Passing the Spider Guard: Three Main Weaknesses

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I bet most of you hate being on the receiving end of the spider guard.​

Dealing with the spider guard can be tricky even when you know what to do. It’s even worse when you don’t know how to deal with it. You’d feel like a puppet manipulated by a puppet master.​

In this post, I’ll talk about what I consider to be three major weaknesses of the standard spider guard. For those of you who don’t know, the spider guard is the main guard I use when I play gi. I know its strengths and weaknesses, and I’ll share the latter with you here.​

When you understand these weaknesses, dealing with the spider guard will become a bit easier because you will know what to look for when you try to pass the spider guard. And whatever tutorial videos you watch about passing the spider guard will start making more sense. So, consider this email as your background material.​

With the standard spider guard, we are going to take a look at, you have a sleeve/wrist grip and one foot on one biceps on one side. You have a similar grip on the other side, and the other foot plays an active role in creating distance, blocking your opponent, stomping the ground, and so on. You could also place both feet on both of your opponent’s arms, but I think this is an inferior form of control except for certain situations where it makes sense to use it.​

The first weakness of the spider guard I want to address is that this guard simply doesn’t have many layers compared to other guards. You have one arm control and this can be sticky. And you can use your other foot to create a temporary frame and whatnot, but that’s about it.​

The de la riva guard, for example, has multiple layers: you could get a collar grip, entangle your leg around your opponent’s leg, grab your opponent’s leg, and create a frame placing your free foot against your opponent’s hip bone. So, 4 layers. I know it may sound simplistic, but there are more things to deal with when you deal with the de la riva guard compared to the spider guard.​

What this means is that you don’t need to deactivate many layers to move forward. Get rid of the spider arm control, and you are ready to go.​

In reality, many spider guard players upgrade their primitive spider guard by adding the reverse de la riva, de la riva, X, single leg X, or lasso guard to the mix and reinforce this weakness. So, if you get caught with the spider guard, you need to make sure your opponent won’t put you into a position that’s harder to get out of.​

(Some folks prefer to use the primitive, standard spider guard, too. It’s easier to get into and it gives you more mobility and dynamic attacking options. And yes, it’s more thrilling because your opponent might pass you in an instant. It’s for people who choose these thrills over security.)​

Now, let’s take a look at two other weaknesses. But both of them exploit the same thing in two different ways. So, we’ll start with some general ideas first.​

Whenever you play the bottom position, generally speaking, you should always avoid extending your leg more than necessary. When your leg is fully extended, it will become easier for your opponent to go around your leg. It’s even worse when both of your legs are fully extended.​

When you deal with the spider guard, you should create a situation where your opponent’s leg is fully extended. In such a situation, you can easily clear your opponent’s grip by circling your wrist outward (outward relative to your opponent’s leg), create a better angle for yourself, and start setting up your guard passing sequence.​

Now, let’s talk about specific weaknesses.​

One of them is the spider guard’s range. Generally speaking, the spider guard is great when the top player is not too close to or too far away from the bottom player. One way of extending your opponent’s legs fully is to move away from your opponent, and their spider control will become less effective and easier to break. You don’t need to be fast, but putting more weight and control on your opponent’s legs will be better.​

Watch these videos as examples:

Rafael Mendes’s spider guard pass

Basic spider guard pass instruction by Gracie Barra HQ

​Another weakness is also related to the range and extension of the guard player’s legs, but this time, the top player comes close to the guard player and stands tall — this situation also forces the spider player to extend their legs… upward. If you are much taller than your opponent, you could just stand tall and get away with it, but a better approach is to pin your opponent’s leg by placing your shin behind your opponent’s thigh, standing on your toes, and leaning toward your opponent for more pressure. When you do this to your opponent, they will not be able to use their spider leg to keep following you. Their leg may not be fully extended in this case, but you get the same effect as if it’s fully extended.​

Watch the first technique shown in this video by Chewjitsu. I’d do it differently, but his spider guard counter is similar to what I described just above.

​As with any other open guards, your first job is to stay on top. If you can remain on top, your chance for passing the guard will come eventually, provided that you keep creating constant pressure on your opponent.​

When you deal with the spider guard, keep these points in mind and start beating spider guard players.