What is it? Spider Guard Master class is a single DVD ($150), or a series of 5 iOS apps, ($19.99/£19.99 each)  or Android apps by Elliott Bayev and Stephan Kesting of Grapplarts. I’m reviewing the app versions, as I prefer to view my BJJ instructionals on an iPad.

An iPad? What are you, some kind of Apple fan? Yes. Deal with it.

I’ve heard of Stephan Kesting, but who is this Elliott Bayev guy? Stephan is the gentle giant from Canada you’ll be familiar with from his various paid-for BJJ instructionals (including the excellent ‘Defeat the bigger, stronger opponent’ series) and his free videos all over YouTube. Elliott is less well known – he’s no André Galvão, but he’s an ADCC medalist with a great competition record and is a 3rd degree black belt under Renzo Gracie student Shawn Williams. More info here. Elliott is the teacher and Stephan is the guy who he demonstrates on, but in true Grapplearts style, Stephan isn’t a dumb partner – he asks good questions and provides new “what if” scenarios, which Elliott seems to effortlessly answer on the spot in a convincing way.

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Oh, ok. He sounds legit, so, £20 for an app is quite expensive. What do I get here? Like I said, there are 5 different apps:

  1. BJJ Spider Guard Volume 1, Understanding the Spider Guard
  2. BJJ Spider Guard Volume 2, Double Biceps Spider Guard – Basic to Advanced
  3. BJJ Spider Guard Volume 3, Next level Spider Guard Part 1
  4. BJJ Spider Guard Volume 4, Next level Spider Guard Part 2
  5. BJJ Spider Guard Volume 5, Invincible Spider Guard

The whole series covers pretty much everything related to spider guard, and the sweeps and submissions that come off it – basic movements, triangle submission chain, omoplata submission chain, feet-on-biceps spider guard, basic sweeps (kite sweep, balloon sweep etc), intermediate sweeps (curtain sweep, sit down sweep, etc… ) advanced sweeps (Roleta sweep, Berimbolo, etc), Leg lasso guard, Spider X guard, Collar Sleeve (includes De La Riva guard), Collar Spider guard, Reverse De La Riva, and finally pass prevention.

Phew! That’s a lot! It is, but it’s not just a collection of unrelated techniques – everything is done as a progression from basic techniques to more advanced. Really you need to look at all 5 apps as different fingers on a hand. It’s also incredibly detailed – Elliott is a walking encyclopaedia of Jiujitsu. I have no idea how his brain can contain so much information and access it so readily. He isn’t content to just show you a sweep and leave it there, either. No, he wants to show you how you’d progress from the sweep into getting mount, back or side control, and even ventures into a bit of top game now and again. You can tell this is his life’s passion and he’s bursting to give you as much knowledge as he can.

But seriously, the level of detail here is insane. I really like that, and I like that he covers all sorts of counters to everything – from dealing with triangling larger opponents, to what happens when somebody postures up to avoid an armbar, or breaks your grips in spider guard, or steps over your leg in De La Riva. It’s all vital stuff when it comes to actually applying the techniques.

It’s also very current – as well as the classics, he covers lots of the ‘new’ popular techniques, like the Braulio Estima knee bar and the Kiss of Dragon sweep.

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What’s with this “meat grinder” business then? Ah, yes. Halfway through the first app, while discussion the strategy of spider guard, Elliott manages to talk himself into saying something along the lines of “you want to keep the opponent constantly under attack from your meat grinder of relentlessness”, then realises the complete absurdity of what he’s just said, looks at Stephan, and they both burst out laughing. They obviously have a sense of humour as they decided to leave this in.

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The meat grinder moment.

So, is this the famous ‘Canadian humour’ I’ve heard so much about? Hmmm. Possibly, hey?

Can I just buy one of the apps? Yes! They all work as stand-alone apps, really. So, if you only want to know about Lasso guard then just get that app. However, I should warn you that this was my plan too… and I ended up buying all 5 because the first was so good I wanted more. Also, they tend to refer to things they’ve done previously in the series when discussing techniques, so it helps to get a better understanding to have them all.

So, should I get all of them? Definitely. None of them are filler. Maybe buy one app a month and work the material into your regular sparring/drilling sessions at class, then get the next one when you feel ready. As a strategy, I find that you can’t have just one sort of spider guard. Having different versions to go to is really helpful when dealing with different types of opponents – while Lasso guard may work great on one guy, for another guy Spider Collar might work better. And how to transition between the various spider guards is covered in detail in the apps.

So you have no complaints at all? I wouldn’t say that… In app form each chapter starts with the same style of intro clip – a bit of heavy metal music and a montage. When you’re viewing multiple clips this feels like it wastes a lot of time, and you’ll soon start to hate that song. It grates. It’s also taking up more space on your iPad, because these apps are really big in terms of file size, and iPads have limited storage.

I’ve heard they’re making another one on closed guard soon, so let’s hope they ditch the intro clip and music and decrease the app’s size next time.

I’m sure they’re listening. Let’s hope so!

Can I get a sample of the content? Sure:

 

Grapplearts Spider Guard apps

Rating: 5/5

TLDNR version: “If you’re looking for a spider guard tutorial series, this is the one, but it goes far beyond just spider guard, looking at the triangle and omoplata submissions in great detail too. Recommended.”