A Confusion of Open Guards

The open guard can be quite confusing. Basically any time your legs are not closed around the back of your opponent you are in a type of open guard. Butterfly guard, X guard, spider guard, sitting guard etc. etc. are all open guards.

So there are a TON of open guard variations…

Further complicating the situation is the fact that there isn’t really an ordained progression of open guards.  Once the legs get forced open (or the guy on the bottom decides to open his legs on his own accord) the type of open guard that you end up in is almost totally a question of user preference.

Many types of open guard are variations of what I call the ‘standard’ open guard, ie where your feet are always pushing his hips and shoulders. I think that this is a fine place to start your open guard work, and many advanced players use this type of open guard almost exclusively.

The butterfly guard is taught early at some schools, and not at all at others.  Some world-renowned competitors make it their bread and butter guard position, others wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

I think that the butterfly guard is a very valuable tool to have in your open guard arsenal at any level. For example, the ‘basic’ butterfly sweep works at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

The X guard is certainly somewhat more advanced than the ‘standard’ open guard. The X guard isn’t really a variant of the butterfly, BUT it dovetails very nicely with the butterfly (salt and pepper, knife and fork).

Even though the open guard is a pretty complicated topic, if you do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or submission grappling you simply NEED to have a good understanding of these positional variations.  You need to know what your options are if you’re on the bottom, and what the most likely scenarios are that you’ll encounter if you’re on the top.

With the open guard, as with some many other things in life, knowledge is power!

One great place to start in your exploration of the open guard is the second article in a series called “A Glossary of the Guard. Click here to check out that article.

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