Defend Your Half Guard with Travis Stevens
The half guard may be the most highly utilized position in all of BJJ. With one of the most exciting and well-rounded platforms, this incredibly useful guard configuration is the chosen homebase for thousands of BJJ enthusiastists and high level competitors alike. The half guard has it all. Trainsitions, reversals, submissions, back takes, leg lock entries. You name it and the half guard offers it. However, without the proper structure, the half guard can be dismantled quite quickly. Because we are only controlling one side of the guard passers body, we must keep in mind that without good half guard maintenance measures, the position can be navigated with more ease for a proficient guard passer.
Defending your half guard requires a network of positional details that are paramount to success. This includes the placement of your hook, framing, and different ideas on creating strong infrastructure that can weather the guard passing storm. Half guard is often touted as a position where you can slow things down and plot your next move. This is true of the half guard but not without the ability to defend the position. In this video, Travis Stevens provides you with the simple details that he thinks are the most necessary to establish and maintain strong half guard. This is the perfect piece of instruction to help you create a solid half guard so you can focus on the techniques instead of only surviving the position! Check this out!
Getting into position, Stevens begins by lifting his top leg up into his partner’s armpit, causing his partner's hips to rise a bit. This gives Stevens the ability to establish his half guard hook, a very important point of connection in this process. Stevens now turns his attention to his top leg, which will become his knee shield. He plants the knee shield on his partner's shoulder. This will help him to maintain distance and keep the guard passer from closing the space in between them.
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The bottom knee can become vulnerable here if it's not addressed. As Stevens explains, if there's nothing keeping the guard passer from transitioning around his bottom knee, he will absolutely do so, given the opportunity. This is where the upper body frames come in to play. With both of his hands, Stevens creates the configuration that he describes as preparing to catch a football. He uses this positioning of the hands to encapsulate his partner's shoulder and then curls his body underneath his partner, connecting his elbow to his own knee. This elbow knee connection is a cornerstone of several themes in jiu-jitsu and here it serves Stevens as a way to mitigate his partners attempts at passing over the knee and into dangerous territory. Be careful not to push on the knee with your hand, as this could land you in some trouble.
With all his points of contact covered and solid structure created, Stevens now reminds us that defending the cross face is of the utmost importance here. If the top player can achieve a cross face, they will be able to flatten us out. This is one of the biggest detriments to the half guard, so we must keep it on our radar. Here, Stevens simply matches his partners efforts to gain crossface control by swimming back to the inside each time. As many times as is necessary to fight for the position.
Wise words on space here from Stevens as he explains that it shouldn't matter how close someone gets to you as long as you're filling the spaces that need to be filled to manage them. If the passer retreats a bit, Stevens also suggests we don't chase them and as they apply more pressure, we can relax a bit as long as we keep these principles in mind.
So, before you try to collect that under hook, transition to deep half, or move into the legs, make sure that you spend some time establishing and defending your half guard. Oftentimes we get so focused on techniques that we forget to make sure that the position we're trying to launch them from is mechanically sound. Take the extra step and enjoy lots more success from your favorite positions. These are some really solid structural details from Stevens that will definitely help you build and maintain a better half guard!
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