How To Smash The Half Guard

How To Smash The Half Guard

The half guard is one of the first guards that many Brazilian Jiu Jitus practitioners are introduced to, therefore, it has become an extremely common guard.  You could say that at almost every bjj academy there are probably several students who favor half guard.  This position has been demonstrated effectively at the highest levels of competition by several athletes.  Some of the best half guard players include Tom DeBlass, Bernardo Faria, and Lucas Leite.  All of these men have been able to accomplish unbelievable feats in bjj competition.  There accolades speak for themselves.

So, we know that the half guard is an excellent position to play, but how do we pass the half guard?  There are several ways that you can smash the half guard, some people in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions have emphasized forcing your opponent to half guard in order to pass.  Some people that love to pass the half guard are Marcelo Garcia, Rodolfo Viera, Xande Ribeiro, and Leandro Lo.  All of these practitioners have won the Mundials at black Belt several times.

So is it better to learn how to play the half guard or should you learn how to smash the half?  It would be wise to learn both sides of the puzzle, learn how to play and it will make you better at passing and learn how to pass and it will make you better at playing.  Why force half guard though?  Well, in today’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are so many modern techniques that can be quite complicated such as the Berimbolo, Worm Guard, and other “Modern” Jiu Jitsu positions.  How can you beat these?  Force your opponent into half guard.  With many of these new fancy positions your opponent may need to be young, flexible, and agile to play these moves, if you force them to play half guard it can nullify much of their bjj.

Some great ways to pass and smash the half guard are to use the old school pressure applications of an under hook and cross face, there are also several other ways to incorporate pressure based passing from the half guard such as using the reverse under hook or reverse cross face, and you can also use the collars and the sleeve to pass the half guard.  Ultimately many of these passes will involve using the knee slice and freeing your trapped leg.

Using the Under Hook and Cross Face to Smash the Half Guard

The under hook and the cross face can be an absolutely lethal combination when trying to pass the guard.  The under hook and cross face have been one of the most common ways of passing the half guard for years.  This is considered the “old school” smash pass.  When stuck in half guard you want to under hook your opponent on the same side of your leg that is trapped.  So if they have their legs locked around your right leg you will use your right hand to under hook. 

The under hook allows you to flatten your opponent out and distribute your weight while still having good base.  Getting the under hook in half guard also nullifies many of your opponent’s sweeps.  Many people would use the under hook from bottom half guard to come up to their knees and get into the dog fight position so if you can get an under hook you can stop them from ever getting up

The cross face supplements the under hook because the combination of the under hook and cross face will allow you to go chest to chest with your opponent and completely flatten them.  It allows you to smash them and distribute your weight properly.  The cross face is when you put one hand under your opponent’s head and use your shoulder to turn their face away from you.  Basically, it is a method of misaligning your opponent’s spine.  The idea of a cross face is that if you are passing your opponents guard you want to make them look away from you that way they cannot turn into you and recover guard.  If you are using the under hook and the cross face it can be next to impossible for your opponent to stop your half guard pass.  Getting the under hook and the cross face is half the battle.  Check out this video of Legend, Marcelo Garcia showing how to smash the half guard with an under hook and cross face.

The Reverse Under Hook and Reverse Cross Face

The under hook and the cross face may be the best way to pass the half guard but what if you are going against a very tough opponent where you cannot get the under hook or cross face?  Well, there is a simple method of passing if you can’t get the under hook on your opponent.  It all starts with a back step.  Basically if your opponent is playing half guard and has managed to get the under hook you should back step so that they are forced to play the reverse half guard.  The reverse half guard is one of the best places to pass.  Once you back step your opponent’s half guard you can nullify many of their attacks.

So, once you have initiated a back step you are going to have two options for passing your opponents guard.  One of them is going to be the reverse under hook.  The reverse under hook is when you back step and dig the arm that is closest to your opponent under their arm pit and jack them up so that all your weight is on their arm pit, triceps, and face.   It is kind of difficult to explain the mechanics on this article so check the video below out to see what we mean.  It is a highlight video of the king of half guard passing, Marcelo Garcia, watch how he back steps.

Another method to pass your opponent’s half guard if they have the under hook is by back stepping and use the cross face.  When you back step your opponent’s half guard you can put one of the worst cross face’s in bjj on them.  Basically you just do a back step and dig the arm closest to your opponent’s head under their head and use your shoulder to make them look away from you. Again, this can be difficult to explain on this article so check out the video below on how to use the cross face on a back step from half guard. 

Using the Collars and the Sleeve to Pass the Half Guard

Another incredible way to pass the half guard, assuming that you are training in a kimono, is to use the collar and the sleeve.  There are two different ways to apply this type of passing, the first is to use the cross collar and the other is to use the same side lapel.  Forcing half can be an excellent way to nullify tricky guards like the De La Riva and with the collar and sleeve this is much easier than getting the under hook and cross face.  Check out this video below where Lucas Lepri shows and excellent sequence on how to beat De La Riva by knee slicing with the collar and sleeve and forcing half.

If you like using the cross collar so you can set up different chokes as you pass the half guard you can check out Black Belt World Champion, Romulo Barral’s amazing sequence below where he shows a cross collar choke from the half guard.  You can also use this sequence to pass.

 

So now you’ve decided that you may want to force the half guard as a method of passing the guard.. Well you’re in luck, here at BJJ Fanatics we have amazing world class instructional DVD’s on how to do just about anything.  If you want to pass the half guard you should definitely check out Neil Melanson’s DVD Set “The Catch Wrestling Formula.” Neil is amazing at passing the half guard, if you don’t know who he is, you may have been living under a rock.  Neil is the head coach of Blackzillians and has trained with some of the best UFC fighters in the world.

If you are more of a gi guy and want to learn some passes that are for people of any fitness level, age, weight, height, and skill level check out Bernardo Faria’s “Battle Tested Pressure Passing.”  Bernardo is one of the best half guard players in the world but he is just as good at passing the half!