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Rick Baker is a white belt, and we know white belts are people too. In this instalment of ‘White Belt Fever’, Rick describes his first experiences with jiu jitsu ‘Spaghetti Legs’.

Today, we are going to look at the nightmare that I call 'spaghetti legs in jiu jitsu . Whether you're new or you've been training for a while, you've probably met spaghetti legs. Spaghetti legs is the person you roll with and you think you've passed their guard, but instead of a lower body, they seem to have developed an army of snakes all lined up ready to block any forays and entangle you at a moments notice. Or you're in their full guard, seemingly not doing anything and all of a sudden you're in a triangle choke, then an Omaplata, then a gogoplata. If you haven't met spaghetti legs yet, you will. I had to develop new techniques and a slightly different approach just to survive against this wormy legged monster.

We're going to look at how to defend against spaghetti legs, and how to develop your very own set of spaghetti legs.

Fortunately, in my gym, there are a few good wrestlers who also train BJJ, and their pressure is akin to grappling with a breeze block. They are your friends when you wish to crush spaghetti legs. I watched how they tried and often succeeded beating the many-legged man. Pressure combined with technique seemed to be their friend. I started out trying the X-Pass, which is great for the gi, but most people anticipate the move once you get the grips, though I did have some success with it. They often shut it down and start worming their legs into de la Riva guard or reverse de la Riva, I found. The double under pass can also help shut down those legs, you just have to keep it very tight, otherwise, those spaghetti legs will soon tie you up into something menacing. Slow and crushing movements as you pass will help your chosen path to kill the spaghetti legs. Don't forget to block that hip as you swing around to side control or wherever you wish to end up, as one of those legs can and will creep in and you're back to where you started.

Don't think that once you're past the legs that you don't have to worry about them either. Ever been in mount and had someone hook their feet under your armpits and you feel like a puppet? No? Well, it can happen. There is a multitude of positions you can be in where you think their legs won't be an issue, and all of a sudden there they are, shins everywhere.

For a long time, my rolling partners, particularly the higher belts, used to tell me that my upper body control was really good. This, in hindsight, was a nice way of telling me that my lower body needed some work. My hip mobility and use of my legs were seemingly non-existent, as I tried to use my arms to control and keep everyone at bay. It took me months to get my head round this, and the sooner you figure it out the better your Jiu Jitsu will become.

So, I had to formulate a plan. When rolling, I started trying to keep people at bay using just my legs. Keeping arms tight but not using them. It's tough, and you soon tire out when you first start using them in this way, but it's well worth it. Just by bringing your knee across (knee shield is now a large part of my instructors half guard game) you can shut a pass down. There are also quite a few guard retention drills you'll be able to find online to practice this and help open up your hips. (I never knew opening your hips up was even a thing until I tried jiu jitsu).

I found that sometimes just one foot in the way was enough to make my opponent think twice about the technique they were trying to implement, which gave me that split second I needed to regain position. I also found that some of the best guard players and spaghetti people I came up against didn't just give up on using their legs once I'd advanced position and passed one of their legs, they always used the other to protect them or as leverage for movement.

Equally important I found was using them while they are in the middle of some sort of guard pass. Are they flying through the air about to pass like a ninja? Stick a leg out! You may catch one of them mid transition, if so, trap it! That leg could save your life, even if it means they end up in 3/4 guard, they're still not past, and if you're in a competition that means they don't get the points. From here you can start working your half guard techniques, whether it's sliding into deep half or simply regaining full guard. You'll find that the more you practice this the better you become at timing it too, and start to almost know where their leg(s) will be as they go up in the air and with one swift movement you can hook it and regain some control.

I hope this has been of some use, as you can probably tell it served as quite a large roadblock for me in my grappling journey so far.

As always, any questions or thoughts hit me up at @rickofitall or at RedcornerBluecorner.com

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November 09, 2016 — Jiu Jitsu Style