Develop an Impenetrable Half Guard with Tom DeBlass – BJJ Fanatics

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Tom DeBlass has been frustrating guard passers at the highest level for a very long time.

His half guard is seemingly impenetrable, and it’s become one of the most famous guards in the game. DeBlass’s deep understanding of framing and the structure of the half guard is second to none. He has a very simple, yet solid approach that transcends size and body type.

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The half guard has several important attributes that must be taken into consideration when you’re getting set up. There’s the knee shield, the bottom hook, and your arms/hands (which can be used as additional framing tools, or as pushing and pulling instruments). Using all of these different elements properly, and in unison can create a machine of the body that’s not easily dealt with.

So, what is the best way to approach the bottom half guard? How do we establish this incredible foundation that DeBlass has cultivated and put to work at the highest levels? Let’s take a look at this video with the man himself.

Setting Up

DeBlass begins by demonstrating the structure of his half guard. His knee shield rides across the body, point at his partners far shoulder, much like the position of a seat belt. His hands are stacked on top of each other, and his top framing arm is placed under his partner’s chin, and to the inside of DeBlass’s own thigh. As his partner applies passing pressure DeBlass is able to use his frames to steer and manage his partner’s pressure and movement. DeBlass also adds; you can add an extra layer of defense to your knee shield by actually stepping on your partners hip if the forward pressure becomes to great. This is a good thing to keep in mind when training with larger partners.

Establishing the under hook

When we do a good job of keeping our opponents at bay using the structure of our half guard, its time to begin to hunt for submissions and reversals. Acquiring the under hook is always a great place to start.

As his partner continues to move forward, DeBlass allows this action to take place so that he can establish the under hook. Keeping his top elbow very tight to his own body, DeBlass removes his knee shield, and lets his partner come forward. With his partner’s head above his own, this is the perfect opportunity to shoot the under hook, and reach high to his partners shoulder. This puts the passer in a very compromised position. DeBlass has created the perfect scenario to transition or begin to reverse his partner.

What if they stand up?

The video closes with a great question. What if your partner stands up when trying to pass? DeBlass suggests maintaining connection to the passer, while also taking his bottom half guard hook out and placing it on his opponent’s far hip. He couples this with planting the knee shield foot on the opposite side hip as well. This will prevent his partner from loading up too much pressure, and give DeBlass time to work.

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If his partner is simply standing without applying too much forward pressure, DeBlass sets up a reverse De La Riva position type position with his half guard hook. As his partner continues forward, he takes control of his partner’s near side ankle with his bottom hand. His top arm weaves through the outside of his partner’s near leg and secures a grip on his partners shin. If his partner chooses to keep passing, his ability to turn in to DeBlass to complete the pass will be disrupted, as DeBlass can easily manipulate the knee to disrupt the passing path of his partner.

In the half guard, as with any position in jiu-jitsu, you must experiment to discover what details will serve your game best. However, the principals of maintaining a strong position will seldom change, its how we apply them that determines our success. DeBlass offers very sound advice here where the structure and use of the half guard is concerned. He’s certainly helped me to understand the position better. I hope this helps you as well!

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