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So You Want to Try Some Z Guard?
The history and development of jiu jitsu can have some very interesting parallels to one's personal development. In the beginning, most beginners are exposed to closed guard and the submissions and sweeps that can be initiated from this fundamental position. As we begin training more and more, we inevitably face opponents that force open our closed guards and begin working to pass. As our opponents begin to escape our closed guards, our answer is many times to desperate grab for and hold whatever we can, thus experiencing half guard for the first time. Similarly, in the history of jiu jitsu, half guard was once looked down upon because it was perceived as just a desperate attempt to stop ones opponent from passing the guard.
Enter the Z Guard
As half guard became more and more popular with practitioners, variations began to sprout. We are going to explore Z guard, which in simplest terms involves the use of one's top knee to relieve pressure and act as a counter to an opponent's smashing pressure. The bottom leg is still hooked on the opponents to keep tab on their hips and foreward progress.
The important thing to remember when implementing any new position or technique into your gameplan is that no matter what experience level we are currently at, we typically start over again at white belt with new positions. You must explore with patience and set realistic expectations. Most likely your training partners are going to pass your Z Guard relatively easily. This is to be expected. With time and dedication, you will slowly begin to slow down their passes and ultimately stop them and begin seeking out sweeps and reversals built off that initial position.
The following is a video which introduces a number of ways to force Z guard when facing your opponent on your knees.
By utilizing proper gripping techniques, along with body leverage and hip shifting you can quickly enter into a safe Z guard position.
From there, you could begin looking for possible sweep entries or even submission attacks.
In the following video, Bernardo Faria and Misael Miranda works from Z guard into Deep Half and then into a double under pass situation.
From the Z guard, Professor Faria is well-known for either securing a take down utilizing his excellent use of pant and lapel grips. In the rare case that the opponent blocks the takedown, Faria will quickly transition from the search for the take down to deep half guard.
Z Guard In Action
The video below is an excellent breakdown of Bernardo Faria's use of the Z guard in competition.
To further develop an understanding of the Bernardo Faria half guard system, you should check out his Battle Tested Half Guard Series and learn more.
With a little practice you will soon be taking this position that was once frowned upon as a desperate way to stop or delay an opponent's guard pass and begin develop it into a powerful and active position from where you can begin sweeping and submitting your opponents and having them fearful to even try to pass your guard.