This is a versatile position in which the person on bottom is using both legs to control a single leg of the opponent. While Half Guard does not offer as much safety as Full Guard, it does offer a greater amount of mobility. This position is difficult to master, but those that do master it tend to be the most difficult opponents to roll with.
What do you do in Half Guard?
Attacks and Details for Half Guard (for person in blue)
- Stay off your back! The key to a good Half Guard is to be able to maintain strength and mobility. Since one of your legs will be turned horizontally so that it is trapping the defender’s leg, you will greatly reduce the ability to use your hips for movement if you lay flat on your back. The best positioning here is to lay on your side and resists all attempts to be flattened out by the defender.
- Get an Underhook. If you are only using your legs in this position, you will eventually fail. The defender will be using their entire body to pass your guard, so you have to also engage your entire body. The two most popular decisions are to either 1) Get an underhook with your top arm and work towards sitting up and moving around the defender or 2) trying to hook under (scoop beneath) the defender’s hips or legs with the bottom arm and working to control the defender’s lower body.
- Avoid the cross-face. The defender wants you to be flat on your back (See detail 1), and to do this they will often use the arm/shoulder that is closest to your face to pressure your head down towards the mat. If they control your head, they control your body. To avoid this, keep your elbows tight to your body and keep your hands up near your face. If their arm comes towards your head, simply block it with your hands. Do not reach for their arm, let it come to you.
- Full Guard is always an option! If you don’t have confidence in your Half Guard, try to open enough space to pull your knee out from between their legs and recover your Full Guard.
Defending and Escaping Full Guard (for person in white)
- Kill their hips! If the person on bottom is able to generate strength and movement, they will have several options for sweeps or recovery to Full Guard. Strength and movement in this position come from their hips, so this is what you must address. The most common technique here is to try to get your body perpendicular to theirs and use your shoulder to put pressure on their head to flatten them out on their back. A rarely used detail here is to figure-four your own legs once you are perpendicular. It strains their hips and helps to anchor you to the mat so that you are more difficult to roll.
- Block the underhooks. The attacker will have no options if they cannot use their arms to gain some control over you. They will either go high by reaching for the underhook or go low and try to scoop under your hips. Don’t let them get either control point or else passing their guard will get much more difficult.
- Push the knee through. The attacker will be trying to control one of your legs with both of theirs. To pass their guard, you will need to remove your leg from their control. If you are trying to pull your foot out, it will be very difficult. Instead, think of your task as trying to push your knee through their hips. Thinking about this movement as a push instead of a pull will instinctively change your approach to the position.