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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

15 January 2018

15/01/2018 - Teaching | Half Guard | Recovering Closed Guard

Teaching #743
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 15/01/2018

Short Version:
  • Bring your outside leg to the inside, hooking in tight
  • Curl in towards their knee, prying it out with your elbow
  • Pop your knee through, pushing off their thigh with your shin
  • Wrap their arm and grab your opposite shoulder, put your free leg over their back
  • Shrimp out to free your other leg, recover closed guard

Full Version:
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.

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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).

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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.

If you've been flattened out but you've still managed to block the cross face, then I find it is easiest to try and recover closed guard. It's generally more efficient to shift your leg positioning for this, bringing your outside leg over and hooking their leg, inserting your instep underneath their shin too. That leaves your other leg free to be pulled out. Curl your body towards your non-trapped slide, aiming to get an elbow inside their knee. Pry that open, while simultaneously attempting to wriggle your leg out. Once you get your knee/shin onto their thigh, you can square your body back up, using that knee/shin for leverage.

From there, it's the same technique as recovering closed guard from side control or mount. Hook your arm just above their elbow and grab your opposite collar/shoulder, to stop them pushing your knee down. Get control of their head with your other arm. From here, keep shrimping until you can bring your legs around their back for closed guard: how much you need to shrimp will depend on your flexibility. Going to open guard is fine too: butterfly can feel natural from here, but only do that if you feel comfortable with butterfly guard, of course.

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Particularly for guard recovery, Braulio's alternative to the paw is a good option. Instead of hooking around their arm, he just 'facepalms' by putting his hand on his forehead. It's surprisingly effective at blocking their crossface, because they have to somehow get past your arm first. With that facepalm defence, you can dig underneath and get closer to their leg, ready to pry their knee away to recover full guard.

Teaching Notes: I felt I might have rushed this one, particularly recovery after you've got to the point where you have your shin on their thigh. That could do with some more detail. I am too used to already teaching it as a mount escape, so I'm probably assuming people know it already, which isn't necessarily the case. Next time, no need to mention the paw again, as this is a facepalm technique.

On the last part where you're blocking their ability to push your knee by wrapping over the arm, that seemed to confuse people. So, spend more time on that during demonstration next time, reaching all the way across to grab your opposite shoulder. Also, noting that this is a good technique for when you're getting really squished (though not so squished that you resort to the lockdown). If you have the underhook, you'd normally go for the back instead. Speaking of the underhook, I was introducing it with a double facepalm, but could be worth pointing out you can do it with an underhook too (not super important though, I guess).

Tonight was also the first time I've promoted somebody on my own (though I made sure to get permission from Kev first). Kirsty has been overdue for her blue belt for a while now, as she's missed a few gradings. Kev has rolled with her, so I felt totally confident grading her to blue. Technically as a brown it's fine to promote to blue, or at least, Kev has given me his blessing, but I don't want to abuse that trust. It therefore will be fairly rare that I promote anybody without Kev: I'll save it for people who can't make it to Kev's gradings, for whatever reason. :)

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