Having dinner after training one night in Brazil a few years back, I got into a debate with another black belt about the spider guard. I had known him for a long time so the debate was in good nature and his mat skills were certainly enough to back up his opinions.
I said that I had little interest in learning spider guard.
The more I reiterated my opinion the more the other black belt dug in and insisted that I needed to not only change my view, but to in fact dedicate myself to learning spider guard.
Allow me to explain my position before you spider guard sweep me for two points!
There is a concept in BJJ known as Universal jiu-jitsu. I may have first heard it from elite trainer and BJJ black belt Firas Zahabi. The idea behind a Universal style of jiu-jitsu is that the core of your game are techniques that work in all expressions of jiu-jitsu — with strikes in MMA or street; in no-gi; and with the kimono, of course.
This Universal jiu-jitsu is espoused especially by old school jiu-jitsu figures like Chris Haueter, Rickson Gracie, and other Gracie family members who caution BJJ students to not stray too far from the original real fighting roots of BJJ.
One must accept that one can never master everything in jiu-jitsu, and to borrow a film analogy “some scenes are going to end up on the cutting room floor.” I would prefer to concentrate my finite training time on positions and strategies that fall under the Universal rule.
I understand the basics of spider guard. I have even pulled off a few spider guard sweeps and triangles in my history. But I would rather develop a guard game that is not dependent on gripping the opponent’s sleeves. Take the kimono top off and say goodbye to your guard game!
I teach jiu-jitsu so it is my responsibility to understand the basics of spider guard. I also see the value in understanding spider guard in order to counter and pass that guard style. But I have no aspirations to be the next Keenan Cornelius spider guard prodigy.
My black belt buddy shakes his head and tells training stories of visiting spider guard master Romulo Barral’s academy and dealing with skilled spider guard players and how dangerous their guards were. I have no doubt skilled spider guard experts could sweep me into the middle of next week. I’ve felt Romulo’s spider guard and don’t know how he doesn’t sweep or submit all of his opponents!
My black belt buddy made a compelling point that a black belt should be solid in all areas of jiu-jitsu. Like they say in yoga, the position that is the most uncomfortable for you is the one that you need the most. He recommended that I change my attitude and study spider guard at once! He said this was a weakness that must be corrected.
I remained unconvinced and am still a spider guard dilettante (look it up mat rat!). The conversation did however, make me look closer at my game and think about which positions I don’t devote much attention to.
I’ll ask you the same question that I enjoy asking different black belts that I meet: “Are there any popular positions / guard styles in BJJ that you really don’t use?”