Validating the Half-Guard (diary entry)



At my client’s request we explored the half-guard. I have observed how controversial this position has become in MMA over the past 10 or so years. Some still maintain that the position is far from ideal and fighters holding it are prone to “eat up a lot of punches”. Interestingly they make this argument against the deep half-guard, which is where a lot of innovations have been coming in since Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu have actively taken the position as their starting point. We gave the position the benefit of doubt and explored it from a submission grappling perspective only. Later lessons will focus on how much of this training can be adapted to MMA.

We began the lesson with groundwork calisthenics, beginning with dynamic stretches and progressing through to various crawls before moving onto partner drills. The weather is becoming especially cold at the moment and I was careful to maintain activity whilst not over-extending muscles before they were suitably pliable. Crawls featured all the standard BJJ movements along with sit-out variations. Partner drills consisted first of my standard pinning flow exercise with progressive light resistance and then the recent guard flow exercises.

The lesson proper began with the standard half-guard, where we looked at the finer details of foot positioning, maintaining a strong core and paying particular attention to the under-hook. From here we looked only at taking the back, which would feature quite heavily later on the lesson. When going to back-mount I emphasised the importance of distributing weight so as not to be thrown off one side. We briefly touched upon the choke from this position with only hook in place, as this bears a resemblance to lockdown tactics, which would become a large feature of the training. When the choke was defended we looked at the kimura hold, transitioning into an arm-bar from the back. This was a good exercise to get my client out of the habit of becoming fixed into acquiring both leg-hooks.

We then returned to the half-guard and explored the lockdown foot position, popularised by the aforementioned Eddie Bravo. This method of re-trapping one leg in half-guard is a great way to immobilise at least one quarter of an opponent’s base. The under-hook is maintained and joined by another under-hook, from where the fighter sets up his sweep. Such a tactic will be a battle if the timing and positioning is not correct. From here looked at two possible counters an opponent’s counter. The handcuff pass, where the opponent’s posting arm on the side of his locked-down leg is pushed by the fighter’s blocking hand and passed around his back to the fighter’s other hand whilst sweeping is a nice extra tip to get the sweep. Hooking the free leg is another option, using performed when the opponent sprawls hard and spreads his base. However, none of this works if the timing isn’t correct. My client my shrew observation that learning the lockdown immediately improved his standard half-guard position, as he thought more about how he tied up an opponent’s leg with his own.

We then took the lockdown leg position to the back-mount and experimented with Mr Bravo’s Twister. This is a very inventive submission move that has validated itself in the world of MMA. Its place is self-defence is not advisable due to the massive entanglement, but I find it is provides an exciting dimension in attribute training.

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