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BJJ Fanatics Guest Blog:  The Greatest Half Guard of All Time
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BJJ Fanatics Guest Blog: The Greatest Half Guard of All Time

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Who Has the Greatest Half Guard of All Time by Devin Small

The half guard game is something that has intrigued jiu-jitsu nerds since its creation. Some view it as a last-ditch opportunity to control your opponent while others view it as an offensive weapon to dominate a match. People also have had the conversation to which particular half guard style is the best. Is it the Z guard? The Hip Clamp style? Old school under-hook game? Deep Half?

But today we are going to break down the biggest conversation of them all, who has the best half guard of all time. Instead of using DVD sales and who you last saw on Kasai, we are going to break down facts. My criteria for my opinion are based on championship wins, innovation, and effectiveness. So now that we’ve got that out the way let’s break down the top 5 half guard players in the history of our beautiful martial art.

5.  Eddie Bravo

One of the most controversial, polarizing, INNOVATORS of our beautiful sport is Eddie Bravo. Bravo, who is mostly known for his “Rubber Guard” also can claim “The Lockdown” to his reputation as well. With a lockdown the player on bottom can reach a regular half guard, figure four his legs together and utilize the bottom leg to essentially control the top player’s leg. It’s difficult to explain so here’s a picture to better explain.

Bravo who is a student of Jean Jacque Machado figured out that this position essentially locks the top player in place. The bottom player can then utilize “The Lockdown” to move the top player anywhere he pleases. To see I think the best utilization of this position in any Jiu-Jitsu match I suggest to check out Eddie Bravo vs. Royler Gracie 2. Bravo puts on a masterful performance on one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners of all time. Bravo isn’t on this list so much for his championship wins but mostly because of his innovation. He is truly a mad scientist.

4.  Craig Jones

My number 4 pick I think should be an absolute no brainer to anyone who watches jiu-jitsu today, especially after ADCC, boasting wins over Leandro Lo, Murilo Santana, Tex Johnson, Jake Shields, and Rousimar Palhares. If you are looking for an active competitor who is an absolute master of the half guard game today then Craig Jones is the person you should be watching. Craig’s unique style to half guard is what makes him so fun to watch, Craig plays a Z guard game, but many old school players would call it a hip clamp.

In Craig’s half guard game instead of keeping his feet separate for more movement in the half guard Craig Jones crosses his feet and drives his top knee into the opponent’s hip. This creates a tremendous amount of pressure on the top player’s hip, forces the top player to reach to pass, and creates distance to work in to look for leg lock entries. Jones is a student under Lachlan Giles another tremendous half guard player as well. On a side note Craig came to do a seminar at my academy last summer and I asked the toughest guy in the gym about his z guard. His exact words were “I felt like my hip was going to explode, I’ve never felt that much pressure.”

Main Achievements

  • Polaris 185 lbs Champion (2018)
  • Polaris 205 lbs Champion (2018)
  • 1st Place ADCC Asian & Oceania Trials (2014/2016)
  • 3rd Place EBI 11 Invitational (2017)
  • 3rd Place Kasai 2 185lbs Grand Prix (2018)
  • 3rd Place Kasai 5 205lbs Grand Prix (2019)

For more from Craig Jones, Check out his latest release from BJJ Fanatics called Battle Tested Downunder Leg Locks!

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3. Roberto “Gordo” Correa

If you play half guard and you don’t know who this man is I advise you to sit down with your professor and take notes. Gordo is considered by many if not all jiu-jitsu legends in our sport as the man who made the half guard an offensive weapon. A key member from the illustrious Gracie Barra team, and a student of the legendary Jean Jacque Machado and Carlos Gracie Jr., Gordo is known as the father of the half guard game. A freak accident to his knee when Correa was a purple belt forced him to change his game and he changed Jiu-Jitsu in the process. Utilizing only one of his legs to trap his opponent in a position that was normally known for stalling, Gordo created an offensive under-hook game which led to sweeps that enabled him to impose his crushing pressure passing game.

