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Thread: Anyone here like half guard?

  1. #1
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    Anyone here like half guard?

    I've been playing around a lot with lockdown half guard and just among my group of training partners it has given me a lot of options to reverse, to control posture, to sweep and to set up some devastating submissions. As a smaller guy, I find I get put on my back a lot, and when dealing with a skilled BJJ player, they're not keen to let me back into full guard, so some type of half guard literacy is needed.

    The thing is...I think from a defensive standpoint, few guys are going to know enough about BJJ to effectively keep me from getting full guard, controlling posture, and then either sweep, stand, or submit them. I will admit to not having practiced integrating grappling with strikes in a few months, and I probably should, but does half guard have a defensive context? Does it compare favorably or less favorably with closed guard in the various evolutions of classes that stress a weapons based environment?

    I do, of course realize that the best option is keeping the fight where I want it. I'd much prefer the mount or the back, but again...most of my training partners have a couple pounds and, ever increasingly, a few years, on me, and the benefits I've listed above, of this new half guard game I've discovered, seem like they'd be fantastic for controlling an assailants ability to access and deploy weapons.

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  2. #2
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    Obviously not the most advanced guy here (4-stripe blue belt reporting in!) but from my study half guard has a lot of use in a defensive context, but some modifications are necessary from a lot of standard BJJ techniques when strikes are in play. I'm sure other modifications matter when weapon access comes in as well. But it will always be part of your defensive arsenal as your last line of guard before you're in full "escape" mode.

    A lot of common BJJ half guards (lock down, low kneed shield/z-guard, and common ways of playing deep half) do little to protect against getting punched in the face. Dog fight half (underhooks!), on the other hand, has a ton of fight relevance. Ryan Hall's recent instructional "The Modern Half Guard" (ryanhallonline.com) talks a lot about how he had to change his game when he transitioned to MMA. He goes more for a shell with his foot blocking the shoulder instead of a normal knee shield. And he changes how he plays deep half to forcibly keep their hands on the mat.

    My impression is that a lot of things will work if you can off balance someone enough to punish them for trying to swing on you. This is the most likely scenario against someone without grappling experience, but always need to keep in mind "just how open am I" if the other guy is swinging for the fences.

    And personally, in BJJ -- I'm working on it, but my half guard *sucks*. :-) I use it pretty much exclusively to recover to my open guard, except for when I am trying to improve it, when I use it exclusively to get embarrassed by lower belts.
    Last edited by ford.304; 06-14-2020 at 09:33 PM.

  3. #3
    Site Supporter MGW's Avatar
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    Another blue belt here. I definitely work half guard especially against bigger guys. I prefer to be in closed or open guard. I have a ton of stuff from there that I can use. I love working guillotine, kimuras, hip bump sweeps, triangles, knee shield sweeps etc. But against bigger guys I often end up in half guard to keep them from smashing me if they start to pass or I feel like Iím going to get flattened out.

    I havenít had the opportunity to train with Cecil but hopefully he chimes in here. The below is video one of a three part series he posted to YouTube on half guard. It definitely has defensive applications.

    ďIf you know the way broadly you will see it in everything." - Miyamoto Musashi

  4. #4
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    As a fellow blue belt, I'm glad to hear I'm not completely wasting my time [emoji23]

    I'm right there with you MGW...my favorite little flow chart is closed guard to hip bump, if that doesn't work, kimura, if that doesn't work, guillotine.

    When I realized you could chain offensive moves together....my frickin white belt mind was blown. I'm a slow learner haha so it took a bit.

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  5. #5
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    I play half guard, I can sweep or take the back. Full guard is okay, but I like lockdown and having the ability to bail if my defence is not working.

  6. #6
    I actually think halfguard has more direct applicability in a WBE than any other guard. In fact, my tentative plan is to do two DVD/streaming videos - one will be on surviving and escaping from the bottom and the second will be halfguard, and right nor the rough outline has that at about a 4-5 hour runtime, and will most likely be my magnum opus since it will be everything I know about halfguard across the board for all contexts.

