Can You Pull Guard in Judo?


Brazilian jiu-jitsu BJJ training sparing on the tatami two fighters in guard position in training

Guard pulling is used often in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Seeing as BJJ and Judo are similar, you’ve probably wondered: Can you pull guard in Judo?

Here’s what I know, having practiced Judo a bit:

In mainstream Judo (Kodokan), it is illegal to pull guard in competitions. However, in Kosen Judo, it is legal to pull guard.

To pull guard means to grip an opponent and then use your leg to pull them to the ground.

While this is cool in BJJ, pulling is not accepted in Judo, seeing as throws are the primary mechanism for getting opponents to the ground.

But, even when using BJJ for real-life self-defense, guard pulling is not very reliable. It’s safer to use it in BJJ competitions.

In this article, we’ll explore what guard pulling is, if it counts as a takedown, why it’s frowned upon, and similar themes around if it’s cool to pull guard in Judo.

Let the fun begin…

What is guard pulling?

Guard pulling is a technique in which a fighter uses their leg to control the other while having their back to the ground. It is an advantageous position because they unbalance their opponent and apply other techniques to control them, while the person being controlled struggles to regain their balance.

Guard pulling is a technique that’s often used in place of a direct takedown.

But it can also be done if your opponent tries a sweep and isn’t watching your legs closely enough. It’s great for defending oneself. But you don’t want to just hang out in guard, which is a newbie mistake.

Say an opponent is trying to execute a throw, and they’ve got you in their grip.

If you know how to pull guard, you can counter the throw and change who now has the dominant position. And, throw them instead, or you could pull them into a closed guard.

But, like most techniques, if the opponent is highly skilled, they could counter the pull. How? If their reflexes are sharp, they could preempt guard pulling, grab hold of your forward leg, and have you on your back before your leg touches their body.

Or, if you put your leg on the wrong side of his body (where he has an arm free), the opponent can easily reach for your leg and have you on the mat.

Now, there are several ways to execute guard pulling. Let’s check out one of them.

Say you and the opponent have gripped each other’s gi in the classic collar and grip hold. To pull guard, you quickly raise your leg that’s on the side of his arm that’s not free, place it on his hip, on the same side, pull him close, as you fall back gracefully.

Why would you use the leg on the side of the arm that’s not free?

If you used the other leg, they could grab it and sweep you off of your feet, and you’d be the one in a defensive position!

The technique is executed in a fluid and swift manner to prevent the opponent from guessing your next move, so they can’t preempt and prevent it.

Does pulling guard count as a takedown in Judo?

Pulling guard is not regarded as a valid takedown in Judo. It is actually illegal because takedowns in Judo are executed through valid throws. Pulling or dragging an opponent to the mat is not a throw. It is not only unacceptable, but it would also most likely lead to penalties.

On the other hand, pulling guard is a perfectly legit takedown in BJJ.

Now, while there are tons of similarities between both grappling arts, after all, they have a common ancestry. There are also key differences. There are tons of effective throws Judokas use to execute takedowns. Pulling guard is not one of them.

Consider that being on your back or side in Judo is a fast ticket to losing.

And, being on one’s back is integral to pulling guard! So, it’s not a technique you want to employ. It’s considered passive.

Only legal throws that actually get an opponent on his back or side count as takedowns in Judo.

What techniques from BJJ can be applied in Judo?

Both BJJ and Judo are an offspring of traditional Japanese Jiu-jitsu. Therefore, both arts share similar techniques. The implication is that most BJJ techniques can be applied in Judo apart from some that are banned in Judo, such as the double-leg takedown and the Kani Basami.

Judo is better at Tachi Waza (the standing techniques), and one could argue, even at takedowns.

So, I’d argue that BJJ’s ground techniques, employed at a fast pace, are techniques that could help a Judoka improve their game. After all, BJJers excel at the ground game (it’s just that they usually take their time).

The following are a few BJJ techniques that can be applied in Judo:

  • Side Control Shrimp Escape
  • Bridge and Roll
  • Scissors Sweep
  • Rear naked choke
  • Arm-Bar from Guard
  • Passing the guard

Can one learn Judo at home?

In a recent article of mine, I shared effective, inexpensive, and actionable strategies that’ll help you teach yourself. It might surprise you, but it’s even possible to earn your black belt at home!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Why is pulling guard frowned upon?

Pulling guard is frowned upon because in some grappling arts such as Judo or Wrestling, having one’s back on the ground is a signifier of loss, or it predisposes one to lose. It is also perceived as passive and defensive as opposed to being on the offensive.

In fact, as a reflection of cowardice.

Let’s face it, most of us associate being on top with dominance. It seems obvious that the fighter on top is likely to win because they could more easily inflict harm. This is probably true in a lot of cases.

But another key reason why many frown upon guard pulling is that takedowns are more exciting. They’re more like “real fighting.”

We don’t want to watch dudes falling on the ground, we want to watch them going toe-to-toe, grappling, using a variety of cool moves, not just flopping on the ground.

Another reason it gets a bad rap is that even though it looks easy, it’s not so easy to execute if you’re fighting someone skilled. It can easily backfire such that if they were to counter it, you might be the person who is now being dominated.

Lastly, it’s not ideal to use it in a real fight because the last thing you ever want in a real fight is to have a bully on you while you’ve got your back to the ground. 

You want to employ techniques that don’t involve you being on your back. That makes you an easy target for a kick in the head!

But one thing’s for sure.

You don’t want to just hang out in guard. It can be a good way to catch your breath for a moment. But always have your next move or a submission in mind and get to it quickly!

Say you’re wondering whether to choose Judo or wrestling. 

Which one’s better? Check out a recent article of mine where I shared the pros and cons of each and which one is a better choice.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Do you get points for pulling guard in Judo or BJJ?

One gets penalized for pulling guard in Judo. However, in BJJ, it is acceptable and can lead to points under certain circumstances. This is because while pulling guard is regarded as passive and illegal in Judo, it is perfectly legal in BJJ. 

And, it is often employed in the latter to even hasten the game to the ground. It is not perceived as a passive technique.

It’s vital to note that pulling guard is perfectly legit in Kosen Judo, a variation of Kodokan Judo (the mainstream). Since Kodokan Judo is the real McCoy, you don’t want to ever pull guard if you’re playing by Kodokan Judo’s rules.

Pulling guard is considered passive — nothing is happening. It’s kind of like stalling. 

In BJJ, on the other hand, pulling guard is a go-to technique that’s used a lot. Why? BJJ’s domain, as it were, is ground fighting, not like Judo, where virtually all the action happens while Judokas are standing. In BJJ, the ground is where it’s at.

So, it’s not perceived as a passive move. 

You’re actually increasing the tempo of the fight because folks want to see the BJJers having a go at it on the mat.

But, no points are awarded for pulling guard in BJJ. It’s legal, but skilled fighters execute it swiftly because if your opponent and yourself were both attempting to pull guard and you fell on your back without being able to execute it successfully, it is considered a sweep, for which they get 2 points!

BJJ and Judo are offshoots of traditional Jiu-jitsu. 

Say you’re wondering which one to choose: Judo or BJJ? Check out a recent article of mine where I offered info that’ll help you make the right choice.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

Guard pulling is often frowned upon. Why?

We learned about some of the reasons. We started with understanding what it entails and whether it counts as a takedown.

We looked at a few BJJ techniques that can be applied in Judo, and we wrapped up the article by considering whether one gets points for pulling guard in Judo and BJJ.

Wonder how Judo compares to Taekwondo?

I compare both of those in a recent article. Both are Olympic sports, but do the similarities stop there? Are there any techniques that overlap? Which one is better?

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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