The status of the no-gi open guard

Sorry about the long post :) Maybe some will bear with me.

Guys, what are your current opinions on the open guard without the gi?

In particular, do you believe that one should focus mostly on using butterfly hooks like f.ex. Marcelo Garcia does? Or do you think that playing with your legs in other places like feet on hips is just as good if the opportunity rises?

I know that some people, including top players, advocate using ONLY butterfly hooks for the no-gi open guard, i.e. butterfly guard, x guard, half butterfly guard, etc. One of the biggest reason is that it protects you well from leg locks. Another reason is that it has proven to be a pretty good way to get on top of your opponent. Both of these arguments can be argued against, of course.

Maybe me and some people have been confused and even scared a bit by guys like Mario Sperry, who in his instructionals is always saying "this NEEEVER works", "never do this, only that", etc. So we start to become overly concerned about which moves are more high percentage than others. Although that can be good to think about, sometimes we can go overboard.

Now the sport has evolved and is still evolving. Perhaps you guys have a different take on this matter now, as opposed to 1 or 2 years ago?

Personally, I've been playing a lot of butterfly guard and half guard and although I really like it, sometimes I feel like it's easier to control the guy if I put my legs on his hips, shoulders or biceps, my shins in the biceps, etc., as opposed to putting my hooks under the thighs all the time. That way, I can deal with my opponent's arms using my legs AND my arms, and not just my arms like with the butterfly guard. If my opponent has strong arms, my legs in my BUTTERFLY guard can't help me as much as my legs can help in my feet-on-hips guard.

In addition to this, sometimes I feel like my hip movement can't be as good from my butterfly guard than from the feet-on-hips guard.

So I'm going to play a bit of feet-on-hips guard again, in conjunction with the butterfly guard to see how it goes. I'm going to see what works well for me, personally. But I've been having this strong feeling lately that if I don't include the feet-on-hips guard (it looks a bit like Nogueira's mma guard game, actually) in my game, in ADDITION to the butterfly guard, I'm limiting myself a lot.

I know that some people will say "anything that my opponent offers me is what I'm going to take, be it butterfly or standard open guard" - AND some guys will say "forget about anything else than butterfly guard for no-gi, dude".

Any comments of any kinds will be appreciated. I have my own thoughts on this. I just want to see if anyone has anything interested to say about this or not.

With regards,


OK for submission grappling (Mario's submission grappling set covered seated guard extensively), don't do it in mma or a fight or the guy will stand up and kick you in the head.

My feeling on it currently is sort of like "I take what he gives me".

So if his posture is down, he's sort of asking for me to use either the closed guard or one or two feet in the hips guard and attack with something like omoplatas, triangles, armbars, kimuras, flower sweeps, hip bumps, etc.

If his posture is up and he's kneeling, he's sort of asking for me to use either the butterfly guard or, if he's in my closed guard - the feet-on-hips-shins-in-biceps guard (Nog's guard) and from there perhaps switch to the butterfly guard (if his posture stays upright).

If he stands up, de la Riva, perhaps, x guard, etc.

You get the point. What kind of guard is he asking me to be put in - that's what I do. I may be wrong, but that seems to be working well for me now.

If something works for you then you should do it. You don't need validation from anyone else. All of this stuff is a matter of personal preference and you can't really say one way is better than the other.

Andrew, yeah, that's sort of my opinion at the moment.

Still, there is always the idea that maybe something will work against people my level because those guys just haven't seen the best counters to the stuff that I do - and when I go against better competition, my stuff won't work.

That's what Sperry says a lot, actually - that "against a good grappler, forget about (insert move/strategy)". And I think that can cause the viewers of his instructionals to get a bit paranoid at times about what works and what not.

And another thing that affects this is when the game evolves. For example, when ankle locks became popular, it forced open guard players to re-evaluate their guard strategy.


don't forget about the z-guard:

-easy to "pull" (just get on your side, bring your top knee across, and
slide one leg in deep to get the hook)

-keeps his weight off of you--you control the distance

-difficult to pass

-good sweeping options

-easy transitions to half-butterfly, regular half-gaurd, closed guard
(aka "blue belt guard"), feet-on-hips guard, and x-guard. in other
words, it's a very comfortable "reference point" guard to base your
other guard work off of.


Agreed, chickenfeet. Although I'm giving my half guard some break for a while. I'm tired of playing a "reactive-being-crushed-before-sweeping" game, which the half guard usually is ;)

I experimented with this last night during training.

