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Marcelo Garcia’s Top Game

While Marcelo Garcia is rightly known for his excellent guard, his guard passing and ability to submit from dominant positions is equally impressive. First, let’s here from Leo Kirby, who has been breaking down Marcelo’s game for years, about Marcelo’s Jiu Jitsu when he’s in a dominant position:

Here are a few things that I would call fundamentals of Marcelos top game:

1. Hip pressure. He can make himself extremely heavy with hip pressure. Jeff Rockwell came down and trained with us last year and did an excellent video on some of these concepts. I will ask Jeff to find that and post it if he wants to.

I can not lift Marcelo with hooks at all. Maybe I suck, but I like to think he is just that good. Helps my ego.

The first time I trained with him he taught how to sit in butterfly and if they put you on your back quickly put a foot on their hip and push off and reestablish the seated butterfly. Then when we rolled I did that and as soon as I did he sprawled his hip on the foot I pushed away with and it was pinned to the mat and he passed easily.

2. Head and arm control. When he thinks he is going to get in trouble he gets a strong cross face and tight grip under their opposite arm. One of the passes he uses against half guard is a combination of both hip pressure and head and arm control. He gets the head and arm control, sprawls on the leg with is free leg, then passes. (I will try to find a clip of that.) You are virtually just waiting for him to pass. He squeezes your head and arm as he works his leg through.

3. He loves standing passes and always stands as soon as he is caught in closed guard. His standing passes are a combination of speed and pressure with his hand on your stomach, knee or chest.

4. Keep the opponent on his back. He preaches this all the time. I have been in competitions where the guy is starting to turn in to me and that is what he is always yelling. His mantra is to not let your opponent impose his game on your. If you keep him flat it is really hard for him to do much once you have passed his guard.

There is not a lot of detail here but these are all key concepts that he teaches for the top game. Hope that helps.

Guard Passing

To begin this entry, let’s take a look at Marcelo’s highly underrated passing. Marcelo passes gi and no-gi almost the same. In no-gi he breaks guard by standing with 1) the two-on-one wrist control or 2) double bicep grip, and 1) pushes on the back knee or 2) knee-in-tailbone. In gi he tends to use the lapel and knee control to break guard the same way.

His primary pass in rolling is the knee slide, although hell use a stack pass or escrima pass sometimes if blocked. He also has a tendency to put himself in half-guard and either 1) get an underhook and wrist/sleeve grip and kick pass, or 2) without the underhook hell back-step to get the far underhook, setting up a pass to side control or a guillotine.

Here’s a video that I’ve found very helpful of Marcelo describing his guard breaking and the knee slide pass:

What I like about this style of passing is that there are only a few hard and fast rules. For example, I generally use whatever hand position allows me to stand, although like most things I find that the method that Marcelo demonstrates tends to work best. Marcelo tends to break the closed guard bent over slightly, which is a bit unusual since he frequently preaches having perfect posture. I believe that the reason he does this is to maintain contact and pressure on his opponent’s hips and to prevent falling victim to the “lumberjack: sweep.

From what I’ve seen, his back step pass from either standing or half-guard, coupled with his explosive hip switching ability, provides the majority of Marcelo’s guard passes in competition. An example of Marcelo sitting back on his hip to force the pass can be seen in his match against Andre Galvao in 2004 at about 1:26. Note how Marcelo keeps his knee tight in Galvao’s ribs to keep his pressure. I love this pass. Later at 3:16 Marcelo gets caught for a moment in the back-step position, and quickly shows his kick pass from here. The kick pass is effective against both the regular and backstep half-guard position, and is commonly used by Garcia, particularly when he’s rolling. Here’s the full video:

Later in the video he tries, but is ultimately unsuccessful with, a tight escrima pass variation. Here’s the escrima pass with low tight hip pressure that Marcelo does very well:

Taking the Back

When Marcelo Garcia is in the passing position discussed above, with his opponent’s torso locked up, he also can explode his hips up with a powerful switch, getting past the guard – as he does below against Xande Ribeiro to take bronze in ADCC in 2005:

Marcelo not only get’s the pass, but due to Xande’s reaction, also gets his famous seat-belt position from which he takes the back so well. Another example of Marcelo taking the back from a guard pass is his 2005 ADCC match against Shinya Aoki, where Aoki turned into Marcelo as he attempted a back step pass from half-guard.

I particularly like Aoki’s dismayed reaction to being beat, since I’m not a particularly big fan, despite his excellent grappling in his MMA career. Marcelo’s hip movement and upper-body control is second to none at allowing him to control the back. Here, Marcelo discusses controlling from the back. This video should be required watching for anyone serious about increasing their submission rate from the back (as well as Ryan Hall’s DVD, but that’s a post for another day).

Of course, Marcelo Garcia has several other methods of taking the back – most famously from an armdrag, either standing or from seated guard. There’s a great deal of information about the armdrag out there, and since it’s not “top game” specific I feel like I can leave it out to no great cost.

This article originally featured on The Jiu-Jitsu Laboratory and has been posted with the owner’s permission

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