Tighten Up Your Bottom Half Guard Game with Tom DeBlass – BJJ Fanatics

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Tom DeBlass has one of the most effective half guard games in the history of BJJ. DeBlass has molded his half guard in to a seemingly impenetrable brick wall, that’s frustrated many of the top tier passers of our time. His understanding of framing and structure from the bottom half guard is simply on another level.

When we set up in the bottom half guard, the kind of structure we use matters. Whether you’d like to reverse, transition, or attack, if you don’t have a good system of frames and structure, you will simply fail here.  Besides all of the obvious utilities we have available in the half guard, it can also be used to slow the pace of a very aggressive passer, as it provides great connection, and a barrier between ourselves and the top player. 

Let’s look at some bottom half guard philosophy and technique from DeBlass. Here well learn how to set up in the position and mount some offense. Ready to step up your half guard game? Let’s get started.

Let’s begin with some very important information. How to frame, establish strong structure, and acquire the under hook. These are all half guard staples that we’ll need to be successful. Have a look!

DeBlass begins with flagship mantra of BJJ. Anytime we are attacking we need to be taking away the space, and when we’re defending, we need to be creating it. Keep this in mind, now, and always. 

As he sets up. DeBlass establishes a frame across his partner’s throat area, spanning from shoulder to shoulder with his elbow resting inside his knee shield. DeBlass can use this top frame to mitigate his partners pressure and steer him away from getting chest to chest. His knee shield rides across the top man’s torso in the style of a seatbelt, pointed at the far shoulder. 

When he’s ready, DeBlass lets the knee shield slip in to the space between his partner’s arm and body. Naturally his partner will then begin to come forward. As this occurs DeBlass hides his top frame tight to his own body and take this under hook. He reaches high to his partner far shoulder, causing his weight to come forward. From here DeBlass can begin to hunt for any half guard options he chooses.

Along with his already strong structure, DeBlass can also use the foot on his knee shield leg to step on his partner’s thigh. This will aid in the process of keeping his partner from adding more pressure to his system of frames.

DeBlass provides some additional information here for when the passer begins to stand. He removes his bottom half guard hook and places it on the opposite hip. If his partner is aggressively coming forward the placement of this foot will again relive much of the pressure. 

If his partner begins to knee slice, DeBlass looks to reach under his own leg and cups the Achilles area. He then reaches through behind the leg, trading this grip for an overhand cupping grip on the shin. From here, his partner cannot continue forward without consequences.

Let’s look at a technique from bottom half that we can use against one of the most common enemies of the position, the leg weave. Give this a look.

The leg weave has the ability to shut down the knee shield, as it flattens and sandwiches the legs together. This can have disastrous consequences to your half guard structure and shut down your offensive efforts before they even begin.

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DeBlass begins to answer the weave pass by securing his partner’s wrist. He then looks to get his head above his partners hips, and begins to transition to his knees. As he transitions, he removes his bottom leg and resets back to a seated position. 

In a second option, DeBlass travels all the way to his knees. While still controlling the wrist, he backs up a bit and then performs a shoulder roll directly in to an omoplata. 

During a third option, DeBlass’s partner begins to fight for the single leg. Here, DeBlass forces the head down and secures a kimura trap on the opposite side of his partner’s body. He then sits under to his back and as his partner begins to turn away, DeBlass acquires the back. 

From this technique alone we are presented with three different options. All viable, all applicable, and all accessible to any BJJ player. Keep this in mind the next time your greeted with a leg weave from the passer. 

Let’s keep things rolling and add another element to the bottom half guard, the butterfly hook. Have a look at this next segment!

Sometimes things don’t go our way when were playing the bottom half guard position. Take this first piece of the video for example. Here, DeBlass is flattened in the half guard, his knee shield is no longer separating him from his partner, and the top player has secured a cross face and an under hook. This is a common scenario and a tough spot to be in for sure, but it’s not something we can’t recover from. 

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From here, DeBlass frames on the hip and uses his outside leg to perform a strong hip escape. He creates just enough space to enter his butterfly hook and sets it on the inside of his partner thigh. If DeBlass’s partner chooses to keep his hands locked, DeBlass can execute an easy reversal by clamping down on his partner’s arms and using his bottom foot to begin elevating his partner. 

You may not be able to achieve the reversal here, but you will most definitely be able to create space to recompose your guard. DeBlass even shows a great option here, using the butterfly hook to extend his partner away, and then shooting for an omoplata. 

At the very least, by entering this butterfly hook into the mix, you’ll have created a scenario where your partner cannot advance without some sort of consequence.

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