As you start to build “your game” you find what you like when it comes to attacks, positions, guards, etcetera. If you aren’t to this level yet, that’s ok, just keep showing up, training hard, and you will be there before you know it. Remember to focus on the fundamental movements as Professor John Danaher discusses in his series “Pin Escapes and Turtle Escapes: BJJ Fundamentals”. Assuming you are a seasoned blue belt or purple rank or higher, and you have started to find the things that fit into your game, you have likely found a guard that you prefer to use when possible, more than the others. The most natural progression from closed guard is to play a half guard. This is typically people’s next step because it shares a lot of similarities in and feel and is not as wild as some of the other guard options out there these days. Half guard is the guard of choice for many of the best competitors in our sport such as Professor Bernardo Faria and Professor Tom DeBlass (links to their respective half guard video instructionals below).
Half Domination by Tom DeBlass
The No Gi Half Guard by Bernardo Faria
Another big name that continues to come up when we start to study the half guard position is Neil Melanson. Known as the man who does everything different he brings us the most effective half guard you have ever seen in his video instructional “The Ground Marshal: Half Guard”. The unorthodox secrets packed in this 4 part video instructional are sure to give you the edge at your academy.
Neil gives us a peak at the level of detail we can expect in his “Bottom Half Guard Overview” video.
Starting in bottom half guard Neil tells us a little about his thoughts and concerns going into the bottom half guard position. He feels the half guard should be fluid, constantly moving and changing and never fixed. Playing a fixed guard allows the opponent to think about other things besides what you are doing which increases their chances of being able to pass.
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Range is the next thing he discusses. Too close, you might get punched in an MMA or self defense situation. You position should be coiled enough so that you can move quickly. In Neil’s opinion, you should always be able to remove the bottom leg and back out if necessary. In addition to making sure your bottom leg has “free access” to move around you also want to be careful to not allow the opponent to grab your knee and start moving your hips using your knee as a lever.
The “Big Battle” is the opponent’s arm that would have the ability to control your bottom arm. As soon as the opponent grabs your wrist or arm, strip the grip and get rid of it. This could be used for many things, including flattening you out and eliminating your ability to maintain your half guard structure.
If you feel the opponent is “head hunting” you can push their head away using your top arm and prevent them from being able to get any substantial control over your head.
When you come up on your elbow it is imperative that you do not allow your hand to point perpendicular to your opponent, in this situation they will be able to easy push you down to the mats breaking your position. Additionally they will be able to grab your wrist more easily to start controlling you. Instead, you want to be up on your elbow with your had behind you, pointed away from your body. This is a much stronger position that will be nearly impossible for your opponent to break down, and also gives you the added mobility of having a base behind you should you need to get away via a stand in base, or simply backing up to create space if the opponent closes too much distance. It is recommended that when possible, learn to get up to your hand rather than your elbow. This creates even more strength and mobility.
Make sure that you have a reason to reach in before you do. Reaching in for a sweep should be planned and explosive. Reaching in for no reason, or slower than you should be can be very dangerous. You should be constantly checking the opponent’s arm to ensure they aren’t gaining any ground on you.
As stated in this video, you should always train as realistically as possible. Regardless of your level, not just rank, but whether you are a competitor or not, a professional athlete or not, it should not matter. We should compare ourselves to the best of the best and train as realistically as possible. Neil cautions against allowing yourself to get lazy when training live with opponents that are lower rank or lower skill sets.
This is only minutes of Neil Melanson’s detailed video instructional “The Ground Marshal: Half Guard” detailing exactly how he has been so successful in and earning his place as “one of the most detailed and savage grappling coaches in the game today”. While half guard may or may not be your cup of tea, we all need to understand it. The better you understand what your opponent wants, the better chance you have of stopping that from happening, and possibly even using that to your advantage to reverse a position or launch a submission attack.
The game as we know it is continually evolving, not all of that evolution is going to fit “inside the box” of our past thinking and theories, the more open minded you are, and the more instructors you seek knowledge from the more versatile your game will be, and the more prepared you will be. One of the best ways to stay loyal to your academy, but also gain knowledge from some of the best athletes and instructors in Jiu Jitsu is through BJJ Fanatics extensive and ever growing library of video instructionals.
If you are looking to increase your effectiveness from the Half Guard, The Ground Marshal Half Guard By Neil Melanson is exactly what you are looking for!