What is the best offensive guard you can play? the answer is not simple since it all depends on many different actors. However, if there’s one general rule, then being able to manipulate your opponent’s base and/or posture without much effort is definitely high on the requirements list. As such, there is one category of BJJ guards that stands out. Those are all the guard variations that put you underneath your opponent. Depending on your goal, different guards, give you different attacking options. Some are easier to maintain, while others are top submissions hunting spots. The X guard is usually seen as a transitional guard, most effective for sweeping. However, there are plenty of X guard submissions as well, and most of them are in the leg lock department.
What usually defines the effectiveness of a guard is distance. Different guards work from different ranges. In general, there are four main ranges – far, medium, close, and underneath. Using a far distance guard to grapple from a close distance is going to end up in disasters most of the time. A good example of a far distance guard is the spider guard. The Reverse De La Riva is a medium distance guard. Closed / half guard variations are mostly close distance guards. X guard variations, 50/50, deep half, etc. are great representatives of guards that work from underneath the opponent. While most people are used to single leg X guard submissions, the classic X also has a lot to offer. Particularly in the area of lower body submissions.
X Guard Submissions
The X guard is a staple of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and one of the most useful open guards out there. It works just as well in both Gi and No-Gi and is one of the rare guards that doesn’t require any modification. The same grips apply just as well with the kimono as they do without it.
The most basic X guard position is when you have one leg of your opponent over your shoulder, hooked inside-out with your nearest arm. Both your feet crisscross on the inside of the thigh of the opposite leg, thus resulting in an X pattern. The far side arm usually looks to grip an arm, the lapel, or help you post for attacks. Speaking of attacks, X guard submissions can be as much a part of this versatile guard as sweeps are. The only thing you need to know is how to sue the structure that the X guard provides to get right into them.
Controlling the near side leg can be done with both an under and an overhook from the X guard. This is an important fact because both open up different submission possibilities. It is obvious that the structure of the X guard places you in a perfect position to hunt for leg locks. Both legs are wide apart, and you’re in control of both the distance and elevation. with a few strategically placed grips, you can hit just about any lower body submission there is from the X guard. Also, check the most dynamic x-guard sweep to back take.
Let’s start directly with the highest percentage lock there is – the heel hook. One thing to know is that while there are plenty of X guard submissions available on the legs, none of them work directly from there. To successfully get a leg lock, you’ll need to use the advantage of the X guard to get into an Ashi Garami.
One great example is the heel hook. The 50/50 guard is also an Ashi Garami position that is among the best for finishing the inside heel hook. From a basic X guard position, you need to first transfer the leg that’s near your head to the other side. This means that you’ll first have to stretch your opponent wide using the X hooks. The reason for the stretch is to make the leg you’re trying to transfer lighter. Once all their weight is on the other leg, use your free arm to help you get their leg to the other side. Use the same arm to underhook the leg once you get it over, so that you still have a stable position.
From there it is as easy as getting both legs out and projecting your hips upwards. This is going to allow you to swing one leg over their hip, using the momentum to both get them to the mat and into an Ashi Garami. From there. The heel hook is right there even before they hit the ground.
The toe hold is a complicated submission to get from any position. Yet, it still features among the X guard submissions that actually work. What you need to be really careful of is the fact that the Ashi Garami you’re going to be doing a toe hold from, is illegal under IBFFJ rules. At all belt levels.
From an X guard, you’re going to stretch your opponent as much as you can once again. When you have their base corrupted, you’ll release your X hooks again. This time though, you’ll swing the opposite side leg around the opponent’s hips. This places you in a knee reap position, which will allow you to get the opponent to the ground. Make sure you take their other leg and trap their foot with both your legs in a stable Ashi Garami before you proceed. Once you have the Ashi Grami, you can easily finish via a regular figure four toe hold. Another option is to just grab the toes with the near arm and the heel with the farm arm to finish directly. Check the secret toe hold details!
The kneebar from the X-guard is a classic attack and one of the first I learned from the position. It doesn’t take a lot of work to get there, but it does have a bit of a complicated turning motion. The attack is going to be on the near side leg, which is something many people struggle with. The direction of turning is also important, as it has to be from the inside and going to the outside of their leg.
From a basic X guard position. you’ll need the extension of the far leg again. Every time you’re abandoning the X hooks, it is wise to have the opponent’s legs as far from one another as possible. For this setup, we’ll use a Gi example. Turning around one of your opponent’s legs is much easier with a Gi on, as you have better control. You’ll control the leg with an underhook in this instance while having their posture in check with a collar grip with the other arm. YOu’ll want to transfer your inner leg’s hook to the near side leg while swinging your opposite leg over the opponent’s hip. Use the arm that was on the collar to help propel yourself off the floor and around their leg. The movement itself will bring the opponent down towards their back, with you in a perfect kneebar position. Check The Knee Bar escapes and defense principles.
This one is a true favorite of mine, as most people go straight into it themselves. Unlike most calf slicer options, this one works with your arms and shoulders instead of your legs. It also requires a certain understanding of how both X guard submissions and sweeps work. In some cases, you won’t able to get your opponent off balance long enough to set up a direct leg look. In such a case, push their far leg as far as possible and immediately get into a technical stand-up. This is going to land you in a position where you’re standing, and you have your opponent’s leg on your shoulder.
Since this is not a position many people enjoy being in, they’ll most likely attempt to turn away from you. This means they can bend their leg and escape. It also means you can get a calf slicer submission. All you need to do is move backward that your opponent lands on their belly, From there use the forearm you already have behind their knee to submit. Establish a palm to palm grip and press your shoulder towards the opponent’s butt for a nasty calf slicer. Also Check the Breakdown of Calf Slicer, defense, counters, and applications HERE.
A series of X guard submissions featuring leg locks won’t be complete without an ankle lock. After all, it is the one X guard submission anyone can do, legally speaking. Once again, we’ll focus on a Gi setup here. The same thing can work in No-Gi too, just with a different grip for the posture break.
Form the X guard, you want to have the opponent’s collar and have your X hooks close to you for this one. The grip on the near side leg is with an overhook whenever you’re hunting ankle locks. The goal is to off-balance your opponent forward first. After that, you’ll want to take them up and over your head. Make sure you stay glued to the opponent’s thigh with your X hooks during the roll. This is essential to finishing the ankle lock from a stable position. In this situation, you’re looking to finish belly down. this is also known as the tripod position. Both your knees on each side of their leg and your free arm are your posts. The other arm should already be in a position to finish, around the ankle.
The Reverse X Guard
Apart from all the regular X guard submissions, there’s also a modified Xguard for leg locks. The reverse X guard is a very leg lock specific guard. In essence, it is not really much different from the regular X Guard. All you need to do is switch the position of your hooks. Your bottom leg is no going to be on top, and vice versa. This very simple little adjustment is essential. It allows you to enter the most powerful Ashi Garami attack available.
The reverse X guard is the best way of getting your opponent off balance and in the air. Interestingly, this time, the leg going up in the air is the far one. Once it’s off the ground, you’ll want to kick your leg so that you enter in the Inside Sankaku. Getting the opponent to the ground is easy from there. Finishing them with an inside heel hook is even easier.
Craig Jones is a master of the reverse X guard. As a matter of fact, he has a lot of X guard submissions that target the legs. The “Down Under Leg Attacks” DVD set is everything you need to become a real menace from underneath. After all, there are not many people that are better leg lockers than Craig.