How to play Collar Sleeve – The breakdown series

Do you want to know how to play collar sleeve guard? Do you want to understand the position that John Danaher regards as the most important open guard in BJJ? I’ve been playing the collar sleeve a lot lately. It is working well. The goal of this series will be to create a gameplan for collar sleeve players.

Collar sleeve is an aggressive attacking position. It provides a wide array of sweeps and attacks. If you’ve never had a submission-oriented game this guard provides the control and techniques to become a submission hunter. Embedded below are a few online videos that have helped me immensely. May they prove to be helpful to you as well.

First, we need to explain the position. Later, we will discuss what we are looking for while in the position and the main attacks and sweeps. Remember, this is not a position to stall. You need to keep your opponent off balance and reacting to you if you want to make it work.

Position mechanics

The first thing you should know is that you play the position by making a palm down grip on your opponent’s sleeve cuff and a cross-collar grip with your second hand. You reinforce your grips by using your feet as further control mechanisms. The foot which is on the side of your sleeve grip goes on your opponents hip. Your foot which is on the side of your hand which is gripping his collar is placed on his bicep.

By making a grip on the collar you gain a high level of control over your opponent’s posture. The sleeve grip controls one of your opponent’s grips while your foot controls his/her other grip. Passing guard without the ability to make grips is exceedingly difficult. As an added bonus to the collar sleeve player once you control both your opponent’s arms the options to hit triangles and omaplatas skyrockets.

If one watches the matches of some of the new school collar sleeve greats like Tommy Langaker and Nicholas Meregali triangles and omoplatas are hit often against the World’s best. From the collar sleeve player’s perspective many of your opportunities will come from creating space between your opponent’s elbow and knee as your opponent fights to keep his elbow tucked behind his knee.

So: How to play collar sleeve?

The first thing to address are the options for entry. The collar sleeve makes for a good guard to quickly establish grips if you find yourself in a situation when you have not established grips yet. When you find yourself in no man’s land (neither you or your opponent have grips) making sleeve grips first is a wise strategy.

Establishing grips will often be done by passive or active methods. The passive methodology is done by allowing your opponent to make a pant grip so you can grip his sleeve. An active strategy means you aggressively look for establish your grips. In general, you obtain active sleeve grips while seated and passive grips with your back to the floor.

Either by using an active or passive gripping method you now have a sleeve in your hand. At this moment, you can agressively sit and grab a collar or passively throw in a lasso. The response for the lasso will be to either pressure forward, which gives you a free collar, or pull back which will allow you to sit and grab it. Once you achieve this, you should release the lasso. At this point, you are ready to play collar sleeve.

Foot placement

The placement of your close-side leg will be determined by what your opponent gives you. If there is space between your opponent’s knee and elbow you can place it on his/her hip. When they keep their knee-elbow space closed swing your leg behind his and establish a De La Riva hook. If they insist on closing their knee-elbow space you can also consider playing a shin-to-shin guard. Your far leg is used to keep separation between your opponent’s arms by pushing on his/her bicep/shoulder.

If you want to go on a deep dive on some amazing users of this guard check out Jon Thomas (instagram and Youtube), Rafael Mendes, Tommy Langaker, Nicholas Meregali and Mikey Musumeci. Jon Thomas‘ instructionals are very helpful. If you are looking for competition footage you should check out Mendes, Langaker, Meregali and Musumeci’s matches.

Video overview

If you prefer video format to learn how to play collar sleeve there are two videos which are helpful. The first is a video by Jon Thomas on the general concepts of playing the collar sleeve guard.

The second video is an overview of the position provided by one of the best agressive collar sleeve players in the history of the sport: Rafa Mendes. These videos will give you insights that only the best in the game can provide. This is one of the most complete overviews I’ve seen on the position. It has helped me a lot to understand the basics of collar sleeve.

Taking suggestions!

I’m interested to see what you think we should cover next on this series. Also, if you have any suggestions or have a technique that you want featured you can contact me directly by clicking here. Thanks to my training partner @alitonieto for the insights and intricacies of the position!

Michel Davidovich

Michel Davidovich is a BJJ Blue Belt from Montevideo, Uruguay. He trains under Mauro Lago, at Team MLDT. Specializing in mechanical engineering and being the BJJ enthusiast he is, his content tries to blend the two by providing an analytical and numerical perspective on the sport we all love. If you want to know more about the metrics used and how do we apply statistical analisys to grappling, hit him up on instagram or facebook!

Michel Davidovich has 33 posts and counting. See all posts by Michel Davidovich