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BUTTERFLY BJJ
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BUTTERFLY BJJ

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The art of BJJ has grown significantly since Helio Gracie first showcased his system of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Many of his techniques still apply to the modern age of grappling, as many of these techniques have also seen significant developments. One innovation that has become clear to higher level practitioners is that Jiu Jitsu is not a specific set of techniques that can be taught. Instead Jiu Jitsu is a concept, and this means that many of these specific techniques are open to interpretation, and can be altered, and modified to suit the specifications of each individual athlete. Many high level athletes are constantly creating their own systems in Jiu Jitsu like the diamond guard bjj system created by Xande Ribeiro, the worm guard created by Keenan Cornelius, and the bjj rubber guard system created by Eddie Bravo. 

What this article covers:

There are a multitude of different guard systems that all have a specific purpose in the bigger picture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Even though some of these guards are highly technical like the bjj inverted guard, many of the other more simplistic guards like the half guard, the full guard, and the butterfly guard are still extremely effective against opponents. In most cases it is the traditional elements in Jiu Jitsu that are the most important, as they are fundamentally the backbone to an effective Jiu Jitsu game style. The butterfly guard is one of those fundamental guard positions that has a high calibre of functional movements, while still being extremely simple to execute.

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WHAT IS THE BUTTERFLY GUARD 

Like many of the guard systems in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu each one is designed for a specific role. The butterfly guard is one of those systems that can be extremely effective in grappling, or even in Mixed Martial Arts. The butterfly guard is quite similar to a bjj open guard, and this is because the butterfly does not involve wrapping legs around the waist of their opponent, instead it relies upon using one or both hooks inside the groins of their opponent.

Adam Wardzinski is arguably the best butterfly guard player in competitive BJJ today!  He has opened up his playbook for all of you to see with BUTTERFLY GUARD REDISCOVERED available from BJJFanatics.com!

jiu jitsu butterfly guard

With the butterfly guard there are many different variations, as the athlete is able to utilise double under hooks, one over hook and one under hook, or double over hooks. Any of these combinations that an athlete decides to use, can be extremely advantageous, especially with sweeping an opponent. The butterfly guard is also known as the cocoon in Eddie Bravo's jiu jitsu rubber guard system, as this position requires one hook in the groin, the other guarding the outside of their opponents hip, while securing one over hook, and one under hook.

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INNOVATORS OF THE BUTTERFLY GUARD 

The butterfly guard has had many innovators over the evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Since the Brazilian art was handed down by the Japanese Martial Artist Mitsuyo Maeda, the classic hook guard was seen throughout the art of Judo, and was also passed down to the Gracie family. Many of the early Gracies would utilise butterfly hooks in their guard systems, as famous fighters like Rickson Gracie, Carlson Gracie, and Rolls Gracie would dominate their matches with the butterfly hook game. During the 1970's, and the 1980's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu veered towards the sporting aspect, as the birth of competitive Jiu Jitsu saw an interaction between various academies, which began to help the development of the sport. 

Some of the greatest innovators of the sport began evolving the butterfly game, and discovering different techniques that could be used. Sergio Bolao Souza was a gifted practitioner who trained under the Carlson Gracie team. His philosophy was guided by some of the greatest Jiu Jitsu minds of all time, as he began turning the butterfly game into his own speciality. His presence on the competition mats was huge, as he began defeating many well known grapplers on the professional circuit. Sergio gained notoriety for his development of the balloon sweep, or otherwise known to the older practitioners as the Bolao sweep. 

During the 90’s Carlos Gracie Jr had a team of superstars like Renzo Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado, Nino Schembri, and Flavio Almeida. Carlos' highly talented team also added significant innovations to the butterfly game, as many of them were heavily linked with the CBJJ in the mid 90’s. As the development rolled on into the early 2000’s, Jean Jacques Machado and Renzo Gracie demolished the ADCC competition with their hook sweeping ferocity, along with Leo Santos, and Nino Schembri who also dominated their competitions with their unique butterfly innovations. Other practitioners like Marcelo Garcia raised the bar significantly as he revolutionised the butterfly by adding variations that led to the x guard, and his iconic guillotine setups. Up until 2010 the butterfly game was a high commodity in competitive grappling, only to be somewhat replaced by the new aged stylings of the bjj z guard, the 50/50 guard, and the k guard systems. 

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SWEEPING FROM THE BUTTERFLY

There have been many sweeps that can be attributed to high level practitioners like Renzo Gracie, Sergio Bolao, Robson Moura, Royler Gracie, and Marcelo Garcia. One of the most iconic butterfly sweeps is the balloon sweep, which is also known as the bolao sweep. The first step is to set up two butterfly hooks in an opponent's groin, and secure two sleeve grips. It is important to note that the athlete should grip onto the Gi just below their opponent's elbow, and this will make it harder for them to break the grip. From here the athlete will scoot their but in towards their opponent's hips, as they use their butterfly hooks to lift them. Using the momentum from their opponent's hips when they are high, the athlete will bring their own knees to their chest, and place their feet in their opponent's hips. Finally they should elevate their opponent, as they pull their arms down, before rolling over their own shoulder, and securing the mount.

