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Three Principle for Dealing With the Half Guard

Three Principle for Dealing With the Half Guard


The half guard is one of the most popular guards in bjj and MMA.  Learning how to deal with the half guard is imperative for progression in bjj.  Half guard is one of the first guards that is taught when starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Dealing with a good half guard player can be extremely difficult.

There are some principles you can apply to deal with and pass almost any half guard.  First, you will need to establish an underhook, you will want to get a cross face and go chest to chest to knee slide.  These are fundamental concepts to beating half guard.  We recently wrote an article “Three Principles of Playing Half Guard” so if you want to touch up your half guard, check it out.

The Underhook and Passing Half Guard

The underhook may be the most important component to dealing with half guard.   When passing the half guard, establishing an underhook on the same side as your leg that is trapped will nullify many of the half guard sweeps and attacks. 

The Underhook will allow you to flatten your opponent, and cut the angle so you can start to knee slice your leg and pass the guard.  Sometimes, in the gi, you can use a lapel to do this, but it is a better habit to always get the underhook.  This will allow your passing style to transfer from gi to nogi and MMA.  Check out this pass from Marcelo Garcia utilizing an underhook.

The Cross Face and Passing Half Guard

Another important fundamental to passing half guard is establishing a cross face.  The cross face will allow you to control your opponent’s head and neck so that they cannot turn into you to defend the pass.  The cross face will also allow you to flatten your opponent and go chest top chest to maximize your weight distribution.

The combination of the cross face and underhook is lethal when passing the half guard.  The cross face will allow you to misalign your opponent’s spine, therefore, making it extremely difficult for them to retain guard or sweep you. Sometimes you can’t get the cross face, so check out this alternative to dealing with the half guard below.

Going Chest to Chest to Pass the Half Guard

The combination of the underhook and cross face will allow you to go chest to chest with your opponent and apply pressure.  You will be able to flatten your opponent, turn your hip, and start to knee slice out, or wait for them to open their guard and step into mount.  Check out this article breaking down pressure passing if you want to maximize your pressure.

These principle for dealing with half guard are simple and effective.  You will need to get into the habit of always getting an underhook, cross face, and going chest to chest with your opponent.  Even if they have a tight squeeze on your leg and you can’t knee slice out, you are nullifying most of their attacks and for self-defense or MMA, it is an extremely safe position. Sometimes, it is not feasible to get the underhook and cross face, in that case, check out this video of a D’arce choke below, it is a great option when passing half guard.

If you want to learn how to counter different types of half guard passing and grow your arsenal from half guard, check out Lucas Leite’s 4 DVD set, “The Coyote Half Guard.”  Lucas Leite has an extremely simple and complex system from half guard that has been proven to work at the highest levels against opponents of all weight and size.


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