Spider Guard Fundamentals

by Team Digitsu
Updated: April 16, 2024
Danny Stolfi with Spider Guard
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the Spider Guard is renowned for its efficiency in controlling your opponent while setting up a variety of offensive moves. When you adopt this guard, you utilize your legs, one of the strongest parts of your body, to manipulate your opponent's limbs, strategically placing your feet on their biceps. This not only hampers their mobility but also paves the way for you to execute a multitude of techniques, from sweeps to submissions.
Mastering the Spider Guard demands a blend of precision and flexibility. Your ability to manage distance and create leverage turns your defensive position into one where you can launch a series of attacks. Employing the Spider Guard enables you to dictate the flow of the match, as your adversary is forced to respond to your maneuvers, which can include assaults like the basic spider guard sweep, akin to a kite sweep.
By learning the intricacies of the Spider Guard, you gain the advantage of engaging various aspects of BJJ, incorporating elements of both the traditional martial art and its modern sport variant. As you refine your technique, you will understand how the guard fits within the overarching framework of BJJ strategy, giving you an edge over competitors who may struggle to break free from its web.

Origins and Evolution of Spider Guard

The Spider Guard has become a fundamental aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, evolving over years from its roots in judo to a complex and refined BJJ position. Your understanding of Spider Guard would be incomplete without delving into the history of BJJ, the development of Spider Guard within it, and the influence of Kosen Judo on its evolution.

Development of Spider Guard

The Spider Guard as you know it in BJJ was not explicitly described until the late 1980s. Initially a variation of the traditional open guard, it evolved in BJJ schools in Rio de Janeiro. This guard has seen a multitude of changes as it adapted to the sport’s competitive nature, enhancing its effectiveness and complexity.

Influence of Kosen Judo

Kosen Judo, a variation of judo with an emphasis on ground fighting, has played a critical role in the creation of many BJJ guards. Historical footage reveals that the use of Spider Guard dates back to the 1940s-era Kosen Judo tournaments. The techniques from Kosen Judo have undoubtedly contributed to your Spider Guard maneuvers, adding layers to its defensive and offensive capabilities.

Understanding the Basics

The Spider Guard is a versatile open guard that emphasizes control and leverage, utilizing grips and limb placement for effective manipulation.

Guard Fundamentals

Your understanding of guard fundamentals in BJJ is crucial. The guard is a defensive position where you use your legs to control an opponent, preventing them from passing to a more dominant position. There are two primary types of guard in BJJ:
  • Open Guard: Your legs are not locked around your opponent, allowing for various grips and movement.
  • Closed Guard: Your legs are locked around your opponent's hips, limiting their movement.
The Spider Guard fits into the former category, providing dynamic control while your opponent remains in your open guard.

Key Concepts of Control

In the Spider Guard, control is exerted through a combination of grips and leg placement:
  • Grip: By grasping your opponent’s sleeves, you create points of contact that allow you to manipulate their arms and balance.
  • Legs: Your legs should be actively engaging with your opponent’s arms. Placing your feet on their biceps can create push-and-pull dynamics that prevent them from stabilizing their base.
A strong grip paired with effective leg work is your recipe for maintaining control in the Spider Guard.

Spider Guard Attributes

Knowing the attributes of the Spider Guard will help you implement it effectively:
  • Base and Balance: Your hips play a significant role in maintaining your base while using the Spider Guard. They enable you to shift and unbalance your opponent.
  • Leverage: Utilizing the grips on the sleeves, you create leverage that can lead to sweeps or submissions.
  • Flexibility and Movement: You must continually adjust your legs on your opponent's biceps, alternating pressure and angles to maintain control and set up attacks.
By integrating these attributes with solid grips and guard fundamentals, you can adapt the Spider Guard to various situations on the mat.

Essential Techniques

In mastering the Spider Guard, you need a solid foundation in several crucial techniques, including sweeps, submissions, and defensive strategies. Each technique requires precision and understanding to apply effectively during a match.

Basic Spider Guard Sweep

The Basic Spider Guard Sweep, often compared to the scissor sweep, is a cornerstone of your offensive game from the spider guard. To execute, you need to create a scissor motion with your legs, which disrupts your opponent's balance on one side and allows you to reverse their position. The kite sweep is an example of this foundational technique.

