To Pull or not to Pull?

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Guard pulling in Jiu-Jitsu is a polarizing topic and usually goes hand in hand with the debate over whether Jiu-Jitsu is headed down the path of becoming just another sport martial art with no basis in self defense. It’s clear that in a street fight, you don’t want to be fighting from your back on the concrete no matter how good you are at it. If you are put there, you use the skills of Jiu-Jitsu to return to your feet and preferably put the opponent on the ground.

I find myself stuck in the middle. I personally never pull guard and will always teach my students takedowns first, and always emphasize that in self defense you stay on your feet if at all possible. However, I do think it’s important to recognize that pulling guard may be the best strategy for certain types of fighters, especially in lower weight divisions and success in competition is important as well. If one of my students wants to pull guard, I only ask the following:

  1. Pull guard AGGRESSIVELY. Make sure when you go to the ground, the opponent is off-balance and a step behind so you can immediately attack with a sweep or submission.
  2. Train takedowns as well. Pull guard because it’s where you’re most dangerous, not because you don’t know how to do anything else.
  3. Get the RIGHT grips. Don’t be in such a rush to get the fight to the ground that you take whatever grips you get first. The grips you pull guard with should be the ones you need for the sweep or submission you’re going for immediately afterward.

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