The spider guard is one of the coolest things about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It forces you to got to wonder: how long did it take for BJJ practitioners to figure out they can control people’s arms with their feet? It probably didn’t take us long. However, it’s not that easy to figure out because it involves angles and tilting. Moreover, it is not static like the closed guard. You are constantly adjusting your position, feeling out which way you can pull and off-balance your opponent. We’ll be looking at a few things that will help you elevate your spider guard game to the next level.
Understanding the Spider Guard
The spider guard is an open guard in which you’re using both your arms and legs to control your opponent’s arms. To set it up, you begin by gripping each sleeve of your opponent’s gi jacket and placing the soles of your feet on their biceps, near the elbow crease.
After establishing grips for the guard, you need to activate the guard itself, and that involves getting the right angle. Simply put, you need to be on your side, with your bottom leg bent, your top leg extended upwards, and your high elbow touching your knee. Now, you can start spinning your web.
Before you start looking at attacks, though, you need to understand the order of operations when playing guard. Your checklist should look something like this:
- Make sure nobody can pass your guard (retention);
- Create a dilemma attack (combining a sweep and a submission, two sweeps, or two attacks);
- Have a contingency plan for guard recovery.
The premise of playing guard in Jiu Jitsu starts with retention, because if people can pass you guard, then you’ll never get the chance to even start playing your offensive game. The advantage of the spider guard is in its structure – if you set it up right, with the proper angle and leg positioning, you already have great retention. Attacks come when you’re comfortable staying in guard, which does involve switching sides and adjusting to your opponent.
In terms of attacks, the Jiu Jitsu spider guard offers a wide range of sweeps that get you on top and submissions that end the match immediately. The best way to get either one is to threaten with more than one attack, preferably including both sweeps and submissions.
Sweeping from the spider guard is not at all difficult due to the fact that you have great control over the upper body. Additionally, you also have direct control over the arms, providing you with levers that facilitate sweeping. The two situations you’re most likely to encounter is an opponent kneeling with both knees on the ground or standing. Sweeps are available in both cases.
Kneeling opponents are basically begging for a scissor-type sweep. When you’re facing a kneeling opponent, you have the simple goal of taking the bottom foot off the biceps and placing it on the same side knee. This creates a wedge, which you will use to trip the opponent. In order to achieve that you need to use the lever your top leg provides. Simply straighten your top leg to the sky, use your arms and leg in concert to bring the opponent towards you and then aim to place the foot of your top leg (still firmly connected to their arm) on the ground next to your bottom leg. Done properly, you’ll find yourself seated comfortably on top of mount!
Where exactly is the dilemma here? The moment you remove the foot from their bicep, your opponent will be forced to defend a triangle choke and will break their own posture, making the sweep much easier.
Standing opponents are actually even easier to sweep because the BJJ spider guard has already compromised their posture. This sweep is almost identical to the one described above, the only difference is that you’ll need to extend the bottom leg instead of the top one. This will allow you to unhook the top leg from the biceps, and hook the ankle of the nearest leg. Use this hook to lift the opponent’s leg off the ground, while unbalancing them forward and to the side with the spider hook for another easy sweep to mount.
The Single Most Effective Spider-Guard Technique
By this point, you’ve seen how to retain the spider guard and use it to get on top. But even if you sweep your opponent you still need to work your submissions. Instead, you can skip this step by finishing with the spider guard triangle.
Just like before you’ll begin with two spider hooks. Now, instead of shooting for the neck or using your opponent’s hip to bridge up and shoot, use one of your spider hooks to bridge up and shoot behind his armpit. This is what some people call the stomping triangle. Pinch your opponent’s side and drive your heel into his far shoulder. All your weight is still centered on their other bicep. Use the pinching leg to rotate and lock on a triangle. You can use this setup against both kneeling and standing opponents, and more importantly, you can launch all other sweeps and submission attacks from this spider guard triangle setup.
A Couple More BJJ Spider Guard Submissions
Omoplatas from the spider guard are the perfect attack because an omoplata is both a sweep and a submission. The easiest way to set it up is when your opponent is standing. Place one foot on their hip, using the other spider hook to extend the arm and retain control. The extended leg will help you guide the opponent forward, which means you can slide the leg that is on the hip behind the arm, and into an omoplata.
The arm bar from the spider guard works similarly to the triangle. Together they are dilemma attacks the tie in together perfectly. Use the same stomping setup with pressure on the biceps opening. The difference is that you’ll pull the top arm across your chest instead of looking to thread your leg under the armpit. Finally, thread your head through the loop, and the arm bar will be right there, smiling at you.
Spider Guard Drills For Muscle Memory and Leg Dexterity
While some guards are difficult to practice on your own, these drills will let you improve your spider guard on your own. This first drill is great because you can do it by yourself and it only requires the use of your belt and you can see meaningful results with as little as 10 minutes of practice a day. Grab onto end of your belt and attach spider hooks. Don’t overextend your leg. It’s best if your knee isn’t hyper-extended because if it is you won’t be able to feel what’s going on with your opponent’s center of gravity.
Safety First! By keeping your leg partially bent you’ll ensure that your muscles are activated, protecting your knee from injury
To use this as an effective drill you’ll need to transition from side to side, as well as possibly incorporating lasso hooks for more advanced drills. This drill will build your leg’s dexterity, allowing them to move through space as nimbly as your hands.
Once you have muscle memory from previous drill and are feeling pretty confident using the spider guard it’s time to check out some spider specific guard retention techniques. Getting passed before you can mount an attack is frustrating! Prevent this by working on your Granby roll and the hand-post hip escape or butt scoot.
The Granby roll is just a shoulder roll. Whenever your opponent pulls you into sitting guard post a hand on the opposite side of his pass and stiff-arm his sleeve or collar, in effect transferring the power of your hip into your framed stiff-arm. Most times you’ll be able to sit back into the spider position, but if you’ve got a sleeve grip he might let his arm go limp to pass. In this case, abandon the post you had with your non-gripping hand and roll over that shoulder to re-guard in an smooth and efficient way.
The spider guard is a staple position of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a simple reason – it works. It is a position for everyone, from white to black belt, male or female, competitor or recreational athlete. There is a lot of depth to the position but it is not difficult to grasp the basics of it, especially with the right drills! Spending some time working on this guard is always a good idea if only to know how to react when someone inevitably puts you in their spider guard.
Oh, and for all of you thinking that this is a gi only guard, there’s a no-gi variation of the spider guard! Simply switch your grips from sleeve grips to an overhand 4-finger grip! Before you get worried about legality, 4-finger grips are legal in IBJJF, EBI, and ADCC! No-gi spider will require faster reaction times since the grips are more easily broken, so you may be best served practicing in the gi to begin!