How To Attack from The Z Guard

How To Attack from The Z Guard

The Z guard has become one of the most popular guards within No-Gi and even MMA. It offers a variety of attacks from the sweep and a few different submission options. All while keeping your opponent at a distance for you to set up your attack.  

Let’s take a deeper look at the Z guard and see some of the different possibilities from this guard. We’ll also give you some key details for using this guard and how to defend it. 

 Z guard

What is Z Guard?

Z guard or knee shield is a variation of half guard that keeps your opponent away while you set up attacks. The guard is very easy to use and is popular with many of the world’s top grapplers. 

The Z guard is a favorite position of No-Gi competitor Craig Jones, who uses the guard for leg lock entries. He has gotten heel hooks on numerous opponents from his Z guard entries. 

How To Hold Z Guard

Your Z guard all starts with your knee shield. A proper knee shield is placed strongly on your opponent’s chest angled upwards to keep them from pressuring forward. Never hold your knee shield on your opponent’s stomach or they will smash your leg down and pass.

The next thing you need to have is your hand-up framing to block your opponent from cross-facing or under hooking. With your hands up blocking along with your knee shield, you’ll be able to keep your opponent at a distance.

How you hold your bottom leg is the final important point for holding the Z guard. Your leg needs to have a good hook on your opponent’s leg to keep them in place and from easily passing.

Here is Tom DeBlass explaining how to hold Z guard.

The Rainbow Sweep

In Gi Jiu-Jitsu, you can do a variety of sweeps and the first we’ll show is the rainbow sweep. Start by cross-grabbing your opponent’s sleeve and their pants on or around their knee.

Use your knee shield to push your opponent back to get a reaction from them to come forward. When they smash forward, use your sleeve grip to lift their arm up and over your head.

As you do this, continue pulling their arm to your hip to pull them over your body while keeping the shield. With your opponent off base over your body, kick up with your knee shield leg and roll backward completing the sweep.

For a visual, here is a black belt Hiago Gama demonstrating this technique.

Kicking Sweep

In the Z guard, you have a kicking sweep that has the same mechanics as a normal scissor sweep. Start again with a cross sleeve and pant grip further down near your opponent’s ankle.

Come up on your shoulder, lifting your hips high in the air. With your shin on their chest, do a motion similar to a roundhouse kick as you pull on your grips.

These motions together sweep your opponent over on their back. Remember to shoot your leg back to avoid a leg lock and sit in half guard ready to pass.

Dive Sweep

You also have some Z guard sweep options in No-Gi and one of the best is the dive sweep. Start with your knee shield up, holding your opponent’s wrist, and your other hand in blocking an underhook.

Use your knee to push your opponent back and use that space to shoot your knee out and get an underhook. You shoot yourself deep under your opponent with your arm hooking around their hip for control.

Next, you let go of the wrist control and underhook your opponent’s leg. To sweep your opponent over, walk your feet in, and turn your hip

Kimura Attack From Z Guard

You can attack a variety of kimuras from the Z guard. Do the first by pushing your opponent, then bringing your belly to their elbow as you take your kimura grip.   

Keep your hips off the mat as you come up and do a deadlift motion to pull their arm out. Then push their arm to their back for the finish.  

Sometimes when you go for this, your opponent will defend by rolling forward. This gives you a few other finishing options.  

You can either follow them and finish the kimura from on top or go into the kimura trap position. Using the kimura grip to take your opponent’s back. 

Leglocks Entries From Z Guard

Here are two common leg lock entries from the Z guard that both start with you underhooking your opponent’s leg.  

With the first entry, you’re going to bring your top leg out, up, and over your opponent. Then grab the top of their foot to pull their leg straight as you turn your hips into them.  

For the second entry, you push your opponent to make space and kick your leg across into the same position. From here, you can either go to kneebars, toe holds, and heel hooks depending on what your opponent gives you.

Key Details To Consider When Using Z Guard

Z guard provides a lot of security for its users with numerous attack options. But there are 4 very important details to consider when doing Z guard. 

  • Knee Placement: Your knee shield must be across your opponent’s chest at an angle for a proper frame. If you put your knee shield on your opponent’s chest, they can easily smash your leg down and pass.
  • Frames: Along with your knee shield, you need to be framing with your hands to block your opponent from cross facing.
  • Bottom Hook: You can’t be lazy with your bottom leg and it must be hooking your opponent’s leg. This hook keeps them in place and prevents them from just passing your guard. 
  • Push/Pull: Just about every technique from Z guard requires the push and pull method. Pushing your opponent to get them to react by coming forward and opening them up for an attack.

How To Defend The Z Guard

Going against someone with a good Z guard can be annoying, but it is beatable. Here are the key details for how to defend the Z guard. 

  • Crush The Knee Shield: If you can get your opponent’s knee shield  below your chest onto your stomach it becomes easy to pass. Drop your weight to push their knee down by either using 2 hands forcing it down or sprawling.  
  • Cross Face: Once you have controlled their knee, you can cross face your opponent with intense shoulder pressure. Using the cross face to push forward and do a back step to finish passing their guard. 
  • Cartwheel: After you control the knee and try passing, your opponent will most likely still fight to recover guard. When they do this you hop to the other side, but to the opposite side control. 

Final Thoughts

The Z guard is one of the most popular half guards to use and for good reason. It keeps you safe defending against your opponent at the same time you can attack them in numerous ways.  

If you ever watch any professional grappling tournament or show, there’s a good chance you see Z guard being used. Adopting the Z guard into your game will keep you safe on bottom, while also giving you numerous attacks.