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Half Guard OVERHAUL With John Danaher!
When you think about building your game, specifically your guard game, what do you think of? Do you immediately think about your closed guard and how you can improve it? Or maybe you like to use spider guard, or something else. Generally speaking half guard is a popular next step newer students find themselves looking to learn in detail as it acts as the transitioning point almost from true beginner to someone who is able to start to understand the techniques and how to begin stringing them together.
As we start to develop our guard game we often times find that we prefer a certain type of guard, or style over another. While it’s ok to play favorites in this instance, it is not ok to ignore the other guards all together. The fact of the matter is that you may like one guard better than another, however your opponent may also like one better than the other and you need to have a basic understanding of each of the guards so that you know how it works, and most importantly, how to get out of it.
When it comes to passing the guard or escaping the guard, however you want to look at it, there is likely no one better than Gordon Ryan who recently released his video instructional titled “Systematically attacking the guard”. Gordon’s credentials need no introduction, he is pound for pound the best grappler on the planet and continues to prove such every single time he steps on the mats. Do yourself a favor and stop trying to pass your opponent’s guard when you could be, and should be, attacking it.
Let’s hone in on the half guard position and how to build the perfect half guard game from John Danaher’s perspective, arguably one of the world’s greatest minds, especially when it comes to Jiu Jitsu. Let’s dive in and see what tips and tricks John is willing to share with us before his official BJJ Fundamentals Go Further Faster Half Guard video is released this week.
Go Further Faster With your Half Guard! Click Learn More!
“He teaches stuff that you do but don’t even know you use” – Bernardo Faria about John Danaher
Specializing in half guard does not always mean playing from bottom, you can specialize in either, or both. From either position, with the right training, they can both be great. What you need to know is that the person on bottom must keep their head and shoulders free and mobile in order for this to be a good position. If you are playing top half guard, this is exactly what you want, however if you are the bottom player in this example, you are not in an ideal position to start working. Being pinned down in this position is “disastrous” according to John. Again, in order to be successful in bottom half guard you must be able to roll side to side having each shoulder off the ground if you so desire.
Why would I willingly seek out half guard bottom? Why is there such an appeal to this position and why do athletes have such a desire to build a strong bottom half guard game?
This comes down to Danaher’s “iron rule” of Jiu Jitsu. The more connection two athletes have in Jiu Jitsu the slower the speed of the match. As he shows in the video clip, when the opponent is standing, there is an incredible amount of speed capabilities whereas when they are tied up with a lot of body connection such as when someone is mounted with a cross face there is very little speed as a result of the connection.
In most of the bottom half guard positions there is a lot of body connection which again, slows down the game which is ideal for athletes that are not able or willing to rely on speed to create an advantage in their match.
Let’s look specifically at the bottom half guard position. How is it possible to make bottom half guard successful? In order to make the bottom half guard position successful we must learn how to deny control over our head and shoulders from the opponent on top. Finding a way to do this is crucial in retaining our guard and maintaining your dominance in this position.
When we start to look at how to eliminate the risk, or at the very least reduce the risk of the opponent being able to close the space between us and get control of the head and shoulders we have to look at a few different areas, three to be specific according to John Danaher.
The first of these three is having a foot in the opponent’s hip, now obviously you can not maintain this as you lay down into half guard, so to replace it we will look to utilize the knee shield. When using the knee shield it should be placed either low in the hip, or high on the shoulder inside the opponent’s arm. The idea here is regardless of which area you choose to place your leg, it’s sole purpose is to push the opponent away while your bottom legs purpose is to pull the opponent into you. This gives you push pull capabilities and therefor off balancing capabilities.
Secondly, the next method of mitigating the ability of the opponent to close the distance is to avoid allowing the opponent to get an under hook on the same side as the leg we have in our half guard. The best and only real way to ensure the opponent can not get the under hook is to get the under hook ourselves. Once we have obtained the under hook, even if the opponent does decide to smash forward and close the distance we still have enough mobility to spin under and look for sweeps while they have very little if any ability to obtain a cross face grip, which means they have no ability to obtain control of our head.
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Finally, hand control is the third method of preventing the opponent from closing the distance and starting to control our head. Having control of the opponent’s wrist will eliminate their ability to obtain a cross face and without that ability the opponent can close the distance but has no means of maintaining that position or controlling us and therefore allowing us to continue to look for sweeps and or submissions.
While all three of these methods are covered in great detail in the video instructional, this particular YouTube video “How to Build the Perfect Half Guard Game” focuses on the last of the three methods, controlling the opponent’s wrist and therefore preventing their ability to cross face and gain control of your head.
