X Guard BJJ (Ultimate Guide & Variations)

Do you know which guard offers the most sweeping options and is the hardest to pass? If your answer is X-guard, you are most likely correct. Equally effective in gi and no-gi, the X-guard gives you insane control over the opponent’s weight with minimum effort.

The standard X-guard has you under a standing opponent, with one foot hooked behind their knee, the other on the front side of the hip, and controlling the other leg between your head and shoulder. There are also different variations of the guard, like the overhook grip, the reverse X-guard, and the low X-guard.

Except for the single-leg x-guard, which can be considered a different position, the x-guard lacks direct submission options, but at the same time, it’s so good at control and sweeping that many players specialize and base a solid part of their game on it. It’s time to see what makes the X-guard so unique.

Defining The BJJ X-Guard

The X-guard is an open guard position where you are supine on the mat underneath a standing opponent. Your head points to one of the legs of the opponent, and that same leg is resting on your shoulder.

Your legs here play a crucial role, as they do in all open guards, and one foot is placed behind the opponent’s knee while the other is hooked on the front side of their thigh.

Your legs are in a similar position to a butterfly guard, meaning the knees are pointing in opposite directions. But the foot position is different, and if you look at the position from above, the legs form the letter X, from where the guard’s name comes.

The X-guard is a powerful position and offers more destabilization and sweeping options than any other guard because most guards let you control the opponent vertically or horizontally. At the same time, in the X-guard, you can do both.

It’s not clear who exactly came up with the technique, but the great Marcelo Garcia is responsible for developing and spreading X-guard, mainly through his legendary ADCC runs.

There are a few variations of the X-guard, which we will take a look at shortly. The downside of the X-guard is that it simply doesn’t allow direct submission options, but the unlimited sweeping and transition opportunities make up for this.

Another great thing is that the X-guard is equally potent for gi and no-gi. You have more control through the grips in the gi, but Marcelo Garcia made the position popular through his no-gi exploits, so it’s equally effective.

Like many modern guards, the X-guard is not frequently used in MMA because it leaves you open for punches. This is not to say it hasn’t been used or it can’t be made effective. But in any case, it’s a lot less powerful and more situational than in sports BJJ.

Controlling From X-Guard

The strongest aspect of the X-guard is your position underneath the opponent. This allows you to unbalance them in all directions and easily manipulate their center of gravity.

Let’s break down what makes the position so powerful. The legs provide most of the control, and the critical detail of having an unbreakable X-guard is to engage your knees.

Ensure both hooks are always tight and active, and the opponent’s balance will be at your mercy. I feel the X-guard is stronger when I butterfly my knees apart rather than squeezing them together because this fortifies the power of the hooks.

The other point of control is the leg on your shoulder. Their ankle should be between your shoulder and head; the ideal gripping position is to have your hand on their kneecap. This is the classic underhook X-guard variation.   

X-Guard Variations

We’ve already covered the standard X-guard, which has the opponent’s leg between your head and shoulder. But there are a few other variations of the guard utilizing the signature X position of the legs.

Overhook X-Guard

In the overhook variation, the top leg position of the opponent is changed and you are controlling the ankle with an overhook. Although some people prefer it, this version has less control over the leg and is worse than the standard X-guard.

Reverse X-Guard

The reverse X-guard is sometimes considered the wrong version of the position, but it has benefits, especially for good leg lockers.

The name and position come from switching the position of your legs. Instead of having the leg behind the opponent on their hip and the other behind the knee, you switch them around.

Single Leg X-Guard

The single-leg X is as popular as the standard position. All your weight and control are focused on one leg in this variation. The single leg X is a straight ankle lock position but with the opponent standing.

This position offers tremendous sweeping options, but you can transition into other X-guard variations or even leg-locking positions.

The entry into leg entanglements makes the single X different than the other variations and very important for the modern leg-locking game, so we will dive deeper into the position in a separate article.

Here is а video going through the different X-guard variations:

Sweeps From X-Guard

As I’ve said, the X-guard is perhaps the best sweeping position. If you manage to get into X-guard, you’ve already done half of the work towards the sweep because of the nature of the position and your relation to the opponent.

From the X-guard, you can go in all four directions. The fundamental sweep from X-guard involves pushing your legs forward, which moves all the weight off the other leg, and doing a technical standup. Extending your crossed feet and unbalancing the opponent is the most important movement because it plays a role in every X-guard sweep.

For a clean sweep, you can go in all directions. The key is always to use your legs to destabilize the opponent and sweep them in the other direction.

One of the more common sweeps is to roll the opponent to his back. To do that, push with your foot on their hip while sliding your other foot lower to block their foot.

An essential element to having success with your sweeps from X-guard is not wasting time. Other positions may offer more time to methodically set up everything, but you must move quickly with the X-guard.

In no-gi, you also need to pay more attention to maintaining some grip and control to consolidate the top position after you topple the opponent. The sweep is not finished until you are on top, and you can see this point made clear by the X-guard master Marcelo Garcia himself.

Entries Into X-Guard

As great as the X-guard is, only some beginners use it, and it’s usually reserved for higher-level practitioners. This is not because the position is complex or requires specific physical attributes but because it’s not as easy to get into, unlike other guards, which the opponent often puts you in.

The most common way to get into X-guard is from Butterfly Guard, which you should have seen in the previous videos, including the one from Marcelo Garcia. But we can go to Lachlan Giles for another detailed look into the entry and sweep.

One easy way in the gi is to go for the X from the most basic open guard when you have control over both sleeves, and both of your feet are placed on their hips. Choose one leg to take off the hip and shoot it between their legs, creating momentum so that your arm on the same side can wrap around the leg for an X-guard.


Few guards allow you to sweep the opponent in all four directions equally well. By being underneath them, you can manipulate the weight vertically and horizontally, and once you grasp the mechanics, you will have an almost certain sweep as soon as you get into the X-guard. The position offers many options for little risk and low effort, and it would be a shame not to use it effectively in your game.