Brazilian jiu-jitsu has many different ways to advance to the ground. Practitioners utilize throws, trips, and takedowns; the other popular way is by pulling guard. But what does pulling guard mean?
Pulling guard is a tactical strategy where a BJJ practitioner would intentionally sit on the floor themselves and “give up” the top position to their opponent. Or they might execute a specific guard-pulling technique to pull the opponent down to the mat.
Although this tactic is not useful for real-life fighting, it is a very clever strategy in competition.
But what are the main benefits of pulling guard in BJJ? How this move helps you win matches? Read this article to discover all the answers.
What Does Pulling Guard Mean In BJJ?
In BJJ, pulling guard is when a practitioner intentionally drops to the ground from standing. They are willing to give the top position to their opponent as they trust their guard game and are confident working off their back.
Rather than engaging in an intense battle to secure a strong grip, execute a takedown or throw, they would drop down to the ground and accept to work from the bottom position.
Within the BJJ community, practitioners who utilize this tactic are known as “guard pullers.” And they are often mocked by others as this move is considered, let’s say, controversial. In their eyes, choosing to fall to your back is not a smart idea in a real fight, and as such, it should not be a part of BJJ. The attacker can strike you from the top position with punches and kicks. Thus, many consider this move “ineffective.”
However, this specific technique has always been a part of jiu-jitsu. Notably when it comes to sport variation, where pulling guard is a highly effective tactic.
Why Do People Pull Guard In BJJ?
“Guard pullers’ are skilled BJJ practitioners who feel comfortable working off their backs. They trust their guard, sweeps, and submissions and are willing to give up to the top position without resistance.
Once the guard is secured, they start attacking with sweeping and finishing moves. Or in other words, they prefer to work from the bottom than being on top, despite the bottom being considered an “inferior” position.
Apart from being confident on the bottom, BJJ practitioners pull guard for various other reasons. For example, they might decide to conserve energy by refusing to engage in a standup grappling exchange.
Or they might face a bigger and stronger opponent who might overwhelm them in the standup. So they accept the bottom position to prevent brutal takedowns and throws.
Also, this is a highly effective strategy in BJJ competition. If you are not confident in your standup grappling skills and you are facing an opponent who is, pulling guard is a smart idea because you won’t lose any points.
On the other side, if you allow the opponent to take you down, they would be awarded 3 points for each takedown, but by pulling guard, they won’t receive any.
Lastly, pulling guard is more common in the BJJ style than No-Gi. It is much easier to play from the bottom in a Gi style due to all the grips available.
How To Pull Guard In BJJ?
Here are some of the basic guard-pulling techniques in BJJ.
Basic Guard Pull
The initial step is to secure a collar and sleeve grip on your opponent. Then place one foot on the opponent’s hip on the same side as your sleeve grip. To finish the move, sit between their legs and pull their collar to break the opponents’ posture. Place your other leg on their hip, knee, or behind their foot to secure the guard position.
From this position, you can start attacking with different types of sweeps and submissions of your back, such as a triangle or armbar.
The jumping guard technique is banned for white belts according to IBJJF competition rules. Inexperienced practitioners can quickly get this one wrong and hurt themselves or the opponent.
When executing this move, you have to secure a strong grip, and rather than jumping up in the air, jump straight into your opponent’s hips. The key behind this move is the re-direction of energy.
Once you pull the opponent, they would react by pulling back. This is where you use the momentum to jump into their hip and lock your legs around their waist. The last thing left is to pull hard to break their posture and get into a guard position.
Tomoe Nage Into Guard
The other effective method to pull guard in BJJ is by going for the famous tomoe nage judo throw. As they drive forward into you, put your leg underneath their hip to elevate the opponent and off-balance them forward. This enables you to pull them easily or make them fall right into your guard.
Fake Guard Pull To Ankle Pick
This is a very popular and effective trick BJJ practitioners use to fool their opponent as if they are going for a guard pull but quickly switch to an ankle pick.
As the name suggests, the first step is to grab the opponent’s lapel with the lead hand as if you are going for a guard pull. Next, pretend to place your back foot on their hip and pull the sleeve.
Instead of placing the foot on their hip, quickly bring your knee to the mat, grab the opponent’s foot, and pull it towards you while pushing the arm on the lapel simultaneously to throw them off balance and secure a takedown.
Guard Pull Straight Into An Armbar
This is a popular no-gi technique. Start by getting an arm drag and pulling guard by jumping into the opponent’s hips. Wrap the legs above their hip and keep the arm drag tight.
Use your other arm to grab their neck or the lat on the opposite side. Break the arm drag and use your hand to reach behind the opponent’s leg just behind the knee to break their posture and force them to roll, and you will land straight into an armbar.
