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The Endless Debate: Takedowns vs. Guard Pulling

Most people would argue that the eternal question in jiu-jitsu is Gi vs. No Gi, Guard passing vs. Guard playing, or even IBJJF vs. Sub-Only. But definitely the most controversial has always shown to be Team Takedown vs. Team Guard Pull. There are a lot of defenses and reasoned arguments on either side that completely depend on the skill and goal of the jiu-jitsu player.

Personally speaking, I am an avid fan of both. I can appreciate a slick guard pull straight into a pre-planned course of action just as much as I can appreciate a powerful blast double leg straight into a guard pass. Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and this proves true in whatever team you better identify with.

In competition jiu-jitsu, the beginning of the match can either make you or break you. Meaning, whatever you want to do, you better do it fast and be the first to do it, otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your match playing catch-up. While a guard pull may not equip you with an initial two points, it can definitely set you up for initial success if you play your cards right. People with versatile guards will likely be adamant about pulling and retaining the bottom position in search of a sweep or submission. On the other hand, you will likely never convince someone with a Judo or wrestling background to sit on their butt as an initial decision.

Which brings us to the topic of styles and weights. For a small berimbolo artist such as lightweight Levi Jones or roosterweight Mikey Musumeci, takedowns aren’t going to clear the path for a slick back take. For explosive and powerful heavyweights like Buchecha or Erberth

Santos, a guard pull will probably be more detrimental than beneficial. When similar styles meet, it often leads to a battle of stubbornness with both players refusing to adapt. Which is the case when two guard players perform a double guard pull and neither will give up the bottom position, which will result in penalties for both. Such was the case with Levi Jones vs. Leon Taffa at 2019 Worlds resulting in a double DQ. Similarly, the same concept and consequence applies when two top players remain standing and get into a push-and-pull battle with little to no success.

Bottom line, when it comes to this debate, the end justifies the means. In the end, you have to evaluate the effectiveness of your offense and defense, your energy expenditure and efficiency, and many other factors that change on a match-to-match basis. Of course, to become a problem in any position, you gotta have the best of both worlds, and to succeed in this ever-changing art, your arsenal has to constantly be adapting. Both takedowns and throws such as the various tactics for pulling guard come with a set of methodical skills of their own. Best believe that there will be certain times where your membership to the anti-guard pulling club will have to be revoked. Pick your poison and always remember that guard puller lives matter too.

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