Understanding the Butterfly Guard With Jonathan Satava – BJJ Fanatics

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As we start to develop our game, the guard we decide on as a “favorite” quickly becomes the foundation on which we begin looking at the rest of Jiu Jitsu.  Once we have decided on a guard then everything we do becomes, how can I do this from half guard for example. For this example let’s use the butterfly guard.  Once we have determined this is the guard of choice for us, it by no means, means that we can simply ignore the other types of guard, it just simply means we can focus on transitions from other types of guards that we are either forced into or chose to use to prevent our guard from being passed.  

Once we have determined which guard we prefer we can focus on take downs and guard pulling that gets us where we want to be.  It allows us to focus on mastering sweeps and submissions from this type of guard, again, while not ignoring the rest of the Jiu Jitsu techniques out there, just simply using this as a focus point, a focused starting point if you will.  

It is recommended that when you decide on a guard, you study it.  When we say study, it means that you are spending time off of the mat watching video instructionals from the highest level athletes that use a game similar to what you are trying to develop.  Truly dedicating to quickly learning and developing your craft is not easy, it’s no walk in the park for sure, it takes time and dedication. You will see that the people who progress the fastest are the ones who are most dedicated and most focused on learning all they can about the game they wish to play.

Butterfly guard always seems to be a guard that people choose early on in their training, while it may not be their go to, or the one they spend the most time with, I think the desire to learn the fundamentals of butterfly guard come naturally as a result of positions that just sort of happen, especially as you’re just getting started. If you think about it, how often do you accidently land from a takedown with just your feet inside your opponent’s legs?  Or any other scenario for that matter. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it happens often. Once we start to understand how to use these inside hooks to elevate, sweep and manipulate the opponent, it adds a whole new level to our game.

Let’s check out some of the fundamentals of butterfly guard in Jonathan Satava’s video clip titled “Understanding the Butterfly Guard”

Jonathan’s first goal is to try to elevate his partner.  He points out that the further away your hips are from your opponent’s hips, the more difficult it is to lift your opponent because you do not have control of their weight, therefore making the likelihood of success essentially nonexistent.  That being said Jonathan’s first goal is to get double under hooks and use this to pull himself as close as possible to his opponent to get his hips under his opponent is possible, if not, as close as possible. This will greatly reduce the amount of effort required to take control of the opponent’s weight, and therefore have the ability to elevate them. The further I get under my partners base concept is fundamental to understanding the Butterfly guard. 

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If the opponent is closed in their posture, keeping their elbows tight, and staying tense, it will be easier to go for a sweep because of how tight and closed off they are making their weight more like lifting a rock than like lifting a wet blanket.  The same concept applies even if the opponent is trying to swim their arms to the inside for inside control. This will create the opportunity to capture that arm, essentially removing their ability to base and then elevate them to the same side you just captured their arm on. 

If the opponent is very fluid and open, quick to base when you try to elevate, this opens up the opportunity to look for arm attacks as they move their arm away creating space and separating their arm from the safety and security of their rib cage.  Jonathan quickly shows a brief breakdown of a few submissions from this position, but goes into much more detail on his video instructional.   

If the opponent is further back and we are unable to close the gap due to the opponent framing on our legs, and or having their head down as a road block for us to close the gap.  In this situation we use the head roadblock as an opportunity to snatch the guillotine choke, keeping our butterfly hooks inside and using the guillotine to get to the position we desire and finish the guillotine choke. 

Finally, if we are unable to get the guillotine due to the opponent fighting us off very well, and we can not close the gap, this is a time where we need the athleticism to wrestle up to our knees and take the opponent down.  Don’t overthink this one, as you will see in the video clip, Jonathan is literally just bear hugging his opponent and pushing him off of his base at an angle for the takedown.  

But what if they are standing?

We must first understand and accept that the opponent is faster than us if they are standing and we are sitting.  In order to combat this, Jonathan likes to change his seated position a bit by leaning to one side and putting that side hand on the mat.  This will allow him the quick movement ability of moving forward or backward quickly, and even standing in base if the opponent tries passing and he isn’t ready to defend his guard yet. 

There is no question that the butterfly guard is a fundamental guard that must be learned and developed by each of us as Jiu Jitsu practitioners.  You get to decide what percentage of your game will revolve around the butterfly guard, but at the very least we must know enough about it to use it when it is given to us freely, and to use it as a means to get to another guard if we so choose. 

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