    First of all, it gives us better movement against a substantially bigger opponent because only half our structure is smashed. Regardless of how much bigger the other guy is, we have half our hips and torso free to move, which is not always the case with any full guard.

    Secondly, for the top guy to be in a position to attack, he gives us freedom to move or to disrupt him. The only way he can prevent our attacks completely is to hold us in a way that pretty much negates his own attack ability. So either way, a win-win. Either we can attack, or we do not have to worry much about his attack. I very much disagree with the notion that halfguard leaves you vulnerable to strikes. That is almost impossible if you play it correctly. There is very little tweaks I do for strikes or WBE than what I do just rolling in a gi. Halfguard is also where you just how useful a small, fixed blade knife carried forward of the hips can be. You can get the blade out and the top guy has an extremely limited chance to stop the deployment.

    I did a seminar at Paul Sharp's gym last year specifically on WBE grappling and we spent a lot of time on halfguard, and there was very little difference than what I would show in a strict BJJ context.
    For info about training or to contact me:
    Immediate Action Combatives

  7. #7
    I am not a huge fan of the lockdown as a primary move because it makes it harder to stay off your back, and makes it harder to access your weapons or stop the other guy's attempts at that. But it does have it's place, though I think the type of game I showed in the video is more universally useful
    For info about training or to contact me:
    Immediate Action Combatives

  8. #8
    I've been out of the game for 5 years or so and I'm sure the sport has passed me by since I was a hobbyist brown belt. But I spent the majority of my time at blue and half of purple (probably 4-5 years) with a competition game that completely revolved around my lockdown game.

    First a word of warning, if you're not training at a 10th Planet type school, your instructor and most of the higher level belts will hate this part of your game and actively discourage you from pursuing it. My instructors generally thought it was a gimmick and were not a fan. Upper belts will most likely actively discourage you from spending a lot of time on it. Promotions at blue only came for me when I was able to specifically sub my opponents from the lockdown in tournaments to make the podium.

    That aside, here's most of my game and how it worked for me.

    Lockdown cross choke. A LOT of more traditional BJJ players don't really realize how much you can control their posture with a good lockdown game. They will frequently let you set a cross choke in way too far before defending it like a normal half guard choke. if you use the lockdown to kick their trapped ankle up and away from them, their posture breaks and they tend not to have enough time to defend from the sunken choke with broken posture before having to tap. You have to be willing to suffer a LOT of cross facing here. My cauliflower ears really blew up at blue from getting raked over the mat by bigger, heavier, more advanced guys trying to posture and fight out of this. However, you will catch a LOT of purples as a blue here if you are willing to suffer.

    From here, the electric chair is your friend. In an effort to posture up, a majority of people will shoot their left leg up under your right armpit (if you are playing lockdown half as a righty trapping their left ankle with you right ankle). This is the trigger to the electric chair. They will literally gift it to you over and over again. As their left knee shoots to your armpit you DIVE your right undertook under that knee. Stretch them out and make them pay for it. If they are highly flexible and don't tap to the electric chair, sweep them over super slow.

    At this point the supersneaky trick is NOT to release your lockdown immediately. As you are in top half with your lockdown still secure, most people will still fight your lockdown. At that point you do an "ok, there you go and step to slide on the outside edge of your right knee (sit out style but staying low and tight the them and the mat the whole way) to side control as they help you by yanking their ankle out normally only realizing they passed their own half guard and actually fought to put you in side control.

    Using the cross choke as a basis to keep always going back to, many players will put their head far to your right shoulder to avoid the choke. Take the guillotine they are handing your. Stretch them out with the lockdown and finish the guillotine with the same confidence as from full guard. Make sure to "tuck their head in your pocket here. When they drive into you or plant their head in your face to defense stretch the m back out. The ideal time for this is right when they start to TeePee up to defend. Kick that trapped ankle high and away in a 45 degree angle and watch them collapse into you. Finish the choke here. You will need to have a good squeeze to make them tap though.

