Top 5 Guards for BJJ Beginners

Top 5 Guards for BJJ Beginners

Guards are one of the fundamental positions in BJJ every beginner needs to know.

In a guard, you’re on the ground with your opponent being blocked by your legs.

While some guards involve immobilizing your opponents by wrapping your legs around them, others involve keeping them away altogether by pushing them with your legs and holding their Gi or ankle/hand for leverage.

For a person unaware of BJJ, a guard can seem like a complete win until the BJJ athlete tosses them over and renders them immobile.

Whereas, for BJJ athletes, it’s one of the necessary positions that all athletes compete to take and escape (known as a guard pass).

Why always go for a defensive stance, you ask? Because the term guard doesn’t mean that it’s just a defensive position.

Combined with the numerous sweeps and submissions you can mix with guards; you can turn the tables instantly.

The idea is to remain in a guard position till your opponent gives you an opening.

Since it’ll protect you from strikes and allow you to counter your opponent’s moves, it’s effective in defense as well as offense.

1. Closed Guard

The closed guard is one of the most common guards you’ll come across.

Since it’s remained common throughout BJJ history, you’ll find there are several variations as well as connected moves and counters to those moves that exist.

That’s why being skilled in just the basic formation will not be enough.

Mixed with some of the top sweeps, you can use your guard formation to confuse and pin your opponent as well as ending things with an unforgiving submission.

1.1. How to Get in the Closed Guard Position?

  • When you’re down on the ground, don’t lay flat on your back. Keep your head and shoulders off the mat.
  • Hold your opponent’s Gi either from the collar, the shoulder, the sleeves, or the torso.
  • Wrap your legs around them and lock them in by crossing your feet.

1.2. Advantages of the Closed Guard

  • With your legs wrapped around your opponent, you control their range of motion.
  • Moreover, since you have their Gi in your grips, you can further control the side they go.
  • This is also effective in takedowns and sweeps as you pull your opponent in another direction.
  • Your legs will do a lot in this position.
  • Not only will they stop your opponent in place whenever they try to get out, but it will also allow you to pull them close and go for a headlock or push them away if they try to choke you.

2. Half Guard (Traditional and Seated)

The term half means that only one of your legs is inside your opponent’s.

A half-guard allows you to have a free side that can be leveraged against your opponent.

Sure, it also presents difficulties if you’re in a fight with an athlete of another style.

This is where half-guards come with surprising variations that involve gripping, pinning, sweeping and taking your opponent’s down before they can react.

Another thing to note about the half-guard is that it comes with its own variations.

You can go for either a traditional half guard that has you lying on the ground or a seated half guard that has you in a sitting position while pinning your opponent’s legs.

2.1. How to Get in the Traditional Half Guard Position?

  • To get in the traditional half guard position, you need one leg between your opponent’s legs and the other leg bent to place your knee on your opponent’s right shoulder.
  • Your left hand should be on your opponent’s left collar or torso with a tightened grip.
  • This will give you the leverage you need for sweeps, takedowns or even holding the position to look for a better opening.
  • Any opponent who isn’t aware of the risks of attacking a half-guard position will eventually get frustrated.
  • Whereas, for BJJ athletes, you’ll need to come up with effective takedown strategies or submissions without putting yourself at risk.

2.2. Advantages of the Traditional Half Guard:

  • The half guard allows you to push your leg through to have both of your legs pin one of theirs.
  • This, combined with the tight grips you have on the opponent’s collars, torso and hands, will be the perfect leverage to lift them up from their center of gravity (where the belt’s knot is tied).
  • Now, you can roll your opponent and land with their leg pinned which can be turned into a submission lock pretty quick.

2.3. How to Get in the Seated Half Guard Position?

  • The seated half guard involves you facing a standing opponent that you need to pin.
  • Following the fundamentals of the half guard, your legs will be around your opponent’s leg.
  • This will allow you to get yourself in close while holding your opponent’s waistbelt from the back with your left hand as you support yourself with the right.

2.4. Advantages of the Seated Half Guard:

  • The seated half guard allows you to use your leg in a variety of single-leg takedowns.
  • You can use this against opponents who’re tall, standing, or have gotten up from your guard.
  • The fact that you have your opponent’s leg pinned means that one of their support quadrants is in your control.
  • What this means, following the quadrant theory, is that you can easily take your opponent down by applying force towards the area where your opponent’s leg would normally go to support them as a base.

3. Butterfly Guard

The butterfly guard closes the gap between you and your opponent.

While it may look like an equal tussle between two athletes, the one who has their legs in between their opponent’s is the actual winner.

