The Power of the Underhook

bjj, Half Guard, Half Guard Passing, Half Guard Sweep, Half Guard Sweeps, Marcelo Garcia, Takedowns, Underhook -

The Power of the Underhook

The underhook is an extremely important element to almost all Jiu Jitsu positions.  It is an effective tool from standing positions as well as guard and passing positions.  Learning when an underhook is necessary is extremely beneficial for a Jiu Jitsu Practitioners growth.

The underhook will help negate size and may be able to slow down the pace of a match, check out our article on “how the half guard can negate size and weight advantages.” to learn more. The power of the underhook is one of the key components to the half guard from bottom and top, it is also one of the key components for controlling your opponent in side control, and escaping side control.

The Underhook from Top Half Guard

The half guard is one of the most popular guards in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and it is one of the first guards you learn in bjj.  Half guard is when the person on bottom locks their legs around one of their opponent’s legs.  For the most part, when passing the half guard, the most important detail and concept to remember is to get an underhook on the same side of your leg that’s trapped. Meaning, if your right leg is trapped, underhook your opponent with your right arm to control them and initiate passes like the knee slice. 

The benefit of the underhook from top half is that it provides you the ability to go chest to chest and put both of your opponent’s shoulders on the mat.  Check out this cool half guard pass below from Marcelo Garcia, where he utilizes the underhook.

The Underhook from Top Side Control

The underhook is also an extremely important tool in being able to control and apply pressure to your opponent from the side control.  Anytime you pass and achieve side control, you would typically want to get an underhook so that you can keep your opponent’s shoulders on the mat and go chest to chest, just like in top half. A good side control pin consists of the underhook and cross face.  Check out World Champion Xande Ribeiro breaking down side control pins below.

The Underhook from Bottom Half

Just like in top half guard, a crucial detail and concept from the bottom half guard is to get the underhook on the same side of your outside leg.  Meaning, if you trap your opponents leg, one of your legs will be in between his and the other will be on the outside, get the underhook on the side of your outside leg.

The benefit of the underhook from bottom half is that it allows you to stay on your side and keep one of your shoulders off the mat.  The battle in half guard is who can get the underhook, the guard player or the passer.  Check out our recent post breaking down the single leg takedown here and learn more on the underhook from bottom half.

The Underhook from Bottom Side (for escape)

The underhook is a paramount detail for many side control escapes.  The underhook will allow you to get on your side and shuck your opponent off you in bottom side control.  If you can manage to get the underhook, you can shuck your opponent off you and turn belly down to set up single legs and double legs.  Check out our recent post on the double leg, it shows some set ups from the underhook, also check out this video showing an escape from side control utilizing the underhook.


If you really want to improve your escapes, check out Black Belt World Champion, Bernardo Faria’s “Escapes from Everywhere” DVD.  A confidence in defense will establish a strong offense.