Leading Edges

Focus your defense where your opponent is generating the most force.

To effectively defend a guard pass or survive top pressure, you first need to identify the leading edge. The leading edge is the part of your opponent’s body where the majority of force is being applied.

Why the leading edge matters:

Why is identifying the leading edge important? Because if your opponent is experienced, he/she will concentrate force with pinpoint precision. This is the principle of minimizing surface area: force is most effective if applied over a small surface area versus a large one.

As an example, consider being trapped on the bottom in side control. If your opponent lies on you like a wet blanket, it’s easier to escape because the weight is distributed on you uniformly. However, if your opponent wraps an arm around your head and drives shoulder pressure into your face it’s much harder to escape. This is because the force is being more effectively applied.

The leading edge is the part of your opponent’s body where he/she is generating the majority of force. If you can defend against the leading edge, you can neutralize most of the force being applied against you.

Identifying the leading edge:

How do you identify the leading edge? That part’s easy. Like the front bumper of a car, the leading edge is going to be the first thing that hits you.

Once you’ve identified the leading edge, focus your defensive efforts against it. Defeating the leading edge is the key to defending guard passes and surviving bad positions.

Leading edge examples:

Here are some examples to help visualize the leading edge:

  • When your opponent attempts the knee cut pass, his/her knee is the leading edge.
  • When your opponent has side control and cross-faces you, his/her shoulder is the leading edge.
  • When your opponent has knee on belly, his/her knee is the leading edge.

Pointers for defeating the leading edge:

Meet or redirect the force vector.
Leading edges and force vectors go hand in hand. Defeating the leading edge requires matching or redirecting the force vector, which is described in more detail in the force vector article.

Create solid frames.
When framing against the leading edge, prefer solid frames. This means framing with your bone structure, not your muscles. Prefer frames with fewer joints; for example, framing with your forearm is often preferable to framing with your hand because it prevents your wrist and elbow joints from collapsing.

Make your frames more effective with kinetic chains.
Connecting your hands or feet together creates a kinetic chain that makes your frame stronger.

Further study: