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Three Principles for a Simple and Effective Half Guard

Three Principles for a Simple and Effective Half Guard


The half guard is one of the first guards you learn.  The half guard may be the simplest and most effective guard in bjj.  It is one of the best guards for smaller guys to sweep their opponents or for bigger guys to minimize their use of strength.

Half guard is extremely beneficial for self-defense, MMA, and sport Jiu Jitsu.  Half guard is also an extremely versatile position because it is equally effective in both gi and nogi.  The half guard has a few principles you can apply while using it to make it simple and effective.  You need to get an underhook, you need to block the cross face, and you need to stay active on your side. 

The Underhook from Bottom Half

Establishing the underhook is a key component to developing a good half guard.  The underhook may be the single most important detail for being a good half guard player and passer.  We recently wrote an entire article teaching you about various underhook applications.  If you’d like to check it out, click here.

When playing half guard, you need the underhook to help you maintain the position, stay on your side, and start attacking sweeps. You always want to get the underhook on the same side of your outside leg.  Establishing the underhook will allow you to keep your shoulders off the mat and start applying several sweeps.  Getting the underhook while playing half guard is crucial anytime whether its self-defense, MMA, or sport Jiu Jitsu.  Check out this half guard sweep below from Lucas Leite.

Blocking the Cross face from Bottom Half

After you’ve established an underhook, you must also block your opponents from getting a cross face.  If your opponent applies a cross face, it can be detrimental when playing half guard.  This is because if your opponent cross faces you, they will be able to apply shoulder pressure, go chest to chest and ultimately put both your shoulders on the mat.  We have an article breaking down cross face applications called “Power of the Cross Face.”

You should get the underhook, and you must block the cross face.  All to avoid getting flattened out in half guard.  You NEVER want your opponent to flatten you out or go chest to chest when you are playing half guard.  These are principles that will apply to half guard from anywhere.  Check out this video of Bernardo Faria teaching a simple and effective half guard technique.

Staying on Your Side in Bottom Half Guard

The last principle of half guard is to stay on your side.  Once you get the underhook and actively block the cross face, this will allow you to stay on your side.  You want to be on the same side hip as your bottom leg, or leg that is in between your opponent’s legs. You want to be on your shoulder and keep your elbow tucked to avoid things like kimuras, or americanas.

The combination of these three principles will allow you to have a simple and effective half guard.  You must get the underhook, block the cross face and stay on your side.  These are the most vital elements to having a good half guard and they are easy principles to apply.  If you have trouble getting to half guard in your gym because your start from your knees.  Check out this video below of Bernardo Faria displaying how to pull half guard from the knees.

If you really want to accelerate your half guard, check out Bernardo Faria’s “Battle Tested Half Guard” DVD set.  Bernardo is a 5x World Champion at Black Belt and a half guard fanatic. For more videos, article, DVD’s, and bjj products visit


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