11 Mar 2019

Although I'm a black belt I must confess I have never once played worm guard, nor any of the related lapel guards shown by Keenan Cornelius in his Lapel Encyclopedia. Plenty of my sparring partners do play it however and it’s an extremely annoying guard to be on the receiving end of. I figured it was high time I got down with the cool kids, after all if you can't beat them...join them! Here's how I got on...

The Lapel Guard Encyclopedia (LE) is available as a physical DVD disc, online via the lapelguard.com website and in the handy form of an app for Android or Apple. The app is incredible - more about that later.

As of 11th March 2019 LE is offered at: $244.99 digital (website + app) or $274.99 (DVD disc and online access). In British money, that translates to £192 and £211 respectively.
I have seen various discount codes knocking around so maybe hunt online.
Full disclosure - I was given online access by them for the purposes of this review.

What is the worm guard?
It is an open guard technique that utilises the lower portion of your opponent's gi lapel. When that lapel is fed underneath your elevated leg and exchanged to your other hand behind your opponent's other leg, it creates both a highly secure connection to your opponent AND prevents them from squaring up. This then sets them up for virtually unstoppable sweeps, access to the back and even some submissions.

Screengrab showing basic worm guarde leg and grip position

The actual worm guard itself is a single specific position. When some people say worm guard they may be referring to the other closely related guards that are taught on the DVD: ringworm guard, reverse de la worm guard and squid guard. Also included in the DVD is the Gubber guard which although reliant on the lapel, isn't what I consider to be part of the worm guard system. It is also worth noting that when people talk about 'lapel guard' it can refer to any one of a huge variety of other uses of the lapel. Confusingly, Keenan himself tries to explain the difference (in this early video) and suggests that worm guard is NOT a lapel guard.

This video below shows Keenan Cornelius in action against Tim Spriggs where you can see immediately how Keenan grabs the lapel and begins setting up his reverse de la worm guard which leads to a successful series of sweeps. What's compelling about this system is that Keenan has tested it against the highest level of opposition. By doing so he has refined and added it over the years to become a much more rounded than his first worm guard DVD (released in 2015 and also included in the online access of LE.)

The LE is expensive. But you get a huge amount of content for your money (seven hours). It's also being taught by the guy who invented it and who has used it incredibly well at the highest level of competition. Here is the rundown of chapters:

1-1 Introduction
1-2 Course Structure
1-3 Gripping Concepts
1-4 Intermediary Lapel Control
1-5 Avoiding Weak Foot Positioning and Using Lapel Lasso for Control
1-6 Finding Lapel Grips Everywhere
1-7 Finding Lapel Grips from More of Everywhere

2-1 Spider Hook Off Balance
2-2 Foot Under Off Balance
2-3 Forward Spider Push to X-Guard
2-4 Forward Spider Push to Crab Ride
2-5 Forward Spider Push to Single Leg X
2-6 Foot Under Off Balance to X-Guard
2-7 Foot Under Off Balance to Calf Slice
2-8 Foot Under Off Balance to 50/50
2-9 Foot Under Off Balance to Squid Guard
2-10 Belt Guard Control Gripping Belt Knot
2-11 Belt Guard Control Gripping Belt Length

3-1 Upside Down Spider Kill Technique
3-2 Overhead Leg Swing Recovery Movemen
3-3 Under Leg Swing Recovery Movement
3-4 Framing with Lapels
3-5 Avoid Using Your Foot as a Frame when Already Passed
3-6 Avoid Using Your Foot as a Frame when Already Passed Except in this Situation
3-7 Dealing with Strong Toreandos and Recovering Lapel Guard
3-8 Using Baby Hooks and The Pancake Philosoph
3-9 Using Lapels to Escape from Double Unders with Your Foot in the Collar
3-10 Overhook Wrench
3-11 Underhook Wrench
3-12 How to Escape when You’re Fully Stacked

4-1 Basic Worm Guard Entry
4-2 Entry from Single Leg X
4-3 Lapel Lasso Entry
4-4 Control Points, Balance, and Weaknesses
4-5 The Very First Worm Guard Sweep Ever
4-6 Worm Guard Scissor Sweep
4-7 Emergency Exiting the Worm Guard and Becoming a Wrestler
4-8 Deep De La Worm Back Take
4-9 Fancy Spinning Shit
4-10 Using Shin to Shin to Secure Knee Over Knee
4-11 Dealing with Spazzy Guys Who Do Ninja Rolls and Cartwheels

