October 14, 2009

Book Review - "Passing the Guard" 2nd Ed.


Okay lets get it out of the way... this will be a very biased review since Tim Cartmell, co-author of "Passing the Guard," is my teacher. And it is his unrelenting commitment to the highest standard in his teachings, and his writing / translation work, that has kept me as a student of his for going on 8 years now. This 2nd edition, fully revised and expanded (100+ more pages), once again sets a standard for BJJ / grappling based texts will have to strive for in the future.

Brand new glossy paper, combined with over 75% of the pictures re-shot in digital, make this a visually stunning book and the instruction crystal clear. The co-author, Ed Beneville, chose to keep some of the pictures from the first edition (just in case you were wondering why Tim had purple and brown belts in some of the pictures) for editorial reasons, but overall the quality and clarity of the pictures has improved ten fold.

As with the first edition the layout of "Passing the Guard" is easy on the eyes, and quite easy to follow even with the impressive amount of photographs. Where some books show 4-6 pictures with each technique often times glossing over transitional movements, here the authors have broken down and exhibit every minute detail often times over 8-15 photo's! These photographs are trumped only by the text which offers students of the grappling game great details and small hints that come from years and years of time on the mat.

Written in clear, concise language we are walked through the fundamentals of grips, balance, posture, and what exactly the guard is and why it is so important. Rigan Machado states that 80% of BJJ is working the guard, and trying to pass the guard! Coming from arguably the best grappler ever, it seems to be an important position that one should become proficient at both offensively and defensively. A great aspect of this book is that the authors showcase bad positions and what happens when you make mistakes. This is great because many instructionals tell you "not to put your hands there" but never explain WHY!?!?

Again this book is comprehensive in its scope covering all aspects of passing the guard, maintaining the guard, 1/2 guard, turtle positions, passing from the knees, standing passes, and in this new edition more focus was put on various attacks including leg attacks that are, for the most part, banned in BJJ competition but are essential to self defense situations and no gi grappling (such as the Abu Dhabi Grappling Championships). Counters to popular techniques such as the lockdown are covered, but the focus on maintaining position is the foundation that all attacks are predicated upon. The authors even state to abandon attacks if one feels they are in danger of getting swept or pulled back into the guard.

Personally knowing Tim and training under his detailed eye I must say that the best addition to this pivotal book is the chapter on drills and solo exercises. Sadly missing from most all texts on grappling, solo exercises are essential because not only do they build strength, endurance, and power but they also mimic actual techniques one would do on the mat. Reinforcement in your muscle memory will pay dividends in your grappling game. Tim came to Seattle about 1 1/2 years ago to offer a whole seminar on solo grappling drills and I must say it was one of his best seminars! Here is a peak at some of his many exercises and drills that will challenge even the most fit black belt! Rumors have been abound regarding Tim making a DVD on solo exercises for both grappling and stand up combat. Stay tuned!

What more can I say, this book is essential. To be honest all three of the Guard volumes are invaluable, and should rest on the shelves of any serious grappler. Some of the best photography I have seen in the martial publication world. Great details from qualified experts sharing their game. "Passing the Guard" is one of the best books on the BJJ media market. Buy it today and if you are not happy I will buy it back from you!

Enjoy,
JAB

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