It is often said that the guard is the secret to jiu jitsu. Well, often secrets are hard to keep. In the case of the open guard, many of the techniques have extrapolated out over time into incredibly complex systems due to the collective improvement of jiu jitsu over the same span. So where does it end? What has the open guard become, and how should someone navigate it in light of these new evolutions?
Imagine every jiu jitsu player as a unique jungle. Each jungle has it’s own climate, flora and fauna, and treacherous ends. The open guard has evolved well beyond a set of specific techniques, and is now a lot like the jungle. It is a full-fledged ecosystem consisting of a blend of multiple singular positions. We are all built differently; however, certain elements of the open guard are present in all of us. It is up to each guard player to build their jungle accordingly.
The key is making sure that your ecosystem does not lack a critical component for life. For example, you may have trees, beasts, and a warm climate, but if you don’t have fresh water nothing will survive.  Open guard is a lot like this. If you have developed a strong understanding of spider guard and lasso guard, yet lack competency in de la riva and x-guard you may find your ecosystem insufficient at times. Although it is not required that you be perfect at all forms of open guard, it is necessary to understand the basic components of all positions so that your system can fully-develop.
In fact, the key is not to fully-develop every open guard position; rather it’s most important to understand how to properly return to the positions you are most comfortable with. For example 80% of your open guard may consist of setting up single leg x-guard; however, it may be necessary to use spider guard to set it up, or use de la riva to defend against certain passes. Without this extra 20% your tailor made guard may have difficulty gaining momentum. So what are these key positions to understand (these are the bases – obviously there are a lot variations)?

  • Spider Guard
  • Lasso Guard
  • X-Guard
  • De La Riva Guard
  • Reverse De La Riva
  • Sleeve and Collar Control Guard
  • Situp Guard

The best open guard players typically select one or two of these guards and build close to 80-90% of their open guard game around those specific positions. However, as mentioned above without a full understanding of each position there will likely be some form of deficiency. So which is right for you? What should you build your open guard ecosystem around? Let’s start with a few examples that may help you.

Players with a strong Spider guard ecosystem base:

Michael Langhi

Players with a strong Lasso guard ecosystem base:

Keenan Cornelius

Players with a strong X-Guard  ecosystem base:

Marcelo Garcia (duh)

Players with a strong De La Riva guard  ecosystem base:

Rafael Mendes

Players with a strong Reverse De La Riva guard  ecosystem base:

Caio Terra

Players with a strong Collar and Sleeve guard  ecosystem base:

Kron Gracie

Players with a strong Situp guard  ecosystem base:

Ruben “Conbrinha” Charles

… But as mentioned above, the ecosystem is continuing to evolve. New guard players like Leandro Lo are forcing the community to re-evaluate some of these open guard positions.

Leandro Lo