There is something about earning your top position in Jiu-Jitsu. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy starting from the top and attacking with pressure just as much as everyone else. However, when I’m on my back, and I execute a perfect sweep to get top position, I enjoy working from the top even more. It brings about a sense of accomplishment. Plus it allows me to work on my bottom game for extended periods of time. When we’re rolling or competing in the Gi, sweeps are usually much easier to come by. So many handles are available with the Gi hat even without perfect technique you can pull off many sweeps. No-Gi sweeps, on the other hand, are a completely different animal. They’re harder to get, a lot more technical but also much more enjoyable as well.
No-Gi sweeps do not offer the luxury of versatile lever control like their Gi counterparts. Controlling your opponent without a Gi is difficult in the best of circumstances, let alone when they’re actively resisting. Throw in the “sweat and slippery” factor and it’s like trying to hold on to a fish. Unless you know the secret ingredients to make No-Gi sweeps work like a charm.
The two main things you need to get right for successful No-Gi sweeps are choice of guard and choice of grips. As far as guards go, only guards that get you underneath your opponent or work as a closed circuit are worth your time. The X guard, deep half and 50/50 are some examples of guards that get you under the opponent. The closed guard is the obvious contender for closed circuit guards. But what if there’s a combination of both? There is and you know it well. It is the half guard.
No-Gi Sweeps – The Challenges
The first time you try rolling in No-Gi is going to be a real wake up call if you’re a Gi only grappler. As much as the cloth annoys wrestlers and No-Gi people going the other way, losing the control it brings frustrates the Gi population. Forget about controlled rolls where you can hold on until you figure out what to do. No-Gi is more dynamic by nature, which is only due to the lack of control options. It is not that there are none, you just can’t stay there s long as you can with the Gi.
Which brings us to the next challenge we face with No-Gi sweeps – leverage. Without sufficient control, it is hard to create a structure to leverage your opponent into falling over. Keeping your frames in place is also a challenge because your opponent can disengage and move away. Even if you manage to somehow sweep, you’ll probably have a hard time holding your opponent down. In No-Gi escaping is a lot easier than it is with the Gi. However, while it is hard to get your game on in No-Gi, it is far from impossible.
No-Gi challenges extend both ways, as now your opponent has less control as well. No-Gi passing is also much more difficult which gives the edge to the person that can dominate the grip fight. Actually, in No-Gi, winning the grip fight is twice as much as important as it is in Gi Jiu-Jitsu. Winning the grip fight means you can establish your game and attack first. When your game calls for No-Gi sweeps, your best bet is to go for a half guard underhook as your position zero.
No-Gi Sweeps – The Underhook
The underhook is a really useful concept in both Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. However, while it can help you improve control with the Gi, in No-Gi it is absolutely crucial. Especially when you’re on the bottom.
The whole concept of establishing an underhook has two main goals. The most important one is that it gives you inside control of our opponent’s torso. Inside control is when you have a grip, or grips, that allow you to directly control the opponent’s torso. This keeps their arms on the outside, requiring that they get them back in before they can do anything.
Furthermore, an underhook helps you keep the opponent’s elbow far from their body. Whenever their elbow is open, no matter how little, they lose the potential to use their arm effectively. It also allows you to eliminate all spaces between you on one side. In No-Gi, this can be the deciding factor of how a match unravels. Even better, after you manage to sweep, in most cases, you can continue using the underhook to control, pass or even end up in mount or back control. The underhook is the perfect hack to bring you as much control over an opponent in No-gi as it is humanly possible.
Let’s go over some of the most important No-Gi sweeps you need to know from the half guard. Needless to say, they are all based on having a solid underhook grip.
#1 Basic Underhook Sweep
The half guard variation you choose to use is not relevant to your success with No-Gi sweeps. I does play a role, but not as much as having an underhook. The thing with the half guard underhook is that you can get it from almost any half guard variation. It doesn’t really matter if your legs are locked together, you’re in Z guard or have a lockdown. Once you get an underhook you’ll have to be turned towards the opponent with an arm on the ground if you want to complete a sweep. If you’re on your back with an underhook, you’re just going to get passed.
The most basic thing you can do from an underhook half guard position is to look to get up on your knees. Use the underhook to pull yourself up, while your other hand posts on the ground to help. When you get on your knees, focus to go as deep as possible with the underhook. Your goal is to grab the lat muscle on the opposite side if you can.
Finishing the sweep from there is really easy. You need to use the underhook arm to grip the far side foot of your opponent. Make a note to actually grab the foot and not the ankle. Gram the knee of the same leg with your other arm and get on your toes. A simple circle towards the trapped leg gets you straight in a tight and heavy side control.
#2 Whizzer Counter Sweep
The one thing that an opponent might try to do to counter your underhook is to utilize a Whizzer. This means getting a sort of an overhook on your arm, so that they can control you adn stop No-Gi sweeps. There are multiple dangers here, as the Whizzer can open passes and lots of chokes for your opponents. There is, however, a great way to counter it while also getting a sweep.
Once you have your underhook in, the goal is to stay on your side as high up as possible. Going to your knees is not going to be an option against a good Whizzer. When you’re in this situation, simply get your underhook arm back by closing the elbow to your side. This will trap their forearm to your body. Proceed to grip their wrist for complete control over the Whizzer arm. All you need to do now is get on your back while reaching under their far leg with your posting arm. You’ll end up doing a sweep that’ll roll them over to the opposite side.
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#3 Rollover Dogfight Sweep
At certain times you’re going to get caught in a position called the Dogfight. This is when you manage to get to your knees with an underhook, but your opponent also slips a Whizzer in. Now, neither of you has the control they want to finish. Trying the basic underhook sweep from here is not going to work.
Since you already have a deep underhook, it would be unwise to give up now. Instead, you’ll try to push your opponent to the side of the far leg, as much as possible. This both opens the space and gets the reaction you need for a sweep. Keeping your underhook in, you’ll thread your posting arm under their far side leg, like in the Whizzer counter sweep. You also roll in the same manner, taking your opponent over your body to the opposite side. With this variation, you end up in a better control position than the previous sweep, though.
#4 Electric Chair Sweep
Talking about No-Gi sweeps and not including a 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu move would be blasphemous. Since we’re on the subject of half guard and underhook, we’ll take the route of the lockdown. This is the perfect option when the opponent has you flat on your back. Now, getting an underhook is really difficult. Instead, you should use the lockdown to control their leg. This, in turn, allows you to keep them in place while you open up space to get an underhook.
Use the lockdown to lift your opponent’s hip high and turn your body sideways to create space. Now you can snake your arm through for an underhook, and you’ll already be on your side, facing them. From there you can underhook the far leg under the thigh. To finish, extend your legs and roll to the other side, using both underhooks to sweep your opponent in a spot where they can’t get away from.