BJJ: The Changing of the Guard

Like many, I am a huge fan of playing closed guard. I have found myself to be capable of mounting a ferocious offense I have an opponent in my closed guard while at the same time being pretty safe. However, I have also found it to be a bit troublesome at times as if my opponent is good at defending I wind up losing matches based on advantages.

Having long legs and being disproportionately stronger in my lower body, closed guard is my world, and a very dark, unpleasant and strange world it is. However, on a timeline, my guard sometimes fails me as people will stall to avoid getting submitted. As a result, the closed guard can be a double edged sword.

Bearing that in mind, I have begun to develop an open guard game. Open guard is difficult as it is easier to pass than closed, but it is more dynamic and allows one to be more dangerous.

Learning open guard is like taking a leap of faith. There are moments when I feel like I’m going to free fall into failure, but ultimately I know that it will only improve my game. Opening up my guard has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made since starting to train for competition.

When I open my guard I am always looking for a lasso or a DLR hook, as it allows me to maintain some sort of connection to my opponent. It’s interesting, open guard is a clear example of bad Jiu Jitsu for competition’s sake. In a self defense situation, you are theoretically better off forcing the other person to be very close to you and then mount an attack from there as their ability to strike you goes down exponentially, however, as soon as time limits and points become a factor, closed guard becomes fundamentally bad.

Closed guard is a dangerous weapon, and it is not utilized nearly enough in competition. However, opening up the guard and mounting intelligent attacks from there will inevitably produce a better rounded competitor. I have found that the best way to start opening my guard is with omoplata and lasso attempts. Spider guard also seems to be a good way to begin an opening, along with Spider-Riva.

These are just some of my thoughts on opening the guard in order to improve competition results. What experiences have you had?



Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. You are incorrect about open guard being bad for self defense. In certain situations you need to keep a person at a distance or find a way to set up a sweep against someone with a good base and some types of open guard will enable this. In a real street fight where multiple fighters are involved your main priorities should be to sweep, mount and then control or finish. Butterfly, modified Butterfly and knee shield are all good for this and DLR can be used to set up heel hooks/sweeps when someone is trying to stomp you.

    • Hello Mike,

      I guess it would depend on the situation! I’d imagine that in many situations guard PERIOD is bad for self defense, especially when dealing with multiple attackers or on a bad surface (broken glass etc). I’m thinking that specifically one on one, closed guard limits the other person’s options.

      Thank you for your feedback.


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