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Best BJJ Guards

The Best BJJ Guards

BJJ is a complex martial art with an endless journey of experiences and accomplishments. There are so many combinations and techniques that to master just one aspect of the art takes a lifelong commitment. Today we focus on the “guard.”

While there are plenty of guards out there, and quite a few that fall under a general term such as the “open guard,” we focused on some of the most successful forms of the guard.

Full Guard

Considered a foundation of Jiu Jitsu as it is usually taught first for beginners, this guard is still one of the most effective positions from which to grapple. The full guard or “closed” guard as it is often referred to, offers a great amount of control for its user. Defensively, this position prevents your opponents from easily improving their position, while offering a wide range of attacks and sweeps for your offense.

Transitions to other guards are also available, which makes this a terrific all-around option for many competitors. It’s great for all body types, but short and stocky competitors may struggle to stay in closed guard.

Full Guard Key Points
– Feet must be locked together while keeping your opponent between your legs, otherwise if you unlock your feet you’re now in open guard!
– Provides great control and some extra time to work for sweeps, attacks or transitions
– It is one of the most tested guards in the history of grappling, making it adaptable to Gi, No-gi, MMA and even self defense

Famous Full Guard guard players:
– Helio Gracie
– Roger Gracie
– Kron Gracie
– Fabricio Werdum (MMA)

Full Guard Demonstration:

Butterfly Guard

The Butterfly guard is a dynamic position, perfect for keeping an opponent off-balance. This guard allows for powerful sweeps and opens up plenty of options for smooth transitions into other more favorable positions. This isn’t a guard for those who like to take their time and ‘hang out’ – a successful butterfly game relies on staying active and hunting to improve your position.

Submissions are not as available directly from the Butterfly compared to other guards. However, Butterfly is still a terrific position to start your chained attack especially for leglocks. Smaller athletes or competitors with shorter limbs have found great success with the butterfly. Those who like to rely on speed instead of patience, and excel in scrambles can also really benefit from this guard. MMA fighters who face pressure-heavy wrestlers love it as well.

Butterfly Guard Key Points
– Get close and keep tight with your opponent. More space = more problems!
– Feet hooks give it the Butterfly name but body clinches, upper body under/over hooks along with grip fighting are overlooked. They are just as important as the butterfly hooks.
– This guard isn’t about strength; it’s about leverage. Great timing can also make your life much easier in this guard.

Famous Butterfly Guard players
– Marcelo Garcia
– Leonardo Santos
– Robson Moura
– Robbie Lawler (MMA)

Butterfly Guard Demonstration:

De La Riva Guard

This type of open guard was named after BJJ legend Ricardo De La Riva. It takes away the balance of an opponent trying to pass your guard, which makes this a terrific option for guard players. The success and application of this guard has created a wave of new modern guards and positions like the Berimbolo, since it is usually the first step taken when opponents engage.

While the evolution of BJJ has contributed to new variations, the original De La Riva guard is still just as effective, and utilized by many schools in their instruction. You can control an opponent before they ever step into your guard, or allow them to fall into a trap you set for them in a closer position and that’s what makes this guard so popular. All body types can benefit from De La Riva in their game.

De La Riva Guard Key Points:
– The use of a hook is essentially what makes a De La Riva different from a general open guard
– Allows for you to work from range or tighter situations. A good option for both standing and kneeling opponents.
– Dynamic guard that can lead to other guards, positions and attacks

Famous De La Riva Guard players:
– Ricardo De La Riva
– The Miyao Brothers
– Rafael Mendes
– Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (MMA)

De La Riva Guard Demonstration:

Half Guard

Half Guard is an extremely dynamic guard that most people find themselves in at some point of a match, regardless if they wanted to or not. What makes half guard different from full is simple; half guard is wrapping around, hooking or controlling one side or leg of an opponent. Given the nature of the position, there are limitless variations to the guard. In fact, one could create their entire game just from half guard and all of it’s variations.

Stocky or shorter competitors who have trouble closing their guard in full have been able to find a home in the Half Guard. Speed helps and so does creativity – half guard can be applied as a bridge between guards, occur as a result of a scramble, lead to sweeps, attacks to the upper and lower body, and transitions to other positions.

BJJ Black Belt Mark Turner, who runs a Demian Maia affiliate academy in suburban Chicago, says that half guard is without a doubt in the top five. “It’s the most diverse and transitional position in Jiu Jitsu,” Turner said.

Half Guard Key Points:
– Half guard doesn’t mean half the success. This is a dynamic guard with plenty of options.
– The under hook is your key to most defensive and offensive game plans
– Explosive, smaller and creative athletes thrive in the half guard due to it’s nature. Good for MMA.

Famous Half Guard players:
– Roberto Correa
– Jeff Glover
– Caio Terra
– Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares (MMA)

Half Guard Demonstration:

Rubber Guard

While the origin of the “Rubber Guard” is still debated, its effectiveness is not. Nino Schembri is often regarded as the first person to use a high guard with shin control. However, it wasn’t until the exposure of Eddie Bravo’s submission win over Royler Gracie at ADCC 2003 where the Rubber Guard developed into a realistic option for grapplers.

Rubber guard requires a higher level of flexibility, which is why extremely flexible athletes achieve terrific results with this type of guard. It offers very little in the way of sweeps and transitions to other guards, but applications of submissions and position improvements are definitely available. Having superior control of your opponent makes this guard a great option for those who prefer to take their time. The ability to break your opponent’s posture down has also made this a great option for MMA fighters.

Rubber Guard Key Points:
– Flexibility! You don’t have to put your heels behind your head to succeed, but flexible limbs make this guard easier and more fun to work with.
– Works great to break down your opponents posture
– Relies more on patience and recognizing an opponents mistakes
– Longer athletes or flexible players tend to find more success with the rubber guard

Famous Rubber Guard players:
– Eddie Bravo
– Nino Schembri
– Shinya Aoki (MMA)

Rubber Guard Demonstration:

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