Few positions are more important in jiu-jitsu and grappling than the guard. A good portion of the match will either be spent working from the top or bottom of this position. Knowing individual techniques is of little use if you make poor tactical decisions. To simplify things I offer this analysis. There are only three things that the guard is useful for; sweeping, submitting, or stalling. These are the Three S’s of guard bottom. When you are on the bottom you should always direct your energy towards one of these goals.
Sweep – Reversing your opponent so that he goes from the top to the bottom, disengaging to neutral, returning to standing, or taking the back. All techniques designed to get you out of the guard position and into a more dominant position fall under this label. Examples include the scissors sweep, overhead sweep, arm drag, and ankle pick. Sweeping is by far the best tactical option when all grappling contexts (sport, mma, and defensive tactics) are considered because it puts you in dominant position.
Submit – Utilizing the guard as an offensive position. This includes attacking the arms, neck, or legs with the intent to submit your opponent. An important point to remember when attempting submissions from the guard is that you must always have a safety net. Avoid submissions which allow your opponent to pass if they fail because this will often be the case. Learn what happens when submission techniques fail so that you know how to move to recompose the guard, or to attempt another submission or sweep.
Stall – The guard can be a useful position to lock the opponent down and catch your breath. This is especially true during long matches or after particularly intense scrambles. In a fighting or mma context, it is often necessary to stall in the guard to get your senses back after being hit hard. Although stalling is a legitimate use of the guard there is a tendency to over use it in training. This slows down the match and promotes a lazy, defensive mindset. Learn how to stall, but don’t do it unless you have to.
Brian Jones, PhD