The half guard is often seen as the first sing of arrival, or success as a new white belt, as it’s typically the next step, the next building block in your Jiu Jitsu game after you have started to understand and get comfortable with the closed guard. The half guard can be a powerful position. Let me say that again, key word being “can” be a powerful position. It can also be a position where you get your legs smashed down and your opponent’s steam roll right through your guard. The devil is in the details, I think that’s how the saying goes. Nevertheless, details matter. When it comes to learning half guard and more specifically, half guard sweeps, it is, like with any technique in Jiu Jitsu, all about the details.
In order to be successful playing half guard you must understand not only your objective, but the opponent’s objective. Let’s take a sweep for example. We are going to dive into a “The Coyote Half Guard” by Lucas Leite, an athlete that Bernardo Faria states he looked up to and modeled his half guard game after as he was coming up through the ranks and according to Bernardo, Lucas had the best half guard in Brazil. If you know anything about Bernardo Faria and his multiple world championships, you know that half guard is a strength of his, so for us to be able to get details on a half guard sweep from the person who inspired him, well, I think that’s pretty incredible.
The first thing Lucas shows is getting into the right half guard position. To get into a solid half guard position we need to stop the opponent from being able to advance and flatten us out. Knowing this we shut that down by using a knee shield as shown below. There are varying schools of thought on where exactly the knee shield should be placed, but in this example, Lucas is “stepping” on his bottom foot with his knee shield leg foot and placing his knee in Bernardo’s chest. In addition, Lucas is keeping tabs on Bernardo’s inside arm, as this is the arm that can start to cause problems by getting head control, and under hook, or various other positive grips for him. Lucas controls this by keeping his top arm hand on Bernardo’s bicep, until he is ready to shoot for his under hook.
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When he is ready, he switches to gripping Bernardo’s inside hand with his bottom arm hand and shoots his top arm for an under hook on Bernardo’s opposite side. To create momentum and space Lucas is chambering his top leg knee shield and kicking it straight out ward to assist in a rapid shot for the under hook, while simultaneously switching grips on Bernardo’s inside arm as mentioned above.
Next, Lucas abandons his grip on Bernardo’s arm now that he has the under hook on the other side he uses the hand that was keeping tabs on Bernardo’s inside arm to shoot under Bernardo’s leg on the opposite side that he has the under hook going to a very deep half guard. (Picture below of mid transition)
From here Lucas scoops Bernardo’s nearest leg with his own bottom leg and then transitions to allow his top leg to take control and then uses his top leg and begins pulling it towards him and using it along with his under hook that is now reaching all of the way across Bernardo’s back, to pull himself up next to Bernardo in a position where he has the option to sweep or take the back.
More likely than not, as soon as Lucas get’s to deep half guard, Bernardo, or you opponent in any case, will use the Whizzer on your under hook side which will prevent the above mentioned position from being an option for you. In this situation, Lucas uses his control of Bernardo’s leg to put pressure on the knee and walk under Bernardo until he is able to pull him on top of him and shrimp out dropping Bernardo into the space on the other side of his body. It’s important to note that Lucas is also using his under hook to lift Bernardo’s leg to assist with the sweep. From here he simply back steps out of Bernardo’s legs and ends in side control.
The opponent may be able to create a lot of pressure and feel very heavy. It’s possible you will not be able to simply walk under the opponent and sweep them so easily. If this is the case, you can simply return to the “Dog Fight” position, the same position we ended in when they did not get the whizzer. And from there you can enter the sweep with more power using your body as momentum. To do this you will simply dive head first under the opponent as you as simultaneously reaching under their far side leg and lifting it into the air, and putting pressure on their knee encouraging them to move in the right direction, or at the very least preventing them from moving in the wrong direction for our purposes. From here the sweep is the same, it is just done more quickly so we can take advantage of the momentum. We will land in the same position and back step out of the opponent’s legs into side control, as we did in the previous sweep breakdown.
The important takeaway here is it’s ok to go back and forth, start and restart, you don’t have to give up a position, or go for a sweep you know wont work just because the timing isn’t perfect or your position is off a bit. Go back a step and start over.
If you too want to learn the details of this highly effective Coyote Half Guard and the sweeps available to you, check out either “The Coyote Half Guard” or “The Coyote Half Guard No Gi” depending on what you prefer. Both video instructional are by Lucas Leite and contain insane amounts of details that are sure to take your half guard game to a new level.