The specific technique we are exploring here is the back roll sweep. In order to understand this technique fully we want to take a look at the core body movements required to make it successful. The first step in this process is to be able to curve your back like the bottom of a rocking chair and rock back and forth with your legs extended and together. This motion is going to allow us to get under the opponent’s center of gravity and start to shift their weight to a position where they are “loaded up” on us and we can then control where their weight goes.
Once you have this movement down the next piece of the technique is to actually execute the roll. Do these moves first without an opponent, we will do it with the opponent next. To do the backward roll we need to kick our legs over head and spread them apart in the air to generate momentum to pull us the rest of the way over. As we come up we want to keep our knees wide and our hands in front of us as if we had a grip on the opponent’s Gi.
As we dive into the back roll sweep we want to start at the very beginning and take it step by step. First, we start in half guard obtaining a grip on the opponent’s outside arm (Bernardo’s left arm in this example) and using our opposite hand (our left hand) to get a cross collar grip deep in the opponent’s left lapel. In this position we also want to start with a low knee shield as the opponent attempts to close the distance ensuring we stop them forward movement and then working to have a high knee shield to keep the opponent from closing the distance and getting close to us.
“If you want to start moving people, you have got to get under them” – John Danaher
Once we are in position and controlling the opponent with both our high knee shield and our grips we are ready to move to the next step. In the next step we “punch” our knee shield through meaning straightening that leg allowing us more movement capabilities. We are also looking to pull our head close to their left leg getting under them and manipulating their center of gravity while maintaining our grip on their left arm at the wrist.
To begin finishing this sweep we simply need to straighten both legs out which should be perpendicular to our opponent at this point and we can then pull our knees to our chest and pull the same direction with both the lapel grip and the wrist grip. This should create the momentum necessary to execute the back roll ensuring you move your head to the side as to not hurt your neck as you roll over. Once again, as you come up on top of the opponent after the roll maintain your grips and widen your knees to ensure a solid base.
When looking to understand a sweep, whether it be this back roll sweep of any other sweep in Jiu Jitsu, it’s helpful to think of the body in quadrants. Each hand and each foot belong in their own quadrants because each one on their own has the ability to be a base that can prevent a sweep attempt. In this example we are forcing the opponent to their left arm quadrant because that is the wrist we are controlling and that is the only direction we can take the opponent where they have no base. Again, this principle applies to ALL sweeps in Jiu Jitsu. To quote Danaher, “failure to direct the energy towards the correct quadrant will make failure imminent”.
As an alternative approach to this sweep, let’s assume the opponent closes the distance and flattens you out prior to you being able to get the knee shield in. All is not lost, you still maintain control of their left arm which prevents them from being able to get the cross face on you and control your head and shoulders. For this variation we now want to take our left arm and reach over the opponent’s shoulder and grab the belt. Reaching over the shoulder is very important, “if you can see the shoulder as you grab the belt that is a problem”, be sure to cover the opponent’s shoulder as you reach for the far side of the opponent’s belt.
To finish the sweep we again bring our knees towards our chest and pull on our belt grip creating the same motion and ending in the same place as we did in the last example. Remember that we always want to pull the opponent to the quadrant where the opponent’s base is weakest or nonexistent.
As a final note from Danaher, use the action reaction principle, Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport, you are going to get a reaction every time you try to move your opponent. If you want to pull someone, start with a push, and vice versa.
There is no doubting that you want to dive into this more and explore all of the details of the half guard position with one of the greatest coaches and minds of our time. John Danaher’s teaching style has a way of simplifying and giving order to some of the most mind boggling techniques making you feel that there is no reason you can not master a technique, which is the point after all. Jiu Jitsu is for everyone as they say, and Professor Danaher truly embodies that mindset in his teachings creating easy to follow systems that have been proven to work on the biggest and brightest stages in the world.
What is not mentioned is that while this system works, as do all of the systems the Danaher death squad use on a regular basis, they only work if you do. You still have to dedicate the time and energy to training if you want to be a savage on the mat, that status does not come free and requires you to pay the cost of hours upon hours of training. Do you have what it takes to be great? When you are ready to commit you can find all of Professor Danaher’s video instructionals here, and as soon as his half guard fundamentals instructional is released, it will be here as well.
IF you are beginning your Jiu-Jitsu Journey NOW is the perfect time to learn from one of the LEADING minds in Jiu-Jitsu. The Go Further Faster Series by John Danaher is designed to shorten the learning curve required to become proficient. Take the first step in ENHANCING your Jiu-Jitsu forever!