The Best Guard Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

Years ago one of my best training partners (meaning that he used to abuse me three times a week) caught my arm from guard (again!). I expressed surprise at how dangerous his guard was as I retied my belt.

I was used to just surviving on the bottom when I was in guard. My buddy was dangerous and the entire time I was in his guard I felt like I was the one trying to survive.

He gave me some simple advice that made me look at how I played the guard and served me well for the rest of my jiu-jitsu career.

“Attack!” he said simply. “Don’t lay back and wait to see what your opponent is going to do.”

He explained that unless he took the initiative and started to attack, the opponent would be on the offensive. His philosophy was to make the opponent be the one who was reacting to his attacks.

I pondered his simple, seemingly self-evident advice, but I was not following an attack philosophy when playing my own guard.

I would get some grips, then lie back trying to prevent the pass by being purely defensive. The problem with this approach was that the opponent was free to get their own preferred grips, make a strong posture, and start to pass my guard!

I needed to adjust my strategy and act first!

If are not sure how you can employ this strategy in your guard, here are three specific tips.

2 on 1 sleeve grip.

If you can dominate one of your opponent’s arms you create several offensive threats. For example, you expose their back. My head instructor would do this the instant after you bumped fists to start the roll. Immediately you were on the defensive and reacting to his grips.

Deep collar grip

Xande Ribeiro is a big proponent of hand in collar guard. He explains that it creates a psychological effect in the passer who feels the threat of the collar choke and must limit their passing to avoid the choke.

A deep collar grip is also important to break the posture of your opponent. It is very difficult to pass the guard without proper posture.

Unbalance the passer

This is a subtle and mostly overlooked aspect of playing guard. We are mostly focused on submissions without the necessary preconditions to set up the submission.

I had a series of privates with jiu-jitsu master Roberto “Gordo” Correa, and the single biggest thing I learned from his was how before he would attack any submission, sweep, or back take, he would pull, push, or knock you off balance and then use that moment of vulnerability to make the attack.

Do you have an attacking guard or a defensive guard?



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