Z Guard (knee shield guard) Top

In class last week I did a lesson on Z guard top. I have my own favorite ways of dealing with this position from the top but I was interested in what kinds of things other instructors were teaching. I looked at a bunch of videos online to see what techniques were out there. After watching a bunch of them I sat down and worked to pull out the fundamentals that I saw. I saw a few grip options and basically two paths. I synthesized all this into a simplified system for dealing with this guard. You’ll find my research below.


This first short video will describe the grip positions and spine posture that make everything work. I’ll go over grips in more detail in video 3. ¬†These grips are what I found to be most used when looking at what people were doing to address this posture.

Near Side Arm and Knee

In this short video I’ll detail how to use the near side hand and knee to block out the knee. This is critical as lots of attacks happen when the bottom person pulls out to full guard. You should always be blocking the bottom leg.

Grip Details, Pressure, and Pathways

In this video I’ll start by detailing the grips. Your grips may change a bit depending on how the bottom person is riding their knee. Some people like the knee high in the armpit and some people like it low on the hips. Some also like it inbetween. Recognizing how the knee is riding and applying the appropriate grip is necessary.

You’ll find two main objectives in dealing with the z guard. One is to get the top knee to touch the mat. The second is to reset the position and get the bottom guy’s back flat to the mat. Either of these kill the z guard and present opportunities for a pass. I won’t show any passes off the position but you can clearly see the pathways if you are paying attention. This video is pretty long but packed with good info.

Bonus Technique

Here’s a short video of a simple technique that I often use if I just don’t want to deal with the z guard at all. This technique resets the position to half guard. The key detail is to attach the leg to your body and use your body to move it. If you do that this will work well.