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Broken Toes and Closed Guard

(Originally posted April 30, 2021)

So I broke my toe a couple of weeks ago. We were in the 50/50 position going for leg locks, and my toe got caught in my buddy's Gi.


"Dude, I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

"I thought I broke it."

"Nah. It'll be fine."

"I'm pretty sure I heard it snap."

"No, I think that was just the snap of the gi. It'll be sore tomorrow. But it's not broken. It'll be fine."

It wasn't fine. The next day it swelled up... swelled? swole? The next day it was swollen pretty bad. Black and blue. Puffed up and painful. The whole nine yards.

I've been walking with a limp for the last two weeks. My plan of only going for leg locks for the next two months is pretty much kaput thanks to this little injury, but that hasn't stopped me from making it to class.

Figuring out what to teach with a broken toe was somewhat challenging. We had been working through our tournament strategy, but it turns out I use my toes a fair bit for those techniques.

I figured I could teach some techniques off my back. Maybe some escapes. But it turns out I use my toes a lot when working escapes as well. I like to bring my toes to my butt when I bridge, Marcello Garcia style. It usually works really well for me... but not so much with broken toes.

So I settled on going old school with little closed guard. My broken toe stays pretty safe locked behind my training partner's back for the most part. Depending on what submissions or sweeps I go for, I can keep myself out of trouble pretty well.

Closed guard is one of those things I feel like everyone needs to know. But I also feel like I have to be sneaky about teaching it. Everyone wants to learn the flashy new guards out there. And there are so many of them now. I worry sometimes that people will find the good ol fashioned closed guard... well... too old fashioned.

Thing is it still works. I was reading the other day how Gordon Ryan was using it after his leg injury to dominate everyone in the blue basement. I figure if it's good enough for the King, it's worth teaching every now and then.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's I played a lot of closed guard. Back then I had trouble hitting submissions from closed guard and mostly went for sweeps instead. But my understanding of the position has improved since then.

Instead of just going for random techniques from there, I start by attacking my opponent's posture. Basically, I grab their head and pull it down. Once I've broken their posture, I'll go to work on their structure, isolating one of their arms from their body. I'll trap their other arm as well if possible.

It turns out that once you've broken your opponent's posture, isolated one arm, and trapped the other one, it's relatively easy to sweep or get a submission from there.

So far the response has been pretty good to what I've been putting out. Everyone is having success with breaking posture and structure from closed guard. And from there even our white belts are able to improvise techniques once they achieve these goals. I love it when white belts are able to apply what I teach while sparring.

Lock up closed guard. Break posture. Break structure. Then everything's easier. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


- Big Mike


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