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Artechoke in a Can: Basic X-Guard

Our half guard journey, specifically the focus on using a butterfly half guard to create space and movement when an opponent is particularly good at pinning you flat, has been moving toward one position: the X-guard.

X-guard is a natural next step when you play butterfly guard because your opponent’s attempts to ride out a butterfly sweep will often create the space that you need to swim underneath and establish the X-guard position. Though playing X-guard can fill a sizable hole in their games, many newer grapplers avoid the position because its apparent complexity is intimidating.

Like any position, the rabbit hole of counters and recounters can run pretty deep, but that doesn’t mean that you have to master the entirety of Marcelo Garcia’s X-guard system to make the X-guard a practical, effective part of your game.

In today’s lesson, we look at three basic X-guard attacks—counters to the most common reactions that you will encounter when you play X-guard. This is X-guard 101 for me, and it’s a simple way to expand your butterfly and half guard games. In this first technique, we look at how to sweep an opponent that postures up to maintain his base in your X-guard.

In this next technique, your opponent posts his hands on the mat to keep from getting swept. This is an incredibly common scenario, especially if you entered X-guard from a failed butterfly sweep. When you work this technique, remember to attack the single leg with a diagonal angle. You should be driving toward the shoulder of the arm you’re attacking as if you are forcing him to do a forward roll. If you try to move toward your opponent’s far leg, his base will remain strong.

If you wondered what to do if you couldn’t control the wrist in the last technique, this should answer your question. If your opponent’s far wrist is out of reach when his hands are on the mat, he is likely working to bear crawl away from your X-guard. Alternatively, he could backpedal to recover his posture, in which case his wrist will move into range, at which point you can use either the first or second technique.

At first glance, this kneebar may not look secure. In most cases, I’d agree with you, but this particular entry relies on your opponent to do most of the work for you. When your opponent tries to run out of the X-guard, his trailing leg natural extends for the kneebar, saving you the work of battling your way into position for the finish. If you latch on to the leg quickly and align the leg properly, you can skip quickly to applying finishing pressure. Remember to get your hips high on your opponent’s leg (your hips close to his hips) and to hug the leg tightly.

And that concludes our half guard module. Next week, we will start a module on the mount position.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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