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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Half Guard Training Log

    I've made a resolution to work on the traditional half guard (underhook, take the back) and the much less popular deep, out the back door game. It's my main focus for the next two months, since I hurt my ankle and playing my normal butterfly and closed guard is painful.

    This thread is a spot for me to make notes, plan my next step, report on my progress, etc. Basically, it's a training log for nothing expect my half guard.

    I've got some ideas I want to flesh out. They're mostly speculation right now, since I haven't really put them into action yet. But I want to write them out so I can commit them to paper (as it were) and make myself think about them. We'll see how they pan out and how they change as they're put to the test.

    My problem with the half guard where you fight for the underhook and move to the back is that I really, really hate being crushed and I really, really, really hate being crossfaced. And I've never been able to play it without getting crushed and crossfaced, even if I succeed. That's why I've developed a half butterfly game and switch to butterfly and x-guard so much -- I want to get them the hell off me.

    Aside from pet peeves, I've also simply had a hard time with the two most important aspects: getting the underhook and turning on my side. My arms tend get trapped and stuck in bad spots. Without the underhook, I'm stuck on my back. Again, the half butterfly game remedies this since I can play it flat with an overhook.

    But still, it's nagged me. I see other small guys play this half guard extremely well. It's a highly technical game, so I must be missing that proper technique, or at least not have it ingrained properly.

    If I'm ever to get into this game, I'll need to address my two main concerns, being crushed flat and crossfaced. Solving this, the underhook should come more easily along with the rest of the game. I think I need to look earlier and see why I'm ending up in bad posture and position.

    Whenever someone asks me how to get out of terrible positions or nearly finished submissions, I tell them it's like a boxer asking how to undo the last punch that hit him. You're too late and you're either in for a tough battle or you're done. I'm applying that same attitude to my half guard positioning. The real solution is awareness, avoidance and fixing problems before they're really problems.

    I have the bad habit of not fighting for the underhook before they've settled their weight. By that point, they're fighting for superior grips and underhooks of their own. Getting a good half butterfly only made this worse since then I really didn't care if I had the underhook. I've got to break this habit and force myself to be more aggressive.

    There are a couple tools that'll likely help me have more time to setup a proper half guard:

    - Getting my knee against there hip to maintain space. Saulo teaches this in his first set, and it's part of the z-guard Leo Kirby does.
    - Framing posture, with a forearm across their neck and the other hand on the biceps (paw grip). This keeps their weight off and blocks the crossface.
    - Double paw, for when I really don't want to get crossfaced.

    Using these together puts them in a sort of "long range" half guard. This position gives me time to turn on my side while staying safe before diving in deep for the underhook.

    I have more thoughts on what to do once I'm diving deep, but I'll save those for later. I need to start getting there in the first place.
    Last edited by Aesopian; 7/12/2007 3:41pm at .

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    For future reference and easy access, I'm posting a transition into deep half guard I want to work on:

    You have half guard on their left leg. Your right hand is ready to defend the crossface.

    Your left arm is underhooking their right leg. Ideally, this would be really deep, with their leg on your shoulder, but realistically you’ll just get a hand under their knee.

    When they go for the crossface, duck your head and swim your right hand under their armpit.

    Shove their armpit and ribs to send their upper body away.
    The key is getting my hips underneath their hips. From there I can lift them and break their base. I really need to commit to the movement of switching and throwing my hips under them. Keep scooting, shrimping, bumping under like I want to go out the back door.

    The traffic cop hand shoves their armpit to throw their weight forward (which helps get me under their hips). They also can't crossface since they can't turn back towards me and they need to use their arms to post or they'll face plant.

    Once I'm deep enough, I can switch to a gable grip so I can pull their leg on to my shoulder to spread their base and keep them leaning forward. Like in the electric chair sweep:
    I can also keep the normal underhook and switch back to the traditional half guard if they base back and won't let me go out the back door. Rocking back and forth from here and threatening sweeps to the front and back (and coming out to their back either way) seems to be the key to staying aggressive and not getting squashed here.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    My approach to deep half guard has been to apply many of the same concepts I learned with half butterfly and x-guard. This includes:

    - underhooking the free (or posting) leg and pulling it up on my shoulder
    - crunching my legs to my chest to pull them over me
    - diving deep underneath with commitment
    - getting my hips under their hips
    - lifting their hips and keeping them elevated
    - rocking them back and forth so they can't settle down
    - making them lurch forward into a "Superman" posture (both hands outstretched)
    - traffic cop the armpit/ribs to keep them away
    - putting their weight on their hands keeps them from crossfacing
    - stretching their legs apart to break their base
    - keeping moving out the back door and trying to get to my elbow

    I can probably think of a few more but that's most of it. These apply to half guard, half butterfly, full butterfly, reverse De la Riva, x-guard and probably many more as yet unnamed guards.

