounds better. But from my perspective, I found a lot of the content on discs one and two - before Ryan even gets around to demonstrating inverted stuff - to be incredibly useful. He shows a ton of cross grip techniques that are all equally beneficial to the guard player. If the viewer understands this, rather than only looking for tips on the inverted guard, then I think you'll will gain the maximum benefit from this instructional set.

For me, the whole set offered an outstandingly well-explained and logical methodology for getting to, and applying the inverted guard. Since acquiring the DVD I have been trying out the cross grip, tilt position, tilt sweep and even some (rather clumsily attempted) inverted guard triangles. It's definitely something that intrigues me and an area I will continue to develop so I can guarantee I will be making repeated viewings of the Ryan Hall Inverted Guard instructional.


About the Author


Author & Artist

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


slideyfoot said...

Cool, I don't often see DVD reviews on your site. I'm not yet interested in inverted guard (when on my back, I'm still working on refining my closed guard and tripod/sickle from open guard), but I was wondering: is there much discussion of passing the inverted guard, in the context of "avoid doing this, or they can do this"?

Unknown said...

I am a lowly white belt, but I've had years of wrestling experience. Having worked with a lot of coaches, I find Ryan Hall's approach exactly what I like. I've got all of his instructional videos and aside from the 50/50 they compliment each other very well and provide a conceptual perspective I have found very valuable so far. I haven't applied the inverted stuff to my game, but I've found the insight to controlling the guard very helpful. Whether you use the stuff in his videos or not, you come away with a deeper understanding of body mechanics and different ways to control your opponent.

Meerkatsu said...

Can Sonmez - yeah Ryan mentions it in the context of how to protect against this type of pass or that type of pass of the tilt position on disc one. In the other discs, the inverted guard is meant to be a bait...hence you are actually expecting the opponent to try to pass and you react from there. The problem comes however when the opponent sits back and doesn't engage (as you see from the Houston video) and there Ryan suggests a few techniques from inverted that deal with that.

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks Xtopher, nicely put.


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