BJJ Drills Series: Guard Drills

Learning and mastering the guard is critical to your overall development in BJJ. The ability to fight off your back poses a unique advantage as the opponent has few offensive options in this position other than to first pass the guard. While it takes time to get good at, it is also essential to determine what type of guard suits your play style the best considering numerous factors. Nonetheless, this BJJ guard drill series will help you develop your defensive arsenal.


The Open Guard Drill

The open guard is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, guards to play for beginners because it requires coordination between your arms and legs. This flow drill will help you transition from one open guard to another and improve your guard retention and control.

Start the drill from half guard (knee shield half guard) with your top knee on your training partner’s chest and your feet on their hip. Assuming your training partner is passing on your right side, control their sleeve with your right hand and their collar with your left. Holding their collar can either be palm down or palm up. Though, recognise that controlling the sleeve palm down may bring your elbow too low compared to controlling it palm up.

Controlling the collar with your top hand blocks the opponent’s shoulder and neck, preventing them from pressuring forward. From the half guard with your foot on their hip, if the opponent tries to stand up and goes for a knee slice pass, transition to half guard to reverse De La Riva (RDLR). Transition your foot hooking the opponent’s ankle in half guard (bottom leg) to their hip as they get up as deep as you can. Maintain your top foot (left leg) on the hip. Remember to push with the ball of your foot instead of your foot being entirely on their hip, as the opponent can take the opportunity to apply different leg locks and allow you to clear your foot anytime you want.

From the RDLR, with your right hand controlling the sleeve, put your right forearm under your thigh to build a base that can off-balance the opponent. In this position, while maintaining your collar and sleeve grip, you can off-balance or sweep the opponent by stepping your top foot on the mat and extending your reverse De La Riva hook. The reverse De La Riva can either push or pull the opponent. You can push the opponent with your top leg or pull with your collar and reverse De La Riva hook.

Remember that your reverse De La Riva hook becomes easier to strip if you push the opponent or if they posture up and stand. The opponent can remove the hook by extending their leg while standing. As they extend, transition your hook (bottom leg) and post your feet to their far thigh while your other leg (left leg) transitions to the regular De La Riva hook. Transition to the traditional De La Riva guard if the opponent extends their leg. The standard De La Riva hook blocks the opponent’s leg from backing if they try to kick it back to strip off the hook.

This position will allow you to hold the opponent long enough to move your collar grip with your left hand to the opponent’s right ankle and fully transition to the regular De La Riva. Since you are holding their ankle from the De La Riva, grab their sleeve instead to break their grip if the opponent tries to push your hooking knee down. Once you let go of their ankle, the opponent will likely step back on their leg. This gives you the angle to move to your right, pull their hand to your chest, and kick your left leg up to apply a lasso hook and square up with the opponent. While maintaining your right foot on the hip and the lasso with your left leg, you can now transition to the spider guard with your right leg.

Doing so lets you have the lasso and spider guard combo, allowing you to maintain the distance and move around. You can remove the lasso with your left leg and enter the standard spider guard from there. To transition to the single leg X guard, maintain your double sleeve grips and keep the spider guard with your right leg. Step your left foot on the mat and use it to lift your hips. Bring your right foot on top of your head to pull your training partner close to you using the spider guard. Posting your leg on the mat while pulling with the double sleeve control draws the opponent’s leg closer.

Refrain the sleeve control with your left hand, transition to ankle control, and start transitioning to the single leg X guard as you abandon the spider guard with your right leg. If the opponent removes your foot on their hip from the single leg X guard, you can transition to the modified X guard. From the modified X guard with your hip directly underneath the opponent’s hip, you can transition to the regular X guard, their foot over your left shoulder.

Remove the sleeve control with your right hand and move to control behind the opponent’s right knee to prevent them from kicking it out as you free the ankle control with your left hand. Shoot your left hand under your training partner’s ankle to bring their leg over your shoulder to secure the X guard. Sweep your training partner with the tripod sweep by sliding your right foot behind their ankle from their knee. As they drop to the ground, come on top and let your partner repeat the drill from half guard.


7 Critical Guard Drills

Let’s take quick look at the video demonstrated by BJJ World Champion Bruno Pucci on these 7 critical guard drills before going in depth individually below.


1) Hip Escape Drill

Hip escape drills allow you to work on your shrimping ability, which is critical in guard recovery, escaping bad positions, and setting up different sweeps and submissions.


2) Hip Escape Drill – Underhook

This drill improves your ability to recover your guard when the opponent starts pressuring from the side control.


3) Spider Guard Drill

The spider guard drill is a typical drill performed to work on your hip mobility and leg and hand coordination when executing the spider guard.


4) Spider Guard Drill – Lasso

The spider lasso is one of the most used guard combinations in the gi. This guard drill is an excellent drill for beginners who are starting to learn and combine open guards.


5) Half Guard Drill

The half guard drill works on your explosive ability to pull the half guard, which is essential if the half guard is your go-to guard.


6) Reverse Half Guard Drill

The reverse half guard drill is similar to inverting drills though the goal is to move from the half guard to the other side.


7) Guard Recovery Drill

The guard recovery drill is one of the essential drills to perform as it greatly works your hip mobility and leg coordination, which is critical when defending from guard passes, especially when the opponent transitions to north-south.



As Chris Haueter said, playing guard is rewarding. Remember that the goal in BJJ is to be the grappler on top and be able to maintain the position. With that being said, the guard makes the other half of the game, and it is just as important to develop the skills that will neutralise and allow you to punish the opponent when put in the position.


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