Transitioning to Submissions

From the Spider Guard, transitioning to submissions should be executed fluidly. Two primary submissions to consider are the Triangle Choke and the Armbar. To set up a Triangle Choke, use one spider hook to elevate and shoot your leg behind your opponent's armpit. For an Armbar, control an arm and pivot your hips out, swinging your leg over their head. Incorporate the Omoplata as another viable submission, angling your leg over the opponent's shoulder to attack the arm.

Defensive Strategies

Your defensive position in the Spider Guard revolves around controlling your adversary's posture and limbs. Maintain sleeve grips and use your legs to manage their movement, constantly adjusting to keep them off-balance. This limits their ability to attack and sets you up for counters. Proper defensive strategies significantly enhance your ability to transition to offensive techniques such as sweeps or submissions.

Grips and Movements

The Spider Guard relies heavily on your ability to control an opponent using a combination of sleeve grips and strategic limb movements. Mastering these aspects allows you to dictate the pace of the match and effectively manage the distance between you and your opponent.

Mastering Sleeve Grips

Your sleeve grips are the foundation of an effective Spider Guard. Grip the sleeves of the Gi firmly with a same-side grip, meaning your right hand grabs the opponent's left sleeve and vice versa. This grip should be assertive to create the necessary tension to manipulate your opponent's posture and limit their movement.

Effective Hip Movement

Your hips play a crucial role in maintaining an open guard. Actively moving your hips keeps the opponent off-balance. Employing a fluid hip movement, such as shrimping or hip escapes, can often mean the difference between holding or losing the guard.

Utilizing Feet and Biceps

Place your feet on your opponent's biceps to create leverage and control the distance. This is not just a static hold; you must constantly adjust by shifting your legs to apply pressure or release tension as needed, maintaining a dynamic posture that inhibits your opponent's ability to pass your guard.

Advanced Strategies

Mastering the nuances of the Spider Guard can significantly elevate your ground game. Below you'll find specific advanced strategies to counter your opponent's base, recover guard effectively, and launch attacks all from the Spider Guard position.

Countering Opponent's Base

To disrupt your opponent's balance from the Spider Guard, focus on managing the distance with your legs. Your legs are pivotal in manipulating their center of gravity. A common attack from this position is the kite sweep where you can create a scissor motion with your legs to unbalance and compromise your opponent's base. Remember, the goal is to unbalance your opponent to the point where maintaining their base becomes a struggle.
  • Sweeping Technique: Extend one leg to push against your opponent's hip, while the other leg cuts across their thigh or hooks behind the knee, creating an off-balancing motion.

Guard Recovery Techniques

Guard recovery from the Spider Guard relies on your ability to create angles and utilize your hips and legs to prevent the opponent from passing. Your legs are your first line of defense – always aim to have them in contact with your opponent, ready to push or hook to maintain your guard.
  • Hip Movement: If you sense an imminent guard pass, quickly shift your hips to the side, creating space to recover your guard. Engage your core muscles and use the strength in your legs to reset your Spider Guard.

Attacks from Spider Guard

When on the offense from Spider Guard, your primary weapons are the diversity of attacks you can initiate. These include sweeps to gain superior positions like side control or transitions to different open guard variations for submission setups.
  • Submissions: Utilize your legs to create openings for submissions such as triangles, where one foot hooks behind the opponent's bicep while the other bridges up to capture their neck and arm.
  • Transition to Side Control: After unbalancing your opponent with a sweep, be prepared to quickly transition into side control, solidifying your dominant position. Your ability to move swiftly will determine how effectively you can capitalize on the sweep.
Boldly applying these advanced strategies will cultivate a more formidable open guard game, where your Spider Guard becomes a significant threat to any opponent.

Training and Drilling

Training and drilling for Spider Guard is critical to mastering this valuable technique. Incorporating both solo and partner exercises will enhance your movement, bolster your technique, and optimize your recovery time.

Solo Drills for Spider Guard

To develop a strong Spider Guard, you must cultivate key attributes such as flexibility, agility, and grip strength. Here is a list of solo drills that you can practice:
  • Hip Mobility Drills: Move your hips in circles, forwards and backwards to build the mobility necessary for active guard retention.
  • Grip Strength Exercises: For instance, pull-ups using a gi lapel or towel can improve the grips you need to control your opponent's sleeves.
  • Leg Dexterity Drills: Practice extending and retracting legs as if manipulating an opponent's arms, fostering the leg dexterity essential for the Spider Guard.

