How the Butterfly Guard Works

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Time for another…

“Masa voluntarily answers a question in a BJJ group” email.

This time, it’s about the butterfly guard.

Here’s the question:

“So I’m super new to BJJ and have only been training about 6 months. I have questions about butterfly guard. In regular beginner classes I don’t have to worry about it much but it keeps creeping up at open mats when I roll with more experienced partners. I’ve just very recently starting to recognize when its being used. I think, at least.

My question isn’t really how to use it as I’m sure I have quite a ways to go before I get to that point, but I want to know what it is, what the basic principles of it are, and generally what am I supposed to be working toward (survival tips appreciated) when someone gets me and starts sweeping me and working their sorcery.

I’m really intrigued here. It looks like pretty cool stuff. I’d appreciate any explanations, video recommendations, or just the reasoning why people seem to really like that guard.”

Here’s my answer:

What your opponent wants when they play the butterfly guard against you is roughly the following:

1) Your opponent wants to connect their body with your body (typically, this is a matter of how they position their head and arm).

2) Your opponent wants to be lower than you position-wise. This way, it will become easier for them to elevate you, especially this is combined with the connection as described in #1.

3) Your opponent wants to break your posture. The reason why they want is to make it easier for them to elevate you. One of the best moments your opponent can capitalize on is when you react and try to fix your posture.

4) Your opponent wants to plant their feet on the mat in such a way that it becomes easier to generate power by kicking the ground.

5) Your opponent wants to be in a position/at an angle where it’s easier to elevate you.

6) Your opponent wants to take away your ability to use your hand/s to post and defend. They will typically control your arm and sweep you in the direction of that arm.

These are more or less the basic principles that apply to any sweep, by the way.

So, what does your opponent want in short? They want to load your weight on them in a connected way and flip you over. #1 – #6 will make it easier and more efficient for them to do this.

What you can do is to negate all or at least some of these items on the checklist.

The butterfly guard is an easy, effective position to learn. It doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake to execute butterfly guard sweeps, but it is effective and worth learning as one of your options. Even high-level competitors use them effectively against other high-level competitors.

So, don’t be shy. You might as well start using it. Another good thing is that anyone can use this position, much like the half guard.

If you want to see some butterfly guard sorcery with great explanation, I highly recommend checking out these videos by BJJ Scout on Adam Wardzinski. He is one of the best butterfly guard players these days.

​>>> Part 1​
​>>> Part 2​
​>>> Part 3​
​>>> Part 4​
​>>> Part 5​

Marcelo Garcia is also one of the most prominent butterfly guard players ever (both in gi & no-gi). If you are ever curious about how the butterfly guard fits in a larger system, check out this video, too (the video is not specifically about the butterfly guard, but how Marcelo Garcia does his things).

If you are curious about Marcelo Garcia’s butterfly guard more specifically, Kenny Florian explains what Marcelo Garcia does in this new-ish video.

I sense that my answer is more along with the line of “how to use it” rather than what to do with it, but I hope this is still helpful – because when you know how to use it, you will also know what to do about it.