Another good sweep from the butterfly guard is the pump action shotgun sweep. This gets its name from the relentless resetting, and reloading of the sweep attempt until it succeeds. The concept of this sweep is simple, as the athlete will lay on their side securing a deep butterfly hook with their top leg, with the same side arm securing a belt grip. Their second butterfly hook will be shallow, as they will secure an over hook with their arm, gripping the tricep. The next step is to elevate their opponent with their deep butterfly hook, as they attempt to sweep them over. Quite often the opponent will nearly escape out of the hook, so what the athlete needs to do is reload by shooting the knee of their shallow hook towards their opponent's head, and elevate with their deep hook again. This process should be repeated numerous times until the athlete has achieved the sweep.

 Another highly effective sweep that was made famous by Marcelo Garcia, is an explosive snap down kind of butterfly sweep. To secure this sweep the athlete will start by grip fighting, and following the hands of where their opponent goes. After this little game of pummeling the athlete will shoot in quick for an over hook and a necktie. They will also secure their butterfly hooks, at the same time as squeezing the necktie and the over hook together. The important tip to know is that this maneuver should be fast, and dynamic, as they explode into the sweep. When the athlete has all of their controls set, they will sweep their opponent explosively, as they follow the movement, and take a dominant control position. It is important to apply strong pressure during, and after the sweep, as this will ensure the technique will make a significant impact on their opponent.

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TRANSITIONING TO THE BACK

Like most guard positions, using a transition into a back control can be extremely effective. The back control position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most dangerous position for an opponent, because of its complex controls that are hard to escape from. Using the butterfly guard the athlete can quite simply attack their opponent's arm with two hands, as they pull their opponent forward they can secure a grip on the belt. From here it is easy to elevate their opponent with their hook, before turning them with the belt grip, and then dropping in their first hook behind their back. They can then proceed to square up to the centre of their back, securing the second hook, and controlling them with a seatbelt grip, before attacking the neck with a choke.

Another way to take the back from the butterfly guard is to set up an arm drag. The athlete will firstly take a wrist grip, and bring in their second hand to secure a grip on the tricep. Once they have a control, they will shoot the same side leg out wide, as they pull themself up using their arm drag, and climb up and throw a leg over their opponent's back securing their back control hooks. From here they can secure the seat belt grip, and flatten their opponent out by pushing them belly down. Another way to finish the technique is to roll their opponent over, and sink in the rear naked choke. Finishing a match with a choke from the back, is one of the most reliable ways to achieve a submission, and this is because an athlete is relatively safe from a countermeasure, and can execute their will from the hardest position to escape from in BJJ. 

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BUTTERFLY GUARD SUBMISSIONS

The butterfly guard has a lot of specific applications to high level movements. Utilising this type of guard can give an athlete multiple opportunities to attack submissions. Most students will think the butterfly guard was designed to sweep an opponent, but in reality this intricate guard system has more backbone than just a simple sweeping mechanism. There are many submissions that can be set up from the butterfly like the triangle, or the arm bar, as these two finishers are among the most popular choice of submission maneuvers. The omoplata is another joint lock that can be accessed from the hook game, as high level practitioners like Marcelo Garcia, Teco Shinzato, and Renzo Gracie all utilise these devastating submission techniques.

There are other submissions like the arm crush, the wrist lock, the arm cutter, the kimura, and the guillotine that are all just as deadly as the next. The butterfly guard made significant inroads into the leg lock game after the discovery of the heel hook from the butterfly. Because of this innovation, the Jiu Jitsu game began to flourish with an unexpected series of more complex leg lock guards like the single leg x guard, the de la riva guard, the reverse de la riva guard, the 50/50 guard, and the saddle position. Understanding how to execute leg lock submissions is a special talent, and the butterfly guard does offer a specific template to be able to successfully complete submissions that torque the knee joints. 

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HOW TO PASS THE BUTTERFLY GUARD

One of the first steps to passing a butterfly guard is to identify how their opponent is set up with their structure. If the opponent is sitting forward with their hips back, then they are ready in a good base. It is important to begin by trying to break down the posture of their opponent, as it will become easier to push their opponent backwards, or rotate them towards their side. Another important step to remember is to keep an opponent's legs close together by pinching an athlete's knees in a clamping position. If the opponent has their legs more spread apart, then it becomes  easier for them to utilise elevation with their butterfly hooks. The athlete should attempt to engage their opponent with their elbows retracted into their sides, and this will make it harder for their opponent to secure sleeve grips, or arm drags.

Adam Wardzinski is arguably the best butterfly guard player in competitive BJJ today!  He has opened up his playbook for all of you to see with BUTTERFLY GUARD REDISCOVERED available from BJJFanatics.com!

bjj butterfly guard

To pass the butterfly guard, the athlete will use their timing to secure two ankle grips, or two grips on their Gi pants. From here they will quickly kneel down, pinching both of their opponent's legs between their knees. The next step is to use their forehead, and plant it into their opponent's chest, driving pressure up under their chin, but the athlete must be careful and not look down, or they might get caught in a guillotine choke. The athlete will then use their body pressure, and their dominant head pressure to push their opponent onto their back. Reaching back with their arm, the athlete will secure the leg of their opponent, as they do a quarter cartwheel over the legs, and land in a side control position. If the opponent sits up as the athlete is trying to pass, they can secure the ankle, and step over the leg, while rotating their opponent toward their side. Passing the butterfly guard can be tricky, and athletes should move cautiously, but ferociously if they want to be successful.

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