The Worm Guard is an open guard developed in the early 2010s by elite grappler Keenan Cornelius. The guard uses your opponents lapel to break their posture in order to sweep or advance position. The essential component is maintaining control of your opponent’s lapel whilst it is wrapped around your leg and their leg. This position severely restricts the mobility of your opponent. It has been criticized for being a ‘holding position’, but has since developed into a more potent position. Being a relatively young guard, it is not as widely taught as other guards. I believe that the guard has much to offer and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked by practitioners. I have outlined my reasoning in chronological order below.
One of the most rewarding things about Worm Guard is the amount of control it gives you over your opponent. The gi, and lapels in particular, are often overlooked as powerful tools for controlling your opponent. Your gi is essentially a part of your body with a large surface area. As a result, manipulating the gi, manipulates your body. With the lapel wrapped around the leg, and gripped with the hands, there is nowhere your opponent can move without your letting up. This is initially what led to the accusations of a holding position. If you are attack-minded, however, this frustrating level of control can give you huge advantages to advance position.
As touched on above, the manipulation of the gi allows you to break an opponent’s posture far easier than other guards. Breaking posture is an essential aspect of Bjj at all levels. It allows openings for submissions and sweeps. By putting immense pressure on your opponent’s gi, you force their posture to break and their back is forced to bend. In addition to control, broken posture now gives you a supreme attacking advantage. From worm, sweeps and back-takes are common due to how low the opponent is to the floor.
Aside from looking cool, back takes and sweeps from worm are incredibly effective. If they aren’t familiar with the guard, once you maintain control and your opponent’s posture is broken, positions and sweeps are simple. Your opponent’s mobility is so restricted that, without proper understanding, they will be unable to defend the techniques. Some sweeps involve pressure on the lapel. This forces your opponent in the opposite direction to their posted side. Others involve chopping their legs. The position of the lapel around your opponent’s leg makes it very difficult for them to counteract this. Add into the equation that their hands are often trying to free the lapel and you (almost) have a sitting duck.
A Recent Guard Many guards have been around for so long that their offensive and defensive properties are well known throughout the Bjj world. The recency of the worm guard sets it apart from others. Similar to how leg locks have become essential for any respectable fighter, the worm guard seems to be a similar sub-genre of effective, underutilized technique. Coaches encourage their younger students to gain decent proficiency in at least one open guard. For those looking for something to set them apart whilst enjoying powerful control in their attack, worm guard may be the way forward. Like everything in this sport, the guard will continue to advance and develop. Being at its infancy, now is a great time to understand its benefits and add it to your arsenal.