The guard has always been a source of fascination for people outside of BJJ. Successfully fighting off your back was considered impossible before BJJ came along. Royce Gracie turned the spotlight towards the power of the guard at the UCF. Before and after, there were many Gracie challenges in which members of the founding family used the guard with pinpoint precision. Only after the guard burst on the martial arts scene did people consider using it offensively. However, another aspect arose, now that the guard was popular – how to get there offensively. Consequently, different ways pulling guard started to develop.
Defensively speaking, the BJJ guard is a great option against a successful takedown. In BJJ, despite a slight loss of points, it allows for a very offensive game from a highly controllable position. In MMA, it provides a great option to tie up an opponent, effectively neutralizing all striking attempts while opening up attacks. Logically, pulling guard would be a counterproductive move in MMA, but in grappling, it opens up a whole new dimension.
The Essentials of Pulling Guard
Pulling guard has gotten a bad rep over the years. Despite the guard’s clear effectiveness, somehow it is considered a cowardly move. The premise is that pulling guard is a shortcut to the ground, avoiding a takedown battle on the feet. Actually, It is quite similar to the leg-locking conundrum. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guard is a highly offensive position and presents a real challenge for the top opponent to deal with. As such, pulling guard should be considered as an offensive move, a takedown of sorts.
There are plenty of technical nuances to a full guard pull. A good guard pull starts with properly placed grips. It is imperative that there’s one grip on the opponent’s sleeve, right above the elbow. This grip has the task of controlling the arm, preventing it from grabbing the leg that goes up. The other grip can hold many spots on the collar, with collar-bone height the preference for most.
The idea behind a guard pull is to control the distance while attaining the position. In order to achieve this, one leg has to go in the hip fold of the opponent. This, essentially, leaves the guard puller standing on one leg, but this is a very temporary position. From there, it’s all about going down while using the leg placed on the hip to maintain distance and pivot to the side. The final touch is getting to the full guard position by crossing the feet behind the opponent’s back.
A very dangerous, yet admittedly effective version of guard pulling is to jump to closed guard. There’s no distance or foot placement here, as one jumps straight to guard after getting the grips. This variation is the source of plenty of career ending injuries and should only be attempted at more advanced levels.
Pulling Half Guard
If the half guard is more your forte then you can skip going to the full guard altogether. Although you can transition into half guard after pulling guard, it’s generally safer to go straight for a half guard pull. The BJJ half guard position is a highly effective one, leading to sweeps, transitions or submissions.
Technically speaking, the grip positioning stays the same, while the pull is somewhat different. This time, the opposite side leg is the first to engage. However, instead of going on the hip it goes between the opponent’s legs, hooking the behind of his near side knee. In order to be successful, this hooking motion has to happen simultaneously with you dropping to your side. From there, the crucial point in order to gain control is turning the sleeve grip into an underhook. Afterwards, you just lock the legs and you’re there.
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Fake Closed Guard Pull
A pure BJJ player would have a hard time on the feet against wrestlers and Judo players. It is completely understandable why BJJ has developed a unique way to cope with this dominance. As such, let’s look at a few very offensive options available from a guard pull attempt.
First and foremost, a guard pull can easily be turned into a takedown. An ankle picks takedown off of a fake guard pull is a favorite move of some of the best BJJ players to ever compete. Think of it as an elaborate fail-safe. First, you fake going for a guard pull, only to switch it to an ankle pick halfway. Provided that it works, you end up in the top position. In the case of failure, you always have the full guard to fall back to. Neat, isn’t it?
Furthermore, if you really like to confuse an opponent, you could always go for a sacrifice throw off the guard pull. Actually, this combination requires all the mechanics of pulling guard up to the point of closing the legs. Instead of pursuing full guard, you position your fall so that you end up slightly more underneath your opponent. From there, it’s takeoff time for them, and instant mount for you.
Pulling guard can also lead you straight to a sweep or quick finish. The tripod sweep, for example, is readily available straight off the pull. Quick armbars, Omoplata setups, triangle attacks are all up for the taking. So are plenty of flying submissions that can be connected to guard pulls. Attempt them at your own risk.
As you can see, you don’t even have to close the guard in order to have an effective game, You do, however, need to know how to pull guard in order to get there.