Short Legged Guard Work

Stephan teaching rectangle

A while ago I gave some suggestions about dealing with the open guard of long-legged and flexible opponents. In the interests of fairness and balance let’s address some options for the opposite situation, namely what to do if you have shorter, inflexible legs.

Short-legged folks often get told that the open guard is not for them, and that they should mainly use the closed guard. Certainly developing a killer closed guard is an excellent plan (if your legs aren’t too short to prevent your ankles from crossing behind your opponent’s back), but you should also have some backup open guard options, because your guard WILL get opened at some point, AND/OR your opponent may not allow you to close your legs, OR your opponent may be too wide for you to cross your ankles behind his back.

Flexible Daddy Long Legs grapplers can get away with more in the open guard: they can be lazy about breaking their opponent’s posture and imposing their grips and still recover against many near guard passes. Furthermore it is more difficult to footlock someone with long legs, so they don’t even have to worry as much about dangling their legs and tempting ankle locks.

If your legs are short then none of this applies.

If you want to play a ‘standard open guard’ (i.e. maintaining one or both feet on your opponent’s hips) with your short legs then you really have to break your opponent’s posture. If you don’t do this you basically give him an easy guard pass. If you are wearing the gi then get a lapel and sleeve grip and really PULL with your arms and really PUSH with your legs on his hips. This bends your opponent forward at the waist and removes at least 75% of his guard passing options. Without the gi you can achieve a similar effect by grabbing one of his wrists with both your hands, thumbs towards you, and locking it close to your chest while applying the same push-pull action as before.

If you have short legs you might also want to consider exploring some other guards that aren’t as leg-length dependent. Here are some options:

  1. Butterfly Guard -especially if you concentrate on attacking with the armdrag and transitioning to X Guard.
  2. X Guard – hey, Marcelo Garcia (highlight video here) doesn’t have long legs either…
  3. Half Guard – a lot of half guard is based on getting closer to your opponent, not pushing his body away with your legs
  4. Sitting Guard and Instep Guard – these positions blend the butterfly guard and half guard.

It’s no coincidence that I recommend these specific guards: although I am a tall person overall most of my height is accounted for by torso length, not leg length. Compared to other grapplers in the 6 foot height range I have have relatively short legs, and this is one reason I concentrated on the Butterfly Guard and X Guard and the Half Guard in my own development as a grappler.

Finally keep in mind that short legs are usually powerful legs. You might not be able to scratch your own earlobe with your toe, but if you get your positioning right you can probably legpress that Daddy Long Legs into orbit!

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