The Many Guards of Jiu Jitsu: Closed/Full Guard

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the spider guard, a guard that many consider to be more “modern” and “innovative”, (which in some people’s mind translates to ineffective and trendy). What about the most basic guard of all: the closed guard (also known as the full guard.) What are some of the benefits (and drawbacks) of the closed guard?

For starters, many people consider the closed guard to be akin to mount, in that all the attacks available from mount can be done in the closed guard and that one retains the same level of control over their opponent in the closed guard as when mounted (with the exception of ground and pound, Mario Sperry made it pretty clear in his instructional video that holding onto a closed guard when someone’s trying to hit you is a pretty dumb move.)

There are sets of attacks available from closed guard that are very difficult to stop. Some of the greatest competitors ever have been closed guard players. It lends itself to a variety of arm bars, triangles, omoplatas, kimuras cross chokes and others, as well as many sweeps. I personally find myself most in control over my opponent’s posture when they are in my closed guard. The bottom line is the closed guard can be made into a very dark and unpleasant place for us to torture our opponents.

So, why even bother with other guards? Because the closed guard has become known as the veritable Sarlacc Pit of jiu jitsu, people have become very wary of it. I’ve personally been on both the giving and receiving end of stalling out in the closed guard. All you really have to do is be aware and vigilant and it’s not THAT bad of a position to be in for a few minutes, and if you are able to do that very often the referee will give you the win even though you were at risk the whole time…

Also, because of stalling in the closed guard, it can be a very boring competition style. I’d rather not watch a match that involves a lot of closed guard (even though I personally play it on occasion.) At this point, most of current top players use different guards (like spider, De La Riva and deep half amongst others.) It can be troublesome given that what many consider to be the most fundamentally sound guard in BJJ has fallen by the wayside and has been replaced.

Closed guard utilizes more of the leg muscles than other guards because both legs are entirely wrapped around the torso of the opponent, thus it will always have a place in BJJ. It is also one of the reasons that BJJ doesn’t have a broader spectator base, and can make for very boring and frustrating matches.

Do you play closed guard? If you do, do you find that my observations about it being both superior and visually boring to be accurate? By no means am I saying I don’t like closed guard, because I do, it’s one of my favorite things to subject opponents to, but I also realize it has many potential drawbacks.


  1. Closed guard was my first love in BJJ. I found I could wear people down pretty quickly by breaking them down every time they postured up. My best advice for anyone that loves to play guard is to rely on your legs as much as you can and keep your opponent’s eyes down at you. For breaking and passing, I’ve found the best advice is to keep your posture by keeping your eyes looking up–everything in your body will want to go where you are looking, so it will be nearly impossible to be broken down if you’re looking up.

    Good article, and thanks for using that picture of my first match against Jonathan Hutchings in the 5-21-11 Revolution!

  2. Close/open guard is only boring to watch when someone is afraid to try a submission because it might be defended and then they go to a bad spot… Ummm you’re already in a losing spot (guard is not a bad spot to me) so you have nothing to really lose and everything to gain. My jiu jitsu is based off MMA jiu jitsu (mjj) and I use closed guard to protect me and get ready to attack. Using it to stall is a waste of time. I’m on my back, I’m hand fighting and getting ready to attack at the same time. Guard work is only boring when you are not trying to fight back. It is like someone who sits in guard (MMA or jj tournaments) and doesn’t try to pass or attack.


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