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Finding Your Better Half: Building the Perfect Half Guard

Finding Your Better Half: Building the Perfect Half Guard



The Half-Guard has become the most popular guard in modern jiu jitsu. It is a flexible attacking guard that allows for a myriad of sweeps and submissions, and unlike the traditional Closed Guard there is one major advantage: you only need to capture one of your opponent's legs instead of both his hips.  My own introduction to Half came about as a white belt at my first competition. I simply could not enter a full guard and as my opponent was passing I caught his leg in a triangle and held on for dear life so that he could not pass and complete his strangle. It was not pretty, but I did survive the round without falling unconscious. 

Over the past four years, the Half Guard has become my favourite guard when either dealing with larger partners or with beginners who need to feel like they are making progress in our practice sessions. It is a serious option to spend time on, and you will need to if you want to make it a foundational part of your game because it is also a guard that most players are familiar with passing at a high level. Building a balanced Half Guard will require that you learn the basics, but that you also become familiar with a wide variety of evolutions in how that basic position is played. Concepts like knee placement, framing options, and how to use your legs will dictate the style of Half that you develop and what you can use it for on a regular basis. 

Half Guard Master Tom DeBlass Shows Alternate Recovery From Smash Half

One example of a style might be found in Tom DeBlass' Half Domination instructional series. Tom begins his video with the statement that "to understand the Half-Guard is to understand framing." He creates a very compelling approach that uses the upper knee as a "shield" and the arms become frames to hold back your opponent until you are ready to enter the fray by dropping the shield and making interior underhooks and grips. As with all of Professor DeBlass' instructionals, the principles of the techniques are set out in a straightforward manner and repeated with each new idea or sweep. Repetition is always key to retaining complex ideas.

Bottom Half Guard Overview by Neil Melanson

Another example of a unique approach to the Half can be found in Neil Melanson's popular Ground Marshall series. Melanson comes from a catch wrestling background and focuses much of his daily training on MMA coaching applications. Neil begins his first video in The Ground Marshall Half Guard with the statement that  he does not "think that a half guard leg position should ever be fixed." Indeed, many of his techniques look to constant shifting and adjustment of limbs to create a dynamic attacking bottom half position. 

One Of The Best BJJ Half Guard Sweeps by Lucas Leite

By taking a completely different approach to knee placement positions, frame placements and attacking entries, Lucas Leite creates an equally interesting system that bases its openings on loose, but strong, frames that aim to open the entry for sweeps and attacks. One of the coolest techniques that Leite introduces during The Coyote Half Guard series is how he uses his Knee Shield leg once it shoots past his hips. The pressure that his hook creates on the opponent's knee and posture should be a key part to any serious Half Guard, and the principle can also be used in other positions such a Top Turtle or Closed Guard as Neil Melanson does. 

Faria Commenting On His Sparring Sessions For "The Battle Tested Half-Guard"


One final place to turn for foundational principles should be The Battle Tested Half Guard by Bernardo Faria. What is most appealing about all of Faria's work is that it tends to work for all body types and can always be incorporated into anyone's game. If your go to game is the Deep Half, then Faria's Half Guard is undoubtedly the best path towards that set up. He is a master of Deep Half and it is never far from any of the grips and sweeps he favours. 

Want to have a Battle Tested Half Guard Like Bernardo? Click Learn More!


Regardless of which approach you end up favouring, and there are a great number of details within each, building a perfect Half Guard is an endeavour that will benefit your jiu jitsu for the length of your entire journey from white to black belt and beyond. Once you throw in a few outside ideas about using The Lockdown position from Eddie Bravo's 10th Planet system, you will find that the Half can become a place of relative safety from which to attack out from no matter whether your opponent is bigger, stronger or simply more experienced. Once you gather a few concepts and try them out during sparring sessions, I strongly recommend taking a private lesson with a black belt just on how he plays the position. While in St. Petersburg, Florida, I just happened to be the only student for an early morning class, and the hour I spent with the school's black belt was formative in learning how the pieces can connect together and the timing needed to make the position work at the highest levels. 


Half Guard is a fundamental position in Jiu-Jitsu. Become a master like Bernardo Faria! Sweep ANYONE with Battle Tested Half Guard By Bernardo Faria!



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