The Spider Guard, in Portuguese: Guarda Aranha, is a grappling position whose origin points to kosen judo, having later been further developed in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu during the late 1980’s. The spider guard has many variations, but its most common use is when the guard player holds both of his opponent’s sleeves while placing each of his feet on the adversary’s biceps (right foot on left biceps/left foot on right biceps), this allows the guard player more range of movement on his hips which coincidentally stops the guard passer from applying pressure or controlling his head. The spider guard is specific to the sporting aspect of BJJ with the use of the gi (kimono) and demands from the guard player great grip and leg strength as well as good flexibility.
A Brief History of the Spider-Guard in Jiu Jitsu
Although there is plenty of footage from kosen judo tournaments of the 1940s era, where the spider guard is clearly being used, in jiu jitsu the Spider-Guard was developed in the late 1980s/early 1990s as the sport of Jiu Jitsu grew in Rio de Janeiro, being a straight evolution from the open guard (one hand on lapel, one hand on sleeve, foot on biceps other foot on hip which was greatly developed in previous generations by people such as Helio Gracie, or Carlos Gracie Junior. The position started out as a defensive option, especially when fighting bigger opponents. Vinicius ‘Draculino’ reported to Gracie Mag of seeing Renzo Gracie ‘playing’ with this position first at the Gracie Barra academy in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro back in 1987.
Maurício ‘Tinguinha’, regarded as one of the great developers of the Spider Guard said to BJJ Heroes: “I don’t know who was the first to do the transition [from open guard to spider], but I imagine that it was a natural process that probably occurred in several different gyms at the same time.” He mentions that he found it to be a perfect solution against the bigger guys at his gym, as he was the younger and smaller in the class and found himself on his back regularly. As a teenager he believed he was the only person using the position until he saw Roberto Traven at a BJJ competition doing exactly the same. Tinguinha continues:
At the start the Spider Guard was used mostly as a defensive position, and many critiqued it, labeling it the ‘stalling guard’ but the more I used it, the more there was a need to improve it to win fights, to use it for sweeps – in the beginning and later submissions.
Although the Spider-Guard reigned supreme as the queen of the open guards in sport Jiu Jitsu for many years, Tinguinha says: “[even with the many improvements the guard has had] I don’t see many people doing the guard right. I believe that most don’t have the right system of teaching this stuff, because it is not a guard that you can just teach a couple of positions, you need to teach it as a system, and most people don’t have the know-how”.
Some Notable Spider Guard Competitors
- Maurício ‘Tinguinha’ Mariano
- Ricardo Vieira
- Romulo Barral
- Michael Langhi
- Ana Laura Cordeiro
- Leandro Lo
- JT Torres
- Rubes Charles ‘Cobrinha’
Michael Langhi Submission from Spider Guard
Ana Laura Corderiro vs Gabrielle Garcia
Pictures used taken from Google Image search.