To be honest, I'm not really seeing much use of the feet on hips guard in no-gi, except perhaps to transition from the closed guard to the butterfly guard when he postures up.

I haven't tried it that often but I think you can use your shin in the bicep to open up space to insert your underhook for your butterfly guard.

What sort of ruins it is the fact that your opponent can get upright posture which makes that type of guard much harder to use. Case in point: Nog vs. Fedor :)

The butterfly guard (with all its variations) really seems to work better against an upright posture. And when his posture is down, you usually want to climb your legs high up his back and onto one of his shoulders, so then you're basically using the closed guard, not the feet on hips guard.

But interestingly enough, beginners seem to offer themselves to the closed guard climbing attacks more often than advanced guys, who usually stay very upright when passing the guard. But sometimes an advanced guy will drop his/her head down when in the butterfly guard, either to do that type of pass or to catch his/her balance and then you can switch to a closed guard attack sequence and see how that goes.



i think the main "problem" with butterfly guard is that your opponent
can simply stand up. There are two basic ways to shut down the
you can smash forward and try to put guys back on the ground, smash
his hooks in to kill their leverage, and pass, OR you can break his
grips, stand up and force him to switch to a different guard, because
butterfly really doesn't work very well v. a standing opponent.

A counterargument would be that it's tough to "just stand up" when the
guy using butterfly guard has good upperbody grips. But seriously, it's
gonna be hard to stop anyone with some skill/experience from
countering your grips and standing up.

My point, if there is one, is that the no-gi open guard needs two
components: one that works against kneeling passers and one against
standing passers. For example, you'll need a butterfly game AND an x-
guard game, or a half-guard game AND a single-leg-guard game.

Does that fit in with your own experience?

Yeah, exactly. The closed guard, half butterfly guard or the half guard can be used against guys on their knees with their head down. The x guard, with variations, the heel hook/ankle lock attack, single leg guard, among other things can be used against standing opponents and the butterfly guard against kneeling opponent's with upright posture.

ttt for good post and info


Don't consider it as an "all or nothing" tactic.  The various guards all have subsystems of attacking from each position exclusively, but I much prefer to think of them as more like transitions.  You can use a foot on a hip momentarily while you transition to another guard, setup grips, setup a submission, etc.  You don't have to LEAVE your foot on the hip - it's just a single tool out of a multitude of tools that I know you possess.  Even if you decide to play with the foot on hip extensively, you'll learn to anticipate things such as leglocks - just like you do for techniques from any other type of guard - and you WILL develop counters as your awareness rises.

Even in MMA it has its uses.  Sometimes you WANT to stand back up.  Look at Ortiz vs. Belfort for a good example of Tito using open guard to momentarily back Vitor away to buy time.


Personally, I think Andrew Yao is spot on, as well.  Play with it for a while, and you'll find out if it works for YOU or not.  Some of the biggest names in grappling have a "signature move" that was not popular, or even high percentage, until they worked it and worked it and brought it to a high level in concert with the rest of their game.  Who knows?  Maybe you'll be the guy who everyone talks about in 10 or 15 years as the guy who revolutionized the Open Guard. :-)


IMO you should focus more on the theoretical part of your game (that's what I'm doing right now - I'm a blue that is doing only no gi). What I mean: try to figure out how to build your game on your qualities. Are you tall or short, strong or weak, flexible or not etc. and see what type of game fits you. Then, "where" do you want to use your guard: gi, no gi, MMA?
Getting back to your q. I think for me the open guard that you described is too defensive. It's safer when defending the pass but you don't have the tools (grips, leverage etc.) to attack sweeps or subs. I do think that it's the opposite of the JJ concept of "control". I often feel that I give the other guy the possibility of imposing his game.
Slightly off-topic. I've watched 1 h and 40 min. of rare footage of Rickson sparring. We all now he uses the closed guard. It impressed me how he limits his attacks from guard to armbar, triangle and flower sweep. Not even ONE attempt at omoplata, hip bumb, guillotine etc. But, man, his timing is everything. And breaking a guys posture is his "entry" in the closed guard, just like getting the underhooks in butterfly.
If the best ever JJ guy and the best nowadays JJ fighter are using the closed guard, I guess it can work. You don't need powerful grips (as for spider), short legs (as for x), flexibility (as for rubber), just train and build your awareness and timing.


Thanks for good answers. It's all much clearer to me now, both due to your answers and me thinking about it and experimenting with it.