x-guard basics

Knowing the X-guard basics in BJJ can get you a lot of advantage over your opponent, especially if he/she is not familiar with this pretty unusual type of guard. After reading this article and getting familiar with the basic entries and sweeps presented here, you will have enough knowledge to start using your X-guard basics right away during regular rolls and in competition.

Origins of The X-Guard

The X-guard was brought to fame by the great BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia. He masterfully implemented this position in many of his ADCC performances and the position became known because of it. The X–guard has been used at the highest levels of competition for years. Many world champions with a black belt have used this guard to win titles over the years. Today, there are many BJJ practitioners who incorporate various elements of this position to improve their game.

What Exactly Is The X-Guard?

The X-guard is one of the best guards in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is mainly used in sports Jiu-Jitsu and is a great tool for sweeping opponents in competition. While this guard isn’t the best one for submitting an opponent, it has a myriad of benefits and we’ve recently seen an explosion in the popularity of lower body attacks. The X-guard is an excellent door to attack the lower body.

Depending on the way you look, X-guard can be classified as either a form of Open Guard or a Half Guard. Maybe that’s why both of those positions transition so well into the X-guard.

Some BJJ practitioners think the X-guard isn’t a form of a guard at all. This is because once you get to it, you have already done about 80% of the hard work and the sweep is almost inevitable. It is more like a final stage of a sweep, rather than a static guard position that you would keep your opponent in for an extended period of time. And if you use Butterfly Guard, it’s an absolutely non-negotiable necessity to intermix it with the X-guard.

Having the X-guard BJJ basics in your back pocket can provide you with the answer to many difficult situations. For example, when your opponent is trying to stand up to walk past your Butterfly Guard and then – boom – jamming your body under their center of gravity, getting the hooks into position, and lifting your opponent into the air with your X-guard!

From X-guard there are a plethora of sweeping options and even some cool submission attacks.

In the following short video, Stephan Kesting first shows us how to do the X-guard correctly. Then, he shows his favorite way to train the X-guard, so that it’s much easier to get into and maintain that position in a real match!

How to Get to X-Guard

This is a guard that is somewhat difficult to pull off. In most cases, you will need to reach a certain position with your rolling partner before you can get to the X-guard. Basically, you will have to lie down and your opponent to stand up. You will grab his front leg with your hand and then form two hooks with your feet on his hind leg – one from the outside and one from the inside. And this is the basis of the position – you are now holding the opponent in X-guard.

Principles of X-guard

We can see a tendency in BJJ towards attacking the lower body more, and because of it, we can witness a whole new system of X-guard emerging.  The X-guard has long been one of the best guards because you are completely underneath your opponent, and if you add leg locks to the equation things get hot pretty quick! 

1. Control

The X-guard gives you incredible control over your opponent. Many traditional passes won’t work well against the X-guard, so just putting your opponent in position will throw them off initially. If you have managed to place your opponent in the X-guard, you now have the opportunity to move your opponent forward, backward, left and right.

If you get into the X-guard and just sit there, your opponent will have time to think and start passing. Don’t give them time to think and constantly try to off-balance them. Also, separate the hooks apart so that they are stronger and keep your knees wide.

Many people who play X-guard tighten their knees and bring them closer together because they think it makes your hooks tight (like scissors), but you actually want to open your knees and pull the hooks in different directions. Another important element of playing X-guard is to keep your opponent’s leg all the way on your shoulder, not on your biceps, and to control their knee.

Perhaps the most important detail of good X-guard basics will be the fact that you have to move fast. You don’t want to go into the X-guard and say “Wow, I’m in the X Guard.” You want to get into the position and immediately start attacking by submission or start sweeping an opponent.

2. Sweeps

The X-guard is one of the best guards you can use to sweep your opponent. Our theory is that if it works at the highest levels of competition, it will work anywhere and anytime. Many of the biggest competitors have used the X-guard to sweep their opponents. Some of them are Marcelo Garcia, Leandro Lo, Buchecha and many others.

Why is it such a powerful guard for sweeping? Because of how unorthodox it is, you’ll undo many of your opponent’s passes, just by putting them in the X-guard. That being said, you have to move fast. Entering X-guard is like passing 50% of the way through a sweep. There are numerous sweeps and trips from X-guard that are all high in percentage; you just need to hit them fast.

One of the best sweeps that can be executed from the X-guard is the Sit-Up Sweep. With this sweep, extend your legs as you come up to your elbow. Then you take off the upper hook and come to your hand, after that you do a technical stand-up all the while keeping the opponents other leg firmly on your shoulder. This is one of the best X-guard sweeps. Another great sweep is the X-Guard Trip. This is very simple; you just drop your bottom hook to the opponent’s ankle, and pull your hooks apart.

3. Lower Body Attacks

Now that we’ve seen so many sub-only tournaments like Eddie Bravo Invitational, Polaris and others, we’ve seen people become obsessed with lower body attacks. One of the best positions to perform an attack on the lower body is the X-guard, because you are completely below your opponent and you can start using various leg locks, such as a knee-bar, toe hold, ankle lock and heel hook.

The X-guard also works well in combination with a single-leg X-guard or Ashi Garami. Single leg-X guard (or Ashi Garami) may easily be the foundation of all leg lock submissions. It is the most important guard to learn if you want to be able to do lower body attacks successfully.  That said, one of the best ways to get into the single leg X is to get there from the X-guard.

The X-guard can also offer you lots of other leg lock entanglement entries, such as the saddle, outer ashi, cross ashi, and more. This guard is not only a great position to enter leg entanglements from, but is also one of the best ways to avoid getting your legs attacked. When you’re in the X-guard, it’s almost impossible for people to attack your legs as long as you follow some fundamental X-guard principles – the basics. The basic rule of your “leg protection” is to always have the “inside position“. This can be achieved in several ways, and one of them is by playing X-guard.

Variations of the X-Guard

The most popular variation of the X-guard is the variation called Single Leg X-Guard. This is a position in which you will not form a cross with your legs. The reason why this variation still contains the letter “X” in the name is that you can use it for a smooth transition to full X-guard. In fact, you will be able to see how many more experienced BJJ practitioners perform this transition on a regular basis. Not to mention that this position has no merits of its own – it can also be used phenomenally for the purpose of attacking the legs.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits of using X-guard: you can use X-guard basics quite effectively to sweep your opponent and get to a more favorable position. By using your arm and your hooked feet you can decide where and how to destabilize your opponent. You can move him to the left or right, or you can pull him towards you and push him away from you. There are also many variations of leg attacks that you can perform from here – this is a position we see more and more in tournaments that promote full leg attacks, like EBI and Polaris. All in all, it is one of the best positions to get an advantage over your opponent in an unorthodox way.