Class 05/30/2011- Guard Retention and Recovery

This week was guard bottom week. I decided that on Monday’s class I’d focus on guard retention. I describe guard retention as fighting to get the guy re-centered and squared up between your legs. You have a grip and 3 points of contact. If you have all of that you have guard. If you don’t then you are in guard retention. The first thing I wanted students to know if they were in guard or in guard retention. Here’s some tips to know if you are in guard:

  • Do you have 3 point of contact? Could be any combination of your hands and feet.
  • Is the top guy between your legs?
  • Is the top guy centered?

If you answered yes to ALL of the above then you are in guard. If you answered no to any of these then you aren’t in guard. You are in guard recovery.

Video of Concepts

Base Guard Recovery Motion

The first guard recovery motion I show is the elbow to knee with top leg in method. This is the base posture/pressure that most people use when someone gets to their side. It’s a good posture because it sets up your bottom escape game should you not be able to recover guard.

Video of Base Guard Recovery Motion

Turning in is the preferred guard recovery motion. It’s more high percentage and gets you in less trouble than turning away. If the top guy is stuffing your turn in then you have to turn away in order to recover guard. The next video will show a bit more detail about the turn in method and then describe the turn away method.

Turning Away to Recover Guard

Sometimes you have to turn away because turning in isn’t an option. It’s best to do this without having to get up on your neck. Much better to roll over your shoulders. I owe credit on this one to John Kavanagh. I don’t remember when I learned it from him but it was probably watching one of his instructional videos.

Video of Concepts

Fixing the technique a bit more so you don’t have to roll up on your neck. I’m more aware of getting up on my neck than I used to be. Don’t want to get my neck jacked up. I’ve seen too many guys have to take long periods off due to that.


Variation on Turning Away- Going to Quarter Position

Some people find going to quarters way easier than rolling back to guard. This is an OK option as long as you sit out to guard immediately.


Review and Drill Time

Retention- Knee Over Passes

Knee over passes can be tough to defend. In the video I’ll show a base posture pressure combination that works well to defeat the knee over pass. The idea comes from Martin Aedma. If you haven’t read his blog yet you should put it on your list. Keeping the top guy from getting his hip in and getting your knee across will be critical.


Once you have the legs and posture down you can begin to add frames. In this case we are using our long frames. This means straight arms with our elbows close to our body. We are framing on the hips.


Drill Time

Guard Recovery- Double Under Lift Pass

This is a tough position. You have to not panic and keep your hips in contact with the mat. When the top guy has double underhooks on your legs he doesn’t have you in trouble until he lifts your hips off the mat and controls them. The timing on the escape is to go as soon as he lifts your hips and commits to a side for his pass. It’s a bit of a timing move.

Video of Concepts

Clarification and Details


  1. Thanks Cane, this is another very helpful post.

    I’ve picked up tips and techniques for guard retention from a few sources over the years, some SBGi, some Michael Jen and some Roy Harris stuff. However, for such a fundamental concept in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu there’s not a lot of dedicated stuff out there regarding this aspect of the game. Here, I think you have provided a well structured, block of retention fundamentals. I’ll definitely be putting this into the next class.

    As always, looking forward to your next post.

    • Thanks for the comment Lee. My goal is to broaden this out with a more comprehensive set of fundamental guard retention movements that represent the bulk of the game. More brainstorming and mat testing to do!

  2. Cane – I am back in action soon, having had meniscus removal and I am going to use your blog to help my own training – Thanks! Regarding Upright Guard and #3 ‘Opponent centered in my guard.’ in upright guard he IS centered un MY guard, but I’m off to HIS side, right?

    • Sorry for late reply… Until I get grips I like to keep the top guy dead center. It’s OK to off center once you establish grips though.

Comments are closed.