Spider guard – Being on the back don’t mean you’ll lose

March 14, 2018

Spider guard is the most often way among BJJ fighters to defend from the aggressive opponent who constantly takes them down and maintains a dominant position. Despite it looks like a position where you don’t have many chances to defend, spider guard is an excellent way to prevent from punches and foot stomps in UFC. When it comes to BJJ, you can prevent an opponent from going to the full mount position. But every position has its own risks and benefits.

In Portuguese, this position is called Guarda Aranha. It originates from Kosen judo. The defensive position is developed as a part of the BJJ in the late 1980s.

There are many variations of the spider guard.

Take a look at some spider guard competition highlights.

Here is an example of how Jacare Souza uses spider guard in the UFC competition.

Source: Youtube

What exactly is a spider guard?

In BJJ, this is a position when the guard holder lays on his back and holds the sleeves of his opponent. At the same time, he places each foot on the biceps muscles of his opponent. Left foot is placed on the right biceps, while the right foot is placed on the left biceps. It is the basic defensive position which can be performed by a complete beginner.

Spider guard standing arm wrapThe main advantages of this guard are decreasing the pressure and providing a bigger range of movement for the hips of the guard holder. If the hips have more maneuvering space, this will disable the opponent from applying additional pressure, controlling your head, or transiting to the full mount position. You need to be very flexible for the spider guard. In BJJ, you can use the opponent’s kimono to strengthen the grip. To obtain stronger BJJ grip, make sure you put your thumb inside as you are clenching your fist. It will allow you to control the opponent’s movements. It strengthens your grip at least two or three times! Here is an outstanding tutorial. You can apply this in Judo and Sambo too.

In UFC, it is an excellent way to defend against a world-class ground and pound fighter. In pride fighting championship, you can easily defend foot stomps or jumping foot stomps via spider guard. However, there is one difference – you will have to hold the arms of your opponent since you have no sleeves! Upkicks will help you a lot if the opponent is really aggressive and tries to punch you via superman punch while you are on the ground. In the moment he opens, apply an upkick and he will think twice before attempting it next time.


When the commentator in the UFC says a fighter “pulled guard“, he mostly thinks that he has dropped on his back and maintains spider guard position.

The most known UFC fighters that use spider guard are BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza, and Minotauro Nogueira.

The most known BJJ competitors that use this guard are Leandro Lo, JT Tores, Mauricio “Tinguinha” Mariano, Ana Laura Cordeiro, Ricardo Vieira, Romulo Barral, Michael Langhi, and Ruben Charles “Cobrinha”.

Establishing position

This great tutorial shows it all.

The easiest way is holding opponent’s sleeves and moving your butt sideways. You can hold your legs on the ribs of your opponent. Make sure you are pulling your opponent’s sleeves towards yourself and moving sideways at the same time to create the space for your knee.

Place your right foot on the opponent’s hip, rotating it 60-degrees of more clockwise. Open your left shin and slide it up, lifting the opponent’s right biceps with your shin. When you maintain the contact with opponent’s right hand, place your left hand as you are throttling the motorcycle. This will prevent you from losing grip. Slide your left foot on the right biceps of your opponent and hold the position.

There are three golden rules – maintain the contact with the sleeves, make sure your knee is between your head and the opponent’s head and remain as flexible as you can in your hips.

The knee shield (placing the knee on the opponent’s chest) prevents you from punches in UFC. If the opponent tries to punch you, you can always lift your knee up and move your head sideways. The opponent will have a really hard time!

You need to be on your side while playing the spider guard. To be able to switch legs effectively, the grip needs to be maintained properly and you shouldn’t be on your butt. In that case, the opponent can push your legs or release his sleeves and bypass your guard easily. If you are on the side, you have the ability to rotate and follow the movement of your opponent.

If you kick the opponent with your right foot, make sure that you set his right forearm over your left shin. At the same time, rotate his right sleeve counterclockwise by using your left hand. This will stop him from passing your guard. When you kick, make sure your right foot is not fully extended – do not exceed 175-degrees angle in your kicking leg!

Double biceps spider guard

Double biceps spider guard

When you wrap opponents forearm around your shin and maintain the contact with your hand, the grip is much stronger. You have the ability to push and pull with your shin and arm at the same time. Otherwise, you would have to use much more strength to control your opponent.

If you place your left foot on the opponent’s hip, you can explosively pull and overextend his right hand. It opens many submission opportunities. If you pull his left hand, you have a great opportunity to sweep and maintain the dominant position.

Basic position

You should perform the same pattern of movement as when you lift your hips off the floor and your toes up.

Apply the pressure on the opponent’s biceps, lift your hips up and rotate to the side. It is all about wrapping opponents forearm. If you rotate to the right wrap his right forearm. Make sure you maintain the control of his sleeve.

When it comes to the UFC, this part is similar, but you must control the opponent’s arm by holding him slightly above the level of his hand.

Here are 5 essential movements from the spider guard.

Sweeps and transitions

A great way to perform a sweep is to lift the opponent’s right arm towards the ceiling. Then you can wrap your left leg around the opponent’s right leg and lift his left arm towards the ceiling. Learn to a proper way of switching and you will have a great basis for sweeps. You can drop your right leg and rotate yourself on the side, maintaining the control of your opponent and opening a dominant position.

You can also push the opponents right leg and force him to drop on his left side (the similar movement as ashi garami. If the opponent doesn’t fall, the best way to reverse him is to hook with your left leg pulling it towards the ground. At the same time, wrap your right leg around his left leg and rotate him to your left. This is an excellent way to slip out of the bad situation. Everything is explained in this tutorial, starting from 8:20.

There is an awesome way to perform an arm drag to back. It leads to side control position, which can be followed by full mount, submission, or punches and elbows if you compete in UFC.


There are so many various submissions you can perform out of the spider guard. And the highest number of it is applicable in MMA. Your opponent will have a big problem thinking he will defeat you easily.

Here is the list of the submissions:

Here are all the attacks which can be performed off the spider guard.

Passing spider guard

Counter spider guardThis is the most frustrating part of the fight if you are an attacker, especially if you fight against the opponent who has an amazing control of the back. And if he knows leg lasso, the fight will become a nightmare. Here is the instructional video.

There is also one way to counter spider guard, despite it is very difficult and only masters can apply it.

Here is the video.

You have four basic options of passing the spider guard. To be able to use any of these options, you need to stand up. If you are on your knees, you are already off balance and you will have a very hard time passing it.

Here are your options:
  • Option 1 – walk sideways and drop the opponent’s leg on your knee. Then simply move his leg sideways using your arm.
  • Option 2 – walk sideways and bring your hip forward. Opponent’s leg will simply fall down.
  • Option 3 – place your shin behind the opponent’s knee. Push your shin forward and pull your arm out.
  • Option 4 – walk backward extending your arms. As soon as the opponent releases you, pass to side control or side mount position.


Combatives spider guard

Combatives spider guard

Spider guard is a defensive position by its nature. Its primary purpose is to defend you from the opponent’s attacks while you are on the back.

While many fans will think you are in trouble, spider guard will provide you with tons of opportunities of escape, submission, and sweep. Being on the back doesn’t mean you are defeated, especially if you are a master of BJJ!

And for the end, here is an example of the perfect spider guard application in the fight between Ana Laura Cordeiro and Gabi Garcia.

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