(This article was written after a seminar that I attended in Colorado with Master Sylvio Behring. I have not previously posted this however. I hope you enjoy it.)
I was honored to be able to spend the last weekend studying under a true legend of Jiu Jitsu: Sylvio Behring. Sylvio is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu, a Judo Black belt, son of Grand Master Flavio Behring (who studied under Heilio Gracie), student of Alvaro Barreto (another of Heilio’s students), Vice President of the Federation of Jiu Jitsu De Sportive in Rio De Janeiro, President of the Franco Behring Jiu Jitsu alliance of Canada, and President of the World Black Belt Council.
One of the key concepts that we worked on during this weekend seminar was the concept of the Progressive Guard. Now I know, many of you might feel that you know what the “guard” is. But as I was to learn over the weekend, the Behring progressive guard is so much more than just a position on the ground. It is a series of positions to protect yourself, and counter attack from the ground not only when you are grappling with an opponent, but potentially long before then.
As Master Sylvio stated, the progressive guard (and thus the Jiu Jitsu that it is part of) is intended to compliment Karate, and other martial arts, and to work with them in a real-world situation. It allows you to manage the distance, and manage your defense, wherever your opponent goes.
The first position within the progressive guard is one of a sitting position. This position is normally taken when an opponent is too far away to effectively kick, but too close for you to comfortably stand up.
You will note from this position that Master Sylvio has one foot and one hand plated firmly on the floor. This gives him the ability to apply his weight to the hand and foot in order to quickly lift his hips from the ground to be able to stand if the attacker backs off, or to lift his hips and shoot the left leg forward for a kick should the attacker advance. In this position, the leg planted on the floor is the same leg as the attacker is advancing with. Thus, if the attacker has their right leg forward, your right foot will be on the ground, and your left foot prepared to kick. Should the attacker switch stance, a defender can easily roll to the other hip to shift position to the other side.
Note, that in this position the lead arm is held up to ward off any kicks by a fast attacker.
A sweep can also be done from this position if the attacker stands to close. It’s a bit more challenging, but can be hard to resist when done correctly. The lead leg of the attacker is hooked, then swept by placing one foot behind the ankle as shown here, and pressing the other foot on the knee.
Should an attacker continue to advance (unless he was sufficiently dissuaded with a few kicks), the head is then brought back in order to protect Master Sylvio from possible head kicks himself. The feet are both brought up in order to not only control distance from the attacker, but to either kick him to keep him at distance, or to “grip” the hips if he moves in close, in order to help restrict his movement and gain more control over him.
This position allows you to keep the attacker at a range where they are unable to land punches and do additional damage. Should the attacker choose to lean in for a strike from this position, they become vulnerable to have their own arm trapped, which leads to quick trip over your head. The ability to hold, flip, and roll over on top of a much larger opponent from this position is surprisingly easy. During the seminar, Master Sylvio had a six-year-old girl perform this move with him. She very easily held him in the air with her legs.
These are only a few of the positions within the progressive guard. There are many more that handle situations such as when an attacker throws the legs to the side, or splits the legs to advance. What these examples do begin to lay out however, is the applicability of the guard position to not just grappling, but striking martial arts as well, not to mention their obviously application in a self defense situation.