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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

21 June 2014

21/06/2014 - Artemis BJJ (Open Mat) | Basic Half Guard Sweeps

Class #574
Artemis BJJ (Impact Gym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 21/06/2014

This is the first time I've been down to the open mat at Impact Gym, as I was off on holiday in Croatia right after our classes kicked off in East Bristol earlier this month. The open mat is right after our nogi class (which I won't be attending often, as I've never been a nogi fan), which means that a lot of the people who stay on for the open mat aren't wearing a gi. It's also relatively hot in the UK at the moment, further discouraging people from putting on a heavy piece of cotton (or in my case, hemp, as I was in my The Green Gi factory reject).

I'm never discouraged from wearing a gi: I don't care if I'm training in the Sahara, I'd still be doing gi. Fortunately for me, Rich was also well up for gi, so I had a drilling partner. I wanted to work on half guard today, as I always like the practice what I'm planning to teach the following week. Open mat also often helps me work out the shape of my lessons: now that I'm going to be regularly teaching twice a week (hopefully more in the future, once Artemis brings in enough money that I can afford to go part-time at my current 'put food on the table' job and dedicate that free time to more BJJ).

Today, that meant I was deciding what half guard attacks to go over next week. I want it to be the absolute basics of half guard, so that effectively means recovering full guard, back take and the toe grab sweep. I had a play with another straightforward sweep for countering the whizzer too, as I'd be watching that in the morning on BJJ Library: they've got a cool Gordo seminar on half guard which had a lot of useful pointers.

Starting with the toe grab sweep (Eddie Bravo's name for it, 'old school', is common too), I was mainly following the way Jason Scully teaches it, over on the Grapplers Guide. I have never really done this sweep in sparring and it's high time I started using it, given it's both basic and high percentage. Apparently I have been taught it in the past, but I'd completely forgotten until I was putting in labels for this post. ;)

So, the Scully version begins from the basic half guard position I taught before leaving for Croatia earlier this month, where you're on your side with an underhook. Use your underhook to bump yourself down closer to their legs, curling your head into towards them. With your non-underhooking arm, reach for their far toes. Grab them and then shove their heel into their thigh.

Bring your underhook arm down past their bum, then switch the toe grab from your non-underhook hand to your underhook hand. Bring your non-underhook hand out for base, also turning to slide out your inside leg. Your outside leg tweaks their lower leg, then drive with your head and shoulder to move on top. Keep hold of the toes until you're past to side control.

I'm not sure if it is better to do the leg tweaking before or after you've established the toe grab: I think probably after, judging by drilling with Rich, but something I'll continue playing with. You can do it from lockdown too, which I ran through briefly, but that's not a half guard I tend to use unless I've messed up and I'm carrying all of their weight.

I then also ran through what Gordo calls the Plan B sweep, but as that isn't descriptive enough for me, I'm going to refer to it as the whizzer counter roll. You've got the underhook, but they've threaded their arm through in what's called a 'whizzer'. That ruins your back take, but it doesn't stop you sweeping them. Indrek Reiland shows how you can still do the toe grab, or there is the option I watched from Gordo on BJJ Library.

With your same side hand, push their knee out. Bring your whizzered elbow back towards your head, clamping it to your side, then just roll them over. I found tweaking their leg helped a bit, but as ever I'll keep playing with it to see the best way to increase leverage. I initially felt like it involved too much force, then I starting tweaking the leg. That helps, but I think I can get a lot more leverage once I work out the right leg positions and hip movement. Obviously watching the Gordo vid a bunch more times will be the best way to progress, as then I can see exactly what he's doing to generate that leverage.

My first week of teaching twice at Bristol Sports Centre kicks off on Monday: exciting stuff! I'm looking forward to being able to string together a progression, something that is really tough to do when you're only teaching one class a week (or as was the case previously, two classes but at two different locations).


  1. Excellent. I've just learned the 'toe grab' sweep. Very useful.

  2. I'll be talking a lot more about it next week. There's three variations I'm aware of, mainly depending on the starting configuration of your legs, though as ever I'll be sticking with the most basic one for teaching (with the other two in reserve depending on what questions people ask). :)