    Leo's full sequence is actually going all the way to x-guard through the "leglock guard" or "one-leg guard" or whatever you want to call it:

    Denis Hallman shows a similar sequence in the new Jiu-Jitsu Cookbook DVD he did with Monson. He does a "legoplata" into heelhook but the entry is the same. I know a kneebar from there too and it's a good one. I may play with it once I'm succeeding with the position and move on to submissions.

    Last Sunday I was working with a friend, drilling some stuff. We were finishing up and about to spar when I remembered the deep half guard.

    I'd been thinking about it since it's come up more lately. People have been asking me to do a tutorial on Wilson Reis' sweep in the EGO tournament highlight (which I haven't done since I don't really use it or have anything original to add). NHBGear had a thread going dedicated to Jeff Glover's half guard game. has weekly threads on going out the back door from half guard. Leo Kirby even sent me footage of Jorge Vidal teaching his half guard, which I put up on my journal.

    But I'd already worked on enough technique for the night so I sparred instead of drilling it.

    Within the first minute, my previously injured ankle gets reinjured. Pretty badly. It's throbbing in pain and I can't use it for anything. No more butterfly hooks or closed guard. And where do I find myself? Half guard. So what do? Put the knee in and go deep.

    Surprisingly, it worked great. It had much the same feel as x-guard but with little different quirks. It felt right and I decided to work on it more.

    Afterwards I remembered how I'd seen something like this in Baret Yoshida's book/DVD. Here are some screenshots.

    Baret is in half guard.

    He bumps them up with his framing hand and escapes his hips so he can bring his knee across their chest as he underhooks the free leg.

    He elevates them and gets underneath using several pressures at once. He dives under, pulling himself in with the arm under the leg and switching his hips. His other hand grabs over their shoulder and yanks them forward. His knee on the chest lift them and carries them forward. He also crunches and pulls his knees towards his head to lift them. You can see how their legs are coming off the ground as he gets underneath their hips.

    This position, with the knee across their chest while I'm underhooking deep under their leg, is the one I want to focus on.

    Baret swivels his bottom leg to bring his knee under their hips. He's now in a position similar to reverse DLR. The knee and shin under their butt/thigh keeps them elevated and he can kick with it to lift them and send them further forward.

    Jorge does the same thing with his knee:

    Notice how he's spread their legs to break their base and how they have most of their weight forward on their hands. This makes the next step easy.

    He sits up and gets to his hands. He's still using his shin to kick their leg away. You can also use the other leg to step on the inside of their knee (not shown in this screenshot though).

    This will be a very familiar movement if you've played x-guard or favored a similar butterfly guard sweep. That's why I like it so much.

    Doing a technical stand-up and taking them down to finish.

    The main points in Baret's technique that I want to steal are being deep under their free leg while having my knee across their chest, and getting the other knee up under their hips to keep them elevated. These effectively keep them from crushing me, which makes me very happy, and I can play the position almost exactly like I would x-guard, so I'm not having to learn everything from scratch.

    Having the knee in also gives you time (and leverage) to set things up. Wilson's sweep from half guard is much like the one Baret shows (expect he doesn't stand up all the way). But he gets it by explosively flying under them and driving up from below. I don't have that speed and power. So the z-guard knee looks promising as a replacement.
    Last edited by Aesopian; 7/12/2007 3:34pm at .

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Andreh Anderson has a solid half guard sweep sequence up on GrappleArts. I am reposting the beginning, where he shows his starting position:

    This is the starting position. My knee is just over his hip bone and my hands are "checking" his arms to prevent either the underhook or the cross face. I have to thank Ryan Gregg for the detail of the left hand checking the opponent's right arm to prevent the underhook.

    If he tries to back out of the position, I can usually get in deep and get the underhook (that foot trap in the next picture is tighter than it looks), but if he forces his way back, I switch to an open guard (usually shins on the biceps).

    My feet are hooked in the back like this.

    When you feel that you have the opportunity to enter, go for your underhook and drive your left shoulder as close to his right hip as possible.

    I underhook and grab the belt, but I am working on changing that grip to my opponent's left trap instead (as per advice Shawn Willians gave me). Grabbing the far trap feels a bit awkward for me, but I need to add it because it prevents him from overhooking your arm and getting the choke.

    Now pull your knees forward as you scoot down as much toward his back as you can. You want to be as small as possible so that his hips are over you.

