Troubleshooting the X Guard with Emily Kwok


If you had the opportunity to ask one question to a world champion, what would it be?

Bumbling around Facebook one morning I saw that former Vancouver resident Emily Kwok would be making a homecoming of sorts to film an instructional video with Stephan Kesting of There was to be an open workshop with Emily at the downtown In-Fighting academy, which is a five-minute Skytrain ride from my apartment in False Creek. Needless to say I was intrigued and decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from the 2007 brown/black belt middleweight world champion.

Emily Kwok is a current student of Marcelo Garcia, and has adapted his game to the needs of a smaller female in a male dominated art. It was therefore appropriate that the theme of the workshop was “how to defeat the bigger, stronger opponent,” which would become the very specific-sounding name of the DVD package released by Kwok and Kesting a few months later.

The workshop was structured as a public private-lesson with In-Fighting coach Richie. Richie would ask questions about techniques or situations with which he was having difficulty and Kwok would take the group through a drill that would provide the correct technique. Being an on-again, off-again patron of Garcia’s online instructional site, I recognized many of the techniques taught as being straight from Garcia’s game.


Marcelo Garcia – One leg X guard



It was no surprise, then, that the topic of the X-guard came up. Specifically the transitional position called the one-leg X-guard, in response to an issue Richie was having with opponent’s posting out in response to a hook sweep from butterfly. Garcia and Kwok teach how to enter the X-guard as a counter to this counter, and Kwok specifically focused on the single-leg variety.

Following the sweep (Emily, like Marcelo, has a habit of hook sweeping to the right) we were shown how shoot our supporting leg under our opponent when they post their leg, circling it to their hip. To assist this action, Emily would either underhook the posted leg or simply grip the pants at the knee and pull it over her. Alternatively, Emily demonstrated how she directly enters the one-leg X-guard by gripping the knee when in butterfly guard and blasting backwards, lifting with the butterfly hook and letting her supporting leg punch forward before once again circling to the hip, toes out of course. See the animation below for an example.



The workshop went on to describe Marcelo’s philosophy regarding controlling and finishing from the back, a topic which makes either MGinAction or Emily’s DVD set worth the price of admission all on its own. I still had some questions about the X-guard, however. I use it a great deal and while I have a high level of success with it I do find that opponent’s can counter my attempts by not letting me isolate the leg needed for the position. To do this opponents tend to circle their legs back and sometimes even interlock their ankles to stop me from entering the position. With a brief open question period after the workshop I felt that I needed to ask an expert on the position about this issue.

Of course, being someone who abhors speaking in front of a group having a conversation with Emily was disrupted somewhat by the sound of my heart beating in my ears, for some reason. Regardless, with a bit of difficulty I managed to get my questions out and Emily answered them with really helpful suggestions. First I asked about an alternate X-guard entry, which Emily showed from the ankle-to-ankle position. Taking liberal advantage of everyone’s time I then asked about options when your opponent defends the one leg X guard. Her advice was sterling. Namely, to keep my hooks active and either lift my opponent back into butterfly guard or frame against them to allow myself to scoot back to open guard if I was unable to get the one leg X guard.


One leg X guard troubleshooting


These suggestions fit in well with the overall X guard game taught by Garcia. We’ve covered the X guard and one leg X guard before on The Jiu Jitsu Lab, but being able to troubleshoot the positions with help from such an accomplished Jiu Jitsu athlete helped me greatly, and was the highlight of the afternoon spent with Emily and everyone at In Fighting.

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Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

3 responses to “Troubleshooting the X Guard with Emily Kwok

  1. Erik

    Great video. Just started working on my X guard and this helped.
    Also, just discovered the blog – keep up the good work!

  2. Sheldon

    So awesome, that you were part of the seminar and as well as filmed.

    Just came across your site by googling Spiderguard. Great stuff and keep up to great work!!

    Btw Happy 2013

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