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Getting to Know the Half Guard with Jake Mackenzie
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Getting to Know the Half Guard with Jake Mackenzie

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As beginners in BJJ we almost accidentally begin learning about the half guard. In our efforts to stop the guard passer, we often find ourselves int eh half guard whether we like it or not, and we begin to experiment. The half guard is so prevalent in BJJ that some of us may have learned about it before even scratching the surface of the closed guard. There good reason for this. While everyone must understand the closed guard, the effectiveness of the half guard cannot be denied. 

But where do we start? The half guard does not just present us with the perfect structure to keep the top player from passing and attacking. We have to understand certain things about the position and be able to implement them. There are particular concepts that need to be in the forefront of our minds when setting up in the half guard. How to position ourselves, framing, and structure, just to name a few. Once we have established good positioning, then we can begin to attack, transition, and enjoy all of the other utilities the half guard has to offer. 

The half guard is vast, versatile, and it offers us tons of options, but we have to find a jumping off point to get started. In this video Jake Mackenzie offers us 3 details that every white belt should know when delving in to the half guard. Let’s have a look and see if we can add these three details to our study of the position! Check it out!

Detail #1 - Blocking the cross-face

As Mackenzie sets up, he first talks to us about one of the most important things to consider from the bottom half guard. Controlling the cross-face arm. Notice how Mackenzie takes a strong cupping grip over the arm, making sure to keep it at bay. If this is gone unchecked, it could flatten him out, dismantling the structure of his half guard. Always look to control this arm and keep it from getting to your head. 

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Detail #2 - Using the under hook

As Mackenzie explains, 99% of your attacks will begin with an under hook, so it makes sense to begin trying to acquire it. To achieve the under hook, Mackenzie positions his knee shield high on his partners shoulder and then kicks it through the space between his partners body and arm. He then claims this space with his arm, establishing the under hook. After the under hook has been acquired, Mackenzie sits up to his hand, positioning his head under his partners chin. This makes the possibility of being put back on tot eh ground or having neck attacked less likely. 

Detail #3 – Diving underneath

After the under hook has been established Mackenzie is now in great position to begin attacking. Here he shows us how he likes to dive underneath his partner. This helps load up his partners weight, and in this case, Mackenzie decides to sneak out the back side to begin attacking the back. This is possible if there is no whizzer present. If there is a whizzer, Mackenzie can begin to look at reversing his partner, or another course of action. 

This is most definitely a great place to start when first beginning to understand how half guard works. Without some of these key principles in place, your stint in half guard will be over before it starts. Great stuff!

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Here’s another great accompaniment to the previous video on half guard positioning. Here, we get some more details from Mackenzie on how he likes to get set up in the half guard. There are a couple different angles here to look at it. Check it out!

Let’s get to some technique. In this video, Mackenzie demonstrates a butt drag to double leg option from the half guard. Give this a watch!

Picking up where he left off in the previous positioning instruction, Mackenzie begins with the under hook, and also dives underneath the far leg. As his partner triangles his legs to defend and sits heavy, Mackenzie sneaks his head out underneath his partners armpit and follows him up to a seated position. He then grabs some material and begins to pull his partners hips across his body. Here, he brings his instep in front of his partners knee to serve as a small block, and kicks off of his partners leg in to a hurdler stretch style position. Securing the legs of his partner, Mackenzie now drives forward for the double leg takedown. 

This is really cool, and this is a pretty common reaction when we try to dive underneath our partners. IM definitely going to keep this in mind!

Here’s another half guard technique where we find Mackenzie implementing an arm drag. The arm drag from half guard is one of my favorite techniques, and I feel its also one of the most accessible. Let’s have a look!

Once more we see Mackenzie coming up to secure an under hook. Here, his partner whizzers very early. Hen he feels the whizzer enter the fold, Mackenzie circles his under-hook hand to the inside and secures his partners wrist. He then falls back to his hip and scoots under his partners he sneaks his other hand inside, searching for his partners triceps and catches a grip. As he removes his first hand, he kicks his leg through and completes the drag. 

Here Mackenzie anchors himself to his partners lapel, secures a grip on the outside of the elbow, and then begins to scoot away pulling his partner in to the back control. Very slick!

So, there you have it. Some very basic ideas on setting up positionally in the half guard, and a couple of entry level techniques we can try to work from the position. 

Remember, when you first start okaying with the half guard, keep the first couple videos in mind. Positioning is key, and if you can start achieving an under hook on your training partners, that’s a victory in itself. Good luck!

 Jake Mackenzie has one of the best COMPETITION approved Half Guards. If you have been getting crushed in Half Guard, his High Precision Half Guard Vol. 2 has EXACTLY what you need to succeed from Half Guard! 

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