Pros and Cons Of Pulling Guard In BJJ
Here are the pros and cons of pulling guard in BJJ, both in competition and real life.
Enables You To Impose Your Game
Some BJJ practitioners are not good at takedowns and throws. For instance, white and blue belts who train in schools where the emphasis is on groundwork rather than takedowns. So instead of allowing their opponent to slam them to the ground and secure points (in competition), they would pull guard and bring them into their world.
Conserves Energy And Time
Engaging in an intense standup grappling exchange is exhausting and burns a lot of energy. If you have trouble with your cardio, you might save some energy by pulling guard. Conserving energy is a good idea if you are in a tournament where you have to participate in multiple matches in one day.
Also, it saves you time if you want to advance to the ground and start working as fast as possible. There is a limited time in competition and pulling guard right away gives you more time to work with sweeps and submissions.
Saves You Points In Competition
According to most BJJ rule sets across major organizations, pulling guard does not lose you any points. This rule favors all practitioners who do not have a strong standup grappling game and are not skilled in executing takedowns and throws.
However, if they accept the exchange on the feet and get taken down, their opponent would win 2 or 3 points. But by pulling guard, neither the opponent nor you win/lose any points.
You Are Giving Up A Dominant Position
Being in the top position makes you superior to the opponent working from the bottom. It gives you more space to work to set up the attacks, change positions, and submissions you can apply. Pulling guard against a skilled opponent with a solid top game is terrible because they can easily pass your guard and win a match.
Not An Intelligent Self-Defense Strategy
Pulling guard has certain advantages in competition. But in a real street fight, giving up a top position to an unknown attacker is not a smart game plan. They can use punches, kicks, and objects such as rocks to blast you from the top. You will have a hard time defending because, as a BJJ athlete, you need to learn how to deal with strikes on the ground.
How Many Points Is Pulling Guard (IBJJF and ADCC)?
According to many organizations and rule sets such as IBJJF, pulling guard neither brings you nor takes away any points. However, there are some organizations where pulling guard results in a point deduction because they want to encourage wrestling.
According to ADCC rules, pulling guard results in one negative point. For example, if you have three points and decide to pull guard, you will lose one point and have two. You will receive a negative point if you have zero and pull guard.
Do MMA Fighters Pull Guard?
Pulling guard in MMA to take the fight to the ground is done by highly skilled BJJ fighters who are confident in their guard game and want to drag their opponents’ into their world at all costs.
Some popular fighters who tend to pull guard are the former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Both of these fighters are among the best BJJ-based fighters in MMA history.
However, pulling guard in MMA is more complex than in BJJ and certainly not as safe. First, MMA involves striking on the ground. Apart from dealing with grappling attacks from the top, you must defend against punches and notorious elbow strikes. The striking element completely changes the dynamic of the bottom game, and you need to adapt your BJJ skills to it.
Although not considered an intelligent game plan, pulling guard in MMA could be an effective strategy in certain scenarios.
For example, if you are getting outclassed on the feet during striking exchanges, and the opponent has a strong wrestling game, pulling guard might be an excellent strategy to drag them into your BJJ world. In the best-case scenario, you will pull half-guard from which you have the best chance of reversing the position.
Pulling guard is effective in cage fighting as long as you know what you are getting yourself into and how to get the most out of that position.
Is Pulling Guard Good For Self-Defense?
Pulling guard in a street fight is not a good idea because street fighting has no rules. The attacker can use the top position to hurt you with hard punches, soccer kicks to the head, or use objects such as rocks or glass bottles. Not to mention if they have hidden weapons of some sort. This is also a bad game plan if you face multiple attackers.
However, there are certain scenarios where this might prove very effective. For example, most regular people do not know how to grapple. Not even the basics of defending submissions. Pulling guard might allow you to quickly catch them into submission like an armbar or triangle and finish the fight.
Executing a sweep and getting into a top position won’t be hard, as regular people are unfamiliar with these techniques and procedures. They can’t rely on sheer strength and muscling their way out of trouble. In fact, it would only get them into more trouble.
Overall, it is up to you to assess your situation and try to avoid any physical confrontation first. If the initial plan doesn’t work out, consider pulling guard or going for a powerful takedown.
Pulling guard has been a part of jiu-jitsu since its establishment. As with any other technique, there are scenarios in which this technique is very effective, notably in competition and against bigger opponents. But on the other, there are situations where this move can get you in trouble.
In some competitions, you won’t lose or win points by pulling guard, while in others, you might receive a negative point. This move also conserves energy and gives you more time to work on the ground, but at the cost of a top position. Lastly, pulling guard in a street fight might be a smart move or a foolish idea.
Overall, it is up to you to decide when it’s the right time to execute this specific technique based on your situation.