Should you pull guard in competition? And if you decide to pull guard, then how do you do it correctly?
In a certain sense, I am uniquely unqualified to answer these questions…
You see, much of my BJJ comes from 8th degree black belt Marcus Soares, and Marcus is very much from the old-school Carlson Gracie way of doing things. The Carlson approach to jiu-jitsu is definitely focused on taking your opponent down, passing his guard, and then smashing him from the top.
No guard pulling allowed!
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t a valid strategy. After all the old Carlson Gracie Team sure won a lot of BJJ competitions (as well as many Vale Tudo matches in a much rougher era with far fewer rules).
But every strategy has its limitations…
I might get disowned for saying this, but sometimes taking your opponent down and getting to the top position just isn’t possible.
For example, what if:
- Your opponent is twice your size?
- He’s a collegiate wrestler, or a Judo black belt?
- You’ve got an injury that prevents you from being effective on your feet?
- Your bottom game is just much better than your top game?
In these cases staying on your feet and struggling to get the takedown might not be the best idea.
And if you know you’re going to lose the takedown battle then wouldn’t it be better to take the match to the ground on your own terms? To get to a position you can work from, rather than have your opponent toss you ass over teakettle, and end up both winded and in a bad position?
That’s why under certain circumstances I’ve got no problem with pulling guard. I’ve even done it in competition with my appalled coach watching; it’s a good thing that I submitted my guy because he would have never let me forget it if I’d lost 😉
Let’s talk a little bit about HOW to pull guard.
Just like throws, sweeps, armbars and escapes, pulling guard is a technique in its own right. And that means that you need to a) do it correctly, and b) drill it so it works under pressure.
You can’t just go out there without ever having trained it and flop onto your butt against a good opponent. First of all, if you do it poorly then he’ll probably pass your guard as you’re in mid-guard-pull. And secondly, you’re missing a huge opportunity, because if do it correctly and offbalance your opponent, then the actual act of pulling guard will set up many sweeps and submissions, a consequence of your opponent’s instinctive reactions.
To show you an example of this, here’s a little-known and super-surprising way to pull guard, broken down by Emily Kwok.
She learned the final guard position (the Single Leg X Guard) from 5 time world champion Marcelo Garcia, and started using this method of pulling guard in competition at the urging of Marcelo’s wife, Tatiana Garcia.
I’ve only heard of a couple of people using this technique, but they all report that it was an absolute shock for their opponents. This move gets you to a great sweeping position, so before the guy you’re going against can figure out what happened you’ll be on top and driving past his guard. And once you’re in a good position then you can go as Carlson Gracie as you want.
It’s a thing of beauty – check it out either in the embedded video below or the same video about how to pull guard on Youtube!
P.S. This above video clip is a short excerpt from the No Gi Gripfighting and Takedowns volume in the How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent in No Gi instructional set which is available both as a series of mobile apps and as a 5 DVD set.