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Get on Board with the X Guard
When I first began training, I had not even been on the mat for a month yet, and my academy at the time was offering an x-guard seminar.
One of the higher ranked members was a huge fan of the position and the owner allowed him to put on the class. I had barely experienced the closed guard at that point, but I was super in to training and they said anyone was welcome, so I went.
As you can imagine, I was a bit lost, but overall, I enjoyed myself. I didn’t retain very much information and I certainly didn’t revisit the position anytime soon after that, but I did return to it some time later, and it has become one of my favorite guards to play. I’m glad I was exposed to the position early on. Even though it didn’t make much sense to me in the moment, it certainly piqued my interest, and I kept it in the back of my mind until I could begin understanding it on a deeper level.
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The x-guard isn’t as scary as it sounds. Anything with the letter “X” just sounds intimidating, but the truth is the x-guard is accessible to any player. The position is incredibly useful, interesting, and it’s a lot of fun to explore. The off-balancing properties of the position are second to none. If you use the x-guard efficiently, the top player should feel like they are on roller skates for the first time. There is a myriad of sweeps available from the position, not to mention, several transitions, leg lock entries, and a whole host of other techniques.
There are a staggering number of methods to enter in to the x-guard. You can find your way there from just about anywhere and make use of all the utilities the position has to offer with a little practice.
Let’s browse some x-guard material and see what the position has to offer.
In this video Lachlan Giles demonstrates how to enter the position, control, and finish with a sweep. This is a great place to start, as Giles will show you 3 basic themes dealing with the x-guard. I found this incredibly helpful! Check it out!
Giles employs the butterfly guard as his means of entry in to the x-guard. When playing butterfly guard there may be opportunities to find double under hooks. If this becomes a possibility we should do so. Giles beings by establishing double under hooks and scooting underneath his partner. He elevates his partner using the butterfly hooks and pulls him forward above his body. Immediately, Giles looks to under hook a leg and begins to pull himself toward it. The instep on his back leg enters from the rear and finds a home high in his partner’s hip/groin area. His opposite leg instep is placed under the first hook, attaching to the back of his partner’s knee. Giles has now established the x-guard.
Where control is concerned, Giles suggest we flare our knees outward. This will make our hooks much stronger and very difficult to remove. He also advises that we keep a grip above the knee as our handle to keep the leg within our control. The third component of control is something I’ve never really been exposed to before, but seems paramount. In addition to the flaring of the knees and Giles use of his hooks to extend his partner, he’s also putting pressure on his partner’s hamstring with his right knee. This creates a constant state of off-balance and keeps his partner’s hands on the floor. This is a phenomenal detail. Don’t forget it.
For the sweep, Giles keeps a tight grip on the knee, transitions his top hook to the inside of his partner’s thigh and uses it to kick him away. He simultaneously rises to his hand, and continues to get up from the floor, forcing the reversal.
Another good takeaway here is Giles’ advice on timing. He explains that the best time to begin implementing this sweep is at the exact moment that you cause your partner’s hands to hit the floor. This pocket of time provides a great platform for us to execute the sweep.
We’ll continue with a transition from deep half to x-guard from Lucas Valle. Have a look!
One of the most popular and effective techniques from the deep half guard is the waiter sweep. The application of this particular move commands some different reactions. One of those reactions can be seen in the video. As Valle attempts to elevate his partner and bend the leg to execute the sweep, his partner answers by keeping the leg straight. This stops the sweep but creates an opportunity to transition to the x-guard.
From the attempted waiter sweep Valle lifts his hips and lower back off of the ground causing his partner’s weight to shift to his front knee. This opens up a pocket of space under the extended leg of his partner that Valle can take advantage of. As his hips separate from the floor, Valle swivels under his partner. This lands him in perfect position to establish the x-guard. Valle can now begin to work from the position in any manner he chooses.
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Let’s look at another transition. This time from De La Riva guard to x-guard. Here, Gabriel Arges shows us how to switch our plans when our opponent is beginning to shut down our De La Riva guard. He’ll take you through the transition and end with a back take. This is really slick. Take a look!
Beginning in the DLR guard Arges’ partner begins by applying downward pressure to Arges’ knee. This is an incredibly common reaction to the DLR hook, but if you don’t act quickly it can be the beginning of the end of your stint playing guard.
As his partner pushes down on the DLR hook, Arges makes a quick switch. He changes his grip on the collar to the opposite side and transitions to half guard style position with a knee shield. From here, Arges reaches around his partner’s leg, encapsulating it with his arms and securing a gable grip. He then twists and rolls his body, pulling his partners leg on top of his torso. To create some space, Arges then uses his left leg to push his partner away, creating some distance and the space necessary for him to enter his x-guard hooks.
As his partner stands (as many will) Arges uses his hooks once again to make his partner’s right leg light. This allows him to transition the leg to the other side of his body. He is now free to spin towards the back and begin looking for a grip on the belt or the pants. This grip will allow Arges to push out with his hooks and pull his partner in to the back control.
Let’s move forward with a technique from Bruno Malfacine. I love the entry to the x-guard in this particular video, and I attempt it all the time. Have a look for yourself!
With a grip in the collar and another on the pants near his partners shin, Malfacine scoots himself under his partner while simultaneously using his grips to pull him forward, and his insteps to aid in the elevation process. As a result, Malfacine has successfully claimed space underneath his partner’s body, which is always a good thing.
From here, a transition to the x-guard is quite simple. After transitioning his partners leg to the opposite side of his body, Malfacine now begins to threaten a sweep. With his partner’s base compromised it seems likely that Malfacine would sweep him to the back side. His partner is more than likely thinking the same thing. As Malfacine sells the sweep, his partner is ready, and reacts by shifting his weight in the opposite direction. Malfacine takes advantage of this moment by extending his x-guard hooks and moving his partner forward.
I love the finish here. Many of us are used to standing up in base here to finish the sweep, but Malfacine offers a different suggestion. He uses his right foot to hook his partner’s based foot and pulls it out from under him. This causes him to collapse and leaves Malfacine in great position to continue advancing.
So, there you have it. There should be enough x-guard material here for you to keep you busy with the position for quite some time. We’ve looked at some very basic ways to set up the position and some more advanced transitions to think about, depending on what other types of guards you prefer. Good luck, and I hope this helps!