The half guard is one of my favorite guard positions. And here are three of my favorite half guard sweeps and attacks!
Not only is each of these moves a high percentage technique in its own right, but when you put them together they create a powerful one-two-three combination that will serve you well in the half guard for the rest of your grappling career.
The first attack in this sequence is the Footgrab Sweep. Most people who play half guard have some variation of this in their arsenal; Eddie Bravo and the 10th planet crowd, for example, call call this sweep the ‘Old School’.
The Footgrab Sweep involves getting deep under your opponent, securing his free foot, turning onto your knees and then knocking him over. It’s sort of like doing a low single leg takedown, but tying up his far leg with your arms makes it far more difficult for him to stay upright and defend the takedown.
I think the Footgrab Sweep should be the first attack you learn from the half guard. It’s highly effective so you get that critical early taste of success with a position, it doesn’t require crazy flexibility or athleticism, and it leads into many other effective attacks and submissions.
Plus if you do this technique correctly it sets you up for a very powerful guard pass once you get to the top.
Here’s a short video of the basic way to do the Footgrab Sweep:
The next technique is the Rollunder Sweep. Here you dive underneath your opponent and roll him over top of you. Most commonly you’ll be using his initial reaction to your Footgrab sweep to set this technique up, but it can also be used as a followup for many other half guard situations as well.
The most important thing is to drive into him so that he pushes back. When you feel this resistance (or, even better, when you anticipate the push and move slightly before it) then you dive under him taking him over to his back.
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This is a bit of a bipolar move…
If you do this technique incorrectly or with the wrong timing then your opponent will feel like he’s bolted to the floor. You’ll end up smeared on the mat under him, hating this technique and hating jiu-jitsu.
But if you do it at the right time and in the right way then this is a completely effortless move. You feel like a 10th dan aikido grandmaster as your opponent soars over you and lands on his back.
Getting this technique right is a ‘feel’ thing. Have someone do it to you so you can feel the energy, the timing, and the momentum behind the move. But don’t give up if you lack the partner or teacher who can do it correctly. You can learn this technique on your own – I know because that’s what I did!
Once you hit it a few times against a big strong guy and send him flying over top of you, then you’ll understand what all the fuss is about and be hooked for life!
Here’s a video of one way to apply the Rollunder Sweep:
The third technique in the sequence is the Air Guitar reversal. It’s almost too simple to make a big deal about, but it’s a very effective solution to a very common problem. It’s a small move but little hinges move big doors…
The Footgrab Sweep and the Rollunder Sweep are both very powerful techniques, however as Joe McCarthy, my old Judo coach used to say, “this is a martial art, not a martial science.” And that means that things aren’t always going to go to plan…
- A canny opponent may not allow you to capture his far leg for the Footgrab Sweep,
- He might not get suckered into giving you the right energy for the Rollunder Sweep,
- And he might tie up your arm with an overhook (aka whizzer) which stops you from slipping out to his back.
So you might think you’re now stuck, but not to worry! Here’s a really simple and effective solution to getting stalled out on your knees that has worked for me many times.
Once again the key is psychology. Most grapplers are male. And what do men do when you push them? Of course – they push back! Let’s see how you can use this fundamental push-you-back instinct to your advantage.
Let’s say that while fighting from the half guard you’ve ended up on your knees. But your opponent has the whizzer and is putting a ton of pressure onto you. For whatever reason neither the Footgrab Sweep nor the Rollunder Sweep are working for you right now.
To reverse the situation first try to lift your trapped shoulder. Remember that male psychology we talked about? The push-you-back reflex ensures that 99% of the time he’ll respond by opposing your force and trying to drive your shoulder down into the mat.
Great – once he’s given you this response you now know what he’s going to do, how he’s going to do it, and also the timing of his response.
So then try lifting your shoulder a second time as if you’re too stupid to know that it won’t work. Your opponent, reassured by the fact it was so effective the first time, will try to smash you down even harder than before. But this time when he drives down let your arm go loose, whip it back, down and then forward out of his overhook.
I call this the move the Air Guitar for obvious reasons, and if you do it right you’ll be clear of his arm and able to jump onto his back where you can then attack him with any number of submissions (more on the rear mount here).
Here’s the Air Guitar broken down for you in a short video:
If you’re new to the half guard then the techniques in this blog post should keep you busy for a while.
As always, start with learning the actual techniques in a step-by-step manner, then drilling them to get your repetitions in, and then try to incorporate them in your sparring.
And when you finally incorporate these techniques in your sparring start with the lightest grapplers and whitest belts in your club and try to get to a point where you can consistently hit these moves on them. When that’s working pretty well then ‘graduate’ and move on to your heavier, more experienced classmates. There’s no point in trying out your newest techniques on that 210 lb competitive brown belt, because he’ll likely just crush you and you won’t learn a thing. Instead wait until you’ve perfected it on other people and THEN go and sweep his brown belt butt all over the mat!
If you want a quick guard sweeps reference that you can take with you anywhere then check out the Grapplearts Guard Sweeps app.
It’s available in a number of formats, including for the iPhone and iPad in the iTunes store, or for Android Devices in the Google Play store, or for the Kindle family of products in the Amazon Store .
And if you want an in-depth breakdown of the half guard game and how it connects to the butterfly guard and X guard, check out the Guard Sweeps Package on Grapplearts.
This two-volume instructional set goes into far more detail, covers more techniques, and gets into the higher-level strategies and tactics for these positions than the Guard Sweeps App. I put a ton of thought, time, and effort into this package and I really think it’s a great way to quickly boost your sweeping game from the bottom.