The Unsung Hero of a Good Half Guard
Full mastery of a BJJ position can require so much study and breakdown of the sometimes dozens of minute elements that make up the successful execution of said position. The perfect positioning may never be achieved, but that is no reason why we can't continue to examine it until we make it the best we possible can.
Let's look at some of the basic elements of the bottom half guard with special emphasis on one of the most important and perhaps least considered pieces of a powerful half guard. Without the proper use of this piece, your half guard game will never fully develop and reach its full potential.
Body position in Half Guard
First and foremost, it's imperative that we find a way to not be flattened out when in bottom half guard. When we are flattened out, we give away precious angles and the ability to support far more pressure, thereby minimizing the top game of the opponent. Our mobility when flat on our backs is also severely hampered. When I'm on my side, favoring one hip, I am far more mobile and able to adjust the distance with my hips.
Knee Shield in Half Guard
The use of the knee and shin, or knee shield is also extremely important to a strong bottom half game. The ability to maneuver the knee with the precision of a surgeon to both keep the opponent at bay, to make them uncomfortable, and to cause reactions that will help set up other positions and transitions is a skill that it you must work towards. It will not come easily, as a well placed knee pressure from bottom is forged in the fires of endless pressure packed sessions during training.
Arm frames in Half Guard
Bottom half guard, like no other position, requires the constant use of as many of your limbs as you have available. The arms are extremely important because without a well placed top arm frame across the opponent's neck, throat, collar bone, they will easily be able to smash you down and more likely than not flatten you and have their way with your guard, passing easily. It's a good idea if you're trying to keep them at a safe distance to think of your arm frame as beginning from your elbow driving into their far shoulder, with your forearm running along their collar bone line all the way to the tips of your fingers which can be gripping their shoulder. The more points of contact the better. Worse case scenario, your grip gives their brain a series of stimuli that they must process and could mean the difference in your next move.
The Bottom Leg: The Unsung Hero of Half Guard
I've saved the bottom leg for last, as it is the unsung hero of half guard. Without it, you cannot be mobile. Without it, you cannot hook your opponent's thigh and leg and keep them from passing your guard to side control. The bottom leg forms the anchor of the lockdown position. Proper pressure with the bottom leg helps set up the deep half guard. In some cases, the bottom leg must retract and actually be used to place the foot in the far hip of the opponent to keep pressure off and the passing onslaught from overtaking you.
The role and use of the bottom leg gets overlooked for a variety of reasons in my opinion. First and foremost, it takes a great deal of effort and practice to get to the point where all of your limbs are working in coordination perfectly. Secondly, the majority of our focus when instructors are teaching the technique is on the pieces of the puzzle that are easy to see, namely the arm frames and knee shield. The bottom leg is most likely obscured by the opponents body and is difficult to see. Therefore, it might not get the focus it needs. Therefore, when we first learn the technique, we are spending our time striving to perfect those particular pieces and the use of the bottom leg comes along much slower and mostly from experience, realizing slowly that there is something missing from our bottom half guard.
When you're ready to take your half guard game to the next level, you will want to check out this special article about all of the keys that will have you controlling and sweeping your training partners and opponents in no time. You can read it here!
In the video below, half guard guru and ADCC veteran, Tom DeBlass makes use of the bottom leg to show how it can be used to help recover from being smashed from the top in half guard.
So remember, when it comes to breaking down a position, make sure you are not taking things superficially and only focusing on the parts of the technique you can readily see. Sometimes you've got to feel the seemingly invisible pieces which may be entire limbs that can be forgotten, to fully develop the position and properly incorporate it into your game.
Now that we've explored the unsung hero of the half guard, the bottom leg, it's time to immerse yourself into one of the most insane half guard games in competitive BJJ history, that of world champion Bernardo Faria. Take advantage of the special sale on his 4 volume "Battle Tested Half Guard" instructional today for only $77!