What is the Spider Guard?
The Spider Guard is a form of Open Guard where you grip your opponent’s wrists or sleeves and have at least one foot controlling at least one of his arms. Typically the sole of your foot will be placed against his biceps, or your leg will spiral around his elbow with your toes hiding underneath his upper arm.
Your other leg can go on his hip, hook behind his knee, brace on the ground, or control his second arm (again with the foot on the bicep or wrapped around his arm).
Playing Spider Guard is a dynamic game, and so once you get your hooks set you’re not just going to stay there. Instead you’ll constantly be moving your body left and right, forwards and backwards, while simultaneously adjusting your leg positions to compensate for your opponent’s movements and to set up your own techniques.
Using your leg(s) on your opponent’s arms like this gives you a ton of control over his posture and also makes it much more difficult for him to effectively use his grips effectively and set up his own guard pass. And once you’ve used your hooks to off-balance him then you’ll be in a great position to attack with sweeps, triangle chokes, armbars and omoplatas.
If you’re using the Spider Guard effectively then your opponent should feel like a marionette, the only difference being that it’s your legs pushing him up from below rather than strings holding him up from above.
Can You Use the Spider Guard in No Gi?
Can you use the Spider Guard in a no gi and MMA context? Well I’m gonna get flack for this for sure, but the answer is ‘kinda, sorta…’
The main obstacle to using the Spider Guard without the gi is getting and maintaining good control over his wrists.
Controlling his arms this way is made a little easier if you have big hands and good grip strength. Think Antonio Nogueira in his prime, who was known for his incredible grip strength and also did a lot of amazing open guard work in Pride FC (the roughest, toughest MMA competition of its time).
Now I’ve naturally got big hands, but alas, even after having dabbled with quite a bit of grip training I don’t have one of those killer grips that lock on and just never let go.
However even with my thoroughly mediocre grip I have successfully used the Spider Guard many times without the gi. I’ve used the foot on bicep to defend punches in MMA sparring and also to launch multiple people through the air with sweeps in submission grappling training. So I know it works!
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Now obviously the Spider Guard in no gi is going to be more transitional, more opportunistic than when you’re rolling with the gi. On average you won’t be there for as long, and your opponent will be able to rip his arms free with less effort than if you were gripping his sleeves.
It won’t ever be your primary no gi strategy, but it sure can come in useful once in a while. Partially this is because nobody expects the Spider Guard in no gi. And when people aren’t expecting something then it’s much easier to catch them with it.
So go and try it out! Keep an open mind and consider the whole exercise as cross-training. Even if you never use the full Spider Guard position in an actual match, then practicing Spider Guard techniques will still develop your foot and leg dexterity, and that will help you with almost every other aspect of your game.