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The Keys to Half Guard With Tom DeBlass

The Keys to Half Guard With Tom DeBlass


Tom DeBlass has built his BJJ game upon half guard.  It is a position he has been working on nearly every day since he was a blue belt over 15 years ago.  In his most recent Fight To Win victory where he heel hooked his opponent in 23 seconds, the leg attack was set up by DeBlass' use of half guard.

What was once seen as a hopeless position which was used only to prevent the inevitable guard pass by the opponent, has developed in the hands of DeBlass into a complete system of top and bottom techniques, submissions and sweeps.  There are a few fundamental keys to understand to begin developing your own half guard game.  Let's take a look at the most important ones.  For a more complete understanding of Tom DeBlass' favorite half guard techniques, check out his best-selling "Half Domination" instructional available at BJJ Fanatics in both DVD and On Demand formats.

Be on your side.  

 Though each of these elements or keys work together in an organic, symbiotic relationship for DeBlass, this one could probably be considered the most important.  Though jiu jitsu players are known for attacking "off the back" it's important to do one's best never to be flat.

By being on our side, we diminish the amount of weight and pressure the opponent can put on us.  By being on our side, we make it much easier to move our hips away or towards the opponent.  Being on your side increases the length and reach of our limbs, whether it is our arms or our legs.

Once on our side it must be a constant project to remain on our side.  The opponent who is attempting to pass our half guard or move to a more dominant position is going to be trying to keep us flat and our hips pinned to the mat. Our number one goal should be to fight that.

Have an active knee shield.

Once on our side, an active knee shield is crucial to further fortify our half guard.  With a solid knee shield pointing towards the opponent's far shoulder, the amount of weight and pressure that can be sustained is incredible.  The interplay between a strong, protective shield and a shield that is upright driving the opponent back ot allow a half butterfly hook to sneak in, or a parallel shield to set up Z guard, are the things that can quickly reveal how good someone's half guard is.

Even when the knee shield is not present, for DeBlass, it should still remain an active presence in it's absence.  The removal of the shield for DeBlass means that an attack is underway.  DeBlass boils complicated ideas down into very simple statements.  The shield is for protection.  One should be wary of the oppoonent who has put down their shield, because the next step is attack.

Maintain strong arm frames.

The next line of defense to a solid half guard is the use of the arm frames.  Once you are on your side with an active, strong knee shield, DeBlass recommends a strong frame with your top arm across the upper chest/collar bone area of the opponent.  This further dissuades them from trying to reign unholy pressure down upon you.

The arm frame can also be used quite effectively as a steering wheel to move your opponent into better position for attacks or sweeps.  The combination of the steering and the navigation of your own body into better position is one of the most important skills you can learn as you work to master half guard.

Use bottom arm to protect against cross face.

The final piece of the puzzle is to utilize the bottom arm primarily to protect against the cross face.  If the opponent is able to cross face you on the bottom, you will be in a very bad place and left to try to deal with that as the opponent works their half guard passing.  

The bottom arm should not only be seen as a defensive tool protecting against the cross face.  It can also proactively work to attack the opponent's far side arm, or dive under and under hook the thigh, depending on what your plan of attack is.  But first and foremost the primary job is to prevent the cross face, which will flatten you and make it very difficult to retain the half guard.




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