Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling-based martial art that focuses on taking the opponent down to effectively apply submission and chokeholds. Initially, the idea of BJJ is for a smaller man to be able to neutralize the strength and size advantage of a bigger opponent. As Grandmaster Helio Gracie famously said; the skill of a blue belt in BJJ is enough to submit and control a bigger and stronger untrained person.
What Is The Guard In BJJ?
In BJJ, a full guard is a defensive position where you wrap your legs around the opponents’ body resulting in your feet being crossed behind their back. The full guard is a good way to control the opponent in a pure grappling match as your opponent has limited submissions to do, leaving them with little to no option but to first open your guard. Applying the full guard is not the best option in an MMA match where striking is always present, although it can be rewarding.
On the other hand, the open guard is any type of guard in BJJ where your feet are not locked around your opponent’s waist. Ideally, an effective open guard requires four points of contact against your opponent, but arguably, having three points of contact is enough. Having four points of contact with either your opponent’s sleeves, arms, hips, legs, foot, or ankle means that you are in advantage and sweeping your opponent is highly possible.
A basic example of a combination of contacts is both of your feet pushing your opponent’s hips while pulling both of his sleeves. This creates a push and pull effect that will limit your opponent’s mobility while stretching them out, thus, improves your control.
3 Types Of Open Guard In BJJ
The following are three of the most famous open guards in BJJ. These positions are battle-tested and used by BJJ legends such as Marcelo Garcia, Ricardo De La Riva, and Romulo Barral.
1) Butterfly Guard
The butterfly guard is a type of open guard in BJJ where your feet are curled towards your shins, working as hooks on the inside thighs of your opponent. This makes lifting and elevating the opponent up more accessible with the use of your legs. The butterfly guard is an excellent example of proper utilization of the legs as it is easier to pull and elevate heavier opponents with a butterfly hook; think of it as a motion similar to a leg press in the gym, but the weight is placed on your shin.
Initially, the starting positioning of the hands in butterfly guard is your hands locked behind your opponent or gripping his belt. As you advance, controlling the head and arm can be a better option as there is a higher possibility for sweeps and submissions from this position.
Gordon Ryan is one of the most famous BJJ athletes and one of the best no-gi grapplers of the modern era. He is a master of the butterfly guard and renowned for his shoulder crunch sumi gaeshi sweep from the butterfly guard, which is his take on BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia’s shoulder clamp sweep.
2) De La Riva Guard
The outside hook was first seen in judo. Later on, a BJJ legend named Ricardo De La Riva developed a similar technique and adapted it to BJJ. Ricardo De La Riva is known for his match against Royler Gracie. The DLR guard was developed by Ricardo in Brazil. Due to his lanky frame, Ricardo found the DLR guard as an effective way to destabilize his stronger and bigger training partners as he gets overpowered most of the time.
Many famous modern-day grapplers have utilized the DLR guard in their game, such as the Mendes and Miyao brothers, Caio Terra, and Gianni Grippo, to name a few. The typical DLR guard setup is where you hook your opponent’s leg and your hand grabbing the ankle of the same side. Your other feet are placed and pushing the opposite side of the opponent’s hips, and your other hand gripping his sleeve.
The DLR guard is a rewarding position as it can be used to take your opponent’s back, set up a variety of sweeps and submissions such as the armbar.
3) Spider Guard
The spider guard was used initially as a defensive position to stall against bigger and stronger opponents. As time went on, the spider guard changed from a primarily stalling position to a highly offensive guard. It is now used to sweep opponents and even apply submissions. Some widely known BJJ athletes who use the spider guard are Rubens Charles “Cobrinha”, JT Torres, Leandro Lo, and Romulo Barral, who is a blackbelt of Vinicius Magalhães, one of the innovators of the spider guard along with Renzo Gracie.
Typically, the spider guard is performed with your hands gripping the opponent’s sleeves while your feet are placed on their biceps. This creates a powerful controlling position because of the grips applied, and the pushing of the legs can neutralize your opponent when they are trying to pass your guard. With proper adjustments such as changing the grips and repositioning of legs, the spider guard can be utilized to easily sweep bigger opponents.
The spider guard can also be combined with other open guards. Some examples are lasso, reverse DLR, and single-leg X guard. This makes the spider guard interesting as it can be played along with other open guards to apply both the sweeps and submissions.
All in all, learning the open guard will help you to become a better grappler. It is important to know at least one type of open guard as it takes time to fully understand the intricacies of the position. As you gain experience, try exploring new positions to add to your repertoire.
The great thing about the open guard is its viability in both submission grappling and mixed martial arts. While it is understandable that most BJJ gyms study the full guard first, exploring the fundamentals of the open guard is a guaranteed way to improve your overall game.
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