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How to Become Great At Guard Retention
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How to Become Great At Guard Retention

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One of the biggest struggles new students experience when beginning Jiu Jitsu is guard retention. Guard retention is the way grapplers can prevent their opponent from passing their legs and hips and ending up in a superior position such as side control, mount, and even back control.

Personally, I find guard retention to be the most difficult element of competitive Jiu Jitsu. If you have ever watched a high-level Jiu Jitsu match, especially in the IBJJF format, you will notice how much effort is placed in retaining guard and how long it usually takes for a black belt to pass another black belt’s guard.

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The difficulty of guard retention is different that other issues we experience in Jiu Jitsu in a few ways. First, guard retention is on part of Jiu Jitsu that does not frequently get taught in class outside of drills. Sure, we do shrimps and gorilla drills, but we don’t spend fifteen to twenty minutes actually drilling specific guard retention techniques.

The other part of guard retention that makes it so difficult is that it relies almost exclusively on mental speed rather than physical speed. Although physical speed can help, most high-level grapplers are very similarly agile. Mental speed is where grapplers can differ.

So, how does someone get good at guard retention? Well, there are a lot of ways to get good at this. Just like every other aspect of Jiu Jitsu, time spent of practicing this part will always correlate to improvements. There is a lot of things to consider when wanting to improve guard retention.

In the following video, Professor John Danaher discusses the basic theory behind guard retention and discusses what students should consider when practicing it. See below:

Although John discusses many different elements of guard retention in this video, there are two basic concepts every single grappler should apply.

The first concept is recognizing what form of guard passing one’s opponent is trying to use. First, there are three major modes of guard passing: standing, aka fast passing, pressure passing, and passes that utilize submissions.

Building that skill will help improve on the second major concept, which is building guard retention based off of the strengths and weakness of the different style of passes.


John Danher is one of the few people to have athletes be successful at the highest levels in both Professional Grappling as well as MMA. He has systemized his approach to teaching,learning,and APPLYING his Jiu-Jitsu. Enter the System with John Danaher!

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