That’s because having your legs in front of you will prove vital in taking your opponent down, distancing yourself from them via your knees, or even going for submissions.

3.1. How to Get in the Butterfly Guard?

  • To get in the butterfly guard position, you need to make sure that your legs are in between your opponent’s.
  • Your opponent will be sitting down on their heels trying to pass your guard.
  • Whereas, your primary goal will be to not let them come close enough to pin you or pass your guard.

3.2. Advantages of the Butterfly Guard

  • Like all guard positions, the butterfly guard gives you a couple of submissions and several sweeping options.
  • However, the most appreciated fact about the butterfly guard is that it allows you to close the distance while giving you substantial space to move around and make transitions to find your comfort zone.

4. X- Guard

With a divided view about whether it’s a form of an open or a half guard, the X-guard is inevitably one of the many effective positions one can assume in BJJ.

While other guard positions involve you trapping your opponent in between your legs, the X-guard is almost the opposite.

4.1. How to Get in the X-Guard?

  • This guard is effective when your opponent’s standing and you’re on the ground.
  • From any guard position, hold your opponent’s sleeves and get inside their legs.
  • You can do this by placing your feet on your opponent’s hips and using their left heel, you can get your right leg inside and use your knee and hit them behind theirs.
  • This will pull the opponent in towards you.
  • This will involve rapid and calculated movement to get yourself at the right angle for the next step.
  • The first chance you get, take your right foot’s instep (upper part of the foot) and pin your opponent’s right knee or hip (at the waistline).
  • Your knee should be right behind their hip.
  • Your left instep should be right behind the opponent’s right knee, pinning the right leg completely with a cross.
  • With your head and shoulders raised, use your right hand and curl it around their left knee.
  • Since you’ll be lying in between their legs horizontally (perpendicular to your opponent), you can stretch their legs out as much as you want.
  • This alone gives the athlete applying the X-guard decisive control over their opponent’s stance.

4.2. Advantages of the X-Guard

  • Gi or no-gi, the X-guard is a sure way to score a sweep given its remarkable positioning.
  • You trap the opponent by being perpendicularly between their legs, completely pinning both of their legs by stretching them out.
  • This position will give you all the leverage you need to knock your opponent down backward even if they try to get out.
  • Some countermeasures to prevent escapes even get you a victorious rear mount.

5. Spider Guard

Lastly, we have the spider guard. With a huge success rate, the spider guard is your ideal defense against almost any type of opponent.

This guard is ideally useful in situations where you have the apparent disadvantage, e.g. fighting someone tall in BJJ.

However, it’s always a preferred guard position for many athletes due to its remarkable defense.

5.1. How to Get in the Spider Guard?

  • A spider guard is an easy position to get into.
  • While it’s not necessary, some prefer to start by either holding your opponent’s sleeves.
  • The idea of a spider guard revolves around using your legs to pin your opponent’s biceps.
  • This is why you can either have a hook in their Gi or have an opponent who’s trying to get on top of you.
  • Though it does help, pulling a spider guard without a hook in their sleeve will mean that you hook their biceps with your feet.
  • To do this, you will have to use your left foot to pin your opponent’s right bicep from the inside of their elbow whereas your right foot will pin their left arm from the outside of their elbow.
  • Doing it in one way on both arms will either let the opponent get out or stack you over.
  • The primary principle in spider guard is to have an unequal stretch between your legs.
  • Whichever way you’re leaning (e.g. right), you will feel pressure on that side (right) and your leg (right) will need to extend while the other one (left) will curl up.
  • This will bring keep your opponent in an uneven and unstable state as you slowly get in beneath them and toss them over.

5.2. Advantages of the Spider Guard

  • The spider guard takes all the advantages out of the equation that your opponent might have.  
  • In real-life combat or fighting in an MMA setting, you can use the spider guard against unknowing opponents while making sure to pin and immobilize their legs.
  • Considering the vast number of sweeps you get with the spider guard, it’s no wonder why professionals and experts always endorse it.

6. How to Strengthen and Improve Your Guards in BJJ?

To make sure that your guards are effective and sustainable, you’ll have to master the technique while improving your body’s endurance, flexibility and stamina.

There is a whole list of workouts for BJJ at home you can try to strengthen your muscles.

Another crucial attribute you’ll need to work upon is your flexibility. You can’t risk getting injuries and halt your progress for long periods of time.

Running solo drills will allow you to work on your physique and be able to survive long durations of intense power struggles.

Make sure to keep practicing the techniques that can be applied once you’re in an effective guard position.

Moreover, it’s best that you look at the possible guard passes that you can expect your opponents to run.

Finding a counter for every guard pass will prove vital in determining your success as a BJJ athlete.

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