Closed Guard – A Look Back

What Is Closed Guard?

The closed guard (guarda fechada in Portugese) is seen today as the foundation of guard work in BJJ. It’s regarded as the first line of defence, the cornerstone of all the guard variations in the jiu jitsu. The guard is closed once the legs of the guard player are wrapped around the opponent’s waist and the feet are crossed

Where Did It Come From?

Like most things within Brazilian jiu jitsu, the closed guard was not new, it has been used since the early beginnings of mankind scrapping with each other. It does appear to have been basic position with few options until the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. When interviewed by BJJ Heroes, the Otavio Peixotinho legendary Otavio Peixotinho mentioned that before the 80’s a Gracie motto used to be: “an armbar is only achieved with your guard open”

Developed How And By Whom?

It appears to start with Master Osvaldo Alves who taught a class in Rio de Janeiro’s. Alves taught a class he called jiu jitsu. Apparently his jiu jitsu experience was limited but he was a Judo man having lived in Japan. He needed to pay a license fee to teach judo, hence the reason for calling his classes jiu jitsu. Alves was known in the Brazilian grappling community and was friends with the Gracie Family. Many many students from different teams would regularly visit his academy. Among the regulars were Otavio “Peixotinho” andMarcio dos Santos who were students of Carlson Gracie, this mixing of minds started the exchange between judo and Gracie jiu jitsu closed guard techniques. Added to the mix were two of Osvaldo’s top students, Sergio Penha and Pascoal Magalhães Duarte who constantly brainstormed with Peixotinho

How Did It Arrive On The Competition Scene?

This combining of minds started making a dent in the jiu jitsu competition scene. Peixotinho submitted Sylvio Behring with an armbar from the guard (see video below), which was a technique developed by the group. Pascoal Duarte went on to do the same with Royce Gracie. It didn’t stop there  Sergio Penha became one of the toughest competitors the sport had seen in just 3 years of training, an outstanding achievement

From 1984
The judge is Hélio Gracie. Peixotinho V Sylvio Behring

What Next?

The closed guard rapidly became an essential ingredient, and was adopted by many of the top BJJ competitors. This secured the position into the fundamentals of jiu jitsu, especially allowing for its adaptability for no gi, vale tudo and self defence, all of which were important aspects of jiu jitsu at the time

Was There More?

Another technique development associated with this group is the refinement of the triangle choke. The choke had existed long before the closed guard but it was not a very effective technique as there was no use of the arm across to tighten the choke. The adoption of this clever refinement which perfected the choke was introduced by Sergio Penha and his collegues who used the triangle set up from the closed guard.

What Happened To Closed Guard?

As one of  jiu jitsu’s most tested techniques due to its versatility, the closed guard started losing its dominance in sports BJJ around the turn of the millennium, with newer styles of guards being developed. It’s still taught in most BJJ academies as the jiu jitsu foundation guard, but maybe it’s due a revival, watch this space!

The Future For Closed Guard

Over the next few weeks I shall be exploring the closed guard, both in the Friday blog and during the week with videos in the training section. Follow along and see what refinements can be had.

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Have a great weekend folks.

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