The Three Kings of Half Guard

The Three Kings of Half Guard

Half guard is one of the fundamental positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  In the early times of bjj the half guard was considered by many, merely a transitional position.  Nobody even considered the half guard an effective method of guard.  As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grew and progressed, people started to innovate this position and where able to sweep from the half guard.  Slowly but surely, a position many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners now favor, would be born. 

The half guard that many of us are familiar with today is not as old as some would assume.  This type of half guard is relatively new and has been innovated exponentially in recent years.  If we are speaking of recent history in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we have seen the half guard executed at the highest levels of competition.  There are three people that come to mind when someone says “Half Guard.”  These men are the kings of half guard. 

The three people that come to mind when somebody says half guard are Bernardo Faria, Lucas Leite, and Tom DeBlass.  Bernardo Faria and Lucas Leite are both Black Belt World Champions, Bernardo is a 5x black belt world champion and he has achieved the most prestigious title in all of gi grappling.  He won the open weight class at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships as a black belt.  Tom DeBlass is a multiple time ADCC trials winner, a NoGi world Champion, a UFC Veteran, and an ADCC veteran.  Tom is more known for NoGi.

All of these men have paved the way for innovations in the half guard and they have contributed hours upon hours of time to developing this position.  They all have similar approaches but some differ from person to person. 

Bernardo Faria

Bernardo Faria is one of the best grapplers in the entire world.  He is a 5x Black Belt World Champion and one of the most famous figures in Jiu Jitsu.  Bernardo is infamous for his simplicity and his effectiveness.  He plays a very simple game and it is primarily based on his half guard.  Bernardo has innovated the half guard game so much and contributed so much time to the development of this position. 

Bernardo plays a variation of half guard called “The single leg half.”  The single leg half guard is basically the name for a variation of the half guard where you are always trying to sweep your opponent with the single leg takedown.  Bernardo is very good in the kimono and always uses his opponent’s lapels to set up his sweeps.  Bernardo will grab one of his opponent’s lapels and thread it through their legs so he can keep them close to him.  His game is simple, he wants to bump his opponent forward and end up in a single leg or double leg takedown.

Bernardo is famous for his simplicity, many older and less athletic grapplers love his game because his half guard system allows them to have so much control.  Bernardo just has to get the lapel through his opponent’s leg and it will make it extremely difficult to pass his guard.  Even if he can’t use the lapel, Bernardo just wants to play a good tight half guard that relies on an under hook.  If he can’t get the under hook he will switch to the deep half guard.  Check out this sweep below from Bernardo Faria in half.

If you like Bernardo Faria’s style of the half guard, here at BJJ Fanatics you can get access to all of his best kept secrets by purchasing his 4 DVD Set “The Battle Tested Half Guard.”  If you are a half guard fanatic like myself, this is an excellent resource for you.  Anybody who lacks cardio, athleticism and youth can benefit tremendously from this DVD Set.  Anybody who competes and wants a battle tested and proven system that works can benefit equally from this DVD Set.  It is an excellent resource for anybody and everybody that loves Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wants to learn authentic and simple techniques.

Lucas Leite

Lucas Leite also has one of the best half guards in the entire world.  Lucas plays his half guard game a little bit different from Bernardo.  Lucas is also a Black Belt World Champion and has even had success at the World Championships fighting three weight classes up.  Lucas notoriously fights in elevated weight classes so that he can prove his half guard system works.

What makes his half guard different?  Lucas is very dependent on an under hook and is infamous for his knee twerk half guard.  Basically Lucas has one primary goal in mind from the half guard and that is to get into the dog fight position.  If you are not familiar with the dog fight position, this is when you get up from half guard with an under hook and come to your knees, there are takedowns from here, back takes, submissions, sweeps, and more.

Lucas is a master at the dog fight and he always gets to this positon from the half guard.  Much like Bernardo’s game, Lucas has a very simple and effective game that relies on the fundamental principles of the half guard.  You just need an under hook and the ability to get up but Lucas has tricks to be able to do this.  Check out this sweep below with Lucas Leite from half guard to dog fight.

If you want to learn some tricks and tips from the Black Belt World Champion Lucas Leite, BJJ Fanatics is your number one place to do so.  Lucas has a 4 DVD Set available called “The Coyote Half Guard.”  This is a great DVD set because Lucas literally goes into insane detail on all of his best and favorite half guard sweeps.  He also teaches very well and explains concepts very well.  If you want to learn some of his half guard techniques definitely check it out.

Tom DeBlass

Tom DeBlass is the black sheep of the group.  He is extremely successful in NoGi competition and plays his half guard a little bit differently from Bernardo Faria and Lucas Leite.  Tom has one the North American ADCC Trials several times and he is a multiple time ADCC veteran, he used to be a UFC fighter, and has won the IBJJF NoGi World Championships at Black Belt.  Being an MMA fighter Tom has an extremely unique and incredible system for his half guard.

Tom’s main principle in the half guard is to create space.  He constantly uses a frame against his opponent’s so that they can never close the distance, he is not so big on getting an under hook but he is extremely big on not allowing his opponent to have an under hook.  Tom is fine with any position in half, his main goal is to keep distance and not allow his opponent to cross face him or get an under hook.  His system is extremely simple and extremely effective for both NoGi and Gi. His system is also very easy to adapt to MMA and self-defense.    What also makes Tom’s system different is the fact that he is very good at attacking the lower body from the half guard as well.  Tom is very good at attacking leg locks and going for the lower body. 

Tom trains with his student Garry Tonon, Gordan Ryan, and the rest of the Danaher Death Squad so you can easily see where he gets his ability to attack the lower body.  Check out this instructional below with Tom DeBlass where he talks about the importance of framing in the half guard.

If you are more of a NoGi or MMA guy or you are just a Tom DeBlass fan, Tom also has a 4 DVD Set on the half guard here at BJJ Fanatics.  Tom’s DVD Set “Half Domination” was our number one selling DVD Set for a reason.  Obviously Tom’s system is second to none, but Tom is also an incredible instructor.  He has a great way of teaching things so that they makes sense, he is very articulate and knows what people need to hear in order to understand it.  Some people are great competitors but when it comes to teaching it can be difficult, that is NOT the case for Tom.  Tom has the best of both worlds.  He is an excellent competitor but he is an even better instructor.  You can see this in his students Garry Tonon and Gordan Ryan. 

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