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Place for Guard in Self Defense?

There’s not much to add to the title.

My worry is getting a knee to the groin and punches raining down.

Does anyone have any more insight into this subject?

I’m just a one-stripe white belt, but my understanding of the guard for self-defense is that it is best position you can be in IF you find yourself on your back.

For punch prevention, a closed guard allows you to manage the distance. Hip them out and they aren’t reaching your face face with their fists. Hip them in and hold them close, no room is available to punch.

From the guard you have sweeps available, which can put you back in mount or side control.

If your guard is closed you won’t be getting a knee in the groin. I don’t know a lot about open guard yet, but I’d be trying to grab their sleeves or wrists, get a foot in their hip and start kicking them in the face, should the opportunity present itself. I’ve never had someone try to knee me in the balls when I’m playing open guard, but now I’m kinda curious for someone to try.

I wouldn’t ever pull guard in a street fight, but my guard game is very rudimentary. Even so, if I’m on my back guard is the best place to be. I don’t have a lot of attacks from guard, but I have a decent idea of how to manage distance and minimize damage. It can also be a stepping stone to a better position.

Long story short, I’d always prefer to be in mount, side control or on a person’s back over them being in my guard during a street confrontation. Standing would be preferable for me too. The guard is there for options if I find myself on my back.

I’m just a one stripe white belt though. This is just my $0.02.

Similar opinion. Closed guard is a viable ground survival posture if you happen to end up on the ground on bottom, but it is not Plan A. You can mitigate punches by controlling the hips, creating angles, breaking down posture etc.

Priority would be to sweep to a more dominant position and attack or escape as needed as opposed to looking for the “submission” from guard. Pure sport bjj does a poor job of teaching this from what I’ve seen.

Sport only focus is producing high belt, competition successful bjj guys who would potentially get their asses kicked by a guy with half a clue how to street fight and the will to do real violence. #bringbackrealjiujitsu

Guard pulling is not a viable self defense strategy and should be penalized in competition IMO. Internationally adopting an inherently inferior position with compromised mobility is dumb.

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Are you practicing BJJ?

How long?


Not very long, I started in early May.

This and you better hope they don’t have a weapon.

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100% personal opinion:

It’s way, way better to be on top.

Royce “wins” this fight.


In theory, a good guard should prevent your opponent from pretty much doing anything, as you’ll have control over their limbs and movement.

But this is hard, and will take a lot of practice with a specific guard and scenarios involving that guard.

The same applies to sweeping people from guard and such too though.

In truth, I’d be less concerned about punching and knees in a guard and far more concerned about someone slamming the absolute crap out me.

Because that’s exactly what I would do.

And have done.

Know how to disengage when that is about to happen.

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Sport BJJ is brilliant, but I’m glad to have instructors who teach BJJ as a self-defense system first, sport second. I don’t think “Donkey Guard” is anywhere on the curriculum.

The instructor of the brown belt I roll with on Fridays and Sundays has t-shirts that say “Make Jiu Jitsu Violent Again”.

Way better to be on top, but as the video shows not always possible. The other guy gets a vote too. Royce didn’t pull guard, a big, tough, athletic guy kept stuffing him on bottom and guard allowed him to survive, neutralize far superior striking power and win. This is pretty much the point of bjj.

Love that shirt.

Everything you said is valid.

Watching that video again, it looks like Gracie avoids the worst of it. Looking back, through my fussy memory, I think I combined all the abuse I ever saw Royce take on the bottom, and combined it in my mind into one dose. Into something that didn’t actually happen in reality.

This video is better.

But it’s possible that this was a totally “worked,” Pro Wrestling style situation.

It sure ended bad for the guy in guard, but what happened leading up to that? It looked like he might have been going for a triangle without being close to sinking it, which makes it pretty easy for a strong person to pick you up and slam you.

I’ve done the picking up part, but I do this to people I like so I set them down gently afterwards, and let them resume work on their triangle choke. It is a polite way to remind them of what @T3hPwnisher already noted. Slamming people like that is a thing that can happen in a fight.

