In a few weeks, I’m going to be teaching a seminar at Ground Control on passing half guard, so I am in the process of planning and organizing the class structure. My ideal process is always to start with the concepts and then teach techniques that demonstrate how those concepts can be exploited.
As I continue to work on that though, here are a few of the concepts I plan to focus on.
1) Flatten your Opponent.
Most attacks from the half guard depend on your opponent being on their side. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule but if you can significantly limit their offense by keeping both of their shoulders on the mat.
To give you an idea how that can be done and to reinforce the concept, here’s a video from Xande Ribeiro:
The most important takeaway from that video is the reason behind the technique because you can accomplish the same objective with different methods. Some examples are crossfacing, stiff arming the chin away, grabbing at the collar and stiff arming the far shoulder, pulling the near elbow to the sky, and the underhooking the far arm with head pressure.
The goal is to shrink your opponent’s options to the point where they cannot throw anything unexpected at you, and if you make a conscious effort to keep them flat, it will increase the probability of you accomplishing that.
2) Control the Space
This is a concept that applies to every position in Jiu-jitsu; the ranges dictate what is possible. In half guard though, I think it is especially important because it is so easy for the balance of control to be shifted with small alterations in positions.
For example, when I was a white belt, the whole idea of preventing the crossface from the bottom of half guard was very prominent on the forums and such. But as I developed my game, I noticed that I didn’t need to focus on using paw grips to prevent it. Instead I could just shoot super deep on the underhook and glue my head to their chest. It made all my attacks from the position stronger, and it naturally took away the possibility of a crossface.
So if you switch the perception and look at it from the top, a difference of inches made it significantly more difficult to flatten an opponent with the crossface.
That’s one example but the key is to learn when you have to play tight and when you have to play long, and it will depend on your opponent’s position relative to yours.
3) Control the Near Arm
One of the first lessons I learned about half guard is the importance of fighting for the underhook on the same side as the trapped leg. From the bottom, it’s still crucial if you’re playing the underhook half guard game, but from the top, you have more options.
Let’s take a step back first though. What does the underhook accomplish? It helps you flatten your opponent and prevents your back from being taken.
If you pull up on the elbow of the near arm or push it across their body, what does that accomplish? It helps you flatten your opponent and it makes it hard for your back to be taken. Now if you underhook that arm and drive your head into the space between their far shoulder and head, what is accomplished? The same thing.
Those three grip configurations accomplish the same objective and they can reinforce each other. That’s why the double underhook situation is not fun on the bottom. So don’t forget about the near arm when you focus on passing half guard.