The second guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students learn after studying the closed guard is the half guard. The half guard is one of the more commonly used positions in Jiu Jitsu, even more than closed guard. Half guard is more complex and effective than half guard, but requires an understanding of some basic concepts before it is used.
The attribute of half guard that makes it so effective and thus more popular is how versatile it is. Unlike many other positions, half guard has many forms such as deep half guard, Z-guard, and coyote half guard. You also have more options to attack with half guard be it chokes, arm locks, leg locks, or just sweeps.
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An important difference that can be used to explain the superiority of half guard compared to closed guard is the positioning of the legs. In closed guard, the feet have to be locked together or it will fail. In half guard, the feet can remain open, and should remain open, which allows for greater maneuverability and attack options.
In order to use half guard, or at least to use it effectively, the guard player needs to stay on their side. If a half guard player ends up on their back, their guard can easily be passed. Playing guard while on our sides is always going to be the best way because it allows for greater movement of the entire body while also making hip escapes very easy. This is one of the inherent problems of closed guard.
In this article, I want to review four simple, yet very effective techniques that any grappler can utilize, regardless of rank. We will discuss two sweeps, a darce choke, and a kimura attack, all things every grappler should be familiar with. I hope you enjoy!
As new and excited students, most beginners approach half guard with the purpose of learning all the advanced, cool looking techniques such as leg attacks and deep half guard sweeps. These difficult techniques are not possible without first mastering some of the more simple, traditional moves. After learning the simple techniques, a student can than begin adding some of those tricky ones into their game.
In the following video, Professor Lucas Leite will show the basic half guard sweep, a technique that is easy to use and relatively low risk. See below:
Professor Lucas Leite is one of the most elite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts on the scene right now. This Leo Viera black belt is most popular for having a very dynamic and powerful half guard, inspiring many students to follow in his tracks.
I first learned the basic half guard sweep as an early white belt, and have used it ever since. This simple technique is not only effective at every level of grappling, its also one of the easiest moves from half guard. To me, the basic half guard sweep is the sit over(hip bump) sweep of half guard. Simple, yet powerful.
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The two most common reactions to a guard player using the basic half guard sweep is either a cross face or guillotine. These two attacks are only possible and effective if the guard player has poor posture. When attacking the basic half guard sweep, it’s important to have a strong, straight back while maintain high head positioning under the top player’s chin.
Coyote Half Guard Sweep
In this second technique, we will look over a sweep from a unique modification of half guard used by Lucas Leite, the coyote half guard. Take a look at it in the video below:
The coyote half guard is a position that combines elements of two other variations of half guard, the deep half guard, and the lockdown, the famous modification used by Eddie Bravo. By combining these two positions together, Lucas gets the benefits of each while also reducing some of the inherent weakness of each guard.
Some of the most popular and easiest submissions to attack in Jiu Jitsu, especially no-gi, are head and arm strangles. These submissions can be caught from a wide variety of different positions, both top and bottom, and are great for attacking during scrambles.
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The three most common head and arm strangles are the darce choke, anaconda choke, and the guillotine. What I’ve noticed, though, is that students will only pick one of these strangles and master it. This is because they are so interchangeable.
However, there are certain positions where one is superior to the other, so all three must be trained. Also, sometimes you will have to switch between different ones, especially if you start with the arm-in guillotine.
Many students are confused between the darce choke and the anaconda. With the darce choke, the choking arm starts at the armpit and then wraps around the head. With the anaconda choke, it’s the exact opposite.
As I previously hinted at, these submissions are easy to attack from a wide variety of positions. The darce choke in particular works very well in scenarios where the defender is reaching for an under hook. If the defender has an under hook, they are separating their elbow from their torso, giving the attack the space they need to reach for the choke.
In the following video, Edwin will show us how to effectively counter an under hook from a half guard by attacking the darce choke. Edwin Najmi is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt popular for having a very dynamic and unique submission attack style. The darce choke is a submission he has mastered greatly. See below:
I remember learning the darce from top half guard many years ago. Unfortunately, I was also unable to finish it unless I was rolling with someone much more skilled than myself.
What I didn’t learn that Edwin shows is how to get rid of the under hook arm after the choke is established. This small detail absolutely changes this submission and makes it way better because it closes down on any remaining space between the defender’s neck and shoulder.
One of the first submissions brought over from Judo to Jiu Jitsu is the kimura. This simple shoulder lock is similar to the Americana, except it rotates the shoulder in the opposite direction. The kimura is also one of the earliest submissions new students learn.
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The kimura’s best attribute is its wide versatility. The kimura can be attacked from just about every guard, even complicated ones like de la riva. The kimura can also be attacked from top positions too like side control or north south. Furthermore, the kimura can also be used to pass the guard as well, just like the guillotine.
One of my favorite uses of the kimura is when I utilize it for defense. The kimura can be used to flip opponents trying to pass your guard or already in side control. The kimura can also just slow people down from moving. For example, if you keep threatening a kimura against an opponent trying to pass your half guard, they will often respond by pulling back.
As I just eluded, the kimura is a great option from bottom half guard. Because the guard passer’s outside arm tends to remain free, it is easy to grip, thus making the kimura possible. However, because the top player has so much room to move, even with the kimura grip, the submission becomes difficult to finish.
In the following video, Jiu Jitsu black belt and one of John Danaher’s top students, Garry Tonon, will show us how to attack the kimura from bottom half guard. See below:
Most kimura set ups are proactive, meaning the guard player is actively hunting to find it and finish it. This kimura set up, however, is reactive, meaning the guard player will take advantage of a movement their opponent’s performs to set up the submission.
Although you may initially think this is dangerous because of the guillotine, the guillotine from top half guard or even side control is very difficult to actually finish. As long as you know this technique and are aware of the guillotine at all times, you will be safe from it.
Personally, I have always had a hard time finish the kimura from bottom half guard as it is. There are multiple things I would rather do after getting my grip. One option is bringing my legs over and around the attacker as if I am getting to their back. Another option is baiting a guard pass and quickly sweeping them.
The last option you have, which actually is very easy to do, is countering the top player’s reluctance to come forward. After establishing your kimura grip, many opponents will begin sitting back on their heels. If you lift yourself up and drive into them, you can force them to their back, giving you the top position.
I hope you enjoyed these simple techniques from half guard. I don’t think any of them are too difficult to actually learn, and you might even be able to hit them just from seeing them online. I highly recommend trying all of these techniques and seeing which one fits your game.
John Danher is one of the few people to have athletes be successful at the highest levels in both Professional Grappling as well as MMA. He has systemized his approach to teaching,learning,and APPLYING his Jiu-Jitsu. Enter the System with John Danaher!