Using the High Leg to Prevent Your Half Guard from Being Passed

Using the High Leg to Prevent Your Half Guard from Being Passed

Are you a fan of half guard?  Half guard can provide you with a super strong, but secure position that can withstand the onslaught of an aggressively passing opponent.  As you may or may not be aware, the bottom hook leg is absolutely crucial to your survival in bottom half guard.  It is this leg that fundamentally prevents the pass, but also can be used a great deal for elevation and overall hip movement.

When this bottom leg is pinned, whether in the Gi or in No Gi, it can be very difficult to prevent a strong guard passer from breaking through your defenses.  But there is hope and it comes in the form of a friend of that bottom leg that you may have thought was out of the picture, the top leg or high leg.  By bringing it into the picture you can turn a dire situation completely around and make your half guard into an offensive attacking position, or at minimum recover your guard and continue keeping the pass at bay.

In the video below, half guard master Tom DeBlass demonstrates how he uses the high leg in a few different ways that we'll explore more after you check it out. 

 Using the High Leg Offensively

In the first example, when Tom's opponent seizes control of the bottom leg and begins to make the pass, if Tom sits idle he is not going to be able to bring the bottom knee back in time to recover guard and the opponent will easily make their pass.  Instead, Tom will take the top leg and swing it wide, opening his hips and bringing the high leg over the opponents back.  He combines this high leg attack with an attack on the opponent's near arm to stop the pass in its tracks. 

Initially, they need to be worried about straight arm locks.  Additionally, Tom can shift his hips and attack an omoplata as well.  He could also release the high leg and recover guard from there, but his focus in this example is primarily to go on the offensive and begin to attack the opponent.

Using the High Leg Defensively

In the second example, DeBlass uses the opening of his hips to spin and begin to invert.  Even as a larger grappler north of 220 lbs, DeBlass stresses the importance of being able to open up the hips and use the momentum created by our legs to roll through.  There's a bad habit of referring to any moves such as this as 'little guy moves' and DeBlass wants to destroy this tendency.

In the first instance, Tom rolls through and begins to invert and his opponent stands up to try to pass or stop the inversion.  In this case, Tom brings himself back and recovers open guard on the opponent.

In the next instance, Tom will roll through and capitalize on the position and attack a knee bar.  Though definitely offensive in nature, the threat upon an opponents legs is sometimes your best defense.

In the final instance, Tom will simply continue to roll complete through and reestablish guard similarly to the first instance, but going through the entire revolution.

Having one's bottom half guard leg pinned and the opponent putting the top leg in their rear view mirror can be a dangerous position and if left unchecked, the guard will be passed easily.  In this article we explored Tom DeBlass use of the high leg as a counter to create a series of attacks and defensive body positions that allow one to retain or recover the guard that's being passed.  

By being open to the notion of using hips and momentum to invert a bit, even the biggest grapplers can keep themselves from having their guard passed using these examples.

If you want to learn more from this guru of half guard, you will want to check out his 4 volume, best-selling instructional "Half Domination" available here from BJJ Fanatics.

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