I recently wrote a post about dealing with size differences when grappling. One thing I forgot to mention is that flexibility, especially in the hip and inner thighs, is another way to combat an opponent with greater size and strength. I find it particularly useful when I’m in the open guard.
People who are bigger and stronger often aren’t as flexible and this can be a way to prevent such opponents from passing your guard without using as much strength. That’s why I tend to favour open guards when grappling, no matter who my opponent is. I simply keep my legs loose and active and use my speed and flexibility to stop my opponent as he or she tries to power through my guard. A closed guard, on the other hand, tends to utilize more strength when keeping your opponent within your guard or preventing him or her from passing.
Here is a video of me using my flexibility against an opponent who is 25 lbs heavier than me (please excuse the fogginess, it was a steamy day in the dojo when we filmed this):
Flexibility doesn’t come easily for everyone, but you can always improve it with a regular stretching regime. If you’re serious about improving your flexibility, you shouldn’t just be doing it at the dojo. Here is a good video that demonstrates various ways of doing the butterfly and other related stretches for increasing hip/ inner thigh flexibility and leg rotation:
Another stretch I like for stretching these muscles is the pigeon pose from yoga. I find it provides more leverage for increasing the stretch even further. You can see it here in this yoga video:
Even if you’re not planning to use flexibility as a cornerstone of your ground game, it’s a good idea to work on it to increase your range of motion, which helps to improve your overall ground game. This is true whether you’re training the ground for competition or self-defense. Check out my new book When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-jitsu Strategies & Tactics for Self-Defense for more information on my approach to ground defense.