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What is pulling guard BJJ

January 25, 2024
Pulling guard BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a complicated but rewarding discipline riddled with techniques and positions that take years to master. Among all the maneuvers and strategies competitors train in, the guard might be the most important. The guard is a grappling position where one fighter has their back to the ground while using their legs to control their opponent. In a sport that primarily focuses on ground fighting, this is the position from which practitioners go on the offensive to try and secure a joint lock or chokehold. Of course, BJJ matches don’t start on the ground; they start standing up. When you can’t secure a dominant position while standing, you will use a technique called “pulling guard”  to transition the fight from standing to the ground.  

Pulling guard has its advantages and disadvantages that we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll also cover the primary types of guard positions in BJJ, the key techniques involved in guard pulling, and how pulling guard can change the dynamics of a BJJ match by opening opportunities for offensive and defensive maneuvers. 

What does it mean to pull guard in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Pulling guard in BJJ is a foundational technique where one competitor actively chooses to shift the fight from standing to the ground where they can gain a ground position, typically the guard. You can pull guard by wrapping your legs around your opponent’s waist and hips, sitting back, and pulling them to the ground with you. This can be done while you’re both standing or while you’re already on the ground on your back, but either way, this helps you get a more advantageous position over your opponent and attack more effectively.

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The primary advantage of pulling guard is that it allows you to maneuver your opponent into a position where ground techniques can be applied effectively. By using your legs to control your opponent’s movements, you can find an opening for submissions or sweeps. If there’s a drawback to speak of with pulling guard, it’s that it is a defensive move and might not help your score during competitions. Also, it is much different pulling guard in gi and no-gi tournaments because of the difference in available grips and clothing.

How do you pull guard?

Effective guard pulling requires a combination of technique, timing, and strategy. Here are the steps to execute a successful pull guard:

  1. Initiating the guard pull by establishing strong grips on the opponent’s sleeves, lapel, or legs.
  2. Wrap your legs around your opponent’s hips and waist, either from the ground or from a jumping motion while standing.
  3. Maintain your grip and leg control, and pull your opponent down to the ground with you. 
  4. Close your legs around their waist to establish the guard.

What are the primary types of guards in BJJ?

The guard is where you’ll spend most of your time while practicing BJJ. It requires using your legs to subdue and hold your opponent while you vie for positional control. Your legs are the strongest part of your body and are essential for keeping your adversary off balance. 

The guard is versatile, with several variations that each offer unique advantages and strategies depending on what’s happening in a match.

  • Closed guard – also known as full guard – is a BJJ fighter’s bread and butter. You wrap your legs around the opponent’s torso to lock them into place. Limiting their movement makes it easier to execute a submission attack or, if you’re competing in MMA, strike the limbs or head. 
  • Open guard allows for a range of movements and setups for sweeps or submissions. Its variations include the spider guard, lasso guard, and collar-sleeve guard.
  • The butterfly guard is an effective positioning strategy where you hook your legs inside your opponent’s thighs while maintaining a grip on them with your hands. From the butterfly guard, you can control your opponent’s arms and legs, which is excellent for sweeps and maintaining distance.
  • De La Riva guard, named after Ricardo De La Riva, who popularized this technique, is highly versatile and involves entangling one leg around the opponent’s from the outside. You can then grip their sleeve or collar to control their upper body, forcing them off balance and giving you a window to attack. 
  • X-guard is a more advanced position used to disrupt an opponent’s balance. While on your back, wrap your legs around theirs, preventing them from lifting their leg. It’s a great way to set them up for a sweep. 

Tips for effective guard pulling

  • Practice takedowns and develop strategies for integrating guard pulls so you can catch opponents off-guard.
  • Understand the mechanics of ankle and leg control in guard pulling.
  • Utilize leverage and body positioning during guard pulling
  • Prevent opponents from countering by anticipating and neutralizing common techniques.

How does pulling guard impact the dynamics of a BJJ match?

A well-executed guard pull can quickly turn the tide of a match by putting the practitioner in a strong position. After successfully pulling guard, you can launch sweeps and submissions while maintaining an effective defensive position. The guard also offers numerous opportunities for reversing positions and applying submissions. In competitive BJJ, pulling guard can be a strategic choice to control the match and play to one’s strengths.

What are the common misconceptions and challenges related to guard pulling?

Despite its effectiveness, guard pulling is often misunderstood. Some (incorrectly) consider pulling guard to be just a defensive tactic when it is actually a strategic choice to take the fight to the ground and go on the offensive. Others think pulling guard is a choice to be passive rather than going at your opponent and taking the fight to them. Experienced BJJ practitioners know better: it’s an aggressive strategy to dominate the ground game.

It is true that initiating guard pulls against skilled and experienced fighters is challenging and requires advanced techniques and timing. But taking on that challenge is an important part of becoming a better BJJ fighter. All around, proactive guard pulling is part of an aggressive game plan, not a last resort, and is an important technique for all BBJ and MMA competitors.