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BJJ HALF GUARD
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BJJ HALF GUARD

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The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is as much a defensive game, as it is an offensive game. The outcome of a competitive match is determined by the competitor that either scores the most points, or secures the submission finish, and when the match is a tie the decision comes down to the referee who will make his call based on who is the most attacking within the match. This is why the modern day athlete will use a variety of attacking guards like the 50/50 guard, the de la riva guard, and the bjj inverted guard. Using modern day high level guards can be extremely beneficial for an athlete, but they must not always look past the most traditional of all the guards.

What this article covers:

The most traditional guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the bjj full guard, and this is both an attacking, and defensive form of guard. This guard is also known as the closed guard, and goes heavily in conjunction with the BJJ half guard. Athletes that wind up in vulnerable positions will always try to escape back to their full guard, but the only way to make this possible is to first secure the half guard. Understanding the ins and outs of the half guard is a crucial element to the survivability, and the progressive attack of an athlete. One of the most fundamental concepts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is guard retention, and this means to escape from bad positions in order to secure their guard. Securing the half guard has become an attacking platform, as nowadays there are multiple sweep, and submission attacks that an athlete can utilise.

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WHAT IS THE BJJ HALF GUARD

The half guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu started off as a defensive measure that an athlete could use to salvage themself protection within a competitive match. Quite often they would end up stuck underneath their opponent's mount, and the half guard has provided help to the athlete with escaping from this dangerous position, and getting back to some sort of advantageous position.

Jake Mackenzie is one of Canada's most successful BJJ black belts.  He is also a master of half guard and he's joined forces with BJJFanatics.com to share his secrets with you!

jiu jitsu half guard

Over time the development of this guard has also turned it into an offensive dynamo, as athletes can utilise a wide range of sweep, and submission attempts, as well as transitions that can lead into more dominant positions. To secure a half guard all the athlete needs to do is have their legs wrapped around one of their opponents legs from the underneath position. This is important to keep their legs trapped in a triangle locking mechanism, while staying on their side, and using their frames underneath their opponent to gain under hooks, or over hooks. This is an extremely important position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it is a guard that can help an athlete transition into more attacking guards like the bjj butterfly guard, the deep half guard, or the lockdown.

WHO CREATED THE HALF GUARD

The half guard was always one of the positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as the Gracie family used it as a defensive measure against an attacking opponent. Back in the early days of grappling, pulling guard bjj was not as frequent as the modern era of grappling. And when the early grapplers would battle against pressure passers, especially in the open weight divisions, they were forced to use the half guard as a way of climbing back into the full guard position. The half guard took a turn for the better, as one of the legends of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began to develop this position into more of an attacking weapon. Roberto Gordo Correa grew up alongside the Gracie family, training with Ralph, Renzo, and Ryan Gracie. He also trained under Jean Jacques Machado, and received his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr.

Back in Roberto's purple belt days he suffered an extensive knee injury tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. He was diagnosed by the doctor, and told to stop training while he received surgical repairs. As Roberto was in recovery he did not want to stop training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so he continued to train carefully using one leg. With the help, and guidance of Jean Jacques Machado, Roberto began using the half guard, and started to develop an attacking way to execute sweeps, and submission maneuvers. The main weapon that was developed was the under hook from the half guard, as Roberto would utilise a back take from the half guard, which became extremely famous with many of the BJJ community members using these techniques in their game styles. Roberto's innovation of the half guard has helped many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors over the years, including many Mixed Martial Artists succeed in their competitive cage matches.

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ATTACKING TRANSITIONS FROM THE HALF GUARD

One of the most attacking transitions from the half guard, and is also the simplest, is taking the back. Securing back control in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most advantageous position, and the hardest for an opponent to escape from. Using a half guard which is meant to be a defensive position, where an opponent has more of an advantage in passing the guard, can be a crucial weapon in securing back an advantage for the guard player. The easiest back take from the half guard is quite simple, as the student will start with their basic half guard position, and use frames in order to stop their opponent from passing. This is a basic concept, and it involves a student to secure an under hook on the same side as their half guard, and that is as simple as it is. 

Once the student has the half guard, and an under hook all they have to do is stay on their side, while posting off their other hand, where they have in fact a few options. The first and more solid option is circling their head out from underneath their opponents arm, and slipping into a back take. Sometimes a student may be unable to free their head from their opponent's control, so instead they will maintain the under hook, and use their other hand to reach through and grab the foot of their opponent's far leg. This will allow them to pull the foot forward utilising an old school sweep. If the old school sweep is hard to reach because their opponent hides their foot, they can literally dive underneath and hook under their opponent's hamstring, and instead of pushing them towards the leg, they are going to roll over onto their back, and throw them over the other side of their shoulder. There are many good options from this position, and securing the under hook is the key element to making this a reality.

