The Many Guards of Jiu Jitsu: Turtle Guard

I went to an Eduardo Telles seminar today at Ohio Brasa in Toledo Ohio and had an opportunity to learn about his evasive and effective Turtle Guard.  According to Telles, turtle guard was a means to an end for him as he was constantly having his back taken by Terere (if you don’t know who Terere is you better ask somebody.)  Telles developed turtle guard as a method of addressing getting his back taken, and the result is a sort of effective counter intuitive game that he has made good use of.

The first thing to bear in mind when considering the Turtle Guard is that it isn’t a guard in the traditional sense.  Traditionally a guard requires some use of your legs as a barrier between the two competitors.  Turtle Guard is a method of turning the turtle into an offensive position.  There’s a lot of baiting and when the opponent takes the bait the turtler has a series of sweeps and maneuvers to set their opponent off balance and gain an advantageous position.

Turtle guard relies on an opponent’s commitment to taking your back.  Depending on how insistent they are there are a few options.  Either to roll the opponent or to bowl them over. Also Telles showed us some arm locks available if the opponent resists some of the movements.

The Turtle Guard is a very “flowy” guard.  The notion is to allow the opponent to put themselves into a bad position and then capitalize on that.  There are however many potential drawbacks.  For starters: you’re giving up your back.  That’s a huge no-no in jiu jitsu.  Another drawback is that if the opponent is ready, they can counter the turtle guard perhaps better than they can with most other guards given that you are already in a ‘bad” position.

Timing is key to turtle guard.  In order to enjoy success with it one must anticipate their opponents’ movements and roll at the appropriate moment.  For this reason I think that it may be better to learn turtle guard later in one’s training career once there is an understanding of flow and misdirection.

Do you use turtle guard?  If yes how did you learn it?  What is your favorite set of techniques and transitions?  I highly recommend that if Eduardo Telles comes near you in the future to train with him.  He is a great instructor and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring some of the aspects of this very unusual guard.


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