Article:    Passing the guard.

The term passing the guard is well known for BJJ and grappling/ mma practitioners and there are a large number of variants you can use on the ground. However you can use this same approach in stand up to either grapple or strike or mix the two. The aim of lots of the trapping methods out there is to do just this. Whether its from Kali, Wing Chun they’re all attempting the same thing. These striking based methods can look very complex as things are moving fast that’s why people try to grip and slow the process down so that you get a non striking approach like Greco-Roman wrestling. However If you include striking in (and who wouldn’t ) you’ve made it much more interesting but in the process added more complexity to an already complex game of clinching. However like the floor or ground game passing the guard or immobilising parts of your opponents body just needs work and drilling. When I say drilling it’s not the complex unfunctional stuff that is sometimes represented as “Trapping”. Think of it as just passing your guard so that you can hit them at will or tackle/throw easily or negate their tools. Look at it as if you’ve passed their first line of defence. Keep it simple and train both clinch and striking components and you’ve got a unique game.

Once I’ve explained this concept to many of my friends who specialise in the ground the whole area becomes more interesting to them. It’s when you mix the systems up that it becomes really powerful Normally I start with a mix of Greco Roman standup and pummelling with the tie and untie stuff from Kali. So you’ve got the wrist, biceps and head tie’s plus the chained single traps which everyone knows as hubud. However that’s really just a term for the whole area. Once you’ve got that down you can add in the wing chun drills though everything from all the styles has to be adapted and be less buttoned up and be easy to learn too! The Greco is too grappling focused but fabulous. There’s no striking and there are no finger locks to help stabilise and slow down dynamic opponents. Though if they manage to crash through your fence or guard you could be flying through the air on the receiving end of a supplex. Therefore it’s even more essential you have great sensitivity and understanding here. The Wing Chun can sometimes be too stiff conceptually in this framework but is marvellous stuff and it’s designed for this range. The vertical fist means that your elbows are in and tight so the underhook is very hard to get and even harder to get when you’re being punched repeatedly in the face. Similarly the sideways palm strike defines which way your opponent can move next. A single choice. You can also add close quarter boxing and locks to this amazing mix. All of these clinch games are best when trained together or synched together after training them separately. I drill my students and Instructors on the various pummelling methods then we spar the standing grappling area looking for a body tackle or sweep or throw. Other times we’ll concentrate on striking from common positions just as you would work your defence from the guard or half guard on the floor.

Adding in the hits in with the clinch makes it more interesting. Here Kali’s panatukan comes into its own. Though often taught purely at boxing range it’s at loose clinch/grappling range that you get the best results as it’s slower. Trips and sweeps have similarities to those in Greco-roman but it’s striking based not throwing based. The aim is to half throw you then punch you in the head or knee you. Wrist pummelling where you’ve got an underhook on one side and you add the striking is very very similar to Wing chuns single arm work. add in grips and reversals and you’ve got a hell of a game.

Both Kusushi unbalancing from Judo and Thai clinch are only a step away from here. Obviously, this is an area where instead of a simple game like scissors, paper and stone you’ve now got six or ten variables or separate games, if you join the games or techniques together you’ve got even more. Finger lock to arm drag to rear choke is my current favourite though anything that works repeatedly is good. Unlike the ground where generally you’re going to pin before you submit here there’s a lot more possibilities. However, if you train it with the intention that you’re either going to tackle or throw, unbalance or hit your opponent then you get a simpler model and common positions come up time and time again. Then you can use whatever knowledge you’ve learnt to good effect.

Sometimes seeing the same problem from different style perspectives changes the way you train everything. What becomes clear is that everything trumps everything else, it’s just when and where you use it and how you set it up.

Training clinch in a multi disciplinary way like this means that you’re less likely to be a run of the mill fighter. Your sensitivity and understanding increases even if your focus is only in a sporting / martial arts way. In the street a large amount of the situations I’ve been in have been this standing clinch or tussle type of encounter. What better than to train for what you’ll probably end up having to do.

Above all if you’re into MMA or ground see the trapping systems that are out there as fodder to add to your standup clinch game. Just like on the ground where its could be closest or furthest knee to pass the guard with, the same structures apply here but with the hands. Understand the concept and add techniques then spar that area trying to get what you’ve been training to work. Is it easy? of course not. But if you work it you’ll learn loads. You’ll have games you can play when injured which pay off when you’re not. You’ll find your own way and add depth to your original stuff in the process. Keep an open mind and embrace all systems and you’ll prosper. I’ll be covering this on the BIG instructor camps and on the Filipino Boxing day later in the year. Good training.