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How to Take the Back From X-Guard in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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

Learn how to use the X-guard position to get your opponent's back.

Learn how to use the X-guard position to get your opponent's back.

Taking the Back Too?

X-guard continues to evolve as a position, and we've covered some fundamental ways to get into X-guard, along with sweeps into submissions from the position.

Here, we'll take a look at how to take the back from X-guard. The position has enough detail to be broken up into several steps, but you can become proficient in the entire sequence through repetition.

The Overview

Here's a general overview of the entire sequence. Start by diving underneath your partner for X-guard. Naturally, as your opponent stands here, you're immediately going to think that you should stand up in base ("technical stand up") and do a very simple sweep. However, your opponent can lean forward to make this sweep extremely difficult, and that's the time to sneak out the back.

Control their belt with your left hand (assume that your left leg is hugging their leg with the initial X-guard entry). Next, pass your left hand behind your partner's knee (like a "karate chop"), and use this space to slide all the way out the back door. You should finish with both butterfly hooks behind your partner's knees, able to pull them forward into your lap to finish the back take.


Another way to creep to the back I've come to favor more and more over the years is simply to keep the knee grip instead of grabbing the belt, but then to grab the belt at the end, right before you sneak to the back. This allows a much sneakier flow into the position at an earlier phase, where you can enter straight from X-guard (or even from deep half guard).

This "bazooka grip" on the knee makes life much easier for me and keeps your partner from stepping away earlier in the process. Finally, put on the brakes as you finish the back take, lest your partner end up taking a very rough fall in the process. Instead, help them coast down to the ground, establishing your own harness grip along the way to help you secure the back take.

Making the Opportunity

There are two ways to use X-guard: You can either be passive and wait for your partner to make a move, ultimately giving you an off-balance here or an exposed limb there, or you can make this happen. When you initially get underneath your partner, you can often exaggerate the "out the back door" motion your hips are making, helping to force your partner's balance far forward. This can encourage them to post on the mat in order to avoid being swept; even if they don't post here, as long as their base is forward enough, you can enter straight into the back take.

My Plan B

It's great to have a strong position in BJJ, but it's even better to have a plan B for when you can't get to that first attack. While you're entering into the same position, I absolutely love this alternative plan for when you can't get your partner's balance to start rocking back. Instead, forget about the back-take option (for now, anyway), and shoot one leg through completely, before pivoting to "catch" it with your other leg, entering into a 50/50 sweep position.

The Back Is Best

There's a reason that the back has continued to be perceived as the king of all positions in BJJ: It's dominant, decisive, and one-sided. Focus on sneaking underneath your partner in order to get to the back, and you'll add another dimension to your arm-drag or underhook-centered game. As always, enjoy these techniques, apply them safely, and let me know how they are working out for you!

© 2017 Andrew Smith