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The Importance Of Guard And How To Defend It With Mikey Musumeci

The Importance Of Guard And How To Defend It With Mikey Musumeci



Jiu jitsu enjoys a special place in the grappling world. Over the past 30 years, jiu jitsu has been the fastest growing grappling art in the world. Interested observers could point to many factors to explain this phenomenon. The first UFC was essentially an infomercial for brazilian jiu jitsu, so it has enjoyed a vehicle for publicity that other grappling arts have not equally utilized; however, this seems insufficient to explain jiu jitsu’s rise in popularity, for wrestling has been extremely advantageous in mixed martial arts competition.

The popularization of the UFC has proven the absolute importance of grappling, but does not explain why jiu jitsu has been exceptional in appeal to the average person. A comparison of the most effective grappling arts might be helpful to fill this gap in knowledge. The two legitimate alternatives to jiu jitsu as an effective grappling based martial art are Judo and Amatuer Wrestling. Let’s examine these styles.

In its essence, Judo is the art of upper body throws. Of course, the Judo cannon has myriad techniques that cover takedowns with leg grabs, submissions, and guard work. That is not mutually exclusive with the idea that modern judo incentivizes the near exclusive practice of upper body throws with time-limited ground work. Wrestling is similarly focused on takedowns, but is more comprehensive in means. Wrestlers can attack the legs as well as throws. Where wrestling falls short is the absence of submission holds. Further, the rule-set of wrestling prohibits the use of any guard play. 

A second element that is more pronounced in wrestling and judo when compared to jiu jitsu is the physical toll on the body. Both wrestling and Judo feature higher impact techniques which most hobbyists are not willing to endure. 

Why Is Jiu Jitsu Different?

The distinction which makes jiu jitsu valuable to the lay man in ways that wrestling and judo are not is the guard. Rule-sets in jiu jitsu incentivize the development of guard playing skills. Because of this, jiu jitsu players are comfortable defending and attacking from their back. So much so that the guard of a jiu jitsu player can be a dangerous place for an opponent. Hobbyist practitioners find this appealing because becoming adept at guard work arguably requires less physical ability than wrestling takedowns or judo throws. Therefore, your average person can become a competent martial artist without having notable athletic skills. 

What Is A Guard

Understanding how to play and defend guard, which we will get to in the technique video below, requires us to understand what a guard is on a fundamental level. Conceptually, a guard is simply a collection of frames and hooks that can immobilize or manipulate an opponent’s body. A guard necessitates leg involvement because the legs increase the potential frames and hooks the guard player can form to defend and attack. Passing a guard involves removing frames so that you can move around the legs. Conversely, recovering guard requires the bottom player to reestablish frames with their legs.

With this understanding in mind, let’s analyze the technique. In the video below, the great Mikey Musumeci teaches how to defend a precarious position, the inside torreando grips, and transition to an effective guard or attacking position.

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The Technique

Let’s start with what Mikey is defending against. The inside grip torreando pass is a common pass that is effective throughout the belt continuum. To complete this pass the opponent will grip inside of the guard player’s knees, push the feet to the floor, and walk around the legs. This pass is effective because the passer removes your frames when they push your feet to the floor. Without frames to hold the passer in place, they have an open path around the guard. 

Mikey’s first move is to reestablish frames. He does this by circling his feet around the outside of the opponent’s arms and places them on their shoulders. Next, Mikey forms grips on the sleeve and collar. These grips serve both as frames, blocking the opponent from moving forward, and hooks, preventing the opponent from moving away. The hooking function is leveraged in Mikey’s next step. When Mikey scoots away from his opponent, the hooking grips on the collar and sleeve bring the opponent’s posture forward. Breaking their posture in this way shifts their weight to their hands, creating a vulnerability for attack. When Mikey breaks the grip on his pants, it is similar to knocking down a weight bearing pillar; the structure crumbles. Opponents will fall forward, opening them up for upper body attacks like triangles and omoplatas. 

Not every opponent will allow their posture to be broken. Savvy competitors will walk their feet forward to preserve their posture. In this situation, their legs are close enough to your body for you to establish the guard of your choice. 

Where To Learn More

Learn more of Mikey’s guard retention techniques along with slick back takes in his instructional Power Switch Guard Retention and Genius Back Takes (



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