How much do you know about the collar sleeve guard? Let me rephrase that. How much do you know about the collar sleeve position in BJJ? Often only explored from the perspective f a guard, the collar sleeve grip combination is actually a very potent configuration that allows you to do anything you want to an opponent. From taking them down to submitting them from top positions. Let’s see how you can build an entire system around this powerful grip combo.
The Collar Sleeve Position
You’ve heard it before, you’re going to hear it again, and you’re going to read it all through this article. BJJ is all about grips, grips, grips. It just so happens that grips are the one thing people in Jiu Jitsu take for granted. Just holding something with your arm does not constitute a grip.
I’ll go over a fundamental principle of gripping by using a system of mechanical three components that make or break (bun intended) every grip.
Firstly, you need to make a connection with the opponent through the grip. To do so, you need to focus on trying to squeeze the tip of your fingers towards your palm. It can be gi or no-gi, but just grabbing is not enough. You’ll need to form the best attachment point that you can, so make it a point to squeeze with that palm.
The second thing to consider is alignment. If you want a strong grip that you can easily maintain, then you’ll have to align your palm with your forearm by way of your wrist. Simply put, a bent wrist equals a weak grip, which means you won’t be able to keep a hold of your attachment, and you’ll eventually lose the grip.
The third one is elbow placement. Attach, align and then look to pull with your elbow towards your torso, or to lock your elbow out if you’re looking to push with the arm.
Speaking of pushing and pulling, everything you do with a grip has to do with pushing or pulling. That is the purpose of a grip in BJJ. Unless your grips have a clearly defined purpose, then just grabbing a hold of something simply for the sake of it is not going to help you achieve anything but fatigue your forearm muscles.
Grabbing the collar is fairly simple. The collar is merely a belt sewn into your gi jacket. So, the best way to approach grabbing it is as if you would grab a belt. You won’t be able to go all the way through, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that this should not be your intention. It is the best way to get a really solid attachment.
The placement of the grip should not be too shallow or too deep. A good rule of thumb is to have the knuckles of your fist right up against the opponent’s collar bone. It is both a good height for using the grip, and a way to put pressure on the collar bone in order to prevent specific movements.
The choice of the collar is not as important, but there are subtle differences in playing the collar sleeve guard by holding either a straight or cross collar grip. Today’s article is going to be all about the cross-collar grip.
One thing I usually tell people about the collar and sleeve guard is that there is a distinct and important order of grips. The collar grip comes first. The reason for that is you can play guard, and/or a versatile standing game with just a cross collar grip.
So, anytime you’re looking to play the position, go for the collar first. It offers a safety net in situations where you might end up losing the sleeve grip.
Gripping the sleeve works the same way as gripping the collar in terms of attachment, alignment, and elbow positioning, as well as the main purpose of gripping (push or pull). The one variable to consider is where you’re going to place your grip along the length of a gi jacket sleeve.
There are two great spots to grab a hold of a sleeve in BJJ. One is at the rim of the sleeve, at wrist level. The other is right behind the elbow. Note that I am not saying behind the triceps, but rather behind the elbow. Controlling the elbow itself offers much more in terms of options than grabbing behind the triceps.
The key thing to understand is what determines where you’re going to grab the sleeve. The principle is that you’re going for the joint that is not attached to anything. For example, if a person is holding a grip on your gi, and you’re looking to control that arm, you won’t be going for a grip at wrist level because that joint is attached to you. Instead, go for the elbow.
The same principle applies when the person tries to keep their elbows to their torso. That is when you can go for the rim of the sleeve, given that the wrist is easy to manipulate.
Putting It Together
As I mentioned, the collar grip goes in first. After all, it is called a collar sleeve guard, not a sleeve collar guard. Today, the focus is on holding the cross collar grip.
The sleeve grip comes second, and its location is going to be determined by the principle of the free joint – grab the joint that is not firmly attached to anything. I will explore mostly the wrist level sleeve grip in this article, but all the things I cover can also be done with the elbow grip, after some minor adjustments.
For the guard, you’ll also have to include your legs into the mix, given that there’s no guard if you don’t have your legs in between your opponent and yourself. Let’s look a bit more into leg placement and the structure of the collar sleeve guard.
Collar Sleeve Guard
The collar sleeve guard is something you’ve most likely intercepted so far, whether you’ve played it or were caught in it. The position is extremely powerful in achieving the first order of business in any guard – keeping the top person from passing.
Not only that, but attacking with sweeps and submissions is very easy from the collar sleeve guard, as long as you remember to position your body in a way that will keep every option open for you in an instant.
Let’s say that you’re sitting on the ground in front of a kneeling opponent. You have a cross collar grip, and you’re sitting one on buttcheek, with the other in a knee shield position, with the foot on the mats.
This, by definition, places you in a guard – the collar guard. From there, obtaining the sleeve grip is not too difficult. A smart opponent will recognize the dangers and will try to keep their elbow to their torso, which provides easy access to the rim of the sleeve.
