Skip to Content

Butterfly Guard

Butterfly Guard

The butterfly guard is a highly versatile guard that has been popularized by the likes of Marcelo Garcia, Terrere, and more modern competitors such as Adam Wardzinski. But if you will look at the history of the butterfly guard, it traces back to the 1980s. One of the earliest evidence of the butterfly guard in action was a footage from Kosen Judo in 1982.

And also before it was widely used in the 1990s, there were already jiujitsu matches that have relied on butterfly guard. The matches between Rickson vs. Peixotinho and the Carlson Gracie vs. Waldemar Santana have all used the butterfly guard before its popularity in the 1990s.

Developing the Butterfly Guard

The development of the butterfly guard into a technical go-to guard happened in 1994. Among the early known technicians of the butterfly guard were Jean Jacque Machado and Renzo Gracie. Both competed well in the ADCC 77kg division. Also, Leo Santos was one of the purveyors of the butterfly guard dominating the CBJJO lightweight division.

This game was later developed further when Fernando Terere, Margarida, and Marcelo Garcia entered the competition scene.

What Made the Butterfly Guard Popular?

The popularity of the butterfly guard can be associated with the preferred passing sequence during that time. During the early 90s and even during the early 2000s, it’s common to see a lot of pressure passing sequences. To create space, the butterfly guard organically developed into a popular option whether it’s for sweeping or for improving positions.

How to Do the Butterfly Guard?

The butterfly guard is a hook on your opponent’s thigh. There are different ways on how to do it. Some prefer to do double butterfly hooks while others do it with just one hook on the thigh. However, the goal of the butterfly guard is to create distance between the opponent and the guard player.

From Closed Guard to Butterfly Guard

In MMA, when closed guard seems like a bad position especially if you are against someone with a good ground and pound, fighters work with butterfly hooks to create space, sweep or to get back on their feet. However, it’s more common to see MMA fighters to use both hooks to create space and reset the position.

From the closed guard, the bottom player starts to step on the opponent’s hips to create space. The bottom player will then use the foot as leverage to scoot one way. On the same side where the guard player scoots, he or she can get a butterfly hook.

From here, it is ideal to sit. Staying flat on your back can make it difficult to finish the sweep. Once you are sitting, you can work towards an underhook and control the same side wrist or tricep of your opponent on the opposite side where you have your underhook and butterfly guard. From here, you can sweep by the opponent’s shoulder by posting your non-hooking foot on the mat and staying on the side.

One of the biggest mistakes why opponents can re-pummel is the fact that you are not close and tight to your opponent. Make sure that you leave no space whenever you are fighting for underhook from butterfly.

Overhook Butterfly While Opponent Posts

One of the most common reactions of those playing top game is to establish an underhook. And also, it is common for the opponent to also make it hard to control the other arm. This becomes their posting hand to counter the regular butterfly sweep.

If you have a butterfly hook and the opponent re-pummels to fight for his or her underhook, you have the option to play a whizzer or an overhook butterfly. The overhook butterfly can be tricky because you still have to make sure that you are going to collapse the side where you have the overhook. Also, you want to do an action-reaction sequence to make this work.

You want to sweep the opponent by still capturing the same side wrist. Once the opponent posts using this hand, your stepping foot will go towards the center and face the other way making a barrel roll motion. However, you have to sweep by the shoulder and not just by the side. If you sweep simply by the side, the opponent can post their leg prevent the sweep altogether.

Butterfly Guard Playbook from Half Guard

Half guard is a difficult position especially if you are going to be flattened by your opponent. One of the best ways to recover to a better guard is by fighting for a butterfly hook. While on half guard, make sure that you still trap the leg even if you open the half guard momentarily. You want to fold the leg that is closest to the body as you get the other leg to step on the mat allowing you to scoot. You can fight for a butterfly hook in this situation allowing you to create space.

Once you have the butterfly hook, there are different things that you can do. If you get to trap one arm, and your opponent still puts his or her weight on top, you can simply barrel roll to sweep the opponent. However, if you are facing a more experienced opponent, once he or she decides to post using the leg, you can get the bottom leg to wrap around the waist. Scoot to the other side and get the closed guard.

Why Play The Butterfly Game?

The butterfly game is still a relevant option even today. However, the only reason why we see less of the butterfly hook game is that a lot of players now have a different type of passing method. One of the benefits of the butterfly hook game is that it works with one or two hooks. It also has a variety of sweeps on both sides depending on the configuration.

And also, the butterfly game makes sense if you are looking to play X-guard. It is a good entry to X-guard simply because you just have to get your body underneath your opponent if you think that the butterfly hooks are no longer working as they should.