The X-Guard is an advanced open guard variation that is very attack-oriented. From the X-guard, you can play a diverse offensive game while staying relatively safe. Understand how to enter, retain and attack from the X-Guard and you won’t need another guard variation. In terms of attacks, sweeps are right there for the taking. To get a submission, you’ll need to work a little bit, but leg locks are not far away too.
Once you pass the beginner phase of Jiu-Jitsu, playing closed guard is going to get replaced by open guard experimentation. The X-Guard is often the target of blue belts, mostly due to convenience. It is practical, it is easy to obtain and students often find their way into it from scrambles. Those that are looking to work from the half guard, often get to the X-guard as an extension.
The guard itself is very versatile and is not hard to maintain. That said, people have ways of passing it and you need to be ready to react. It is not as secure as the closed guard, but it is one of the best open guards out there. The reason is that there’s virtually no distance for you to control as you’re directly beneath the opponent. Furthermore, it is your whole body against the legs of your opponent, which gives you a huge advantage. Master the X-guard early in your BJJ journey and it’ll serve you all the way.
The X-Guard is essentially an open guard variation although not many see it as such. Some think of it as a half-guard variation and there’s logic to this stream of thought. If you get it against a standing opponent then you’ll most likely think of it as an open guard. If an opponent stands from your half guard though, you might see it differently, No matter how you enter, the mechanics of the X-guard are the same. And so are the attacking options.
In truth, entry to the X-guard is often the hardest part. Once there, you’re virtually halfway through a sweep. The X-guard is available from all kinds of open guards. Usually, the butterfly guard, shin-to-shin guard, single leg X-guard and even the closed guard are common entry positions. The half guard and deep half guard are usually entry points of opportunity as well.
The x guard has you on your back, with your feet controlling one leg, and the arms the other. This renders the opponent’s base useless and gives you great control. The idea is to have one of your legs on your opponent’s hip and the other behind their butt on the same side. The knees should be strong and the aim is to keep them apart, but not excessively. The other leg of the opponent should be over your shoulder, with your arm around it. The palm of your arm should grab just below the knee, providing complete control over the limb.
From the X-guard, you can sweep very easily or go for a different attack. In terms of guard retention, be prepared for a short transition. Both the Single Leg X-guard and the Half Guard are right there, depending on the opponent’s reactions.
X Guard Sweeping Options
The deal with the X-Guard is that it provides you with an easy means of disrupting the balance. The opponent might be able to keep their posture, but not their base. If you employ sleeve or wrist control with your free arm, you’ll also deal with the posture. Sweeping from the X-guard is not hard. Actually, all you need to do is decide which direction you like to sweep towards.
The basic idea of sweeping is to make your opponent base with one limb only, while the other is not touching the ground. From there, you choose the direction of sweeping based on the opponent’s reactions. From the X-guard, the X structure of your feet allows you to easily lift the opponent’s hip. That means that the far leg is going to be the one that goes off the ground in most cases. All you need to do is extend your legs. This is going to allow you to sweep to both sides, as well as over your head.
If you prefer to increase control even more before you sweep you can instead look to pull your knees towards your chest. This is going to get the opponent’s leg closer, which will allow you to grip it at the ankle. A simple push is not only going to get you a sweep but a pass as well.
Also available is a sweep that focuses on lifting the other leg. First, you’ll need to extend the opponent’s hip with your legs, just like with the first sweep. Next, perform a technical standup, while keeping tight control of the leg that’s on your shoulder. Your opponent is going to have no choice but to fall down, with you in prime position for passing or a leg lock.
Leg Locks From The X-Guard
Apart from sweeping, the X-guard is also a good position to hunt for submissions. In those terms, nothing is easier to get than leg locks. This is understandable, as you’re in a guard that places you between the opponent’s legs. Even more so, you have great control over both lower body limbs.
In terms of leg locks, you have virtually every lower body submission you can think of. For example, the kneebar is very easy to get. All you need to do is get the front hook off your opponent’s butt and swing it across the other leg. From there a simple shoulder roll is going to land you deep into a kneebar. You can finish there, or transition to a more dominant leg locking position, like the Inside Senkaku.
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Off the technical stand-up sweep we covered earlier, you can hit a nasty calf slicer. When you go for the sweep, oftentimes your opponent is going to choose to turn in an attempt to run away. When they do this, just pull them down towards you, placing your forearm deep behind their knee. You’re then going to use your shoulder and your whole body to push their foot towards their butt.
Also, you can always attack off a completed sweep. Instead of going up and passing, use the position that opens up. Both your feet are already among the opponent’s legs. All you need to do is enter into Ashi Garami and hit a heel hook or ankle lock.
A Few More X-Guard Attacks
The X-guard is primarily a sweeping position or a leg locking gateway. However, there are also a few more attacks available, that do not include the legs. Namely, there are such triangle and Omoplata options, a well as the odd armbar, when in the Gi.
In order to get an upper-body submission from the X guard, You’ll need to off-balance your opponent once again. For an Omoplata, you’ll need to control the opponent’s arm via a sleeve grip and keep it as close to you as possible. Then, release the hip control and thread both legs on either side of the opponent’s trapped arm. The Omoplata is right there for the taking.
A triangle, on the other hand, is more direct. That said, it is not your usual triangle attack, to be honest. The same position of the arm is essential, i.e. a grip on the sleeve. This breaks the opponent’s posture enough for you to control their head and sneak one arm over their shoulder. Next, sneak your other leg all the way through, catching the opponent’s leg in the triangle along with their arm and neck. It is a leg in a triangle choke that nobody can defend!
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