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A Better Half Guard in 30 Minutes with John Danaher
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A Better Half Guard in 30 Minutes with John Danaher

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The half guard is a favorite among many of the highest level BJJ practitioners of the world, but it’s also a go to for the average player as well.

The half guard offers an enormous amount of connection to our opponents, boasting the ability to slow the game down and giving us more time to put together a solid game plan. You may have gravitated toward the half guard early in your training, or maybe you realized its numerous utilities later in your journey. Whatever the case may be, the half guard continues to serve the games of BJJ students all over the globe as their main avenue of attacking and defensive measures as well. 

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Working to reverse, attack, and transition from the bottom half guard requires a sense of awareness and that you understand how to position yourself correctly. Solid half guard structure will have a lot to do with your success rate. How do we create this structure and maintain its integrity? John Danaher will soon be sharing his half guard secrets with all of us through a new instructional series with BJJ Fanatics. As always with Danaher we will receive a comprehensive and systemized approach to the position that’s sure to open our eyes and expose us to those hidden gems of knowledge we may be missing. 

In this video, Danaher give us some insight in to building the perfect half guard game. Here he’ll cover some principles and concepts that are integral to setting yourself up for success in the half guard, as well as two techniques that you can try immediately. Have a look at this!

Danaher begins straight away by discussing some of the most appealing qualities of the half guard. The first being the idea of connection and the ability to slow things down. As Danaher states, if this type of more connected and less scrambly method of guard appeals to you, then the half guard is definitely a solid choice. Many seasoned grapplers prefer the half guard for this particular reason, as it does not require speed as a necessary element to be successful.

He also explains that the half guard can either be the absolute best passing positions in the sport, or the best sweeping position in the sport due to one very important set of circumstances; Who controls the bottom players head and shoulders. If the top player can effectively control these variables, they will be successful in passing. If these controls are denied by the bottom practitioner, the flow of the exchange will favor the guard player. 

So, from the bottom how do we maintain a position that covers these criteria? Danaher offers three key focal points to sure up your bottom half guard and create an environment for your techniques to flourish. They are as follows:

#1 – The Knee Shield

With the inability to push the guard passer with our feet, we can’t control the distance from half guard as effectively as some other forms of guard. Though this is a problem, it will have to be remedied by applying a mechanism that gives us the ability to still create space between us. This is where the knee shield enters the fold. 

As Danaher explains, the knee shield can be placed near the shoulder or the hip and be effectively used to create distance. This shield is a more than effective tool to keep our head and shoulders inaccessible to the passer. 

#2 – The Under Hook / Tight Waist

Using the under hook is another method of denying the under hook to the passer, which is another key factor is gaining control of the exchange from the top. Denying the under-hook space will create a scenario where it becomes very difficult for the passer to flatten the bottom player or use a cross face effectively. The under hook will also be a key factor in many of your reversals and transitional attempts. Learning to acquire and employ an under hook is an incredibly valuable bottom half guard skill. 

#3 – Hand Control

By controlling our partners outside hand, this adds yet another layer to our defenses by preventing the cross face. The cross face is another dangerous element of passing that must be mitigated if we hope to have a successful stint from the bottom. Controlling the cross-face hand and keeping it from getting to your head is paramount. 

So, with all three of these ideas in place, we can begin to build a solid structure and understand what aspects of the position require the bulk of our attention. As Danaher explains all of these variables are covered heavily in the upcoming instructional, but here he’ll focus on hand control and a set of reversals derived from it that he refers to as back roll sweeps. 

What is a back-roll sweep?

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Acquiring a strong connection to our opponents’ body and then using a rolling motion to get under our partners center of gravity are the key ingredients that Danaher shares with us. With a kick over and a splitting of the legs Danaher helps us understand the motions of the reversal. These types of sweep are very high percentage, and a great answer to the top players efforts to apply pressure. 

Controlling the cross-face side sleeve and placing a hand in the collar, Danaher gets sets up with a low knee shield that he then transitions to a higher one near the shoulder. As Danaher kicks his knee shield through, he brings his head closer to his partner creating an angle. He then brings his knees to his chest, loading up his partner’s weight. Here he begins to work in to the back roll and completes the reversal landing in the perfect position to begin attacking.  

With a great demonstration, Danaher shows us the anatomy of a sweep.  Danaher breaks up the body in to four quadrants and shows us how each limb is responsible for a certain area. When the points of base are taken away and we cause our opponents to travel in to the quadrant that will no longer support them, a reversal is the result. This is a great concept to keep in mind as you work to secure your reversal. Performing the same sweep once again, Danaher shows us how this theory applies to this particular sweep. 

If the direction of force is misguided, there will be no sweep. With this particular sweep, Danaher is blocking the upper left quadrant, so it only makes sense for him to take his partner in that direction. This rings true for any sweeping scenario. This may seem like common sense, but how often have you tried to complete a sweep, only to have your partner catch themselves with an available limb? This means the direction of force was misguided. 

In a second back roll style sweep, Danaher’s partner has made his way past the knee shield and is now chest to chest. Danaher still controls the sleeve, so there is no cross face, but another grip will be necessary here. He looks to cover the shoulder and acquire the belt on the far side of his partner hip to get control over the center of gravity once again. Danaher again has put himself in position to get underneath his partner and complete the roll back.

Another cornerstone principle of jiu-jitsu and this sweep in particular is the ability to use action reaction methods to increase the success of your ability to reverse. This isn’t a terribly difficult concept to understand, but as Danaher reiterates for us, if we hope to pull someone, it should be preceded with a bit of a push, and vice versa. Keeping this in mind will pay huge dividends. 

This is thirty minutes of gold. Not only are there two fantastic and accessible techniques, there is an incredible amount of beautifully thought out conceptual themes being brought into the spotlight. The half guard is so vast and dynamic, but one thing is for sure, used properly, it will lend itself to any practitioner that’s willing to delve into its intricacies. As always, phenomenal content and instruction from Danaher. I’m looking forward to getting a look at the rest of the material! Thanks for reading!

Guard Retention: BJJ Fundamentals - Go Further Faster by John Danaher
IF you are beginning your Jiu-Jitsu Journey NOW is the perfect time to  learn from one of the LEADING minds in Jiu-Jitsu. The Go Further Faster Series by John Danaher is designed to shorten the learning curve required to become proficient. Take the first step in ENHANCING your Jiu-Jitsu forever!

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