Sometimes you hear something and it completely changes your way of thinking. In Jiu-Jitsu, you must always be thinking, re-evaluating your game and improving your weaknesses.
My instructor in Oklahoma, Giulliano Gallupi, said something to me once that didn't make a lot of sense at the time, but as I progress in BJJ, it becomes more and more mind blowing. He told me "In guard, if you open your guard, you are playing Open Guard. If your opponent opens your guard, you are getting passed."
"Of course." I thought at the time and dismissed it. I didn't think deeply on what his actual meaning was. What he was actually talking about was who has the initiative in the movement. This is very important, because reaction time is always slower than initial action. I also KNOW when the initial action is started.
Using the Open Guard/Passing Guard example, if I open my guard and place my feet on my opponent's hips I can then execute my next movement as my opponent is reacting to the opening of my guard. I am one move ahead. If my guard is opened by my opponent, I am reacting to the opening of my guard, trying to get to a spot where I can play open guard. All the while my opponent is moving to pass. My opponent is one move ahead.
Now let's apply this concept to escapes and sweeps. In side control, I like to shrimp to my knees.
I then base with one arm down, opposite foot comes out to and the same foot as the arm down shoots forward to take butterfly guard. This looks like a sit out, but instead of coming to the outside, you end up in half-guard.
Once there, I'll do the sweep of my choice. If I have an underhook and an overhook, I'll go for the standard butterfly guard sweep.
If I have double underhooks, I'll start the roll over pass and if he bases with his arms, I'll take his back.
This all starts with my intention to escape. I start the bridge and shrimp. My opponent moves to retain side control, reacting to my bridge. I scissor my legs and get to my knees. As my opponent reacts to my change in position, I am already moving to butterfly guard. My opponent now has to sit on his knees to counter the butterfly. As he begins his movement, I have already selected, and have begun my sweep. With the intention to escape, and getting to my knees I immediately was three steps ahead of my opponent who was still reacting to my initial shrimp.
Another excellent example is in the baseball bat choke from the bottom of side control. In this movement, I ALLOW my opponent to pass. BUT, I must make sure that it is ME who is controlling the initiative.
Here, Magid Hage sets his hands in guard, and baits his opponent to pass. He allows the pass to occur, on his terms, and springs the attack.
That is all well and good, however, this concept becomes more powerful when I am in the middle of defending my opponents movements. I RETAKE the initiative by deciding when my opponent can complete the motions of his movements. In these moments I move from being passed/attacked to becoming the attacker.
An excellent example of this is the "Ghost Escape".
In the first part of this video Kenneth Brown shows us the escape. The outside arm overhooks the opponent's outside arm. Bridge to make space, then the inside arm shoots underneath the body. Then you push on the body of the opponent while using your legs as a pendulum scissor movement. The momentum of the movement along with the push from the arm moves you in a circle and out of side control. The second half of the video demonstrates what I am talking about in this pass. The opponent begins a cut pass. They have the initiative, they have begun their pass, and have put their knee outside ours and have effectively stapled our leg to the ground. Knowing that the next movement will be the slide in to kesagatame, Kenneth recognizes that he will be passed and needs to take steps to recover the initiative. He moves to his side to take control of the sliding leg. At the same time he gets his ovehook, and moves his inside arm in to the push position. He then allows the pass to progress. Because he is in charge, he knows when the pass is going to occur. As the pass completes, he initiates his movement and is able to turn into his opponent in butterfly guard.
When you are training, who has the initiative? Are you playing open guard, or are you being passed?