Main Achievements

  • IBJJF World Champion (1996)
  • CBJJ Brazilian National Champion (1997*)
  • IBJJF Pan American Champion (1996, 1997, 2001, 2003)
  • IBJJF World Championship 2nd Place (1997)
  • IBJJF Pans Championship 2nd Place (1996*, 1998***)
  • CBJJ Brazilian National Championship 2nd Place (1996, 1997***, 2000)


2.  Lucas Leite

 

Lucas Leite is the most accomplished No-GI Half Guard player to ever step on the mats. What makes his style unique is that it is of his own creation, and the absolute effectiveness of his half guard game. Lucas Leite created a style known as the “Coyote Half Guard”. With the Coyote half guard the bottom player usually has to get to a position known as the “Dogfight” position. Leite uses the old school under-hook game with a twist. Instead of fighting from his side with the underhook, Leite uses the top leg to pull and torque the knee of the top player, dragging it closer to him. With that open space Leite can slide his bottom leg out and get to a dogfight position where there are sweeps and submissions everywhere. This is an example of the dogfight position Leite gets to.

Leite’s contribution to the half guard game is immense and he is a legend in our sport. With Leo Vieria as an instructor and training partners like Buchecha and Joao Assis it’s no wonder he is one of the best.

Main Achievements: 

  • 1st Place IBJJF World No-Gi Championship (2014/2011/2009)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2015/2014/2012/2009)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF World Championship (2011/2013/2015)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF World No-Gi Championship (2013)
  • 2nd Place UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro Championship (2012)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2014/2011)
  • 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship (2014/2012/2009)

Main Achievements (Colored Belts): 

  • 1st Place IBJJF World Championship (2007/2005 brown belt)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan American Championship (2007 brown belt)
  • 1st Place G. Quest Pro Division Championship (2007)
  • 1st Place FPJJ Sao Paulo State Championship (2006 brown)
  • 1st Place IBJJF European Open (2006 brown) 

For more from Lucas Leite, check out his best-selling Coyote Half Guard instructional available here at BJJ Fanatics!

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1.  Bernardo Faria

In my opinion two names should pop into every jiu-jitsu student’s name as far as the history and effectiveness of half guard. The first being Gordo, and the second being Bernardo Faria. THE GREATEST AND MOST ACCOMPLISHED HALF GUARD PLAYER OF ALL TIME!! Bernardo Faria’s half guard game is legendary in the sport of jiu-jitsu. Creator of the Faria Guard or Z Guard in some circles, Bernardo’s game is inspirational to countless players due to the simplicity of his game. He went into World Championship matches with one strategy, get to half guard. His opponents knew what he was going for but were helpless to stop it. The vastness of Faria’s game goes from playing a regular under-hook old school half guard, to the single leg lapel half guard where Faria takes your opposite side lapel through your legs and passes it to his under-hook hand essentially trapping you.

Single Leg Half Guard

If worse comes to worse and if Faria needs to bail out, he immediately goes to a deep- half guard where he plays a linear half guard on of your legs. This is his most deadly position where it leads to his patent “Faria Sweep” which is the pre-cursor to his over/under pressure style game.

Deep Half

The beauty of Faria’s game is that it can be used by any BJJ player. It does not take extreme athleticism but patience and pressure. Bernardo Faria should be and is a half guard GOD to many of us in the jiu-jitsu community and I think his accomplishments, effectiveness, innovation, and all-around usage by any jiu-jitsu practitioner is why he is the greatest half guard player of all time.

Main Achievements/Record (Black Belt):

  • IBJJF Pro League Champion (2014)
  • IBJJF Pro Cup Champion (2011*)
  • IBJJF World Champion (2010, 2013, 2015**)
  • IBJJF Pan American Champion (2016*/2015/2010**)
  • CBJJ Brazilian National Champion (2010*)
  • IBJJF European Champion (2010/2011/2012)
  • IBJJF World Championship Runner-up (2017/2011**)
  • IBJJF European Open Championship Runner-up (2012*)
  • IBJJF World Championship 3rd Place (2009)
  • IBJJF European Championship 3rd Place (2010*/2011*)

 For more from Bernardo Faria, check out all of the amazing instructionals he has available at BJJ Fanatics!  With instructionals like The No Gi Half Guard, Bernardo has brought the game that won him 5 world titles to the average practitioner in an easy to follow format!

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Honorable Mentions: Tom Deblass, Lachlan Giles, Caio Terra, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, Cyborg, Jeff Glover, Ryan Hall

 

Check The Art Of Pressure: Half Guard Passing by Luiz Dentinho or The Chair Guard by Nisar Loynab.


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