Partner Drills and Rolling

Training with a partner provides practical application of the Spider Guard and is foundational to understanding real-time movement and technique. Here's how to drill effectively with a partner:
  • Sweep Drills: Start in Spider Guard and practice basic sweeps like the kite sweep, moving your partner off-balance and securing top control.
  • Submission Setups: Work on transitioning from the Spider Guard to submissions, setting up triangles or other attacks to refine your offensive skills.
  • Guard Retention Movement: Have your partner attempt passes while you utilize the Spider Guard to retain your guard and control the distance.
Regular rolling sessions should include focused rounds where you start in Spider Guard to test your abilities in live training, thereby solidifying your technique in a realistic setting. Remember to incorporate periods of recovery to ensure that your training is sustainable over the long term.

Spider Guard Variations

Mastering the Spider Guard demands an understanding of its different variations, all tailored to suit either Gi or No-Gi grappling, and the strategic fusion with other guards. Knowing these variations allows you to maintain control and initiate attacks based on the equipment available and your opponent's responses.
Your ability to use the Gi to your advantage is central to the Gi-Based Spider Guard. Typically, you'll establish this position by gripping the sleeves or the lapels with precision to create leverage. Key components such as collar grips enhance control and set up various submissions. Lapel Guard is a subtle variation that introduces new layers to your guard game by using the lapel to create additional entanglements and control points. If you're aiming to refine your Gi-based Spider Guard game, BJJ Heroes covers techniques and history that could be instrumental in your training.

Mixing with Other Guards

Integrating the Spider Guard with other open guard systems can diversify your guard and enhance your offensive capabilities. You'll find incorporating elements from Guards like De La Riva, Lasso, or X-Guard into your Spider Guard allows you to exploit weakness in your opponent's base and posture. This hybrid approach can surprise opponents and create opportunities for sweeps and submissions. For detailed techniques and strategic advice on combining Spider Guard with other guard styles, Evolve Daily provides comprehensive explanations.

Competition Tactics

In the competitive world of BJJ, leveraging the Spider Guard requires precision in timing and a strategic mind to adapt to various opponents.

Timing and Rhythm in Matches

Mastering the rhythm of a match is crucial when utilizing the Spider Guard. You must be attuned to both your own movements and your opponent's, striking with sweeps or submissions when they're off-balance. The Balloon Sweep, for example, is a technique where impeccable timing can turn the tide of a match, using your opponent's forward momentum against them.

Adjusting Strategies for Different Opponents

No two opponents are the same, and flexibility in your strategy is key. Against a more aggressive opponent, a well-timed Leg Drag or Knee on Belly position can help you maintain control. When facing a defensive player, you may need to employ constant pressure and create openings for a Kneebar submission. Understanding your opponent’s tendencies allows you to predict and counter their moves effectively.


Spider Guard is a sophisticated and dynamic position that has played a pivotal role in the history of this martial art. Utilizing Spider Guard strategically in your BJJ repertoire offers several key benefits, enhancing your ability to manage and control an opponent effectively.
When you adopt the Spider Guard, your legs become a primary tool for managing distance and creating leverage. This control forces opponents to address your actions, thereby dictating the pace of the match. By using your legs against their arms, you utilize one of the most potent aspects of your physical arsenal against their weaker appendages, providing you with multiple attack avenues.
Embracing the Spider Guard equips you with a variety of offensive techniques:
  • Sweeps
  • Submissions
  • Transitions to more dominant positions
Training Spider Guard is not just about learning a single position; it's about weaving it into the fabric of your overall strategy and play, honing a truly effective position. Whether your focus lies in competition or personal growth within martial arts, integrating the Spider Guard into your BJJ practice can significantly amplify your capabilities on the mat.
In essence, mastering Spider Guard empowers you with a set of tools that, when employed with precision and skill, can elevate your BJJ game to new heights. Dive into its practice with a commitment to understanding its nuances, and you'll find yourself becoming a more formidable practitioner in this endlessly adaptive martial art.
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