The closed guard, in Portuguese: guarda fechada, is regarded today as one of the foundations of guard work in jiu jitsu, often classified as the first line of defence of all the guard games in the sport. a guard is considered closed once both legs of the guard player are wrapped around his opponent’s waist and the feet are crossed (locked), holding the adversary’s hips close to those of he guard player.
A Brief History of the Closed-Guard in Jiu Jitsu
Lineage: Guard > Closed Guard
Like many of the jiu jitsu guards, the closed guard is not a creation of BJJ, it has been used since the early beginnings of grappling centuries ago. It was, however, a very basic position with few developments (if none) in Brazil until the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. When interviewed by BJJ Heroes, the legendary Otavio “Peixotinho” mentioned that before the 80’s a Gracie motto used to be: “an armbar is only achieved with your guard open”.
The history of the closed guard ‘boom’ in jiu jitsu starts at Osvaldo Alves‘ class inside the Clube Olímpico (a clandestine casino, masked as a recreation centre in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana). Master Osvaldo taught a class there using the term jiu jitsu, though in reality his jiu jitsu experience was limited. He was a Judo man, but as he needed to pay a license fee to teach it, he decided to call it a jiu jitsu class instead. Alves was known in the Brazilian grappling community, he had lived in Japan and had a close relationship with the Gracie family, for those reasons many students from different teams regularly visited his academy, among the regulars were Otavio “Peixotinho” and Márcio dos Santos (students of Carlson Gracie) who started the exchange between basic judo and Gracie jiu jitsu closed guard techniques. Two of Osvaldo’s top students, Sergio Penha and Pascoal Magalhães Duarte brainstormed for endless hours with Peixotinho.
Me and Sergio [Penha] used to train with lots of people from outside our gym, Osvaldo observed and assimilated positions with us. As he did not have much experience in jiu jitsu, he devoted a lot of attention to their moves and always then gave us his input/suggestions. – Pascoal Duarte
Quickly this tight-knit association started making a dent in the jiu jitsu competitive scene. Peixotinho submitted the technical Sylvio Behring with an armbar from the guard (see video below), a technique developed by the group. Pascoal Duarte did the same with Royce Gracie and Sergio Penha became one of the toughest competitors the sport had seen in just 3 years of training, a record breaking time in the sport.
The closed guard quickly became a trend, and was adopted by many of the sport’s elite, this helped shape the position into the foundation of jiu jitsu, especially taking in account its adaptability for no gi, vale tudo (MMA) and self defence, all of which were important aspects of jiu jitsu in those days.
Another important technique often associated with this group of individuals is the triangle choke. In Brazil, the choke had existed long before the closed guard, however, those who remember the old days often say that it was not a very effective technique as they did not use the arm across to tighten the choke, this cunning discovery that perfected the choke was introduced by Sergio Penha and his peers who used the triangle as a common set up from the closed guard.
Being one of jiu jitsu’s most tested techniques due to its longevity and versatility, the closed guard started losing its predominance in sporting jiu jitsu at the turn of the millennium, with the favouritism of competitors falling on the newer styles of guards that appeared as time went by, but its still taught in most BJJ academies as the jiu jitsu foundation guard.
- Sergio Penha
- Sergio ‘Bolao’ Souza
- Roger Gracie
- Demian Maia
- Otavio ‘Peixotinho’ Almeida
- Marcio Corleta
- Eduardo Santoro
- Carlos ‘Portugues’ Vieira
- Kron Gracie
- Claudio Calasans
- Vinicius ‘Vinny’ Magalhaes
- The Triangle 3 Vol. DVD set with Ryan Hall (specifically 2nd DVD of the set)
- Cobrinha BJJ Vol 1 – Closed Guard by Rubens Charles (on demand)
- Jiu-Jitsu Outlaw 4 DVD Set with Abmar Barbosa
Otavio ‘Peixotinho’ Almeida vs Sylvio Behring
Closed Guard with Leonardo Vieira
Closed Guard Sweep & Armbar with Kurt Osiander
Closed Guard Triangle with Ryan Hall