In modern Jiu Jitsu, the closed guard has become overshadowed by all types of open and lapel guards that make for great highlight reel footage. But, there is a reason your Jiu Jitsu journey likely started in the closed guard.
Having someone in your guard, especially in a gi, provides you with myriad offensive and defensive options that translate to both sport and self-defense Jiu Jitsu. The Brabo lapel guard system is reminiscent of your basic cross collar chokes, but offers greater control of your opponent, as well as several submission opportunities.
Brabo grips can be initiated in positions other than the guard, but in order to build a foundation for those positions we will examine the system from the closed guard.
The Brabo Position
The Brabo lapel guard system is essentially a guard that utilizes your opponent’s lapel to keep their posture broken, allowing you to set up submissions.
To begin, you will guide one of your opponent’s untucked lapels underneath their arm and around their back.
As the lapel reaches above your opponent’s opposite shoulder, grab it with your free hand on the shoulder side and pull it taut.
Next, you can pass the lapel back to your cross hand to complete the control position. This grip can be either palm up or palm down, depending on your preferences and objectives.
Your opponent’s posture will be broken by the pressure of their own lapel. From here you have the option to submit, take the back, or just continue to control your opponent’s posture.
Typically you will initiate the Brabo lapel guard control from closed guard. However, to maximize the system’s potential, you should open your guard enough to create angles that will enhance any submissions or transitions. You can also place your feet on your opponent’s hips to keep them immobilized and strengthen your ability to change your angle.
The Brabo lapel guard offers a great degree of control for its users, but it’s important that you don’t become complacent with that control. Your opponent understands that simply trying to lift themselves upright will only feed into the downward tension you are creating. For that reason they will likely try to swim their head out from under the lapel.
To prevent this make sure that your grip isn’t just focused on the lapel; be sure to also pull the grip taut enough that when you grab the lapel your forearm is flush against their neck. This alone can feel like a choke.
Brabo Lapel Guard Attacks
Basic cross collar choke
Once you pass the gi over your opponent’s shoulder, latch onto the lapel with your cross grip, palm facing down. Bring your free hand underneath the gripping arm and reach into their far lapel, palm up. The back of your hand should be lying flush against their collar bone and your arms should form an “x” in front of their neck.
Perform a row, bringing your elbows to the ground while resisting the temptation to scissor your arms by bringing your elbows together or apart. As with all collar chokes, your forehead should rise to meet your choking hand that is on top.
Brabo collar choke
Here, your first grip should be palm up. Instead of reaching underneath your gripping arm, this time your second hand will reach over it. An additional difference is your second grip will not be inside their lapel, but instead will be grabbing the portion of the lapel you’ve passed around your opponent’s back.
Typically, your opponent’s head will be in the way. Open your guard and use your foot to push off your opponent’s hip in order to angle toward the grip you are seeking. Once you secure the grip you can square back up with your opponent to finish the choke, again moving your forehead to the hand that is on top of the choke.
Use a palm up grip in your Brabo lapel guard to set up for these sweeps. For a Brabo scissor sweep, open your guard and bring a knee across your opponent’s body so it points toward the Brabo grip, so both the end of their lapel and your knee end up pointing in the same direction. Set the other leg on the mat against your opponent’s knee.
Now, grip your opponent’s sleeve with your free hand and try a basic scissor sweep while pulling the Brabo grip in the same direction.
For another quick option, use the same grips (i.e. palm up Brabo and a sleeve grip) and open your guard. Push off of your opponent’s hips with your feet to make a gap between the two of you. Already, you will see as you continue pulling the Brabo grip, your opponent’s posture becomes stretched over their base and unbalanced.
Sit up so you have one knee up and one knee down (the downed knee should be on the side you are sweeping). Now, pull the arm toward you and the Brabo grip down. You should land a sweep that will plant you in knee on belly or top side control.
Troubleshooting The Brabo Guard
Often, the challenge to setting up Brabo lapel guard control is telegraphing. As you frantically try to untuck your opponent’s gi, it becomes obvious what your objective is. As a general rule, if you can’t manage to untuck the gi in one or two tugs, it is best to wait for the intensity of the roll to naturally loosen the gi.
However, a more reliable way to untuck the lapel is to initiate the motion higher up. Hook your thumb onto the inside of your opponent’s lapel at chest height. Slide your thumb down the lapel and flair it out quickly to rip the gi from the belt.
Once the gi is untucked, your opponent’s posture may be another obstacle to overcome as you try to guide the loosened lapel around their back. With your guard locked, pull your knees to your chest to propel them forward onto you so you can more easily slide their lapel behind them.
Once the lapel is in position over the opposite shoulder you have a few key options when it comes to playing the Brabo lapel guard. As we touched on before, palm up or palm down grips will provide you with different opportunities.
In a palm down grip, you will have access to a more traditional, albeit enhanced, collar choke. With the palm up grip you can perform a powerful collar choke that is unique to Brabo.
One detail that will enhance the latter choke lies in how you position the lapel. Most of the time, you will be fine to throw the lapel around the back and secure a grip where you can manage.
However, if you take the extra time to fold the lapel inward before you guide it across the back, the fold will act as a makeshift handle, rather than grabbing at bunched up a gi. You will find that you’ve created both a comfortable and secure handle for your hand, preserving your grip strength.
The Brabo lapel guard system is a powerful sequence of controlling techniques from the common position of closed guard. It can be a great option for beginners looking to learn how to string techniques together, while also remaining effective for higher belts.
The Brabo system relies on using your opponent’s own gi to break their posture and exert control. Once you’ve mastered the Brabo choke from the guard you’ll soon see that the Brabo position can be obtained from knee on belly and side control!
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.