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Jiu Jitsu Terminology

Jiu Jitsu is a complex artform that like most sports has its own jargon and terminology. This can be a source of confusion for many, especially at the very beginning when you are still trying to keep your head above water on the mats. I thought I would take a few moments to bring you up to speed.

The Guard

Probably the most Jiu Jitsu specific term we use. In most grappling sports, Judo, Wrestling, if you are on your back, you're losing or you've lost. In Jiu Jitsu we are still very much in the match, provided we have our guard. Your guard is quite simply keeping your legs engaged between you and your opponent. Closed guard is both ankles crossed behind an opponents back while they are on their knees in front of us. Half guard means the opponent has potentially stepped over one of our legs, hence 'half', and an open guard usually refers to the feet being uncrossed and attached in some way to the front of the opponents arms, chest, hip or shoulder. It is both a very defensive and an attacking position. There are a number of very dangerous submissions that can be applied from the guard as well as our next term, sweeps!


Sweeping your opponent incorporates the use of the guard to invert the positions. For example, if you are ion your back with closed guard (see above), you manage to unbalance your opponent and turn them over so that THEY are in their back. All guard positions have specific sweeps that will work based on the opponents ability to move and the availability of their limbs, centre of gravity and the position of our legs and the grips we are using on their jacket, legs or arms. This movement is worth 2 points in competition.

Passing the guard

When your opponent is in the top position (perhaps kneeling or standing in front of you while you play guard), they gain control of your legs using their arms, legs and body position to navigate around your legs (the guard), in order to achieve a control position that does not involve the guard. When this happens we say they have 'passed the guard'. In competition the opponent must demonstrate adequate control, usually 3 seconds, and it is worth 3 points.


Jiu Jitsu is a submission art form. We use chokes/strangles, and joint locks on all of the main joints of the body to force our opponents to submit or give up. This is signified by tapping. If you submit your opponent you win, regardless of the points status, similar to a knockout in boxing. These submissions can be applied from the bottom using the guard, from other control positions on top and occasionally from underneath when you are being controlled after having your guard passed, but these kinds of 'subs' are much rarer.

So there you have it. A beginners guide to Jiu Jitsu terminology. It is important to note that there are other terms, I will address these in future posts. This should keep you going for now ;)


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