Popularized by none other than the legendary Marcelo Garcia, the X-guard was introduced to the world from Marcelo’s performance in the 2003 ADCC. In this article we will go over what is the X-guard, a look at some of its variations, and its continued use to this day. But first, check out Marcelo’s masterful use of the X-guard in his 2003 ADCC matches below:
The traditional X-guard is characterized by the guard player being entirely underneath his opponent’s hips, with an underhook on one leg and two hooks on the far leg, one behind the opponent’s leg and the other in front of the hip. This crosses the guard player’s legs into an ‘X’ shape, giving the guard its moniker. Rafael Lovato explains some key concepts below, while Stephan Kesting highlights some common mistakes people make with this guard.
While it is referred to as a guard, there are many practitioners who disagree with this notion, saying that the X-guard is more of a sweeping position than it is an actual guard. By this they mean that getting to the X-guard is often the objective, rather than the starting position. In the X-guard, the guard player’s hips are directly underneath his opponent’s, making the actual sweep itself a minor part of the entire sequence. In terms of getting a sweep via the X-guard, as much as 80% of the challenge is getting to the X-guard in the first place. Of course, this should not be taken as an attempt to minimize the importance of understanding the proper details and controls of the X-guard itself.
To further elaborate, while it is extremely common to see a guard player to pull guards such as half guard and De La Riva, pulling guard directly to X-guard is almost never seen barring a major mistake by the top player. In fact, what you will see are transitions from other guards into the X-guard, e.g. butterfly guard into X-guard, De la Riva guard into X-guard, half guard into X-guard.
Today, the X-guard continues to be widely used as a powerful sweeping position in modern BJJ competitions. In addition to Marcelo Garcia’s students, Leandro Lo is a good example of someone who has made his style of hybrid spider-X guard a highly successful position for him.
While X-guard is seen primarily as a sweeping position, there are several submission options available from the position, such as this sneaky triangle set up, which can also be used to attack omoplatas.
Much more common are leg attacks from X-guard’s sister; the Single Leg X-guard. While the letter ‘X’ remains in the name, there is no cross formed by the guard player’s legs, so it is likely that the name was given due to the ease of transition between the Single Leg X-guard and the traditional X-guard. A skilled X-guard player will be able to seamlessly transition between these two positions, and in fact Single Leg X-guard is used as a common entry point into the traditional X-guard.
As you can see, the Single Leg X-guard position resembles the traditional footlock position, and it can thus be used to sweep or to attack leg locks. As we also mentioned in the butterfly guard article, no-gi tournaments which allow for all leg attacks such as EBI and Polaris are increasingly popular, and the Single Leg X-guard entry to heel hook combo is both extremely common and highly effective.
To conclude, both the traditional X-guard and its sister, the Single Leg X-guard, remain effective attacking positions that are still in use in BJJ and submission grappling tournaments today. While there is some debate as to the nomenclature of calling the position a guard, there is little, if any, debate as to its effectiveness.