BJJ Guards and Positions Explained

As a new white belt the concept of the guards may seem foreign, however when you understand the goal of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu it will make much more sense.  The goal of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to get your opponent to the ground, pass their legs, secure a dominant position and submit or tap out your opponent.  World renowned BJJ coach John Danaher explains it best here on this short clip from the Joe Rogan Podcast:


So to recap at a high level BJJ can be defined in the following steps or order of operations to be win:

  1. Get the fight to the ground
  2. Get past their dangerous legs
  3. Go through a hierarchy of pins (pinning your opponent to the ground through various grappling positions) where by you can effectively and safely strike your opponent
  4. Submit your opponent through various strangles and joint locks

As a new white belt your opponent will be working through the various steps as outlined above to control you and to submit you.  The purpose of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guards is to prevent that and to secure offense submissions and reversal of positions so that you can attain dominant positions over your opponent through sweeps and reversals.

At a high level in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the basic guards can be categorized in the following 3 classes:

  • Closed Guard (Full Guard)
  • Open Guard
  • Half Guard

Basic Guards (White Belt Level)

Closed Guard (Full Guard) – Where you have both legs wrapped around your opponents waist. This guard can be very effective in an offensive position to gain submissions and from a defensive position to reverse (get on top) or sweep your opponent.


Half Guard – This can be known as Knee Shield or Z Guard but essentially you have both legs entangled in your opponent one leg. As the name implies this guard differs from closed guard or full guard because you are focusing your defense/offense on 1 side of your opponents body.


Open Guard – These types of guards usually infer that your legs are in front of your opponent and there is some distance between yourself and your opponent.  Versus closed and half guard where your legs will be entangled and your opponent will be very close to you.

At a high level when playing guard (defense in BJJ) you want to have as much distance between you and your opponent. This means that defensively when using guards  in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you are using your legs and arms in various defensive positions called frames and to keep your opponent from securing more dominant positions.

You will want to use all the guard types to keep a defensive barrier between yourself and your opponent.

Keenan Cornelius explains it best here:


Types of Open Guards

There are many different guards that can be classified under Open Guard.

Collar Sleeve Guard

Butterfly Guard

Spider Guard

De La Riva (pronounced De-La-Hiva) or shortened to DLR

Reverse De La Riva or shortened to RDLR

Single Leg X Guard

Quarter Guard

Lapel, Worm, Squid Guard


As a newer white belt in Jiu Jitsu you are better off focusing on your closed guard & half guard  positions with 1 or 2 Open guards like a basic collar sleeve and Butterfly Guard.


Another great video on Guard Retention



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