The Intermediate’s Guide To Closed Guard In Jiu-Jitsu

Feb 12, 2023Jiu-Jitsu0 comments

Closed guard remains an effective position in contemporary no-gi jiu jitsu when approached systematically. In an era of open guards and leg locking, some mistakenly believe closed guard is outdated. However, closed guard still offers unique advantages if used strategically. This in-depth article will provide a comprehensive guide to mastering closed guard in modern no-gi jiu-jitsu. We will cover tactics for controlling posture, entering the side scissor position, attacking submissions and sweeps, and adaptations for different body types. A systematic approach to closed guard can make it an indispensable part of your no-gi game.

The Advantages of Closed Guard in No-Gi Jiu Jitsu

Closed guard provides some significant advantages that make it worth mastering even in the modern no-gi leg locking meta. Understanding these inherent advantages allows you to maximize closed guard’s strengths in your game.

Closed Guard Offers Strong Control of Distance

One major advantage of closed guard is the control it provides over distance and grips compared to open guards. With your legs wrapped around their torso, your opponent cannot easily move away or dictate when and where contact occurs. They are stuck dealing with you until they can open your guard.

This distance control gives you a tactical advantage. You can attack at will with submissions and sweeps from closed guard. Your opponent is limited to only defensive options until they can open your guard and pass. This allows you to be the aggressor.

Closed Guard Puts You in a Mechanically Strong Position

Another benefit of closed guard is the positioning of your hips above your opponent’s hips. Their upper body may be up, but your lower body wraps over their hips. This gives you tremendous leverage for sweeps and position changes compared to open guard.

If you sweep your opponent from closed guard, you often go straight past their guard into dominant mount or back mount. Open guard sweeps usually just result in a reversal of position. The leverage from your hips above theirs is a huge mechanical advantage.

You Can Attack While Their Options Are Limited

Finally, closed guard provides a tactical advantage in that you can attack at will, but your opponent’s attack options are very limited. Attempting submissions like armlocks from inside your closed guard are low percentage against an opponent of equal size and skill.

Your opponent realistically cannot attack effectively until they open your closed guard and pass. So you are free to be the aggressor, while their focus is limited to opening and passing your guard defensively before they can try to submit you.

Controlling Posture is Vital For Closed Guard Success

While closed guard provides many inherent advantages, realizing those strengths requires you win the critical battle of posture. Closed guard tactics and techniques all revolve around this central concept.

Your opponent knows standing up and opening your guard requires controlling their posture. You know that to attack and sweep effectively you need to break their posture. Winning this battle leads to closed guard success.

Break Their Posture By Removing Arm Posts

Your legs pulling won’t break their posture alone. They use arm posts on your body to stay upright when you pull with your legs. You must first remove these posts by getting your arms inside.

Swim your hands in deep to strip their grips. Now when you pull their posture down with your legs, their balance is broken and it’s very hard for them to re-establish their posts. This is how you win the posture battle from the bottom.

The Best Grips For Removing Arm Posts

The most common arm post grips are the biceps, armpits, or a single collar tie. Biceps posts are hardest to break, as they can drive their elbows down powerfully.

To strip bicep grips, bring both your hands over and around their shoulders. This prevents them from re-posting as you pull their posture down with your knees.

For armpit posts, get at least one hand deep and flick their wrist out. This leaves them unable to re-post when you break them down.

With a single collar tie, use two on one grip fighting to strip their posting hand away and off-balance them.

4 Clear Signs You Are Winning The Posture Battle

There are 4 clear signs that show you are winning the posture battle from closed guard:

  • Forcing your opponent’s hands to touch the mat. This compromises their base and makes it hard to re-establish strong posts.
  • Getting their hips or butt down to the mat. Their base is broken and they are in danger of being swept.
  • Breaking their posture down chest-to-chest with you. They can no longer posture up to open your guard.
  • Keeping their shoulders lower than their hips when standing. They don’t have the necessary upright posture to open your guard effectively.

Entering The Side Scissor From Closed Guard

Anytime you can get outside one of your opponent’s elbows from closed guard, you achieve a more dominant position. This is essentially halfway to taking their back.

The side scissor builds on this position, letting you attack the upper body effectively. Entering side scissor should be a high priority when working closed guard.

