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The Butterfly Effect: Learn to Love the Butterfly Guard Position

The Butterfly Effect: Learn to Love the Butterfly Guard Position



I will admit that the one position that never made any sense to me was the Butterfly Guard. I simply saw it as an imaginary position that might only happen if the match started on our knees, but even then, it seemed questionable. Over the past four years, I have had a great number of classes involving techniques with the position; I have never done a Butterfly Sweep in live rolling, however. So what is the point and how can you begin to make the Butterfly position a part of your game?

First, I had an epiphany during my match at World Masters this year. As my opponent pulled guard, he moved to a supine Butterfly Guard. Fortunately, I have had many partners attempt the same maneuver, and I simply stabilize my weight low and nullify his hooks until I can get one of my legs inside. The challenge, of course, is that I am essentially sitting on two powerful springs that are waiting to launch me overhead or to the side. But what was interesting in this match was that my opponent was aiming for something else, or at least the feedback I felt from his body told me so: he wanted to transition from Butterfly to Single Leg X to enable a straight footlock. 

In John Danaher’s Leglocks: Enter the System, he demonstrates the importance of “inside position” at minute 19:12 of the first video. It was the epiphany connected: my opponent was not “playing Butterfly Guard” in a traditional sense, but rather seeking out “inside position” with his hooks inside to be able to enter the Ashi Garami game. It was going to be a tense five minutes once I realized what my opponent was aiming to accomplish, as I wanted to walk away from the match with my feet and knees intact. Eventually, I untangled the trap and begin passing attempts, but lost in the final moments due to a perfectly executed stand-up sweep that I had never seen before.

Still, I walked away unscathed and unsubbed, which none of his next three opponents could say. I would find out a week later on social media that my opponent studies under Professor Danaher, so now I was even more intrigued to unravel the connection between Butterfly Position, Inside Position and the attacks that are opened up through transitions to Single Leg X/ Ashi Garami.

Second, a few months back Marcelo Garcia black belt, Jonathan Satava, came out with 

The Modern Butterfly Guard at BJJ Fanatics. At first, I was skeptical as to its efficacy, but after watching his free introduction video explaining the position’s purpose and showing a general landscape for the Butterfly position in modern, no gi jiu jitsu, I was hooked. No one in my studies had ever explained the different ranges, angles and options as well as he did in this short video with Bernardo Faria. If you have a few minutes, then I highly recommend watching this particular video. Be forewarned, however: you will want to purchase this instructional once you glean what it can offer in terms of overall understanding and conceptual options. 

Understanding the Butterfly Guard by Jonathan Satava 


Using a $100 coupon I received from BJJ Fanatics for becoming a Brown Belt in their points system, I decided to delve deeply into the position by buying both Jon Satava’s video and Rafael Formiga’s The Butterfly Guard System. I simply felt that if I was going to actually understand the position, then I would need to watch different practioner’s perspectives and see how angles, go or no gi, and techniques might change the game approach. I was not disappointed in either video, but I do feel that they offer completely different pathways for a lower belt to consider when building their Butterfly game. 

How to Deal With a Wrestler from Butterfly Guard by Rafael Formiga


Rafael Formiga offers techniques. They are unique, battle-tested techniques and they are explained in clear terms that are common to the genre of instructionals. Conceptually, less is offered by the master, but technically the set-ups and finishes are superb. If you are playing a gi-based game, especially in a Masters/Senior division, then this is a definite place to go to find techniques that will give depth to your Butterfly game. Of especial interest to me were his Transitions to X Guard and the chapter on Technical Standup (the way I was swept in my aforesaid competition match).

Let Formiga update your Butterfly Guard! Click Learn More!


Jonathan Satava is presenting his interpretation to the position almost four years later, and jiu jitsu instruction has changed dramatically in that time. Concepts and explanations of the purpose of techniques abound in Satava’s presentation. He does focus solely on a no gi game, though, and his seated position might not work so well when opponent’s can grab your pants to defeat your hooks and posture. In the end, these the work of these two instructors are complimentary, and perhaps even necessarily so, if you are going to comprehend the depth of the position. 

For the next two months I will be working on learning transitions to and from the Butterfly Guard, if only to ensure that I do not become susceptible to the sweeps and leg attacks that I witnessed in Masters-level competition. What is most exciting is that I finally understand how the Butterfly position can be used as a transitional maneuver to Danaher’s concept of “inside position” and not only as a sweeping and attacking guard. 

The Modern Butterfly Guard No Gi by Jon Satava
The Modern Butterfly Guard No-Gi By Jon Satava gives you an In-Depth look at the 2018 ADCC East Coast Trials Champ’s Butterfly Guard. The Modern Butterfly Guard No-Gi is a 4 part instructional that is sure to UPDATE and IMPROVE your Butterfly Guard. Cover all of the aspects required to be a Butterfly Guard MASTER. Learn the Grip Variations, Sweep Attacks, and Submissions that make Satava Great!



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