Worm guard: What is it and Fundamental Techniques

There are a few orthodox positions in the BJJ arsenal that have stood the test of time and that have been incorporated as foundational. And there are also some positions that are new and unorthodox. Today you will be reading more about an unorthodox position that goes by the name of the worm guard.

The worm guard, even though it’s a relatively new invention in the world of BJJ, can be a devastating position if you know how to use it right. But it’s also not an easy position that you could master overnight. There are important details that you will need to learn and this will take time and effort. But if you feel like this position comes naturally for you, then we say go for it! You will learn what exactly is the worm guard and you will learn some more about the techniques that you can apply from it.

Check out the best worm guard & other lapel guard instructional by Keenan Cornelius HERE

The Worm guard Basics

Worm guard is a relatively new position for the sport of BJJ and it was developed by Keenan Cornelius – a well-known name in BJJ circles – back in 2014. There have been many advances and changes in the details of this positions since it originally came to be – but the core still remains the same. The worm guard is a very effective position and it’s used successfully in tournaments around the world, even at the level of black belts.

Keenan's Lapel Encyclopedia

The core of the Worm guard

This is a pretty unusual position in BJJ, especially when you compare it to the traditional full-guard and side-control positions. So, it may be a bit more difficult to explain in words – which is why we recommend you to watch some videos of the worm guard so as to be able to understand it a bit better. The video below is a great place to start as you will see the master himself, Keenan Cornelius, explaining his brainchild the worm guard.

The basics of the worm guard are as follows. The first thing that you need to do, as the person in the bottom open guard, is to post a leg on your opponent’s hip. Then you need to use your arm to grab his lapel at the side where your leg is posted. And then you need to swing your other leg, sit up, and change the grip of the lapel to your other hand and under your posted leg, but behind your opponent’s other leg. Now, this may sound difficult to grasp and execute – but nothing can be further from the truth. While it’s true that this position is not a part of the conventional arsenal of white belts, you can still see many competitors and practitioners executing it successfully.

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Techniques from the worm guard

There are many sweeps that you can execute from the worm guard. In fact, the first time the world learned about the worm guard was back at the 2014 Pan American Championships when Keenan Cornelius was battling Murilo Santana in the quarterfinals. Keenan has said since then that the worm guard was what won him the match then.

The first thing that you can do is sweep your opponent to his back. You take the worm guard and set it up properly. And if you have done this, then you could use the leg that you didn’t post on your opponent’s hip to put it between his legs and on his hip, in a variation of the X-guard. And then it’s easy, all you need to do is to put a trip on your opponent’s legs with your free arm and then push him to the ground. Then it will be easy for you to get to a more dominant position.

There is a very similar sweep to the one above when you do the same steps but you push your opponent to the other side. For this to work, you need to again get in the worm guard position and put your free leg in the X-guard variation. And then you need to use your free arm not to trip your opponent’s legs but to grab his opposite cuff. This would mean that he won’t be able to use that arm to post and, consequently, he will be very vulnerable to a sweep.

If you want to do a slick worm guard to triangle combination on this opponent – then you should know that this too is possible. You will first need to perform the first of the two sweeps that we have mentioned above. If you fight a regular opponent then he will give his best to post back up and not fall down flat. If this happens you will have the perfect window to roll over your shoulder and throw your other leg over the head of your opponent – locking the triangle choke.