BJJ Butterfly Guard – The Most Important Principles by Marcelo Garcia

BJJ Butterfly Guard – The Most Important Principles by Marcelo Garcia

In BJJ, the Butterfly Guard is one of the most effective guards in the martial art. It is the great equalizer for smaller opponents against bigger opponents. The Butterfly Guard allows you to get on the inside of your opponent and use leverage for control and sweeps.

It also allows you to control the distance against your opponent. Having a good Butterfly Guard is a must in today’s world of BJJ. For learning the most important principles of Butterfly Guard, there is no one better to learn from than Marcelo Garcia.

For those new to BJJ, Marcelo Garcia is arguably one of the greatest grapplers of all time. He is a multiple time world champion and has the most submissions in ADCC history. 

Marcelo Garcia Guillotine

What made him so special was that he was a smaller grappler, but easily beat grapplers twice his size. He used flawless technique to not only beat opponents, but choked just about everyone he faced.

How he beat a lot of his opponents was by using his patented Butterfly Guard to sweep and submit them.

Bernardo Faria and BJJ Fanatics have released a new video with Marcelo Garcia. In this video, Marcelo breaks the most important principles of Butterfly Guard. Everything you need to know about Butterfly Guard taught by a master of the move.

In this technique breakdown, we’re going to go over every detail Marcelo shows in this video.

How to Use the Butterfly Guard

A basic Butterfly Guard is an open guard, where you’re on your butt sitting up. You control the opponent by having your shins on the inside of your opponent’s legs and inside arm ties. Your legs are slightly slanted outward that looks similar to a butterfly, hence the name Butterfly Guard.

Main Principle of the Butterfly Guard

The main principle Marcelo details about the Butterfly Guard and BJJ in general is connecting moves and timing. In Jiu Jitsu, you always have to be thinking about the next move and how you’re going to get there. Alway have a connection for your next move no matter how the opponent reacts.

You also have to have timing with the Butterfly Guard. You have to know when to move in order to connect the the move.

Getting to the Butterfly from the Standing Position

Marcelo starts by showing how you get to the Butterfly Guard from standing. Nobody is just going to give it to you, so you have to bring them into your game.

You literally have to grab your opponent and pull them into the Butterfly Guard. Marcelo does this by grabbing his opponent’s wrist from standing and pulling them down to his guard.

Butterfly for a Pressure Heavy Opponent

The great thing about Butterfly guard is that it gives you the ability to control spacing. If an opponent is giving pressure, then you can move back to make space. You shouldn’t run the entire time, but you’re just making space until you see the right time to attack.

When the opponent is pressing forward, you can stop their momentum with your shin on the inside of their shin. As you do this when they move forward, their leg will lift off the ground stopping their momentum.

From here, you have a lot of options to connect your next move. You could either do a sweep variation to put them down or connect to another guard like single leg x.

Butterfly for a Non-Engaging Opponent

The other thing that may happen is the opponent may not want anything to do with your Butterfly Guard. They may try to back away and avoid your guard.

When they do this, you can put your feet behind theirs and push them over. After this, Marcelo again stresses about connecting to the next move, so immediately get up and begin passing.

Sometimes, the opponent will defend by backstepping out of your butterfly hook. When they do this grab the back of their foot you still have hooked. Put your other hand on their knee and push them over to get the sweep.

Butterfly Against Opponent on their Knees

butterfly guard

This is generally, where opponents will defend Butterfly Guard, because it’s easier to defend than from standing. Marcelo gives a lot of principles to remember from this position.

The first was never let the opponent push your chest and knock you back. Keep your base low and let them push on your shoulders.  When your base is lower it’s stronger and very difficult to push you on your back.

Marcelo’s second principle from here is keeping your feet heavy on the mat. If your feet come off the mat, then the opponent can easily put you on your back. Keeping your feet heavy on the mat will help you no matter if the opponent is pressuring or defending.

Key Details to Consider

The principles Marcelo gives for the Butterfly Guard. They go for every part of Jiu Jitsu, as well.

  • Timing and Spacing: Using the Butterfly Guard properly is all about timing and spacing
  • Connect Your Shins: For the Butterfly Guard to work, you have to be connected to your opponent. Always try to have a shin connected to your opponent.
  • Low Base: Keep your base low in order to prevent the opponent from putting you on your back. A low base is a strong base.
  • Heavy Feet on The Mat: Keep your feet heavy on the mat. This will keep you base strong and harder to knock over.
  • Weight Placement: Always be aware of weight placement. Where your opponent’s weight is will dictate how you can sweep them.


The Butterfly Guard is a powerful position if you use it correctly. It works great for No Gi as well. Marcelo does a real nice job explaining the technique, breaking down all the intricate details to be successful with the position. Who better to learn it from the GOAT himself!