More thoughts on Butterfly Guard for the Vertical Clinch

After my post about training butterfly guard in order to better your standing clinch game, a number of questions were asked, and a major point that I left out was pointed out by one of my mentors. So here are some follow up thoughts along this subject.

I was talking to someone last night who is really, really good at keeping me on point and he made me realize I left something important out in the prior article. How do we keep ECQC goals in the vertical clinch congruent in a BJJ class?

After all, while the skill sets (as I already pointed out) needed for both are almost identical, the fundamental three butterfly attacks are focused on keeping the fight on the ground, though with a reversal in dominant position. So how do we keep focused while not pissing off our BJJ coach?

Understand, that I DO NOT have all the answers and am not 100% sure. This is what I am finding to consistently be the best solution right now, but I am still actively trying to see if there is a better answer. So buyer beware.

What I think is the best idea is to have your end state be taking your opponent’s back or going to his side and crossing his T (your hips outside and 90 degrees to his hip). Most of the basic butterfly attacks lend themselves to this end state without much, if any, modification. For example, the arm drag to hips outside his hips generally ends with you sweeping him over. You can easily substitute taking his back or even coming out and regaining your feet with no one looking at you like you have two heads. Even the classic sweeping him straight to the side with an under hook and over hook control can be turned into a duck under rather than a full sweep.

Basically, if you keep the goal of taking the back always in the forefront of your brain, I strongly believe you can get in a lot of good work that will translate directly to the standing clinch game.

The chance of getting guillotined in butterfly if you are doing things correctly is close to nil. My chin is lower than his chin (as it should be in the vertical clinch) and you are always looking towards his “center” – which I mark as his spine. In that position, not only are you in little danger of having your head/neck attacked, you are also maximizing your control of our opponent. Also, you go to butterfly when it is contextually appropriate and you are able to do it. The only way to know when that is appropriate is through mat time and hands on coaching.

And I don’t think you EVER go to your back to do the classic side-over butterfly sweep. If you can’t pull it off from the position you are in, it generally means you either do not have good limb control, or have the wrong angle on the sweep, or you don’t have head position, or a combination of all those.

You also don’t have to ball up to play butterfly. I don’t, mostly because I can’t. My list of injuries is fairly long – both shoulders permanently jacked up, a left elbow that has lost some range of motion, a big toe that has NO range of motion, and a left knee that is bone on bone and in certain positions I can actually move my knee laterally outwards (which is cool to gross out my wife with). The balling up is actually a positional replacement for being conscious of your spinal alignment. As long as I keep my head in the proper position (as I mentioned above) and I keep my spine as straight as possible and my head forward of my tailbone, I find I can do anything in butterfly without having to compress into a ball. And, balling up IMO takes away some of the advantages of transference to the standing clinch. Compressing too much has a tendency to take away from your hip mobility and that is where people start to play too much by going to their backs to attempt sweeps (which, again IMO is a bad habit to get into and not necessary ).

Here are a couple of video clips that illustrate what I am trying to say.

First one, go to about 3:13 for a nice shot of Saulo’s non-compressed position:

And this one is good. Look from about 1:09 to 1:28. I would just use her position in a little tighter, but I would not change anything else:

2 thoughts on “More thoughts on Butterfly Guard for the Vertical Clinch”

  1. That first video is AWESOME and explains so much of the problems i have had with butterfly….the set up…duh, i should have figured that. Thanks for sharing that, i have really been trying to change my guard game since your earlier article below

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