    I now initiate the attack and keep the opponent off balance by rocking him. The rocking means I am always trying to get his body higher and higher over my upper body. I want his hips over my chest, if possible, so he feels light and I have an easy path to my knees or his back. I also go for that sweep to my left, and if he bases to prevent it, I rock the other way and the momentum helps me get to my knees.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    First real night of sparring. I'll breakdown how it went for each match. Played this half guard on:

    - A tough but relatively new blue belt. Short, squat, strong base. Slightly heavier than me.
    - A strong purple belt. Bigger and heavier than me with good base.
    - A female purple belt around my weight. Very technical with good balance.
    - A female blue belt who's much lighter than me. Very fast with pretty good balance.

    We did several rounds of passing the guard with set partners. Bottom man starts in closed guard and tries to sweep or submit; top man works to pass.

    I cheated and armbarred the first blue belt once from closed guard, but then decided to stick to my resolution. I wanted to find a way to safely switch from closed to half guard while maintaining space and good grips. I started by getting a framing grip (left forearm across throat, grabbing shoulder or collar and right hand holding the wrist). Scooted my hips out to the left turned on my side. Stepped on his hip with my right foot to create space, then shot the foot between his legs to take half guard.

    From half guard, I put my knee in his hip and crossed my feet, like Andreh shows, and kept him stretched away. I felt out the position a bit. He couldn't get an underhook or crossface as long as I stayed in framing posture. He couldn't drive in or sprawl on my leg as long as I kept it shallow on his hip and pointed in hard into him (as opposed to driving my shin across his belly like a scissors sweep). He couldn't back out or properly sprawl because I had his leg hooked with my feet crossed so I could pull him in.

    Once I felt I had control of the space and wasn't worried about being crossfaced, I ducked my head in and got the underhook. I balled up to hide my head down by his hips. He leaned back and pummelled back in, but I quickly repummelled and went even deeper. The next time he reached back to pummel, he didn't have the angle to get it. But this made him lean back too far so I was able to get an easy sweep by simply bridging into him and coming to my knees.

    We restarted and I got to half guard from closed guard the same way. Felt him out again. This time I tried to get under his free leg, using the Leo Kirby method from earlier, but setting it up with a kimura attempt. I switched between traffic copping his armpit (to turn him away and shift his weight) and gable gripping my hands (to pull his leg on my shoulder and ratchet under). I also found myself protecting my face by covering my head with my left arm, putting it in the same position some people teach to defend the RNC from the back. I'd block their arm, then paw grip it and throw it away from my head so I could traffic cop or gable grip again. I could also protect my face this way while maintaining the gable grip around the leg.

    I wasn't able to rock him forward and get underneath him and go out the backdoor because he sunk his weight back and sat on his haunches to close the space. But in doing so, he gave me room and freedom of movement to shoot my underhook in and start working the traditional game. I got another sweep from him somehow by climbing towards his back and bridging and driving into him.

    We switched partners and I got the big purple belt. Switched from closed to half the same way. Got in the long distance half guard and controlled him with different grips, switching between framing posture, a hand on each biceps (like Andreh shows), double paw, sliding my right hand up and down his arm (from paw on the biceps down to holding the wrist).

    He was trying to setup sprawling passes but I can't my knee up (so he couldn't smash it) and pulled him in with my crossed ankles. He got frustrated and tried to collar choke me. Which crossed his own arm. I simply cross gripped his sleeve and scooted around and climbed on his back.

    I clued him in so he didn't do that dumb mistake again. The next time he simply stayed frustrated trying to find an underhook or a crossface or put his weight down or something but I kept my proper positioning.

    This time I dove for his free leg and tried to scoot under it. He kept his weight back and wouldn't let me get him rocking forward. But again, his posture gave a chance to switch to the traditional game and work my underhook deep, since I'm already down by his hips. Didn't get a sweep but was able to maintain the half guard position without losing the underhook or getting crossfaced or smashed, which is an achievement in itself.

    Later I sparred with a female purple belt. I knew should wouldn't out muscle me but she'd come up with intelligent counters. I was able to pull long distance half guard from the get-go. Gave her more of a chance to start setting up passes to feel how to counter them. She's great at hugging and weaving the legs together and passing over them so I wanted to feed her that a bit and see how to get out. Was able to stop this by keeping my knee hard into her hip, angled up, and keeping my ankles crossed, then hand fighting and getting grips.

