There’s no doubt that the half guard is one of the most versatile positions in BJJ. Developed in the 1990’s by Roberto “Gordo” Correa, legend has it that Gordo developed the move as a means to prevent his sparring partners from passing his guard while rehabilitating a leg injury. He would often find himself stuck in this position, so finding ways to attack from the was a necessity.
Although there are many versions, the two most commonly used positions are the deep half and the classic half guard. The classic half guard pays tribute to Gordo’s use of the underhook to take the back, a move that he has used against many formidable opponents in competition. Today, many of the top BJJ competitors such as Lucas Leite, Caio Terra, Ryan Hall, Bernardo Faria, and Leonardo Nogueira are all masters of the half guard.
The floor is lava
This is the cardinal rule of playing half guard. The minute your back is flat on the floor, you can be certain that your guard will probably be passed, or in the very least, you’ll be painfully pinned. You should, at all times, fight to stay on your side. Not only will this prevent your opponent from passing your guard easily, it will also be easier for you to attack from this position.
Staying on your allows you to utilize frame and create space, making it easier to get the underhook and subsequently sweep or finish the single leg.
Hide your head
Ask any BJJ student how to pass the half guard and they’ll tell you that the first move they’ll try to establish is the cross face. Once your opponent has head and arm control, it will be difficult for you to attack from the bottom because having this control allows them to flatten you and keep your shoulders on the mat, creating a pin.
The simplest way to prevents your opponent from establishing head and arm control is a frame. As soon as you’re in position to get the underhook, move your head up and out and use your his free hand to base. From here, establish a grip on your opponent’s belt or Gi and go to the back or get the sweep.
Half guard is always a game of inches. You must keep on moving and make your opponent react in small ways so that they can never take advantage of the position. Whether you push, pull, hook their ankle with your foot or bump them with your knee, you must keep on doing something to prevent yourself from getting squashed.
When the opponent attempts to pass the guard by stepping to to the side you can get a sweep by loosening the collar and creating a grip. Switches your feet into a gancha and then finish the sweep.
Using frames and maintaining them are essential in BJJ, especially in the half guard position. Using a stiff arm or an elbow to keep your opponent’s weight off you or the knee shield, you create space to work your attacks. The more space you have, the more options you have for offense.
As we already mentioned, whenever you’re in half guard, the first thing you should look for are frames in order to create space to work your attacks. Using a frame makes it easier for to get on your knees and establish an underhook or have the option to transition to another guard.
Half guard variations
To develop a solid half guard game, you must know at least 2 variations of the half guard. One of these variations should be the classic underhook half guard. For the other variations, you can choose among: deep half, knee shield (93 or Z guard, half butterfly, seated half, lockdown and more. Knowing the classic half guard gives you the foundation you need to approach the other guards mentioned. It is also a great way to transition to other guards, which, as you know, is a must in BJJ.
The waiter sweep from the deep half guard is a great option. The main difference between the deep half guard and the classic half guard is that the deep half guard requires you to pull your opponent on top of you completely.
To successfully incorporate the half guard into your BJJ game, you must remember the pointers above. And the easiest way to do so is through constant drilling and application in sparring.