Ultimate Guide To The Butterfly Guard In BJJ

The butterfly guard is one of the most fundamental guards in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is simple to perform yet powerful enough to lift heavier opponents above you. Aside from that, the butterfly guard always stays in fashion and is highly effective for every grappler, regardless of body type. This article will be your ultimate guide to the butterfly guard in BJJ.


What Is The Butterfly Guard?

To start, let’s understand the butterfly guard and how it works. There are different open guards in BJJ, and the butterfly guard is one of them. It is performed by curling your feet upwards, which serve as “hooks” and are placed inside and underneath the opponent’s thighs. You need to use upper body grips like the two-on-one or the body lock to fully control your opponent, as they will surely make their best attempt to back out of your butterfly hooks. With hooks and upper body control set in place, the butterfly guard can quickly sweep opponents heavier than you. This is because you lift the opponent using your legs while neutralising their use of their upper body, which unbalances them.


How To Perform The Butterfly Sweep

Today, we will do a deep dive on the butterfly guard’s most powerful weapon – the butterfly sweep. When executing the butterfly sweep, you want to avoid being on your back as it will limit the power from your legs. Instead, aim to be on your glutes and stay within a 90-degree angle to direct the opponent’s shoulder to the mat while you pull their arms to your body.

As mentioned above, the butterfly guard is where you have both hooks inside the opponent’s legs. It is usually applied when the opponent is trying to pass the guard kneeling. This position is the best and simplest way to study the butterfly guard for most beginners. The first goal is you must have a good connection with the opponent. While you’re in the seated guard, you want to avoid reaching directly forward with your hands as the opponent can pummel and get underhooks; this significantly lessens your control.

Instead, you must work your way up by establishing wrist control. Wrist control will let you close the distance by pulling yourself to the opponent, allowing you to set up the hooks with your feet. From the double wrist control, as you get close, you can work up to a two-on-one grip to control one arm of the opponent and apply an underhook. As you use the underhook, ensure that your shoulder stays attached to the opponent’s chest to prevent them from pummelling inside.

The grappler with the lower shoulder level will win the exchange in this position. Therefore it is critical to maintain the underhook while blocking their chest. If the opponent manages to get their shoulder lower, they can drive you back, flatten you on the mat, and pass the guard — post your other hand on the mat to allow you to remain seated. When you get the underhook, you don’t want to sweep towards the underhook side, as the opponent can always post their hand to stay balanced. The opponent can use this opportunity to force you in half guard and start pinning you on the mat and pass.  

When you have the underhook with your right hand, ensure your right leg stays up with the hook. Move your right hip out to the side as much as possible, and your left foot goes underneath your right hamstring to give you extra support. Your left foot underneath prevents the opponent from tilting you to the right side. You can proceed to the sweep now that you’re in this position.

With the underhook, legs at a 90-degree angle, and the butterfly hook in the proper position, use your left hand to grab behind the opponent’s elbow. Pull forward and lock their wrist with your left arm. Doing this traps the opponent’s arm, preventing them from posting on the mat. Remember that you should be gripping the opponent’s triceps with your left hand while trapping their wrist with your arm and locking your armpit. Not doing so will allow the opponent to post, making the sweep unlikely.

The mistake grapplers often commit with the butterfly sweep is falling on their back instead of towards the side. To sweep the opponent, fall on your left side as it will directly land you in side control. Falling flat on your back while lifting your butterfly hook will allow the opponent to flatten you on the mat. The hook keeps you in tight with the opponent as you fall on the side.

A key detail is to grab a high underhook while keeping your shoulder tight to the opponent’s chest as your other hand posts on the mat. Doing this lets you balance your weight on the opposite side so the opponent can’t flatten you. Remember that your underhooking hand grabs near the middle of their back and not too far deep, as the opponent can use it to drop you flat.


Butterfly Sweep Counters

Considering the critical details of the butterfly sweep mentioned above, here are some examples of how to counter the butterfly sweep.

1) Reversal

If the opponent grabs too far and low behind your back with their right underhook, grab their far shoulder using your left arm. Use your right hand (far arm) to hold on to their left ankle. Use your left hand to pull their shoulder backward and flat on the mat while using your right hand to stiff-arm their leg.


2) Cartwheel Pass

If the opponent applies an overhook with their right arm instead of an underhook, use your trapped arm to grab behind their belt while your other hand pins their knee on the mat. Post your head to the left side and perform a cartwheel until your body lands on the right side. From there, secure side control.


3) Pin To Mount

If the opponent falls on their back for whatever reason, pin their legs down. Force their knee to the mat and move your way to the mount.



Every grappler should have at least a basic understanding of the butterfly guard. Remember that angling your body as you fall to the side is the key ingredient to an unstoppable butterfly sweep. While you can technically perform submissions in the butterfly guard, sweeps should be your primary focus when going on the offensive. We encourage you to study this amazing guard the next time you train!


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