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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

13 September 2012

13/09/2012 - Teaching (Passing Half Guard)

Teaching #72
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/09/2012

The class schedule is being shifted around at Gracie Barra Bristol, meaning that Thursday is now no-gi night in the main gym, with my class moving out to mat 2 (the smaller building up the stairs, where GB Bristol used to train while we waited for the main gym to be built). We'll see how that goes: if people continue to support the gi class, then it will keep on going, but if the numbers are low, I imagine Geeza will discontinue the Thursday gi class. That would be a shame from my perspective, as I enjoy teaching, but it will come down to the students voting with their feet. Can't argue with democracy. ;)

Tonight was therefore my last night teaching on the main mat, covering off some half guard passes. On top you are looking to get head control and an underhook, similar to top side control. If you can't get the underhook, keep your elbow close to their hip, so they can't underhook you. Sprawl back on one leg, so you are dropping your hips and putting maximum weight onto them. You also don't want to be too high, as that may give them space to shrimp and recover full guard.

If you are able to get the cross-face and an underhook, there is now the option of generating lots of shoulder pressure. This is my favourite way to pass the half guard. Drive your shoulder into their head, which should cause them to turn their head. Your head goes on the other side, locking their head into place. It should now become hard for them to move, because their head is stuck.

From here, come up on your feet so that all your weight is driving through your shoulder. Even if you're small, this should maximise your weight. I'm only 66kgs, but if I can get all of that weight against somebody's head, it becomes more significant. From there, bounce your trapped knee to wriggle it free. As soon as it is clear, twist and put that knee on the mat. You can then kick their leg off your foot: some people prefer to kick the top leg, but I would generally go for the bottom leg.

If that doesn't work, you have several options. You could try circling your free foot backwards, to hook over their inner thigh: in Xande's version of the pass from the picture, he starts off with that hook in place. This should help to press down on their thigh to make some space, in order to pull your trapped leg loose. Alternatively, you could try to distract your opponent, by attacking their upper body: for example, go for a bent armlock. If you can get them to start worrying about the submission rather than keeping their legs locked, you may be able to work the pass more easily.

Sometimes they might have got up onto their side, going for their own underhook. If you aren't able to establish your underhook, use a whizzer instead. From there, drive into their chest with your own, in order to flatten them out. You can then crossface, and work to get your underhook.

If they keep blocking your cross-face, as I taught last week, then you can just use your head instead. Bring your would-be cross facing arm towards their leg, putting your head on the same side. Trap their skull with your own, pressing towards them. Like earlier, you again then come up on your toes, slide the knee through, put it on the mat, then secure their leg to get free.

If you find that you keep getting stuck in the lockdown, don't worry: there is a simple method for working back to a standard half guard. First off, you can avoid the situation by making sure your lower leg is curled back. That will put it out of reach for the purposes of a lockdown. You can also just bring your foot close to their bum. If it is too late for that, grab their hips and shift downwards. Keep shifting backwards until you can circle your leg out of their lockdown, then move back up. Again, make sure your leg is curled out of reach, or they'll be able to put you right back in the lockdown.

Alternatively, Ed Beneville includes this option in Passing the Guard. Move down and put your head on their hip, trapped leg side. Move your free leg back, driving your hips down. Reach under their upper legs, then lock your arms together. When you've taken out all the slack in their lockdown, put your head on the other side. Shift your chest down, then kick back with your trapped leg (or simply straighten it, depending on how much purchase they still have on your leg). Pass from there by moving around, making sure to keep their hips locked to the mat, driving your shoulder into them..

This can also work from a standard half guard. Shifting down to their hips and wrapping under the legs is safer, but slightly less effective. The more risky, but also more powerful option is to bring one arm inside. The danger there is that if you're sloppy, they might be able to work for a triangle.


  1. Oh nice, we just did this half guard pass along with some different variations this past week.

  2. Cool! What kind of variations, out of interest?