The Essentials of Jiu-Jitsu: Half Guard
By Maimoon Khan
Everyone remembers the first time they stepped on to the mats. It’s a world of new possibilities and a sea of knowledge. But for the first few months all you could do is drown. Then comes the moment where you realized you can just tread water to survive. Its not much but you’ll take it just so you can keep your head above the water. For most of us it meant comfort or familiarity in a position of choice.
The vast majority remember it as being on their backs, tucking chins and folding elbows in. Guard retention was futile, the crafty blue belt could always magic his way through and the mammoth white belt had the force of a ram. But if you were lucky enough, at just the right time there was an opportunity to swipe your legs in the air and clamp down one leg. It was usually a feeble attempt at the irrepressible blue but at least it meant you could slow them down.
For the white belt however, your bear trap not only set the motion to stop their advances but perhaps if you had been in the position long enough you learnt to make full use of it. This always means a lot of trial and error and finding your own way, but sometimes a guiding light might be just the thing you need to level up your game. The following short might prove a useful tool for those of you stuck underneath looking for a way out.
The half guard might look simple, perhaps the sister of the more awe inspiring full guard but don’t let that simplicity fool you. The real battle is in the details beyond having one of your opponent’s legs wrapped up. No matter what variation you use there are some common foundations that you need to establish in order to have a good base.
The first major pillar in order to have control is to maintain underhooks. This could be as simple as establishing hooks before your opponent realizes he needs to overcome them or using humble techniques such as arching and fishing to regain lost hooks. Underhooks are what give you maneuverability. They will simultaneously take away from your opponent’s base so that he has less options to attack with.
The Fetal Position
The next pillar to establish control is the position in which you lay down while in the half guard. A common mistake is for the person underneath to lie flat on their backs. Doing so not only leaves you stapled in terms of movement but it gives your opponent a great advantage in that you have already done his work for him. It is your opponent’s intention to force you flat so that he may proceed to pass further or attempt a submission. For the defender it’s a very weak position to be in.
In the battle to get off your back your ideal destination is the fetal position. You should be on your side and crunched in close to the inside of the attacker. The biggest benefit with this position is the amount of movement it lets you maintain within the half guard. A twist of the hips, the main muscle used in Jiu-Jitsu, will give enough force to move your opponent of his base, establishing opportunities to attack.
Established hooks and body positioning on the side of your person should have you in a relatively safe position. You can still be attacked but more often than not it involves your opponent flattening you on your back and establishing a cross face. Remember to always keep battling for the underhooks. A good foetal will be tight enough to make it difficult on your opponent to flatten you out however its not impossible when it’s a battle for domination.
If you do get flattened out your first reaction should be to defend a cross face. It will be your opponents tool to pin you to the ground as he thinks about techniques to get out of your bear trap. A cross face is the arm on the opposite side of your opponents trapped leg establishing a hook behind your head with the shoulder driving into your front. To block the cross face you will need to be quick in cupping your opponents bicep and framing against it.
Sweeps and Submissions
You’ve established a good base and trumped your opponent’s attempts at breaking down your offences. He has low morale at this point and he starts making mistakes as he gives up on any chance of dominating you. This is your ideal opportunity to attack. Take advantage of your opponent loosening up.
To capitalize on his mistakes a simple sweep can lead you to the top or an attack from the bottom may submit him. The opportunities are endless but mastering the fundamentals takes time and practice.
Check out Maimoon Khan on Instagram -> instagram.com/genghisthemongol.
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