The Side Scissor is One of the Best Bottom Positions

The side scissor is arguably the single most dominant bottom position in jiu jitsu. You threaten their back and submissions while their offense is still limited.

Most dominant positions involve passing your opponent’s guard. The side scissor gives you tremendous control while still underneath your opponent. This makes it excellent for attacking and sweeping from your closed guard.

3 Reliable Methods to Enter Side Scissor

There are 3 excellent methods to enter side scissor from closed guard:

Elbow Posting

If their hand is on centerline, elbow post it across as you pull with your knees. Grab the lat muscle then scoot your hips out sideways to complete the side scissor.

Arm Drag

When their hands are low, sit up and drag their arm across quickly. Maintain your grip on their tricep as you enter the side scissor.


Secure an underhook, work into a pinch headlock, then elbow post their arm across. Scoot your hips out to finish in side control.

Practice all 3 methods until you can quickly transition to side scissor as opportunities arise in training.

Elevate Your Hips to Maximize Control

Once in side scissor, your next goal is to maximize control of their posture. Push your hips away, then re-lock your legs as high up their back as possible.

Get your knee tight behind their head before breaking their posture down. This support from your knee makes it much harder for them to posture up and escape.

Attacking From Dominant Positions in Closed Guard

Entering side scissor sets you up perfectly to start attacking your opponent with submissions and sweeps. Their defensive options are limited, so you can be the aggressor.

Break Their Posture Down, Lock It Down, Then Attack

If you win the posture battle from closed guard, keep them broken down by locking up dominant grips. The double underhook series controls their torso perfectly for attacking.

Other useful grips include the overhook or wrist control on one side, and a whizzer on the other side. Kimuras and triangle attacks work well from this position.

Achieve Mount or Back Mount When Sweeping

From side scissor, you can efficiently climb into back mount or fully mounted positions. Your leverage from closed guard allows you to take dominant positions when you sweep your opponent.

Look to climb into back control or full mount as you off-balance them. This lets you attack while their defensive options are limited due to losing posture.

Off-Balancing Standing Opponents

If they successfully stand up in your closed guard, grip fight intelligently to strip their posts. Time your knee pull to off-balance them as they lift one leg to take their next step.

If they resist your knee pull strongly by driving their hips back, look to scoop or hip heist them over backwards onto their butt. Play your forward and backward off-balancing attempts against each other.

Closed Guard Strategies For Different Body Types

While closed guard is effective for all body types, some adaptations make it easier depending on your build. Shorter, stockier fighters can still use closed guard successfully with a tailored strategy.

A 2-Stage Approach for Shorter Fighters

The main closed guard challenge for shorter fighters is posture breaking. A taller opponent can posture more easily. A 2-stage approach addresses this:

Stage 1 – Accept a broken posture temporarily and lock your legs in place around their hips. This limits their offense options.

Stage 2 – Release your legs and shrimp your hips out to the side. Re-pummel your arms to gain an underhook or wrist control. Now you can break their posture back down more easily.

Get comfortable transitioning between these stages – it will make closed guard much more effective if you are short.

Create Angles to Compensate for Less Limb Length

Short limbs make it harder to control posture and distance from closed guard. Using angles is crucial to compensate for this.

Get proficient at shrimping out sideways to enter the side scissor. The mechanical leverage from this angle lets you threaten the back and tilt the advantage back in your favor.

Don’t stay square on and rely only on your limbs. Use angles proactively so limb length is less of a limiting factor.

Master The No-Gi Closed Guard At Apex MMA

Apex MMA on Sydney’s Northern Beaches incorporates closed guard techniques like those covered in this article into its no-gi training. Try a beginner class or 7 day free trial to experience it yourself.

author avatar
Team Apex MMA Martial Arts Coach
Apex MMA is a specialist mixed martial arts gym focusing on Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Led by an experienced team of instructors, Apex MMA offers comprehensive training programs for students of all ages and skill levels. With Apex MMA's systematic teaching methods, passion for martial arts, and strong community relationships, you will gain the tools to succeed in the gym and beyond.
You may like also
Mastering Boxing Footwork for MMA

Mastering Boxing Footwork for MMA

Boxing footwork forms the foundation for success in mixed martial arts (MMA). Proper footwork allows fighters to control distance, set up strikes, and move efficiently around the cage.

read more