Half Guard Evolution

This week I’d like to talk about the half guard. This position is one where you are lying on your back or side with one of your opponent’s legs between your own. In the last 10 years an increasing number of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission grappling matches feature one fighter aggressively trying to sweep or submit their opponent from the half guard position, which was basically unheard of previously.

The half guard may be hot now, but it had a humble beginning…

Initially the half guard was just one step short of having your guard fully passed: your only real options were thought to be regaining full guard or to hanging on and stalling. In fact this position was often referred to as being caught in the “half mount”, a term which is much less common today.

A major player in reconfiguring the half guard into an offensive position was Roberto “Gordo” Correa, a jiu-jitsu black belt from Brazil. After a knee injury he found that regular guard work was too difficult and painful, and he started experimenting with the half guard instead. He discovered that by getting on his side, fighting for grips, and connecting a series of sweeps he could keep his opponents on the run. Significant competition victories soon followed for him.

It wasn’t very long until other grapplers realized that “Gordo” might be onto something, and a whole new game was born. Many other sweeps, submission setups and positional variations were developed, both in Brazil and elsewhere. Some specialists are so confident in their game that in competition they will jump into half guard rather than full guard. Modern half guard techniques are even occasionally seen in MMA competition, but this is still relatively rare.

An interesting development is the evolution of specialized anti-half-guard submissions, specifically designed to counter the offensive half guard. Marcio Feitosa shared four of his favorites in an interview I did with him, so you may want to check out www.grapplearts.com/Marcio-Feitosa.htm. As with all techniques, a lot depends on timing: if you try these submissions too late you are going to get swept.

This new role for an old position, and the development of counters to this new role, is fascinating. It’s all part of the evolution occurring on the mats of the world every day.

For a detailed look at how to use the modern half guard on the mats, including over 100 techniques, variations and drills, take a look at Stephan Kesting’s DVD – The Dynamic Half Guard, available on this site.

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