As a white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you are caught in a deluge of new terms.
Positions, sweeps, submissions…they’re all said casually around the gym and you feel so out place not knowing what they are. If you’re like me, you make mental notes and try to use context clues to figure out what people are talking about until you finally start to connect the term with the action. Guard is such an important concept in grappling, yet one that has so many variations that it’s hard to figure out which one to use! Here are a few of the most commonly used guard positions, so next time you’re in class and your professor tells you that this week you’ll be working on sweeps from X-guard you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about!
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Closed guard is often the first type of guard you will learn as a beginner in Jiu Jitsu. Your opponent is locked between your legs, with your feet crossed behind their back. It provides a great place to set up sweeps and submissions while breaking down your opponents posture. In Jiu Jitsu it can be a place to rest, but if you are competing in MMA or any sport where striking is involved you must be able to control the other person’s head so they aren’t able to develop distance and power for punches.
There are many variations of guard that can be filed under the umbrella term of “open guard”, but the “standard” open guard position is when your feet are not locked around your opponent and at least one of your feet is braced on their hips. Having one or two feet on the hips produces the ability to control distance.
3) Half guard
Half guard refers to the person on the bottom, where as half mount in the person on top. The distinguishing factor of this position is that you have one of your legs between your opponents and the other on the outside (and the same for the person on top). Often your legs are closed or triangled around their thigh, with multiple variations of hand holds. Half guard is a great transition position and helpful for taking the back, coming to your knees or moving into side control.
Butterfly guard involves both feet to be between your opponents legs, with the tops of your feet wrapped around the back of their thighs ( which looks like butterfly wings). This is an active guard and not one to use for a resting position. Often, it is used to set up sweeps or leg locks since you are already sitting up. Typically, this isn’t a place you would hunt for submissions, but rather one you would use to set up a transition.
5) X guard
Basic X guard occurs when one leg is hooked at the knee and one is hooked into the groin area up towards the hip. The most beneficial aspect of this guard is that it creates a great way to get your opponent off balance so a sweep is easier to complete. Multiple body types can succeed with this position and it can be applied when your partner is both standing and sitting, making it very versatile.
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6) Z guard
Z guard puts one leg across your opponents body, like a knee shield, and the other (bottom leg) hooked between the top players legs. This is another distance creating position by way of the knee shield pushing into their chest or hip. You can succeed in sweeps or submissions from this position. This guard can be used in both gi and nogi; in a gi you typically hold the cross collar with your top hand and the sleeve with your bottom hand, while in nogi you grab a collar tie or frame their neck with your top hand and the wrist with your bottom.
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