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How to Set up Lapel Guard for BJJ (and Catch a Triangle): A Tutorial

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Utilizing the lapel guard.

Utilizing the lapel guard.

Lapel Guard

The gi can be an offensive weapon in the right hands. Every white belt quickly becomes familiar with cross collar chokes from closed guard, gi chokes from the back, and the dreaded X-choke and Ezekiel from mount. Even worse, if you've ever rolled with anyone who knows how to untuck your lapel and use that to control your posture, additional "brabo" chokes (and numerous variations) abound. There's a new way of using the gi as a weapon that has made the rounds of various competition circuits: lapel guard. By keeping your partner in your guard via entanglement, you can attack at will, without much fear of them passing. Here's a basic intro to one variation of this position.

The Set Up

One easy way to start working with lapel guard is right off the guard pull. While you're still on the feet, make sure your partner's lapel is untucked. Make sure to grab low on the skirt of the lapel. Because you're pulling down on your partner's left side as you sit, their left leg is very likely to be forward here. We're going to use this to our advantage. While your left hand is grabbing low on the lapel skirt, your right foot slips off of your partner's hip (imagine putting yourself into an ankle lock position). Next, your right hand swims under your partner's left leg until you can grab the lapel, feeding from your left hand to your right. Take note that your right leg is effectively glued to your partner's left leg here. Passing is already difficult.

Hitting the Triangle

Once you've got the initial lapel guard position set up, your next move is to sit up so that you can grab your partner's collar to control their posture. Note: if you're unable to get this, there are plenty of other lapel guard transitions to be covered in later tutorials, but for now, let's assume you can get the collar. Once their posture is compromised, it's just a game of swimming your left leg up and over your partner's head, making sure to bite down so that you can go right into a tight triangle finish. The technique Daniel uses is to step on the biceps first, ensuring that you can follow your partner's arm until you're ready to hop over their head. Once you're into the triangle position, you'll need to release the lapel grip so that you can lock your legs together properly, and then focus on finishing the triangle.

Putting It All Together

So it's time to connect the two into a seamless attack. Start on the ground this time, and immediately go for your partner's untucked lapel with your left hand (feel free to use both hands at first). Next, allow your right foot to slide up and over your partner's hip, creating the trap. Now underhook their leg with your right arm and feed the lapel through to your right hand. Control the collar to break the posture of your partner, and then start swimming inside of the arm with your left foot (biceps is ideal). When you're ready, hop over their neck with your left arm, release the lapel with your right hand, and start to work on closing your triangle for the glorious submission.

Lapel Web

I speak from experience when I say that lapel guard is easily one of the toughest types of guard to pass. Any guard that allows your partner to have grips is going to be formidable, but lapel guard (and all the subsequent variations) further lock the position in place and make your life difficult. Suffice it to say, if you can master the basics of this type of guard, you will find yourself keeping training partners in your guard for much longer over time. Enjoy the techniques, play around a lot and experiment, and, as always, let me know how these techniques work for you!