Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/06/2014
We're kicking off a month of half guard today, begin with maintaining the position. Your first concern is to stop them flattening you out and starting their pass. They are generally going to want to establish an underhook on their trapped leg side, using the other arm to control under your head. In many ways, it is a similar position to standard side control. That will enable them to crush you to the mat, then exert lots of shoulder pressure to kill your mobility. Many of the same attacks from side control can also be viable from here, like an americana.
Naturally, you don't want them to reach that dominant position. Your goal is to get up on your side, with your own underhook around their back, on your trapped leg side. That is one of the main fights you'll have in half guard, so it is essential that you get used to working for that underhook. If you can't, frame against their neck, then look for the double-paw (which I'll talk about later in this post).
If you can get the underhook, that accomplishes two things. First, it prevents them crushing their chest into yours, which would help them flatten you out. Second, it means you can press into their armpit to help disrupt their base, as well as help you get up onto your side. You can use your knee knocking into their bum at the same time to help with this too, as that should bump them forward.
For your leg positioning, the standard half guard is to have the inside leg wrapped around with your foot on the outside. Your other leg triangles over your ankle. This provides you with what SBG refer to as a 'kickstand': that outside leg is useful for bridging and general leverage. It's harder for them to flatten you out if you can resist with that kickstand structure.
After you've controlled a leg, got the underhook and onto your side, you want to block their arms. Almost a decade ago, Indrek Reiland put together an awesome video (made even more awesome by being free) about the fundamentals of half guard. The main principle I use from Reiland is what he calls the 'paw'.
By that, he means hooking your hand around their bicep, just above the elbow. You aren't gripping with your thumb: this is just a block, to prevent them getting a cross-face. Reiland emphasises that preventing that cross-face is the main principle. Therefore, if you can feel they are about to remove your paw by swimming their arm around, bring your underhooking hand through to replace your first paw with a second: this is what Reiland calls the 'double-paw' (as he says in the video, it's an approach he learned from SBG black belt John Frankl).
Similarly, if they manage to underhook your underhook, bring that arm over for a double-paw (this is also applicable from the start, if you're framing against their neck), then work to recover your underhook. Keep in mind with the double-paw that you need to make sure you don't leave space under your elbow. Otherwise, as Reiland demonstrates, they can they go for a brabo choke. Get the elbow of your top double-pawing arm to their nearest armpit, as that makes it easier to circle your arm around to their back.
Teaching Notes: I've cut the lesson down a bit, on my general 'simplicity' kick, but I'll include the bits I chopped here so I have them for later. First, a couple of other leg positions (I could also talk about knee shield and lockdown, among others):
An alternative is to rely mainly on your outside leg for control. To do that, bring your outside leg across, then hook your foot under. This provides you with some of the advantages of a lockdown but without immobilising your hips. It is a good option if you're looking to recover closed guard, as you can then work to bring your inside leg out between theirs, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're still trying to get up on your side. For that, the 'kickstand' grip is much better to create base and leverage.
Yet another variation, which I first saw while checking out the half guard section on Jason Scully's 'Grappler's Guide', starts like the kickstand. However, rather than having that kickstand leg outside for base, use it to hook their lower leg and drag it outwards. That sets you up nicely for the old school sweep, as well as messing up their base.
Few other bits on controlling with the paw:
Saulo does something similar in Jiu Jitsu Revolution 1, as he also uses the 'paw'. However, the posture of his other arm is different, and very simple. He just puts it by his side, with the hand reaching over to his opposite hip. He then uses the shoulder and elbow to wriggle towards the underhook, where he notes to grip by the belt rather than high on the back.
An alternative option is to put your hand on your head (which I'd forgotten I taught last time until Nick mentioned the technique during drilling), then curl in tight to their leg. Again, that stops them getting the underhook. If you can get to their leg, it becomes difficult for them to dig your head free. Should the opportunity present itself from any of those positions, you can momentarily move your paw to their knee. Push on their knee and slide your knee through. From there, you can work to recover full guard.