5-1 Ringworm Guard Introduction – Timestamp: 00:00
5-2 Knee Step Sweep – Timestamp: 03:43
5-3 Deep De La X Sweep – Timestamp: 08:43
5-4 Stand Up to Single Leg – Timestamp: 12:49
5-5 Elevation Sweep – Timestamp: 17:46
5-6 Double Under Lapel Wrench – Timestamp: 24:35
5-7 Double Under Judo Choke – Timestamp: 31:02
5-8 How to Worm Guard when Opponent Passes on Both Knees – Timestamp: 35:04
5-9 Lapel 2-on-1 Triangle – Timestamp: 39:06
5-10 Using Lapel Lasso to Deal with Opponent on Both Knees – Timestamp: 51:27
 5-11 The Polish Worm Rider – Timestamp: 57:32
5-12 Just Another Polish Worm Rider Sweep – Timestamp: 01:04:43

6-1 Setting Up Reverse De La Worm
6-2 Reverse De La Worm Back Take
6-3 Reverse De La Worm Arm-bar
6-4 Shin to Shin to Force the Knees to the Mat
6-5 Reverse De La Worm with Same Side Lapel
6-6 Wormnado Sweep

7-1 Squid Guard Introduction
7-2 Squid Guard Double Ankle Pick
7-3 Squid Guard Double Leg
7-4 Squid Guard Inversion Sweep
7-5 Kind of the Same Inversion Sweep from a Different Angle
7-6 Squid Guard Omoplata
7-7 Squid Guard Reverse Lasso Sweep

8-1 Gubber Guard Introduction
8-2 More Gubber Guard
8-3 Gubber Guard Wormoplata
8-4 Gubber Guard Triangle
8-5 Gubber Guard Monoplata
8-6 Gubber Guard Flavio Canto Choke
8-7 Gubber Guard Cross Choke
8-8 Gubber Guard Flower Sweep

9-1 Wormhat Choke
9-2 Lapel Lasso Overhook Omoplata
9-3 Lapel Lasso Overhook Triangle
9-4 Lapel Lasso Overhook Baratoplata
9-5 Lapel Lasso Overhook Armbar

10. Deleted Scenes and bloopers
11. (Website only) Updated content - currently three additional techniques
12. (only on the app) Keenan's 2015 Worm Guard DVD

Watching via the website on my desktop is merely okay. I don't mind using it. But where the learning experience really shines is via the app. On my iPhone or my iPad the app is utterly brilliant! Super fast, instant access and very easy to navigate, honestly I'd much rather observe via the app than the website. The only minor niggle is that it often logs me out when I haven't used it for a day and I have to log back in. Fiddly but not a deal breaker.

Viewing via app offers the best experience in my opinion

Regardless of the platform, the LE is excellently produced. Video and audio is crystal clear. There are no fancy gimmicks or video effects, it's just Keenan talking and demoing with angle changes only when necessary. The whole package is taught with the complete worm-guard newbie in mind (ie people like me). Keenan himself is a good instructor, he seems to know what it is like for a complete newbie to learn something new and explains his techniques accordingly. There are also moments of humour scattered throughout which makes viewing more of a fun experience. The chapters progress to more advanced techniques and cover every possible scenario and likelihood - including how to deal with specific opponent reactions and recovering the guard. These how-to-deal with sections are important because the first few attempts of playing worm guard will inevitably lead to errors and bad positions until you get used to it.

Squid guard set-up

How I learned the basic worm guard in just five days
I don't get much time to drill techniques. Whenever I review an instructional, I watch a few chapters and then just try to remember what I can when sparring. Here are my personal notes on using worm guard from five sessions-worth of training...

Day 1. I briefly skimmed over about three chapters of the LE. I figure it was a good enough start so after class I asked my training partner Lou if I could drill some worm guard having never ever done it before. Feeding the lapel through as instructed by Keenan it was really weird not to have my worm foot placed on her hip (which I would normally do if I played sleeve based open guard say). Instead you have to let the leg sort of just hang there, suspended within the entangled gi lapel. It felt kid of vulnerable and not serving any push or pulling purpose. I then did the basic worm guard sweep clumsily but it seemed to work as advertised. Since this was not sparring, I just thought it was merely an okay technique. Drilled it a few more then when at home I skipped a bunch of chapters to go straight to the Worm Guard chapter and study it properly.

