Guard Retention 101

Guard Retention 101: How To Develop An Impassable Guard

Click the links below to jump straight to a section…

Go to Video 1: 5 Essential Guard Retention Concepts
Go to Video 2: The Squashing Drill
Go to Video 3: The Stepping Drill
Go to Video 4: Real World Retention Example

If you develop an impassible guard, you’ll never have to worry about escaping bad positions. I know that’s a bold statement, but let me explain further and hopefully, you’ll understand what I mean.

Firstly, let’s start by defining what I mean by a bad position. I’m not talking about these fancy leg entanglements that have become common, although the concepts covered later will help defend them too. What I’m talking about are the traditional positions you’d hate to find yourself in if you were fighting a 300-pound gorilla (i.e. side control, mount, and back).

Guard retention in action

If you think about how you end up in those positions, there are only a few circumstances you will end up in a bad position. You’ll end up with a bad position if your opponent passes, if you get swept or taken down, and from a failed submission.

In any of those situations, an impassable guard will stop your opponent progressing.

It’s pretty obvious why an impassible guard would stop your opponents passing, but in either a takedown, sweep, or failed submission, you can usually to scramble back to your guard.

If you look at you’re training from this standpoint, it makes far more sense to focus your training on guard playing or guard passing. After all, the top or bottom of guard is where you’ll spend 90% of your time.

So now we’ve established why you absolutely, positively want to develop an impassible guard, it’s time to look at how you can develop one.

5 Essential Guard Retention Concepts

During your Jiu Jitsu career, you’ll encounter hundreds of different guard passing situations. You’ll meet speed passers, pressure passers, passers who jump, and everything inbetween.

However, regardless of how your opponent is trying to pass, there are a few essential guard retention concepts that apply to all passes. The video below outlines five of the most important.

Just to recap, here are the five concepts:

  1. Hide the hip to armpit space – become the egg!
  2. Keep your guard wide.
  3. Get your opponent on your feet.
  4. Square your hips.
  5. Create layers of guard.

To help you develop these concepts, I want to share with you two drills we regularly use in our academy. These drills are simple, effective, and can be done very quickly, which makes them ideal to be used as a warm-up anytime you’re working your guard.

The Squashing Drill

The Squashing Drill is a great way to develop your ability to hide the hip/armpit space and keep your feet facing your opponent. The nice thing about this drill is you can also use it as a way to improve guard retention flexibility and core strength.

The Stepping Drill

The second guard retention drill is the Stepping Drill. As with the squashing drill, this drill reinforces hiding the hip/armpit space but also teaches you to square your hips and keep your guard wide.

Try doing 2 – 3 one minute rounds of these drills anytime you plan to work your guard build from there.

Real World Retention Example

Talking about concepts and drills is great, but I wanted to give you an example of how you apply these ideas in the real world.

For our guard retention example, I choose one of the highest percentages passes in Jiu Jitsu; the Knee Slide. Whether you’ve been training 6 months or 6 years, you’ve probably encountered this killer pass.

Check out how you can apply these concepts to counter the knee slide in the video below:

Putting It All Together

Hopefully, this article has given you some idea of why developing killer guard retention is so beneficial, and some of the most essential concepts, but how should you start improving your guard retention?

The answer to that is simple; practice your guard retention every time you train.

Rather than playing your A-game next time you roll, sit to your butt the moment you slap hands and fist bump. Don’t worry about having grips or even being in a specific guard, and try to prevent your opponent from passing by using the ideas we discussed here.

Also, don’t worry about sweeping or submitting your opponent, that can be added later and will be much easier once you have developed your guard retention skills.

The first few times you do this, your training partner will probably pass your guard easily, but over time you’ll have more and more success retaining your guard.

Once you feel confident in your retention abilities against most people (regardless of age or skill level), start connecting your retention to guards, then sweeps and submissions.

This whole process could take several months or even a year, but you have time. Your goal should is to be a world class black belt, not a champion white belt, and guard retention is vital for that.

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