Review: Passing the Guard by Ed Beneville and Tim Cartmell
As I'm sure everyone is wondering (as I did), Who are these no-name authors, and why should I trust their book?
To be honest, I don't really know, but it turns out it doesn't really matter. They are just some purple belts who decided to take one aspect of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and document it in extreme detail. Imagine if two purple belts from your school took a single subject, then systematically documented, demonstrated, and instructed on everything they could about it.
In case you don't take BJJ, here's what I'm getting at: Such a book would rock your socks off.
One of the first things that impressed me about this book was its comprehensiveness. Just take a look at the chapter index:
The book starts with basics such as base, posture, grips, and uncrossing the ankles, then expands to individual passing techniques, and then into all the problems you can run into when your passes fail: escaping attacks from the guard, passing the half guard, attacking without passing (mostly leg locks), and (one which I was very happy to see) how to attack the turtle, which people will do to avoid being scored on in competition.
- Fundamentals of passing the guard.
- Passing from the knees.
- Standing guard passes.
- Defenses and counters to submissions and sweeps from the guard.
- Passing the half guard.
- Attacks while in the guard.
- Attacking the turtle position.
Another thing about this book that impressed me was how it covers many techniques and positions I've never seen explained anywhere else, or hadn't expected to see in this book. Here are some that caught my eye:
Those are just some off the top of my head.
- How to untangle trapped arms and break grips.
- How to properly do a can opener.
- Passing De la Riva guard.
- Escapes from omoplatas, triangles, armbars, biceps crushes, etc. that I've never seen elsewhere.
- The entire chapter on attacking the turtle, especially the section on the crucifix, which I have never seen explained in a BJJ book before.
What really blew me away about this book was the quality of presentation, and the attention to detail in instruction.
In the photos, the attacker always wears a blue gi and the defender always wears a white. They are referred to as Blue and White in the text. If you've ever read Theory and Technique by Renzo and Royler Gracie, you know how annoying it is to try to find details in the mass of white gis, while trying to remember which is which, as they switch off demonstrating moves.
Incorrect techniques, such as poor base, posture or grips, are often shown and explained so you know how and why NOT to do certain things. White is always the one doing the wrong version.
Many of the techniques in this book are shown in their entirety two or more times, to capture techniques from multiple angles and show all parts. This is very helpful where entire parts of the move would have been obscured if shown from only one angle.
They use some symbols to mark the start and end of techniques, the start and end of alternate views of the same technique, connecting red lines to show the order of the steps, and yellow lines between photos to show that they are the same step from different angles. They also use several other symbols to explain techniques. This is slightly confusing at first, but once you get familiar with it (there is a legend at the front of the book), it is actually really useful.
Each move is shown with enough photographs, so you're never left wondering how they got from one step to another, as often happens in martial arts books.
Important aspects of moves, such as common problems or helpful hints, are often explained with additional photos in side panels. Yellow "stick-it" notes surround moves to point out details, and red warnings are posted next to anything dangerous.
Often if a detail such as a special grip or foot placement is hard to see, multiple close-ups are included.
For fast or unusual moves that are difficult to capture with still photos, such as jumping or flipping passes, they have filmed these and show them with up to 20 screenshots in a row so you can see it "in action". This is in addition to the normal instruction of the technique.
Also, moves with a lot of motion are often explained using colored arrows that show past and future movements. You can look at his foot and a red arrow and see how he already moved it, and then look at his other foot and a blue arrow and see where he is going to move it.
Simple graphics such as red circles and lines are used to highlight details, such as where to grip or proper posture.
If a defense or escape is shown, the attack is always shown first, sometimes in its entirety. They do not assume you are already familiar with the sweep or submission they are going to teach you to counter. Blue will be the one demonstrating the attack, so don't get surprised when white is suddenly trying to pass the guard at the start of an armbar demo.
You can see most of what I'm talking about on their website's sample page:
Every chapter starts with an informative introduction and explanation of the material to be covered, and explains the times you will encounter such situations, and the strategies of when and why you might want to use certain types of techniques in sparring and competition. They are also not shy from writing a lot of text about a move if the pictures cannot express its important details or strategy.
If you want to be really picky, there are a couple typos, but I think they made the whole book in on their home computer in PDF, so I'll cut them some slack. It actually has some of the best text of the BJJ books I've read, since both authors appear to speak English natively.
Okay, so it's a nice book, but does any of this actually translate to better skills? That's something I made sure to test before writing this review.
I am a habitual guard puller in class, since I am light and find most of my success comes from the bottom anyway. But after reading from this book, I decided try to do nothing but fight from the top for a week, and purposely let myself get caught in someone's guard. The results were great.
To give you one example, there is a blue belt who will sometimes pull guard on me since he knows he can get a quick submission most of the time since my passes suck.
When he tried this on me last time, he spent the entire round fighting from half guard and side control, and he couldn't catch me with his normal guardwork. At the end of the 6 minute round, he said he was just holding on for dear life the whole time. He was so impressed at how quickly my top game had improved that he had me write down where he could by this book for himself.
I've been asked these before with other books, here are some points to consider:
It is all gi, none of the instruction is no-gi, and many of the individual techniques make us of the gi.
They try to only cover techniques legal under the usual sport BJJ competition rules, so some things like heelhooks in the attacks from the guard section are not taught.
Despite this, I recommend this book to anyone involved in gi grappling with groundwork, especially if you find your guard passes and top game lacking.
For you no-gi guys, it's worth borrowing from a friend to read about the fundamentals of base, posture and weight distribution, and to pick up some tricks, but many of the techniques won't mean much to you without gi grips.
It's also like $20 or less, so unless you're a poor college student, it's a great deal.
You can pick up a copies at any of these links:
Grapplingarts.net (authors' site): http://www.grapplingarts.net/Order/order.html
Last edited by Aesopian; 1/05/2005 11:59am at .
Reason: To make Phrost rich.
Tim Cartmell is a bjj black belt now, although he is most famous for his Internal CMA stuff...
I will probably buy this one instead of The Traingle, since my instructors always tell me to play the top. That, and Boyd keeps insisting Triangle is all about Rigan's penis.
Restricted to blackbelts right?
Originally Posted by Aesopian
After I go downstairs and rob my dad's wallet of his credit card, I will have that book on its way to me. Bwahaha.
Thanks for the review, Aeso.
Thereabouts, maybe brown.
Originally Posted by Dochter
No-gi tournaments tend to be pretty liberal about them too.
You're welcome, CC. Maybe wait until I can get a Bullshido-affiliate link on Amazon so Phrost gets a commission.
The Turtle chapter is going to be of interest to judoka, since I know a lot of judo groundwork devolves into one person turtling until they are restarted.
Under current tournament rules, trying to sub people from turtle usually only serves to tire you out :BangHead:
Originally Posted by Aesopian
Somebody got it it faster than me. :violent1:
Originally Posted by Shumagorath
thank you aesopian, i have been hoping to hear a good review of this book for a long time now. i will probably buy it now.