Day 2. Sparring with my team mate JLo I spotted that she much preferred to stand and pass which presented to me with a good opportunity to grab that lapel. Immediately I began to stick my foot into the wormhole but she spotted it quickly and prevented it - damn, I was too obvious. In the end, I didn't get the worm guard itself but I did manage to play lapel guard by sticking my foot into the crease of the lapel and moving around with it just like in spider guard. I was impressed at how effective it was to do this.

Day 3. Callum is a fast young blue belt who likes to use a bit of worm guard himself. I pull guard quickly and manage to extract the gi lapel. Spotting my intentions immediately, Callum postures far away from my legs but finds it hard to pass me as I continue gripping his lapel with both hands and fending him off with my feet. Gah, if only he would come close enough so I can get into worm guard! But again, just holding that gi lapel was effective.

My next roll was with a bigger white belt. I got to worm guard position fairly easily but he fell backwards before I could execute a proper sweep. I stood up still holding the lapel but my worm hold foot was trapped in all the tangled gi. I need to study the chapters on exit moves after completing the sweep.

Day 4. Having studied more chapters (mainly chapters 4,5 6) I asked one of my students if I could drill some of the techniques before class started: I drilled sweeps from worm guard, ringworm guard and reverse de la worm. I also tried the same techniques while holding his belt. Starting everything from a basic DLR guard seemed most natural to me. The whole concept is becoming more familiar and I'm liking how much control it offers once you have the guards set up tight.

Day 5. I went to the Grapplethon on Bristol where I rolled over a 6.5 hour period. I used almost every single roll to play with the lapel and try to use various worm guard techniques. I decided that the reverse dela worm guard (RDLWG) would be my main target as it seemed the most effective (Keenan says so himself) so I went to get into that position as much as I could. By now I have watched about a quarter of the content from the LE and also watched various videos on Youtube.

I found the worm guard sweeps were most effective against people my size or smaller since the grip portion of worm guard and RDLWG capably twisted their stance away from me (thus allowing me access sweeps or get back-control). Against heavier opponents, I did manage to get some sweeps, it was harder work though. Sometimes I lost the lapel grip when they postured upright such was their strength. I had to double grip the lapel to mitigate against that, which reduced my options.

The video above taken on my very first roll of the night shows me getting the ringworm guard grip and just using it to destablise my partner Lisa.

Many times during open guard portions of a roll, I felt really comfortable just putting my foot on the lapel (see video below) and experimenting with the tensions and angles it offered. I found lassoing the lapel with my leg was the best at maintaining a decent guard position before feeding the lapel to the other side. The best sweep I had most success with was by swinging my free leg behind them getting a sweep from momentum. Sometimes I managed to get a deep de la x-guard from the RDLWG but I couldn't always achieve this position since my legs aren't that long.

Several times I got a bit stuck and the main reason was because I did not get my own knee position high enough - you have to get your knee over and above the knee of your opponent in order to make most of the sweeps work properly. When I ignored my knee height and tried to sweep, I ended up entangled and unable to complete the move. Keenan covers this problem with several tips in Chapter

Rolling with the higher grades I noticed they easily spotted my attempt to set up the worm and tried to prevent me from getting there. Despite this, I was still able to achieve the worm guard position since just holding that lapel is and playing lasso was so effective.

The Grapplethon was a great opportunity to roll with as many different types of people of all sizes and really test the tiny bit of worm guard knowledge I picked up. I was really surprised how easy it was to use - at a basic level at least. Yet there's so much I haven't yet got round to studying - squid guard for example, or the Wormnado, or the Gubber Guard. Plus of course really studying the problem solving tips for when things go wrong. Those chapters I reckon will be key for me as I use it more and more.

Worm Guard in action.
Keenan Cornelius invented the system and many people out there use it successfully. Andris Brunovskis, Keenan's Atos team mate, uses it especially well. Check out the thrilling match below with Bill Cooper.

In the video at 8'07, you can see Andris first pulls out the gi lapel in preparation for a worm guard. In spite of Cooper's extremely low base (knowing what was to come?) Brunovskis still manages to feed the lapel through and exchange grip positions. Once the grip is secure, he executes a technical stand up which reverses Cooper to his back and awards him with sweep points. The grip is so strong that Andris can hold onto the dominant position for a fair while before Cooper (using some insane agility and clever thinking) finds his way out and attacks back. It's a small moment in an otherwise highly entertaining match.

