All guards can be classified as hook-based, clamp-based, frame-based, or hybrid.
There are at least dozens, and perhaps even hundreds, of defined guards. Making it even more complicated, new guards are being defined all the time. It’s helpful to categorize these guards by their mechanical characteristics, so you can more easily understand how particular mechanics make these guards effective.
A guard is hook-based if you track and check your opponent’s movements by “hooking” them with your arms or legs. The hooks are normally shallow. Hook-based guards normally don’t immobilize your opponent, but rather allow you track your opponent’s movements and respond reactively. Hooks are often used to elevate your opponent’s body in dynamic ways.
Examples of hook-based guards include:
- butterfly guard
- instep/shin-to-shin guard.
A guard is clamp-based if you are tethering yourself to your opponent and hindering your opponent’s movement. Many traditional guards are clamp-based. Clamp-based guards are used to trap and slow down your opponent, putting them in unathletic situations. Clamp-based guards can be risky because they may allow your opponent to lift you up or pressure you with weight.
Examples of clamp-based guards include:
- closed guard
- half guard.
A guard is frame-based if you’re using your limbs to keep your opponent at a comfortable distance. Frame-based guards are generally effective in stalling aggressive or stronger opponents. Frame-based guards are also extremely effective in MMA and self-defense situations, because keeping your opponent at a distance allows you to reduce the effectivenes of strikes.
Examples of frame-based guards include:
- spider guard
- knee shield guard.
A guard is a hybrid if it combines two or more of the mechanisms described above. Many modern guards are hybrid guards.
Examples of hybrid guards include:
- de la Riva guard and its variants
- X guard and its variants.