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Bottom Half Guard with Neil Melanson

Bottom Half Guard with Neil Melanson


Neil Melanson has an incredibly rich grappling pedigree so it’s great to have him with us here at BJJ Fanatics teaching his unorthodox and incredibly effective style.

Neil has trained UFC athletes at the highest level, including Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Dominick Cruz, he was coach at the Alliance MMA and Blackzilians teams and many many more. 

Early on in his training Neil studied with Gene La Belle aka “Uncle” Gene as he made so many people say “Uncle” with his punishing Judo game, and also Gokor Chivichyan. Both Gene and Gokor were well known as really high level, pioneering and punishing grapplers within both Judo and Catch as Catch Can Wrestling. 

The pressure-cooker of both hard pressure and technical mastery in this early training for Neil accelerated his learning to a huge degree when he combined it with an absolute thirst for knowledge of the game. 


Along with a lot of technical details about the half guard in this video Neil combines a lot of conceptual insight and the real-world insistence that grappling has a lot of conditional factors depending on your opponents size, style, and strategy. Staying responsive and active is crucial.

A concept that Neil repeats through the video is mobility and controlling range. In a similar way to a Boxer fighting in the pocket of an exchange Neil is urging us to read the situation from half guard so that we know where we are more safe and where we are at more risk. 

Neil Melanson has been hard at work REVOLUTIONIZING the game, learn from him. 


One of the big influences in being able to control range from half guard is not being flat, but also not being on one side and ‘stuck’ on one shoulder. Watching Neil in half guard here we can see his low shoulder is floating near the mat and so he retains mobility, which is hugely important in either a grappling or MMA context. 

As soon as that low shoulder is set on the floor Neil notes this is a strong signal to your opponent that you are fixed to the spot. The fixed low shoulder says “I’m staying here, I can’t move well from here” and this in turn reduces your options, allowing your opponent to settle into a plan of attack. 

For Neil you always need to remain active and dictating the rhythm from half guard. We need to leave options open for ourselves in half guard, and allow room for us to be responsive to scrambling.

A key feature here is the bottom leg.

We need to always be able to get our bottom leg out from half guard. Without being able to get our bottom leg out we can’t get up from the floor.

The second consideration of the bottom leg in half guard is that we’re protecting our leg. The outside crook of our knee that’s against the mat needs to remain heavy onto the mat. The reason for this is that if our opponent starts to control the outside of our knee they can lift it and flatten our hips to the floor, killing our mobility and leaving us open for guard passing. 

One thing to consider while protecting that bottom leg and keeping it heavy to the mat is that our opponent might try to trap our bottom leg by bringing their leg between our bottom leg and torso. We don’t want that, as again it shuts down our mobility.

Keeping that bottom leg active but protected means we can bring our foot to our opponents hips and start working an open guard or we can start to use our bottom leg to come up off the floor.  Keep it active. Keep it safe.

The other factor is Neil’s intelligent use of framing that doesn’t leave large open pockets for his opponent to be able to control the ‘corners’ of his hips and underarms.  

The big battle for Neil in half guard is his opponents arm on the side facing the front of his torso. For Neil this arm dictates the whole half guard game, and as such we want to keep control of it, while not allowing it to control us. 

One thing our opponent may try to do if his arm is free is go for control of our bottom arm. If they get this control it allows them a huge amount of control, so we want to be aggressively stripping their grip of this wrist at all times. Nothing good comes from allowing this grip to persist!

Stay inside with your frames.

Adjust constantly.

Don’t allow control of your bottom arm, which is your post. 

With the posting arm it’s crucially important that you learn how to get your arm straight and hand to the floor so you can move. Again, mobility is key here, and the posting arm gives us that movement

If you’re heavy on your posting elbow it’s harder to move, and if you’re carrying your opponents weight as well then it gets harder still to move! 

The next thing Neil counsels us to bear in mind is to keep our sweeps explosive and technically sharp. It can sometimes be easy to let things relax if we’re rolling with someone less experienced or less athletic but we always need to hold ourselves to a high standard. If we don’t hold to a high standard we’re either not going to improve, or worse we’re going to pick up bad habits that even start to make our game worse. Stay sharp! Stay explosive!

The Ground Marshal Half Guard by Neil Melanson

All this conceptual and technical material from Neil can be studied and expanded on over and over again as your own grappling game goes up levels. Investing in our knowledge is investing in our growth. Neil is one of the best coaches in the business, so take the opportunity to go deep into his half guard system with ‘The Ground Marshal Half Guard by Neil Melanson’ here!



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