Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 17/12/2014
It's my 250th class as an instructor, and even more exciting, IT'S CHRISTMAS! I almost have the requisite Noddy sideburns to pull that off, if not the impressive Brummie shout. ;p
So, special xmas class today, with mince pies, xmas hats and loads of cheesy christmas music! HOORAY! I love xmas. :D
In half guard, 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 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.
From there, you have two primary options. First, try to take the back, by whacking your underhook into their armpit and simultaneously scooting down their body. Pull your paw arm back, so that you can base on that elbow, then base on the hand. That should give you the balance to reach around to their lat with what was your underhooking arm, as well as swinging your leg over their back too. Establishing a hook by digging the heel of that leg you just swung over inside their knee. Finally, get a seatbelt grip (one arm under their armpit, the other over their shoulder, locking your hands together) and roll towards your non-hooking foot.
If their base is too solid to go for the back, you can recover full guard instead. You still want the underhook: if you need to make space, keep bumping until you can at least get your elbow by their armpit. You can then use that to pry up some space, circling your arm around for the underhook. Switch your leg positioning so that your 'kickstand' steps over their leg, hooking underneath their lower leg with your instep. Keep your legs tight, or they will pull their leg free.
Curl towards their same side knee on your paw-arm side, until you can push it out with your elbow. Get the knee of your inside leg up past that knee, which will enable you to shove their knee back and free your leg. From there, swing both legs around their back and lock your ankles for closed guard. I like to also shift from a paw to an underhook around their arm, trapping it to my chest, but that isn't essential.
Teaching Notes: I love teaching at xmas! Lots of silly xmas music and mince pies, plus Tracey's amazing shortbread. In terms of class structure, I thought it went well: last week I think there wasn't enough diversity, so adding in some more techniques helped keep the energy going (if that's the right word, I feel kinda stupid using words like 'energy' ;p). As ever, the main things to emphasise with bottom half guard are getting on your side, underhooking and establishing a paw. If people have that down, then half guard becomes way easier from then on.
I also made sure to emphasise the context, showing how you can often grab half guard as they try to go from side control to mount. That helped, as it meant people weren't wondering why they'd end up grabbing one leg. Also, it was super handy to have an experienced grappler there, who was of course familiar with half guard: thanks for popping down, Laura! :D
Classes are running as normal until Monday, but from next Wednesday until the 2nd January, the opening times at our two venues will be abnormal due to the holidays. I won't be there on Xmas Eve (I always spend that day with my family), but if people want to train I can arrange open mat.
I'm only away between Xmas Eve and Boxing Day, so can teach as normal after that (albeit at unusual times). Bristol Sports Centre/MyGym will only be open from 9am-12pm for most days over the xmas period, so it would need to be a morning class. Let me know, either on here, Facebook or via firstname.lastname@example.org and I can get it all arranged.
So far (in terms of women's classes over xmas), I've had enough interest to run a session on Wednesday 31st December from 10-11am, so that will be the last women's class for 2014. Next year, it will still be Wednesdays from 18:30-19:30, but there's going to be a drop-in fee of £5. Alternatively, if you sign up for the £25 a month standing order, that gets you once a week training. So, that would include both classes on the Wednesday. Ooo! :)