It doesn’t take a way from what the guard is good for, and I don’t think you’ll find many people outside of sport BJJ competitors who pull guard as a Plan A.

But I’m just a one-stripe white belt. What do I know?

Dude just kinda laid under there, which is why I thought, maybe it was staged.

If we’re gonna be Tactical about it, whatever you do, whichever position you are in, WORK TO IMPROVE! In a scramble, the guy who stops first, loses.

Here’s some messy guard work in action from the great Pedro Sauer.

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all depends on the type of opponent, area, size, skill level. Guard is used in mma cause it is effiecient. Self defense and mma are two different topics. All depends if your talking 1 v 1 street fight that consensual to a random bar fight or home invasion. I have been in many fights both in mma and street. guard sucks in reality unless your a skilled fighter. I would avoid it in public places, as from my experience it justs means the guys buddy is going kick you in the face. I only used guard once effectively which was a consensual 1 v 1. the oher two times its just led me being stomped on lol. Multiple attackers or stronger opponent, try no to go to ground or if you are there get up off it.

We train the Guard for RMA all the time, and yes it absolutely has a place in self defense. Your concerns about the dangers of strikes are absolutely valid though and therefore the Guard must be trained while allowing strikes (even just empty handed ones) to enable someone to both deal with strikes and employ them.

Generally, Closed Guard is the Guard I would most heavily depend on if possible and yes, breaking down your opponent’s posture is absolutely necessary to surviving from there. Stretching away might protect your face, but it gives them free shots on your groin (mostly punches), bad idea. If you cannot break them down, then you need to open your Guard and shift to an Open Guard game to defend against strikes. This gets a lot more complicated though as now there are so many possible responses and positional changes that can occur.

One thing I would say though is that in a self defense situation I would never open my Guard unless forced to (either because I realized that I could not effectively play Closed Guard because of the relative length of my legs compared to the girth of my opponent’s torso, or because I realized I needed to strategically). There are a bunch of solid strangulations/chokes, joint locks, strikes, “dirty fighting” options, and sweeps that don’t require you to open your Guard initially (some do require you do momentarily or as you are sweeping them over) so I personally see no reason to do them a favor and open your Guard, giving them the potential to progress to a better position/pass in the process.

More to come when I get more time.


To add a little to more to the topic, don’t confuse the utility of Guard for Self Defense with the idea that Guard should be your “go to” ground fighting position (which sadly sport submission Grappling seems to not only not punish but even possibly promote). There are very few (if any) situations where you would want to pull someone on top of you and lay on your back in a self defense situation.

However, we cannot always control whether we end up on our backs. The opponent could be an incredible wrestler or Judoka, they could be a physical monster and just insanely big and powerful (think Left Tackle from a top Division 1 football team, or World’s Strongest Man competitor type), you could wind up there by accident due to environmental factors (ice, tripping over something, uneven ground, etc…), or you could even start there (since all of us are laying on our backs at least some of the time).

So, if you accept reality for what it is and realize that anybody can find themselves on their back in a self defense situation, then it should become apparent that if you want to be as prepared for real World violence as possible, you need to develop effective combat skills from being on your back. The best position you can be in when on your back is the Guard.

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The Gracies did not invent the guard or grappling in general. Grappling as a martial art has existed long before there was a Brazil. If the guard was not a viable tool in a grappler’s toolbox then it would not have remained a part of that toolbox for thousands of years.

All of the concerns that people raise about BJJ and/or the guard position are nothing new. The Gracies have answered all of those questions for decades. The ancient Greeks grappled and they had weapons back then. They also had the concept of friends/multiple opponents. No one thinks that some ancient Geek soldier learning how to wrestle didn’t ask about weapons? No one thinks that those who trained soldiers to wrestle never mentioned that weapons were something to be aware of? Or multiple opponents?

At one of the Gracie Academy’s early tournaments Royce actually started to get angry with competitors for pulling guard. Someone said to Royce, “but you pulled guard in your fights,” and Royce responded that he didn’t pull guard, he ended up there because he had no choice.

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