Utilising a lockdown is something that is often seen with the bjj rubber guard, and it involves a more comprehensive locking mechanism on the half guard. To secure a lockdown a student will start in the half guard position, and commonly they have already secured a triangle on their opponent's leg. To make this position into a lockdown, the leg will form a triangle slipping the foot behind the knee of the student, with their other leg extended out, and their foot slipping in behind the shin of their opponent. Using this locking mechanism a student can extend the leg, which can be quite painful for an opponent, forcing them to give up position. Using the lock down can be a great deterrent for an opponent, as it can stifle them from trying to pass the guard. This is more than just a defense position, as a student can execute a lockdown sweep. This is where they can utilise an over hook on the same side as the lock down leg, before extending the leg up, and sucking the over hook underneath their body, while using their other arm as an under hook, and punching it high, and rolling their opponent over. This can be a highly successful sweep, and can be extremely annoying for a guard passing player.

Utilising a half guard can be extremely beneficial to a student if they know how to make the right movements. Having a good half guard means that the student can easily access various other guard positions like a de la riva guard, the x guard, the deep half guard, or even get back to their jiu jitsu open guard. There is an extensive range of submissions that students can utilise from the half guard position. With the right techniques, and good framing skills students can work their way into submissions like the americana, the kimura, the arm bar, the knee bar, the triangle, the calf slicer, and even Gi chokes like the loop choke, the cross collar choke, and the baseball bat choke. Using the half guard as an attacking platform, rather than its old traditional defensive use, is a great innovation that has happened to the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Nowadays some athletes will sit straight into a half guard position, and use this as a great way to upset the balance of their opponents, and execute sweeps, and submission maneuvers. Finding the right relationship between the open guard vs closed guard bjj, is highly dependent on having a successful half guard. 

DEFENSIVE TACTICS USING THE HALF GUARD

Using the half guard as a defensive measure against an attacking opponent is vital to escaping from control positions. One of the most crucial fundamental elements of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is guard retention, and this means using their skillset to work their way back into the guard. All students must become impassable just like Xande Ribeiro's diamond guard bjj tactics. There are many different techniques that can help students escape from control positions. One of the most common is the elbow escape from the mount position. To secure the elbow escape the student needs to firstly turn onto their side using both their hands as a frame in their opponents hip. It is important to note that if their opponent attacks the choke while both of the students hands are on their opponent's hip, then it is a good idea to instantly defend the choke. After being in position on their side with their hands in their opponents hip, the student can bring their top leg over the top of their opponent's leg, trapping it before turning towards their back, which will ultimately lift their opponent's knee off the mat. This will allow enough space to escape the student's hips, rolling over to the opposite side and catching the half guard. This is a fundamental mount escape that all students will need to learn in their pursuit for higher ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Another defensive mechanism that can also be used in an attacking way, is the switch from half guard to the deep half guard. This is a great position to get an easy sweep, and it starts with a student securing a nice tight half guard position. From here the student should curl in right underneath their opponent's legs, which will make it extremely hard for their opponent to attack submissions. From here they can scoop under the opposite leg, before placing it on their shoulder, and turning further in parallel to the leg they have trapped. This will allow the student to secure their arms around the same leg they have trapped in the half guard. Another important tip is once the student has secured the leg with their arms, they must not allow their opponent to hook into their arm. If this does happen then the student must re-pummel, and trap their opponent's leg by hugging the leg tightly. From here the sweep is extremely easy, as they don't even need to move their opponent, they only have to roll around the leg coming up to their knees, as this will put their opponent into a seated position, as the student looks to pass the leg. Not only is this a great sweep, and easy to execute, it will also score them two points in a competition match.

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PASSING THE HALF GUARD

Students that are looking to pass the half guard will sometimes encounter their opponents barely holding onto this guard. Quite often a student will latch onto a half guard out of desperate measures, where the half guard even slips into the quarter guard. A common way to pass a student in this position is to keep applying pressure, and drive their knee slice through, as they use the other leg to kick off the top leg of their opponent. There are other ways to pass the half guard, as a student can look to apply pressure to the hips, underhook the top leg of their opponent, and back step their leg out, as they look to redirect into a side control position. When an opponent has half guard this is also half mount for the student on top. This means they have the opportunity to apply pressure, and look to distract their opponent with choke setups, as this will help to make an easier pass out of the half guard.

Jake Mackenzie is one of Canada's most successful BJJ black belts.  He is also a master of half guard and he's joined forces with BJJFanatics.com to share his secrets with you!

half guard bjj

Many world class athletes have different ways of passing the half guard, as some will drive pressure into the thighs of their opponents, while others will use head pressure, and find sneaky gaps to slot their legs through. The knee cut pass is one technique that can be used to escape their opponents half guard. This involves securing a cross face, and an underhook, while driving head pressure into the chin of their opponent, as they look to knee cut their way through the half guard. The pressure of this pass will make it next to impossible for an opponent to hold onto the half guard, and the student can also add the other foot to kick off their opponent's leg, making it impossible to defend. There are many different ways to pass a half guard, but there are also many ways to attempt submissions while someone has a student in half guard. The modern day athlete will use leg lock tricks in order to escape the half guard, or even better secure the submission finish. 

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