    Dove deep under her leg as I crunched her on top of me like I wanted to do a backwards roll. If she leaned back to defend, I'd take my knee off the hip and pendulum it out to get a rocking motion going. Swept her by trying to come out the backdoor and having her turn to her back to face me. Let her sweep me from half guard several times so I could return to my game and set it all up again. Did this several times, got several sweeps, including one where I really did do a full backwards roll.

    She eventually found a better sense of timing and balance to stop me from diving under her. So I switched to the traditional underhooking game. She started going for a brabo with the gi so I took out my underhook. She got the underhook and sprawled so I wasn't able to bring my knee in. I wanted to (and could have) put my butterfly hook in like I normally would but the ankle injury made that futile. She was able to pass to side control and then take mount. I escaped to half guard and played my half guard some more then we finished up.

    The last match was against a light female blue belt. Kept pulling half guard on her and she'd try to immediately hop into a cross knee pass. The knee in her hip blocked her along with the framing posture. I'd move my hips and thighs until they were positioned to block her knee. Worked on the Baret Yoshida sweep from earlier. Kept rocking her up on my main knee, bringing my bottom knee in then playing a reverse DLR style guard. Stretched her base out and did the technical stand-up for the sweep.

    Let's see if I can't summarize a few points:

    - I did well as long as I entered long distance half guard from a relatively good position. I had trouble getting to it once they'd started getting good grips and pressure from the top. That'll be something to work on.

    - My hands can move all over the place to push and hold and shove them them as needed. Either biceps, across the neck, grabbing the collar, grabbing the shoulder, single paw anywhere on their arm, double paw, two hands on a wrist or sleeve, even reaching in and pushing on their hips and knees.

    - It seems I can go to the traditional game when the deep one fails, and vice versa, with shades of the two blending as they share grips and positions and sweeps.

    - As expected, I need to continue to figure out the timing for when to dive deep and how to get them rocking so I can play with their weight and get into position.

    - Keep on keepin' on.

    Remembered a few more points that are worth noting.

    - Several times when I had long distance half guard, they postured back. I didn't like them having a lot of space, so I followed them by getting up on my elbow or hand and pushing into them. I'm not in danger of being crossfaced as long as they sit back, and if they drive in, I lay back down and get my grips again. Thinking about it now, this moment, as they drive back in, is probably a great time to dive deep since their momentum is driving into me.

    - One of the sweeps I got (I think on the first blue belt) was a hip bump of sorts from half guard. I kept going for wrist control, pulling his elbow over, attempting kimuras. He postured back and I followed him up and threw my hips up and switched them to sweep him over.

    - The long distance half guard baited most of them to try to leg binding pass where they thread their arm between my thighs. I found I could use their grip against them by swinging my knee up like I want to go to Gustavo's quarter guard. Even without me holding their sleeve, by trying to hug my leg they gave me the leverage I needed on their arm to swing their weight forward by flaring my knee out. Will investigate this more.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Professor Teco Shinzato and Leandro Silvestre (who I have never heard of before but don't care) put a series of short videos of his half guard game up on youtube. They've been around for a while but I never paid much attention since I wasn't working on half guard, much less the super deep kind he shows. But now that I've gotten a taste, I can see how it'd work.

    I'm reposting the videos here for reference. I'm writing short descriptions because that's how I learn best from video: breaking it down and explaining what I see. I'll spot new details as I rewatch it over and over and try to figure out how to explain it.

    - Starts with an underhook and grabbing the belt with his left hand. Ankles crossed on the outside of the leg.
    - With his left arm, he reach through their legs and under their thigh, up by the hips instead of by the knee.
    - Opens his legs, keeping his right foot on the back of their calf. Left leg steps out on the mat.
    - Left hand moves from the belt down to grab the pants at the knee.
    - Swings his legs and rocks his hips to the opposite side, carrying their leg on himself.
    - Right arm comes down and hugs the trapped leg to his chest.
    - Grabs their arm with both hands and traps it against their own thigh.
    - Steps on the mat and rocks his hips back the other way.
    - Rolls up on top and comes to his knees.

    - From this angle, I see he's starting from a framing or double paw position, to keep the crossface off before he gets the underhook.
    - Same sequence as before to get deep under the single leg. Traps the arm the same way.
    - He doesn't explain it, but from looking, I think he rocks like he wants to go for the first sweep but they don't have their weight going that way. So he rock back and keeps trying to come out the other way and knocks them over.

    - From this angle, I can see several things more clearly. He is putting his knee into their hip at the start to keep space. He does have a double paw. He takes the knee off the hip and his leg to give him momentum to sit up and bury his head against their chest as he gets the underhook. He gets his elbow high.
    - Same entry to deep half guard under the single leg.
    - He reaches down with his left hand and grabs their ankle and pulls it to him.
    - He switches and underhooks the leg and keeps pulling it to him.
    - His left calf goes on top of their thigh.
    - He swings his legs down and pulls their leg to knock them back and rock up to get on top.