There are so many more examples - just Youtube search any Keenan gi based match and you'll see him playing some variation of his worm guard series. Or to save time, here is a BJJ Scout compilation with handy labels and pointers:

Conclusion and final thoughts
I used to dismiss worm guard as one of those fancy pants techniques that went outside the norm and would be a passing fad. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. The lapel system taught by Keenan is based on rock solid fundamentals - the very same fundamentals that form the basis of regular open guard systems. The guards themselves (and subsequent sweeps) are not really that fancy or hard to do - the hardest part is getting into the positions.

I haven't even watched all the chapters yet honestly, I was really surprised how quickly I picked up the basics and was able to utilise them immediately. This happens to me only rarely. Most times when I learn something new, it takes me a long period of persistence to make work (and generally I give up long before then). Worm guard worked immediately. Okay, in most cases I'm using it against sparring partners who are not used to it (and therefore gave me plenty of time to set it up) and of course I haven't used it in competition. But I'm sold! As an addition to my usual repertoire of open guard techniques, I'm 100% adding it to my daily diet.

Some instructionals take a while to digest, especially ones heavy on concept (which I do enjoy btw). Other sets are ones where you watch one tech and are dying to bust out the move in the gym. Keenan's LE is definitely one of those watch it and try it asap sets. I highly recommend it. If I had a small criticism it would be the lack of defined chapters on how to defeat/escape/defend it, but then again there is a fair amount of this mentioned in the how-to-deal with problem solving sections.


Review: Lapel Encyclopedia, by Keenan Cornelius

Introduction Although I'm a black belt I must confess I have never once played worm guard, nor any of the related lapel guards sho...

10 Mar 2019


The annual 24 hour charity Grapplethon at Artemis BJJ in Bristol just ended today and I'm pleased to report the whole campaign raised a fantastic amount for WomanKind Bristol Women's Therapy Centre.

LocalGiving Fundraisers group page as of 10th March 2019

As you can see from the above screengrab, the fundraisers exceeded the target of £3,000. And there's more to come...here's how my phone case and fine art print sale went:

Meerkatsu limited edition art sale
As reported in my previous posts here and here, I put several pieces of artwork onto Fine Art America. The pieces were available for consumers to buy as art prints or phone cases. The campaign did extremely well and collectively raised $2,238 (roughly £1,700)

Screengrab from my FAA print and phone case sale as of 10 March 2019.
FAA won't pay me the proceeds until 15th April if I understand their terms correctly. So I have already donated £1,000 of my own money into the LocalGiving fundraiser's page in advance. The remaining amount (roughly £600) I'll be able to donate once I get paid from FAA. (UPDATE:  now paid up).

So taking into account the money that is still to come in (there are also some cash donations not accounted for in the LocalGiving total) I'm fairly certain the final donation to WomanKind Bristol Women's Therapy Centre will be around £4,500.

Grappling for 24 hours
Not me! I only managed 6 hours before my ageing body caved in and I was forced to go home. But once I got home I checked in at 2am to the Grapplethon Instagram page and could see video footage of people still rolling, this managing to continue the annual cycle of always having at least one pair sparring on the mat for the duration of the 24 hours.

During the time I spent there I got to roll with lots of people, some familiar faces, others who are new to the Grapplethon. I also got to have my annual roll with Can Sonmez who is the founder of this event and without whom many local charities would not be receiving these hard-earned funds.

Photo by Wanderingmishap on Instagram
This event also marked the very last time Artemis BJJ will be at the MyGym location in Bristol. The building has been sold so Artemis BJJ has moved on and is now located at a new venue which I'll see at next year's Grapplethon.

Photo by Wanderingmishap on Instagram

More than just a good fundraising event, the Grapplethon offers something unique in our community. Wanderingmishap over on Instagram summed it up the best:

"My favorite thing about Grapplethon was that there were no barriers. People rolled with those with years more experience, stones more on weight, different beliefs, different genders and everyone had fun."

Photo by Tacerrob

Thank you to everyone who took part in the event and to everyone who purchased one of my fundraiser prints and phonecases. Big thank you also to Tatami Fightwear who printed the special edition t-shirts I designed and who have always supported us from day one.


Artemis Grapplethon 2019 Final Report

*** UPDATE 20-4-2019: ALL PROCEEDS ARE NOW FINALLY IN AND THE GRAND TOTAL RAISED STANDS AT £4803 ********** The annual 24 hour charity ...


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