Make Z guard great again Review: How to knee shield like Craig Jones

What surprised me the most about ADCC 2022 was how effective the knee shield half guard was. Lots of guys used the knee shield, and almost nobody could pass it. This inspired me to pick up Craig Jones’ instructional Make Z guard great again and learn the most modern variation of the knee shield half guard. In this review I tell you what I learned and what I think of the instructional as a whole.

TitleMake Z Guard Great Again
InstructorCraig Jones
Total duration5 hours and 11 minutes
Publication year2022
Where to buyHere on BJJ Fanatics

Make Z-guard great again by Craig Jones cover

Learn the guard that Craig Jones still uses to sweep and submit people at the highest level

Learn Craig’s Guard


Summary of my review

I love this instructional. As someone who already plays knee shield half guard a lot, I still learned so many new things.

Note that it’s not only about z guard, but about the knee shield in general. Craig is obviously super experienced in this position.

What I liked the most

The most important part for me is the knee shield guard retention. It’s important 2 ways:

  • Craig shows exactly how to pass the knee shield (and how people pass him). I always found the knee shield very hard to pass, so this is super useful.
  • Craig shows how to defend the most common passes you’ll face. For the best passes he doesn’t have a clean counter, but he shows early prevention techniques.

I also like the submission attacks. I already used a lot of them, but Craig shows new details that I didn’t know, especially for the arm bar / choi bar.

Who is this instructional good for?

I highly recommend this instructional to both beginners and more advanced players.

I’m a brown belt and the knee shield has been my best guard since white belt, but I still learned a lot of new things.

For beginners the knee shield half guard is the easiest and most powerful guard to learn. It’s much more intuitive than all other guards, you don’t carry any weight, and you have more options than in closed guard.

So if you want to learn how to play the knee shield, or how to pass it, pick up this instructional.

What does this instructional cover?

This instructional is about the knee shield as Craig Jones plays it today. This includes the z guard position (with the knees pinched) but also the high knee shield. Craig shows all his attacks from here, including how he had to adapt his knee shield game as opponents became aware of his moves.

In the following sections I’ll talk about what Craig Jones teaches in this instructional. I’ll mix what he teaches with my own biggest takewaways.

Why play knee shield half guard?

Knee shield is the cornerstone of Craig Jones’ guard retention. Of course, Craig knows that the knee shield is one of the later layers of your guard, but it’s one of the most important ones. A great knee shield is very hard to pass

Craig is right, and I’ll add that the knee shield is the easiest layer of guard retention to learn. That’s why I recommend it in my course Blue belt in 1 day. Learning the knee shield is the quickest thing you can do to defend yourself against people who are better than you.

And the knee shield is also a great starting point because you can transition to almost any other guard you want. So you learn the knee shield first, and then any other guard you like (in my course I recommend single leg x to find easy submission wins and sweeps).

How to play the knee shield

The z guard and the knee shield half guard are primarily reactionary. So they work best if your opponent pressures into you.

If they don’t we have a few ways to create kuzushi’s (off balances) to force them to react:

  • Kick him away with the knee shield
  • John Wayne / knee lever
  • Get up for the underhook sweep

How to pass the z guard

This is actually the best part of the instructional to me. (Which is hilarious, and I had the same thing with Mexican Ground Karate Escapes – the best part wasn’t the escapes but the details for finishing arm in guillotines.)

Craig shares exactly how people pass his z guard, and how we passes other people’s knee shield half guard as well. The following are the common options, in ascending order of effectiveness, and how you should counter them:

  • Hip switch over the top to clear the knee shield: this pass doesn’t work if the bottom guy just keeps his elbow frames. Only works against beginners.
  • Going to headquarters: this is really more of a retreating movement for our opponent so we don’t need a defense for it, but Craig shows how to counter it anyway with a shotgun armbar.
  • Lachlan Giles rugby tackle pass: we counter this with ‘the switch’ from wrestling.
  • Jason Rau pass (where they get a shallow underhook): there’s not a clear counter to this pass, but it teaches us not to overextend our arm.
  • Kit Dale pass (where they get a low hip grip): we can’t allow the low hip grip, we need to jack up their arm into our arm pit. From there we can move our hips again and attack triangles.
  • Leg weave pass: this is the best pass, it blocks all leg entries and inversions, Craig has no counter for it. Craig shares a great detail for how to make this work in no gi. Instead of getting a collar grip, you post you arm on the mat and lean your elbow to the back of your opponent’s head. Then you replace your elbow with your knee as you step over the head and complete your pass.

How to submit from knee shield half guard

Craig Jones shares all his submissions from the knee shield half guard. This section was a bit less new for me, but still contained some gems.

  • Kimura: I didn’t get any new details here.
  • Arm bar from the kimura: this is very cool. I thought I knew this move already, but Craig has quite a different foot positioning so that he can be much more dynamic and attack many different kinds of threats. Including the ankle triangle.
  • Belly down arm bar: very cool, I’ve never gone from the choi bar to a belly down shotgun arm bar before. Jacob Couch did this recently at no gi worlds, and now I understand how he did it. And Craig shares many details for finishing arm bars in many different positions.
  • Ankle triangle: very cool, you’ve seen Gordon Ryan hit this move at WNO, but this is a cool new setup from Craig that I didn’t know yet.
  • Yoko ono triangle: also pretty cool, although it seems more far fetched than the anckle triangle.
  • Choi bar: this is quite similar to the arm bar from the kimura, but you start with a shoulder crunch instead. The right-right-right principle is useful: if you attack the right arm, you pull it t your right hip and your right shoulder.
  • Baiting the triangle: interesting details on how to make the knee shield weak enough to bait forward pressure by our opponent, so we can do a quick triangle.
  • Omoplata: not much new here.
  • Arm bar from the omoplata: this is smart, if they roll through, you should attack the arm bar (with an interesting foot positioning that Craig shows). This is what I’m gonna do from now on.

How to transition from the knee shield to other positions

Craig shows many ways to transition from the knee shield half guard to other positions. He shows how to go to closed guard, half guard with the underhook, half butterfly and reverse z guard. He also shows the following:

  • Single x entry: I knew this already, but it’s always nice to get a refresher.
  • Single x to saddle: This is Craig Jones’ best attack in his whole career. I’ve seen it before, but again, great to get a refresher.
  • Various other leg entries: Here Craig gets carried away a little bit and gives you a mini instructional on his best leg entries, counter back takes, counter counter back takes… It’s all pretty cool, but it’s not really about knee shield half guard anymore, so I won’t cover it in this review.

My verdict: Is Make Z guard great again worth it?

I think Make Z guard great again is a great instructional.

It’s thorough, and I don’t think anybody on this earth knows more about z guard and knee shield than Craig Jones.

You learn how to play z guard, how to defend pass attempts, how to sweep and how to submit. And in the process you actually learn how to pass other people’s knee shields as well.

It’s definitely one of Craig Jones’ best products.


Make Z-guard great again by Craig Jones cover

Learn the guard that Craig Jones still uses to sweep and submit people at the highest level

Learn Craig’s Guard


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