    - Same starting position, same entry to deep half guard.
    - Only this time, instead of hugging the trapped leg, he keeps his right hand reaching up through the legs and grabs the fabric on their back.
    - His left hand swims under their knee as he opens his legs.
    - With both arms under their legs, he turns into them as he comes to his knees and immediately passes guard.

    - Same standard beginning and entry.
    - Reaches behind his left knee with his left hand and grabs their pants.
    - Opens his legs and lifts the knee in the air.
    - Turn his hips to the front and swivels his knee under their leg.
    - Keeps pressure on their shin with his left calf.
    - Left hand grabs the fabric around their upper arm.
    - Right leg lifts them, left leg knocks out their leg, right hand punches them up and left hands pulls their arm. Big circular motion with every limb.
    - Comes on top and immediate gets out of half guard to pass.

    - The usual.
    - Once in deep, he brings his right hook under their ankle. His left ankle stays on top of their foot.
    - He takes his left foot off theirs and puts it on the ground.
    - He lifts their leg with his butterfly hook and passes it to the front.
    - He drops them away from himself as he twists out to his knees.
    - He keeps a wide base and hugs their leg to secure a top position.

    What I find most interesting about these clips is how they're using the rocking motion of their hips to rotate the leg so they can get deep. They aren't trying to pull the guy on top of themselves. He naturally comes on top as they go deep and swing underneath him.
    Last edited by Aesopian; 7/12/2007 7:41pm at .

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Started digging up Jeff Glover footage. Found two of his matches in Nevertap where he's playing half guard. Grabbed some screenshots of the moments that interested me.

    From his first match with John Ramirez.

    The match starts with some hand fighting from standing. Jeff pulls half guard. Ramirez tries for head and arm and gets heavy. Jeff keeps sticking his hand in the armpit and gets the underhook when Ramirez tries to reach back. He gets deep using the swinging motion of his hips (like in the clips above), rocking back and forth a couple times and ducking his head to their hips.

    He's slide way down the trapped leg and put in a butterfly hook. He has an underhook and the other arm reaching through the legs.

    Ramirez ties to sit towards Jeff head and messes with the underhooking arm and his feet. You can see Jeff's other hand coming up through the legs and grabbing the back. Jeff's head is resting on their thigh and he's got the trapped leg elevated.

    With their weight back because they're sitting, Jeff spins around their leg to come on top.

    In his second match against Rafael Garcia, Jeff pull half guard from standing several times. He never sweep from half guard but he uses it to get the action going and then switches to butterfly and closed guard. He even plays some good half guard with an overhook and gets an omoplata sweep.

    Jeff pulls half guard from standing and immediately dives under the far leg and spins under as while they're still standing. Garcia usually tries to do a cross knee pass but Jeff's able to stop it by swinging his hips under the leg and hugging either leg.

    Got snapshots of the points of interest to me.

    Jeff switches to putting his knee in the hips/stomach and stepping on the back of the calf when Garcia gets to closed to pull his leg out.

    After creating space with his knee, Jeff switches to butterfly guard.

    At another point in the match:

    Jeff has deep half guard.

    He grabs the ankle and puts in a butterfly hook and uses it to rock and lift them.

    Garcia drops his hips and bases and Jeff switches back to half guard.

  8. #8
    Hedgehogey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    I wanted to find a way to safely switch from closed to half guard while maintaining space and good grips.
    Your best chance is when they bring their knee up for a knee through pass, so I suggest playing a wide open guard to bait that even if you can only use one foot.

    A variation of Teco's sweep is pretty much the basis of my half guard game, but I don't have time to go into detail right now. I have a lot of thoughts on this and will get back to you on it tonight.

    "The only important elements in any society
    are the artistic and the criminal,
    because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
    can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany



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  9. #9
    Roidie McDouchebag's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Kamloops, BC
    Snatch Wrestling

    This is why I don't like the deep half-guard. Here is where I get squished and subbed unless I immediately get the sweep I want.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    BJJ, Kempo
    try using the lockdown or grapevine to disrupt their base and go for the electric chair. i find that once i have that deep grip around their thigh pulling it close to my head, if i have a lockdown/grapevine secured its very easy to control their base as i stretch them - possibly submitting in the process.

    pretty much like the pic you have posted from

    edit: for some reason i thought the post by cracky was by aesopian. read in that context :P
    Last edited by mijuil; 7/12/2007 9:28pm at .

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