The worm guard is a grappling position developed by a jiu jitsu competitor named Keenan Cornelius in 2014. The position is applied when the guard player uses his opponent’s lapel and wraps it around his own shin, passing it underneath the opposite leg of the guard passer (i.e.: passer’s left lapel underneath his own right leg), the guardeiro will then make a grip with his far hand. The guard player’s foot will usually be placed passed the opponent’s hip (i.e.: right foot passing top player’s left hip). The leverage created by this control will severely restrict the movement of the passer as well as his ability to put pressure on the bottom grappler, thus creating openings for a variety of sweeps/reversals and back takes.
The history of the worm guard
Though lapel guards have been used by jiu jitsu competitors in the past, the innovative worm guard control was first seen at the 2014 Pan American Championships, being performed by Keenan Cornelius on Murilo Santana in the quarter finals of the medium heavyweight division. When inquired about this match, the mastermind behind this creative guard said:
I wasn’t planning on using it because it was still in development, but Murilo was pressuring my guard a lot and killing me. I had to fall back on worm and it allowed me to come back and win the match. – Keenan Cornelius
As aforementioned, the jiu jitsu game was no stranger to the lapels before the appearance of the worm guard. It was by ‘playing’ with the lapels that Keenan came up with the creative worm lapel control, at first by instinct and later adding plenty of thought behind the right way to control the opponent’s movement and how to use that control to improve his own positioning.
After Cornelius’ continuous success utilizing this new position during the Pan American, the World Pro Championship, and the World Jiu Jitsu Championship that year, many others started trying to mimic his success with the worm, however, some also saw this guard as a stalling position, much like we had seen in the past with the 50/50 guard. Because of this strange stalling stigma created around the worm guard, the Copa Pódio, a well known and respected jiu jitsu promotion, decided to stop it being used, fearing it would slow the pace of the fights and the number of pay-per-view subscriptions to their streams.
On the 30th of July 2014 they announced there would be a few changes to the rules of the event, rules put in place to penalize the use of the lapel guards, which were falling into fashion by many fighters. In a statement on their Facebook page, they wrote:
“In traditional events, the title and medals are more important than the show, and for this reason the lapel guard and a number of other positions are so successful”, explains Jeferson Maycá, director of the organization. “In the traditional structure of jiu-jitsu, very often, winning the title, even with a somewhat boring style and lots of tie ups, is what generates seminars, which is still the leading source of income for fighters. The show is relegated to the background in these cases, this has never been the professional proposal of Copa Podio, precisely as there already exist major events with this purpose”.
The overwhelming fan reaction against the proposal, made the promotion backtrack on their statements, deciding to instead, limit the time in which one can hold a position, a rule that had already been in place by most jiu jitsu promotions.
Worm Guard Highlight
Worm Guard Study by BJJ Scout
Keenan Cornelius vs Arnaldo Maidana
Keenan Cornelius vs Murilo Santana
Banner picture by Grapple TV.