In the old days the half guard was a position of last resort. You used it when your opponent had almost passed your guard and now only one of your legs was between him and the full mount.
Man, have times ever changed!
In the last 20 years the half guard has been developed as an offensive position, with many sweeping and attacking options available to you from there (for examples of these half guard attacks you can look here and here and here and here on my site). So now, when you’re in the half guard, you typically still want to pass, but at the same time you also need to be careful.
Let’s take a look at one of my favourite half guard passes, the ‘knee cut,’ and look at how you might implement that ‘keep them flat’ strategy.
First, here’s a video that I shot breaking down the knee cut guard pass vs the half guard, including some gi and no gi variations. (Pro tip: if you watch right through to the end of the video you’ll get some extra Easter egg techniques too!)
The knee cut pass is used effectively at all levels, ranging from white belts with two months experience to world champions competing in the Mundials, so you know it’s worth spending some time on.
Essentially you’re bringing your leg up through the middle, then cutting it out to the side so you end up in side control or a modified scarf hold position.
But if you allow your opponent to roll onto his side then he has many more offensive options.
The key to staying safe during the pass is to keep his back flat on the ground!
Let’s look at two ways to do just that…
Half Guard Pass Opponent Flattening Method 1: the Cross Face
The cross face is a tried and true method that works in gi and no gi.
The first step is getting the underhook on the far side of the body. This may involve lots of arm fencing, because most opponents will also want their own underhook on that side. So be persistent and insistent: keep fighting until you get that grip, then close off the space so that he can’t easily escape his arm
Then get underneath his head with your top arm…
Then drive your weight forward so that the pressure of your shoulder on his face turns his head away from you
Then link your hands to solidify the position.
At this point you have your opponent flat but haven’t yet passed the guard.
The video at the top of the page will show you how to progress from here into the guard pass (as well as several different variations of the knee cut pass, including a really cool (and counterintuitive) near side underhook method right at the end of the video, so make sure to check that out.
Half Guard Pass Opponent Flattening Method 2: Same Side Sleeve and Lapel Grip
The sleeve and lapel grip is another method of keeping your opponent flat on his back while you’re setting up your knee cut half guard pass.
Unlike the previous method this method obviously requires a gi, and it’s also much easier to establish these grips when you’re up on your feet vs being down on your knees.
First you want to sink your hand as deep as possible into his near side collar, establishing a firm lapel grip. In the example above I’m using my right hand to grab his right lapel…
Then you want to control his near arm, gripping it at the sleeve and pulling it UP towards you. If you like then you can also shelf your forearm on your thigh (in the example above that would be my left forearm on my left thigh) to make it even harder for him to pull his own arm back down to the ground.
Now whenever your opponent tries to turn in towards you or get up on his side you can drive your forearm into his face, flattening him out.
Now you proceed with the same knee cut pass that I covered in the video above. If you experiment with it you’ll find that starting in the standing position makes finishing the the knee cut even easier.
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