Next up, you want to place the foot of your bottom leg on the belt of the opponent, toes to the outside, and not try to wiggle between the elbow and ribs. That will happen by itself later on.
Once that is in order, you should look to get into the collar sleeve guard. The best way to play the guard is in a supine position because a seated position does not give you any options via the collar sleeve grip configuration.
When you go supine, though, what you don’t want to do is lie back with both your shoulder balds on the eh ground. This will open up levers to your hips via your knees, and the opponent can start breaking the structure of your guard.
Instead, you’re going to lie to your side, on the same side where you have the sleeve grip and where your foot is on the opponent’s belt. Once your shoulder gets to the ground, focus on twisting both your arms so that your elbows point towards your body and then pull back until your elbows touch your hips.
This position places you in a very potent collar sleeve guard variation that is extremely hard to break through, and which opens up a myriad of attacks.
Retaining your guard is as easy as pulling slightly on the grips and/or pushing a bit with the leg you have on the hip. Anytime the top person tries to move, simply shake them a bit, making them reconsider whether they really want to. It will give you all the time you need to set up your own attacks.
There are numerous sweeps you can go for from the collar sleeve guard, but the scissor sweep is by far my personal favorite because it comes with no risks and a high percentage of success.
That said, I’ll talk about a slightly different way of doing the scissor sweep. Instead of having the shin across the belly, you’ll leave the shin of the knee shield leg in a vertical position. Setting the sweep up is going to work both proactively and reactively.
Proactively, you want to lift the foot of the knee shield leg off the ground, keeping your knee in front of the opponent’s shoulder on the opposite side of the grips, and place your foot on their hips.
Proactively, you can do it pretty much at will. I love setting this up reactively, when the top person grabs your shin with their free arm (like for a weave pass). Once in position, you get your bottom leg to the mats, just like you would for a regular scissor sweep.
Here is where we are going to apply a slightly different finishing mechanic to the sweep. Instead of trying to load the top person on top of you, focus on arching your upper body as far back as possible (do a baby bridge, if you are familiar with it).
This will destabilize the opponent and make the sweep extremely easy. All you need to do is imagine that you’re doing a kick with the top leg, and you’ll easily topple the top person. Using the collar sleeve grips, put yourself on top of them and, and you have a very easy 6 points without letting go of the grips.
Tapping people out from the collar sleeve guard is easy. All you have to do is set yourself up at the correct angle. Just to make things clear, the positioning described earlier, with one foot on the ground forming a knee shield and the other one on the opponent’s belt.
One thing that is extremely easy to do is to extend the leg that is on the opponent’s belt, straightening it completely. This means that you now have a limb in between the opponent’s torso and their elbow, giving you control of their inside space.
This is where angles come into play. Tilt your head and torso towards the side where you have your leg straightened. Next, kick the heel of that leg up towards the ceiling, and bend it at the knee. This will get you into a position which offers a multitude of attacks.
You are basically ready to finish a Kimura, but you’ll have to release the collar grip to do so. I’d advise you to hold the grip and go for other submissions that won’t require you to let go. An Omoplata can be a direct option, but I prefer a triangle choke.
Since you already have a leg underneath the opponent’s armpit, all it takes for a triangle is to get the opposite side leg over their shoulder. The best way to get your leg in position for the triangle is to pull the knee towards your shoulder and kick out. Do it a few times, and you’ll easily get the leg over the shoulder.
Going into a triangle from there is as easy as swinging your body to the opposite side, getting the angle to close the triangle. There is a detail here, though, that if you remember, will make your collar sleeve guard triangle choke impossible to defend.
At all times, during every transition done in the triangle setup, you should keep a hold of both the collar and the sleeve grip. This means that as you get into a position for a triangle, the arm that is holding the collar grip ends up going across the opponent’s neck. As long as you twist it so that the back of your palm is facing the opponent’s chest, you now have an extra pressure point for the choke.
Namely, you have the full power of the triangle choke mechanics, plus one arm that is in the same position as in a cross collar choke (X-choke). Basically, you get two chokes for the price of one, and at all times, you do not have to change anything from the moment you set your grips up for the collar sleeve guard.
Of course, you can go for a bunch of other submissions from the collar sleeve guard, from chokes and armlocks to leg locks, but most of them will require you to let the least one grip go. While it may land you a submission, you are now out of the collar sleeve guard and will need to think about what your backup plan is if your submission fails.
That is precisely why I like the triangle as my go from the collar sleeve position – I can get back to the guard at any time if things don’t go my way, and maybe go for a scissor sweep instead.
The collar sleeve guard is an extremely versatile and secure position because of the simple fact that it completely shuts down one side of the opponent’s upper body via the grips. As long as you remember the grips have mechanical principles that make them efficient as we’ll as a specific purpose, you will have no trouble holding on to the opponent. Add to that, strategic grip placement and positioning of your body in a way that makes it extremely difficult to pass, and you have a great guard. Attacks from there are as easy as choosing a side to attack, and either being proactive or letting the opponent think they’re dictating what is going on.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.