March 21, 2024

The Truth About Pulling Guard in BJJ

The Evolution of Guard Pulling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A Strategic Shift

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has evolved significantly since its early days, with strategies and techniques adapting to the competitive landscape. One of the most debated tactics in BJJ is the practice of guard pulling. This blog post delves into the nuances of guard pulling, its historical context, and its place in modern BJJ competitions.

The Traditional Roots of BJJ and the Shift Towards Guard Pulling

Historically, BJJ emphasized a well-rounded approach, with takedowns being a fundamental aspect of the art. The early Gracie family practitioners, pioneers of BJJ, incorporated takedowns into their repertoire, showcasing the martial art's self-defense origins. However, over time, there has been a noticeable shift towards guard pulling, especially in sport BJJ. This change can be attributed to the strategic advantages of starting a match on the ground, bypassing the takedown battle, and immediately engaging in ground fighting, where BJJ practitioners often feel most comfortable.

The Concerns with Guard Pulling

Critics of guard pulling argue that it neglects essential takedown skills, which are crucial not only for competition but also for self-defense scenarios. The ability to take an opponent down or defend against being taken down is integral to a comprehensive martial arts skill set. The concern is that over-reliance on guard pulling could lead to a generation of BJJ practitioners lacking in these fundamental areas.

The Influence of Wrestling on Modern BJJ

The resurgence of wrestling in BJJ competitions, highlighted by the success of athletes with strong wrestling backgrounds like Khabib Nurmagomedov and other Dagestani fighters, has brought a renewed focus on the importance of takedowns and standing grappling. This influence is evident in major competitions like the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club), where the rules have been adjusted to favor athletes who engage in the standing aspect of grappling.

The Importance of Being Well-Rounded

Today's successful BJJ competitors are those who possess a well-rounded skill set. They excel not only in guard playing but also in wrestling, leg attacks, and leg defense. The ability to transition seamlessly between these aspects of grappling demonstrates the evolution of BJJ into a more complete and versatile martial art. Competitors who can adapt to various scenarios and leverage their strengths across different aspects of grappling are often the ones who achieve the highest levels of success.

Strategic Guard Pulling in Competition

In competition, the strategy behind guard pulling can vary depending on the belt level and tournament structure. For instance, white belts are often encouraged to attempt takedowns before pulling guard to develop their skills and adaptability. However, at higher belt levels, and especially in large tournaments with many competitors, pulling guard can be a tactical move to conserve energy and control the pace of the match. It's a strategy that, when employed correctly, can lead to significant advantages and potentially secure victory.


Guard pulling in BJJ is more than just a technique; it's a strategic decision that reflects the evolution of the sport. While it's important to maintain the traditional roots of BJJ, including proficiency in takedowns, the modern competitive landscape demands adaptability and a well-rounded skill set. As BJJ continues to evolve, the debate around guard pulling will likely persist, underscoring the dynamic nature of this martial art and the continuous search for competitive edge and effectiveness in both self-defense and sport grappling contexts.

In conclusion, whether you favor the traditional approach of takedowns or the strategic guard pulling in modern BJJ, the key is to develop a comprehensive skill set that includes strong ground game, takedown abilities, and strategic acumen. As the sport evolves, so too must the practitioners, adapting to the ever-changing demands of competition and self-defense.

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