Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art known for its focus on the guard game. The guard is one of the most essential skills to learn because it helps you control the pace of a match and, at the same time, keeps you safe from incoming attacks.
Today, we will talk about the best defensive guards in BJJ that will help you become a complex puzzle to solve, making you a guard passer’s nightmare.
Importance Of The Guard In BJJ
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a guard is a position where you use a combination of frames, grips, and hooks. The guard is used to control a part of the opponent’s body, thereby limiting options for attack.
Playing guard also requires the use of legs to create strong hooks and frames. While the guard is primarily a defensive position, it is also the starting point for many attacks.
The guard passer‘s job is to remove the frames, grips, and hooks so that they can freely move around the legs and pin the guard player in a dominant position.
BJJ demands both the top and guard players to continuously work on advancing positions. This means that the guard player has to keep their guard and attempt sweeps, while the top player works to open the guard with the intent to pass.
The ability to stay relatively safe off their back is a skill that every BJJ student should possess. Even though the guard passer has the advantage with gravity on their side, the guard player can actively use their limbs to entangle the opponent, allowing them to control and manage the distance.
Best Defensive Guards In BJJ
As its literal meaning suggests, the guard is used as protection from threats or danger. Similarly, in BJJ, a guard prevents the opponent from advancing to a more dominant position. If bypassed, it can be used to capitalize on an even greater threat, such as chokeholds and joint locks.
Below are some of the best defensive guards in BJJ that will surely puzzle your opponents:
1) Spider Guard
The spider guard is a type of open guard that works relatively well in maintaining the distance between you and the opponent. This guard favors grapplers with longer lower body limbs as it gives a better timeframe for guard recovery if the opponent breaks your grips. The spider guard mixes well with the lasso guard as an open guard combination.
Rafael Lovato Jr., a multiple-time BJJ world champion, shows the fundamentals of the spider guard in this video. The technique usually starts from inside the closed guard.
Move to double sleeve control and open the closed guard by placing your feet on the opponent’s hips, with your shins and knees pointing out, blocking the biceps. This position prepares you to put your feet on the biceps, naturally turning your body at an angle.
From here, pressure the arm with your feet and grips to then stretch towards one side. This will allow you to switch grips easily.
2) Lasso Guard
The lasso guard is a powerful open guard that creates weakness on one side of the body, similar to the spider guard. In the lasso guard, you use your legs to control the arms of the opponent by wrapping your leg on the arm. This guard is typically taught to experienced students, as it may be difficult to maintain and understand for beginners. The lasso guard can be performed in two ways: the deep lasso, which is the traditional way, and the shallow lasso, the natural transition from the spider guard. It opens different options for submissions.
In this video, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion and Evolve Instructor Gamal Hassan shows important details to help you maintain a solid lasso guard. The first detail is to place your lassoing leg’s knee as close as possible to the opponent’s shoulder.
The second is to ensure that your foot is pointing close to the opponent’s hip and not pointing parallel to the opponent’s shoulder.
Last, your secondary grip (your far hand) should control the opponent’s sleeve or collar to prevent them from breaking your grips.
3) Butterfly Guard
The butterfly guard is a powerful open guard that helps you perform sweeps and apply submissions. It is used to create space by pushing opponents off; it can also lift them for sweeps and leg entries. The legs act as hooks that can manage and lift weight depending on the situation.
This guard will require you to actively switch between supine and seated positions. The position typically starts from the seated position as it is easier to get initial grips from there.
Marcelo Garcia, a legend of the sport and master of the butterfly guard, shows the most essential principles of the guard in the video. He said that as with any technique in BJJ, you need to start with a great move, and it must then be followed with a chain of even greater movements to have a successful finish.
4) Half Guard
The half guard is an example of the evolution of guards in BJJ. Typically, a grappler will be forced into a half guard once the closed guard or legs have been passed. What was once a purely defensive position has now become a prime guard for sweeps and submissions. It is a guard where you use your legs to control the opponent’s leg.
This 2 on 1 leg configuration prevents passing threats and acts as a barrier, stopping you from getting pinned down. There are various types of half guards available. Explore each type to understand which suits your game best.
Alex Silva, BJJ World Champion and ONE Superstar from the Evolve Fight Team, shows five ways to perform sweeps in the half guard. He demonstrates options from deep half and traditional underhook half guard set up.
A powerful defensive guard creates different options for attack, from sweeps to submissions, even transitions to other guards. As Chris Haueter, a member of the BJJ Dirty Dozen, once said, when on bottom, you must have a guard that shall not be passed.
The upper levels of the sport are defined by inches; one slight advantage can mean either victory or defeat. Therefore, it is crucial to have a strong defensive guard as you get deeper into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
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