What The Jiu Jitsu Guard Is And Why You Need It

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The Jiu Jitsu Guard: What It Is And Why You Need It

Let’s say you are in a street fight. You take your opponent to the ground and establish mount. You are doing really well, but then something happens, and you get knocked off. What do you do?

This is precisely when the guard comes into play. The guard is a position in jiu jitsu where you are on the bottom, but you still have your feet available to use against your opponent, both offensively and defensively.

This point is key to the importance of the guard. Typically, being on the bottom in a fight is bad. You cannot deliver effective counterstrikes from this position and your opponent has a wide range of offensive moves to use against you.

But all of this changes when you are able to use your legs when you are on the bottom. When you are laying on your back and you can use your legs, this brings a whole world of offensive and defensive moves into play. Now when you have your legs available to use against your attacker on top of you, you can choke, kick, sweep, control the distance and stifle his punches in a number of ways.

This is why the guard is so important and why you need it. If you ever get knocked to the ground in a fight and end up on your back, you need to be able to effectively use your legs from this position. It is your primary offensive and defensive TOOL at this point.

So, in essence, that’s what the guard is. It’s a way to fight off of your back. It’s not that you want to fight off of your back, but as often is the case, you may not have a choice.

The Problem With Jiu Jitsu “Sport Guards”

Now there are many types of guards used in jiu jitsu. The majority of guards are properly categorized as “sport guards”. Sport guards are useful in jiu jitsu tournaments and other grappling contexts where striking is not allowed. In these contexts, sports guards are very useful. This includes guards like “x guard”, “spider guard”, “sitting up guard”, half guard, the “worm guard” and many more.

However, and this is something too often missed by many jiu jitsu teachers, these sport guards are TERRIBLE for real-life self-defense. The reason why is because they are not good positions for effectively controlling the distance between you and your opponent. Many of them leave the top opponent in an ideal range to punch you right in the face.

That is why I do not recommend sport guards for self-defense nor should a jiu jitsu student even bother learning them if their goal is primarily self-defense.

The Traditional Closed Guard Is Best For Real Fighting

So the best guard for beginners and for self-defense is the CLOSED GUARD. This old school guard has been shown time and time again to be the most effective way to deal with an attacker on top of you trying to pound your face in. It is the simplest and easiest to learn of all the jiu jitsu guards.

To do this guard, simple lock your legs around your opponent’s middle. From this position, you can play offense or defense. You have a lot of options regarding sweeps and submissions from the guard. This is why in my basic jiu jitsu program, we focus almost exclusively on the closed guard.  Later on, in the student’s development, we get into the standard open guard where you have your feet on his hips, but closed guard is the foundation in our curriculum.

But back to closed guard, this is a good position to be in because you have your legs in the game. Your legs are super powerful, and they can keep you from harm. Like I mentioned before, you have a lot of options from here that you can use against your opponent. The guard is all about fighting from the bottom, so you have a way to win the fight if you were to get knocked off the mount. If your opponent were to get rid of your legs in some way, you are completely vulnerable, and he can do completely as he pleases with you.

That is why the guard is such an important position and every martial artist needs to develop some degree of proficiency from this position.

Related Article: Jiu Jitsu Houston: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Started

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Father of eight, Dr. Scott Sullivan is the chief instructor at Bam Bam Martial Arts in Houston, TX. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas and is a seasoned martial arts instructor with over 30 years of experience. A firm believer that martial arts really does help people become more fit, safe, and happy, he remains vigilant about helping people improve their lives through martial arts.