The Many Guards of Jiu Jitsu: Inverted Guard

Inverted guard is a fundamentally bad position when it comes to self defense.  However in competition, dexterity with inverted guard can translate to extremely slick submissions and sweeps.  Why is inverted guard so powerful?  Why does it work so well?  And what are its potential drawbacks?

For starters, the principle of inverted guard is to lure an opponent to enter the space in which you are dangerous.  It requires an egregious error to even work.  If someone refuses to engage the inverted guard it is completely harmless.  Unlike guards that engage the opponent, inverted guard relies entirely upon the position of the guardeiro, and has nothing to do with the position of the opponent relative to them.  This is a fundamental flaw.

All it really takes is a misstep or a poorly placed grip and that inverted guard can turn itself into a submission or a sweep.  It’s a trap.  Not a terribly difficult trap to diffuse, but a dangerous trap nonetheless.  The key is the guardeiro’s ability to gauge the other person’s arm positioning relative to the guard placement.  One arm in, one arm out and away you go.

Inverted guard is relatively easy to negate.  Keep away from it and it becomes awkward.  Butt scooting in inverted guard is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Also it’s definitely not street safe.  The face and back are very exposed.  I’m sure that a jiu jitsu ace could use inverted guard against an unwitting opponent, but the average jiujiteiro is best advised to stick to basics in a street fight.

A huge potential drawback to inverted guard is the potential for spinal injury.  Think about it, you’re going upside down and backwards while someone else is trying to hurt you.  It’s a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful.  But hey, we’re all adults and we can decide what risks we want to take…

Personally, I play inverted guard for one reason: to improve my dexterity.  When someone goes to pass my guard I like being able to have as much control as possible over the space between us, and I’ve found inverted guard to be an ideal method of mitigating bad situations.  It’s certainly not my go to guard given the inherent drawbacks, but I think it has its uses.

What do you think of inverted guard?  Is it part of your arsenal?  Or do you stick to simpler less risky positions?  Have you fallen into an inverted guard trap?  Or are you able to avoid them effectively?

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Emil Fischer
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


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