We did arm bar drills tonight, which does not involve a lot of gripping, so it gave my fingers a much needed break. I tried to baby my right hand during sparring as well. Luckily, we mostly did positional sparring, which did not involve heavy grip use either. Despite my handicap, I felt like I was able to keep up reasonably well. The strength and speed of some of the guys can be difficult to match. One guy was so fast on his transitions, that I didn’t even try to track his movements. Injuries usually happen on fast transitions, so I just let him have side control. I’m pretty good at submission defense, and escaping bad positions, so I don’t worry too much about having my guard passed. I’ll never be able to out speed a determined 23 year old anyway. I was able to put him in closed guard and break his posture at one point, which allowed me to slow him down. That’s the only way for me to stay in the game. Even though he eventually was able to stand back up, it at least gave me an opportunity to attack from the bottom for a while. Besides, I’m not sure I see much value in becoming overly reliant on exotic sport guards in order to prevent the pass at all costs. Sure, I could probably use upside down guards more often, like some of the others. But, to me, I feel like bottom of side control, with proper defensive hands, is actually safer than some of the sport guard positions in terms of self defense, which is my primary concern. In bottom of side control, or bottom of mount, you are of course very vulnerable to punches and submissions. However, there are at least things you can do to protect yourself from both, and even escape to better positions. In a real fight, there is no time to think. I don’t want my first reaction to be to roll into an upside down guard in order to stop someone from getting past my legs. If you get good at upside down guard, you may avoid losing points in a tournament, but your head is likely to be used for soccer practice in a real fight.