    Again, many players will drive towards your right to defend (assuming a right handed game here). When they keep their head near the mat or against your own head to defend this guillotine they are setting you up for the next sub/sweep. It's a gift really. let your guillotine grip go and keeping your armpit over the top of the back of their neck, undertook their left arm. As you crank up on that arm it pretty much full-nelson's their head forward. Tap or sweep them with this. Again, don't be too quick to let this go after the sweep. You've got their arm isolated from their body and stretched out. Blues especially will give you pressing arm lock, kimura variations, of a pass to side control trying to deal with this. (I'm blanking out on the name of this sweep sub thats like a modified half nelson and a quick google search isn't given me the name. Sorry about that, it's been a few years. Might be called the 100% ?)


    Hope that helps some, it's been a few years but I used to really enjoy the lockdown game. Although you can use it to get to your side, I really like to take advantage of people trying to flatten me out and smash me up to start sinking that good first deep inside the collar grip.

    If you have a good cross choke and guillotine from full guard, you can wreck a LOT of guys at the club level with the lockdown versions of them, in my past experience.
    Last edited by NoTacTravis; 06-15-2020 at 03:22 PM.

  9. #9
    Another minor point on the lockdown specifically. Try to think of it less as a static hold on their leg. I used to use a trombone analogy to convey this. If you are using your right ankle to pressure their trapped right ankle, your left ankle will be behind your own right knee. At times though you'll want to slide it down closer to your calf. You'll feel where you need that left ankle to be based on stretching someone out, from posture, fighting to keep a ankle trapped when they try to force through, etc. But the leg entanglement is more dynamic than most realize when you are doing it well.

    Gi pants, tights, or ankle supports are your friends as well when people try to slick by and just rip through with sweat and muscle. The extra traction can help just enough to keep them stuck.


    Oh, and if you hit a slow electric chest sweep, a good deal of purples and a surprising amount of browns will gift you a classic toe hold. Hold onto their ankle and keep the lockdown while you pressure the toe hold if you really want to punish them. Again, you have to really be willing to suffer to get "your turn" to be successful with the lockdown in my experience.

    I dealt with pitting edema on my shins from all the shin on shin grinding, a bakers cyst on the back on my knee from the constant pressure of my own ankle i was extending against to straighten my leg and break people's posture, and cauliflower that had to be drained twice a day from all the cross facing and getting my face ground into the mat. But it makes for some very satisfying subs against the naysayers. But I was training several classes a day back then and was not a 20 something athlete so very possibly it was merely pushing an over 30 body too hard too long.
    Last edited by NoTacTravis; 06-15-2020 at 03:24 PM.

  10. #10
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    Just bumping this thread a little bit. The more I practice half guard, the more I really really enjoy it. I still do use lockdown for a sort of "bail out" situation when I get flattened real bad, and I can sort of stretch the guy, get to my side, get my underhooks, and work a more traditional half guard game. Just the other day I was rolling with a fellow blue belt who didn't really know that I had been training my half guard and he has maybe a hundred pounds on me. My strategy for him is simple...don't even think about being beneath him. Even when when you get him in closed guard, he gets on his toes, bases out really wide, squishes down hard, and looks for the ezekiel choke.

    Truly miserable.

    In his case, I was looking for some various attacks from open guard, but ultimately they failed and I wound up in closed guard, which is a panic position for me when rolling with him. Because that, I actually went from closed guard to a half guard to push him away a bit, got up to my side, sunk a really deep underhook, caught his cross face arm, and started to look for a way to get to his back....but like Travis said above, he really started basing out his leg to try to press me flat and sensing he was putting a lot of momentum to try to break through my "Chi projection" like Cecil mentioned in the clip above, I just put a lockdown on real quick, dove under his far leg and rolled him right over. Timer ran out after that so I didn't have the chance to really test his flexibility but I even got a "lookin good" from the coach after class was over

    Most of the guys I train with tend to actively avoid my half guard at this point, so I have been developing other parts of my game, but as a fall back position when things are looking bad, it's nice to know I don't have to worry about getting totally smashed, passed, and submitted.

    Well...I mean I still do have to worry about that. But I can do a little better now.

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