The Dual Nature Of The Jiu-Jitsu Half Guard

Andrew Wiltse FREE Instructional

The BJJ closed guard is a thing of beauty. It is as simple as it gets, yet offers all the control you need to be safe. This holds true for both sports Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, and self-defense. However, as people got over the initial surprise of the closed guard when BJJ first emerged they started figuring out how to open the full guard. Imagine people’s surprise when all they managed to do is get to the half guard. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Half Guard guard is a much better attacking position than the full guard, despite looking less structurally safe.

Through the years we’ve seen an incredible evolution of the half guard. From the basic position, through knee shields all the way to tornado guards and the deep half, they’ve all been the pinnacle of the half guard at one point in time. Bernardo Faria, Lucas Leite, Tom Deblass, Xande Ribeiro are just some of the notables that have won World titles with the help of the half guard. However, this variety within the position, along with the relentless evolution of grappling martial arts, raises another question. Which variation and approach is the best when it comes to playing this versatile position? Should you go the simple route or incorporate more “modern” variations into your game?

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Half Guard

The half guard is a bottom position in BJJ where you control one of the opponent’s legs with both of your own. While it may seem like your just clinging on for dear life, this is not the case. Quite the contrary. When done correctly, the half guard is a position that’s easy to retain and attack from. Let’s take a look at a few rules of thumb for this versatile Jiu-Jitsu position.

The most important structural building block of a successful half guard game is staying on your side. Whenever you’re playing the half guard, always aim to be on your side, facing your opponent. Having both your shoulders on the ground is not a smart idea. As versatile as the half guard is, there are options from there, but creating an angle is your best strategy.

The next key thing in retaining the half guard is keeping your head safe. If an opponent can get to your head, you’re either going to end up in a guillotine attempt or get your shoulders pinned to the mats. Given the structural advantage of the half guard, it is very easy to protect your head and neck. All it takes is to have your bottom arm control the far arm of your opponent. Similarly, controlling the leg requires you to use both of yours in order to have a key lever to the opponent’s hip. With it, you can go for a multitude of sweeps or go for the kill. You can also transition between all the half guard variations until you reach your preferred position.

In terms of grips, Gi or No-Gi dictates the particular gripping patterns, but the principles stay the same. Get to your side and protect your head while controlling one leg. Easy, right?

Half Guard’s Traditional Simplicity

In the BJJ community, the half guard has a label as a lazy guard. Many of the older guys in BJJ often go for a variation of this guard because of the advantages it offers. The reason why people regard it as a lazy position is mainly due to its simplicity. As with most of the very fundamental techniques of BJJ, the half guard was a position the Gracies developed because it suited their style. It doesn’t take Eddie Bravo-like flexibility to work the half guard, neither any particular athletic capabilities. It actually really helps against aggressive opponents, especially wrestlers that thrive in the top position. The half guard is a very effective way to nullify an aggressive and stronger opponent’s athletic advantages.

Old Man Jiu-Jitsu Is Real And It Works:

As far as effectiveness goes, the half guard is undisputed. When in a strong half guard, all it takes to completely turn the tables on an opponent is getting an underhook. It is the simplest and most direct route to a sweep, often closely followed by a pass. It takes next to no effort, given that the positioning is pristine. If you’re looking for a simple half guard game that works miraculously all you need is to look at Bernardo Faria. The 5 time World champion has one of the simplest, yet efficient half guard games in the world. He even has a very detailed DVD on the subject.

Bernardo Faria Battle Tested Half Guard
Bernardo Faria Battle Tested Half Guard


The Innovative Complexity Of The Half Guard

As far as half guard evolution is concerned, you just need to pick a direction. During the years, the position has become the root of a very big tree that branches out in every direction. As simple as it is, it can get notoriously complicated and confusing. Depending on the variation of half guard you like to play, you are going to need different athletic abilities.

While finishing with an underhook is quite simple, transitioning to a single or double leg from the bottom is going to require you the same level of explosiveness that it takes to finish these moves on their own. Add in the cost of getting there and you can see why not every variation is a good fit for every grappler. Another problem with the position is getting pinned with your shoulders on the mats and a heavy opponent on top. The half guard does offer ways out, but none as simple as just inserting an underhook Unless you’re well versed in the lockdown (a quite advanced unorthodox variation) you might be in trouble.

Furthermore, there are plenty of lapel dependent variations and inverted versions like the Tornado guard that requires some serious dexterity. While the Tornado guard, for example, is great for people in the adult division, a master 4 competitor is probably going to remain folded if they attempt it.

How To Develop Flexibility For Grappling:

As you can see, there’s a half guard for everyone, You just need to be aware of your capabilities and, most of all, weaknesses when choosing your favorite. Once you do though, You’ll be an unstoppable force from the bottom. Tom DeBlass can certainly help, thanks to this amazing release of his Half Domination DVD

Tom DeBlass Half Domination
Tom DeBlass Half Domination

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