I love the X Guard. I’m super comfortable once I get there and I usually get a sweep out of it too. Single Leg X Guard (Ashi Gurami) gets all the attention these days, mainly because BJJ has become obsessed with leg locks, and it’s a great entry to the heel hook, but I find the full X Guard to be a more powerful position in terms of sweeping your opponent. You really have a lot of control over your opponent’s balance when you’re in full X Guard. That’s why I like it.
There are a whole host of sweeps you can do from X Guard, and YouTube is full of them. That’s all well and good, but the real skill in BJJ lies in getting into the position in the first place, and not getting your guard passed in the process. In most of the X Guard instructionals you’ll see this aspect is casually brushed over, and all the real time is spent talking about the sweeps you can do from there.
Instead, here I’d like talk about how you get into the X Guard, as that’s really the most important thing. But first, let’s clarify what an X Guard is.
Mansher Khera demonstrates the X Guard on Bernardo Faria: Source.
Here’s the X Guard performed by (edit: Now ex-) Marcelo Garcia student and BJJ World champion Mansher Khera. Mansher’s left arm can either overhook or underhook the leg (both positions are valid). Here he’s overhooking. His legs form an X on Bernardo’s other leg at the thigh – one foot on top and the other foot underneath. That’s your basic X Guard. Mansher’s right hand can be used for a variety of things, such as grabbing the far leg or pushing/grabbing the knee of the near leg. He can also use his right hand to grab either of Bernardo’s wrists, or sleeves if a gi was being worn.
So, that’s where we want to get to, but how do we get there? Nobody is just going to let you get underneath them like that. You have to force the position to happen, or better yet, lay a trap for them to fall into. There are two basic ways to get into the X Guard that depend on whether the opponent is standing or kneeling. (Ok, there are three basic ways, but the third way is to get there as an escape from a mount or side control position, so not ideal). Let’s look at the two preferred options in more detail.
X Guard on kneeling opponent
If they’re kneeling then the best way to get there is to go for a standard butterfly hook sweep, and hope the opponent stops it by basing one leg on the mat and giving you the opportunity to underhook that leg with your arm, to get you into the X Guard position. Once you’ve successfully underhooked a leg you are usually close enough to thread your legs into the X position without too much difficulty. This is a fairly straightforward “laying a trap”method, and very high percentage. If they don’t defend the butterfly sweep by posting a leg then you’ll probably sweep them anyway.
Here’s the great Marcelo Garcia showing exactly how to do this entry, followed by the two most useful X Guard sweeps:
Alternatively, you can use a Z Guard (Knee shield guard) as a way to get to the X guard by yanking them forward by their collar and knee, and then transitioning to single leg X, then the full X Guard. Here’s Tom DeBlass showing how to do it here:
Lucas Leite uses a similar entry to perform his groovy X Guard sweep:
You can also get to X Guard directly from sitting guard using your hooks. If your opponent has one knee up sometimes there’s enough space to get both your shins underneath their thigh, so you can elevate the leg and lift them up and over you, so you can get and underhook on the other leg and pull X Guard. Like Eddie Bravo shows here:
I find this method works great when you’re starting a roll in BJJ on the knees. In the gi you can also use a collar grip to help pull them on top of you and get underneath, then start to use the hooks to elevate them.
Marcelo Garcia student Jon Satvana demonstrates a method of doing this when the opponent has both knees on the ground and you manage to get double underhooks:
Essentially all these entires have the same concept – get underneath the opponent and get and underhook on the leg with your arm and your hooks in.
Right, that deals with kneeling entries, now let’s get to the tricky stuff – standing.
X Guard on standing opponent
Getting into the X Guard from standing I find much more challenging. The opponent has much more opportunity to move and quite often skips over your attempts to hook his legs and gets on your side, at which point you’re left in survival mode, trying to fight off a guard pass attempt.
One method you can use to get to full X Guard is the ‘shin to shin’ entry that is usually seen as the entry to Single Leg X.
Mansher Kehra demonstrates it here:
Mansher’s fights on YouTube are great to watch, because he’s one of the few guys who uses X guard all the time in high level competition. If you want to see how it’s done, then he’s a good guy to study.
Notice, in the video he hand fights first (using his preferred 2 on 1 method) until he can get a clear path to the leg. Then, and only then, does he get an overhook on the leg with the shin in front. From there he goes for the ‘fall to the side’ method, to get underneath, lifting Bernardo’s shin with his shin.
This is fine….but I find it never quite works out exactly like this when rolling..
When rolling, I find that you rarely get the luxury of them giving you that leg so you can go shin to shin, which is why I think you need to master what I like to call the ‘butt scoot’ method too.
This is what Mansher himself does in this match, right at the end at the 7.25 timestamp. It’s worth watching the whole match though, as it shows how you can successfully use the X Guard and Single Leg X in combination in competition against a heavier opponent:
Notice, in the butt scoot method, once he’s grabbed the leg he doesn’t do any complicated falling to the side and elegant lifting. Instead, he just scoots his butt underneath the guy so he can get one hook in, which gives him some modicum of control then falls to his back so he can overlook the other leg, then and pops his hooks straight into an X Guard position. It’s simple and direct.
I made a little GIF of the moment here, so you can watch it:
X Guard from Spider Guard
Finally, I can’t finish this article without looking at another good option to get into the X Guard on a standing opponent, which is from a spider guard position. I’d recommend this if you’re training in the Gi as its relatively easy to get sleeve grips, because they feel much less threatening than collar grips to the opponent:
And here’s another nice way of getting to X guard from the spider guard – with a foot stomp on the mat and a push on their bicep to make them step over the top of you, giving you access to the X Guard position.
That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the article and it’s given you some new ideas for getting into the X Guard. Once you’re there there are all sorts of cool sweeps you can do, and even a few footlocks, but I’ll save that for another time. If there’s a great setup I’ve missed then please drop me a line.
X Guard from RDLR
If you’re a Reverse De La Riva fan then you might like this entry into the X Guard from Giani Grippo: