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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

06 June 2018

06/06/2018 - Teaching | Half Guard | Guard Recovery

Teaching #784
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 06/06/2018

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.

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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).

You can also try framing to move into sitting guard. Simply sit up, framing with your arm into their collar bone. From there they will often forget to keep their legs tight, meaning you can move right into open guard. If you wanted, you could then recover closed guard.

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If they attempt to duck their head under as you try to frame, adjust your arm to push against their head instead. That should give you enough time to reach a stable position to continue the switch into sitting guard.

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Teaching Notes: Another one of those lessons where I feel fairly confident that there isn't a whole lot to add. The main thing is to emphasise keeping your hand on your forehead for the facepalm defence, using the length of your arms as a kind of shield against the crossface, while the elbows are for digging to their knee. A number of people were leaving a gap: perhaps it isn't as important as I'm imagining to keep the hand in place, but it seems to me that it would leave a hole in your defence if you do that. Also, you're not anchored in the same way, so less strong.

I covered the class beforehand too as Marcus couldn't make it, where I tested out the Xande option which is a sort of sitting guard frame for half guard. I have been playing a bunch with this recently: sparring with Josh on Monday meant I added in switching from a collar grip to directly pushing your hand on their head if they try to duck under. That duck under is a common defence, I am trying out the head push as a quick back-up when that happens. I also want to play with the loop choke from there more too, but it is still too windpipe-y for my liking at the moment.

Final thing to mention is that I was able to do another after-class promotion tonight, this time old student Lloyd visiting from New Zealand. I've been waiting for him to pop back to the UK for a while, as he was about to be promoted when he originally emigrated over there. Felt good to finally give him his well deserved belt. He had a year's training already before he started with us, and was at the club for over a year too. Great training partner and good attitude, hopefully he'll move back to Bristol some day! ;D

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