During the early days of BJJ, the half guard position was considered to be a non-dominant position to be in if you are the person on the bottom. The half guard was technically the halfway point from having your guard to having your guard passed.
However, as BJJ has grown and expanded over the years, many experts have developed this “non-dominant” position to a very strong one. In fact, some of the top elites out there prefer the half-guard over other guard positions. The half guard has grown to be a dominant position of attack for the bottom guard player.
The great thing about the half guard is that it opens up several different sweeps you can use to easily turn the tides of the match. In this guide we take a look at three of the most effective Half Guard Sweeps you can learn to add to your BJJ arsenal!
Basic Half Guard Concepts
Before we get into the sweeps, its important to first understand the concepts behind the half guard. Although this might be one of the positions you will probably learn as a beginner, many fail to grasp the basic concepts behind it.
The first main important concept for the half guard is your body positioning. Just as you know how important angles are in BJJ, it is extremely crucial in BJJ. The half guard isn’t simply having one of the top opponent’s legs trapped to prevent the pass – its about getting the proper angle. To get your angle, you need to get off your back and on to your side. This angle allows you to be much more mobile and more able to attack at an angle.
As the top person, their goal is to flatten you out to reduce your mobility. As soon as they do so, they can pass your guard so much easier. The top player will be looking to hug your head and flatten you out. Your immediate goal as the half guard player is to prevent them from getting that cross face!
The last step for establishing a good half guard position is to fish for the underhook. While you are off to your side, you are typically blocking the top player from passing you with your arms extended and sometime your knee shield against their chest. To get the underhook, you can explosively sit up and get your arm under their armpit and across their upper back.
Having these basic concepts down will get you to a very dominant half guard position. This opens up plenty of attacks and half guard sweeps!
Three Half Guard Sweeps You Should Learn
One thing to keep in mind when you start your sweep is having your basic half guard concepts down. To start your half guard sweep, you need to be off to your side with an underhook latched on to your opponent. If you don’t have the proper positioning and the underhook, that’s a losing battle. Look first to establish the position and start your half guard sweep.
Back Take Half Guard Sweep
One of the most basic sweeps from the half guard is to the back take half guard sweep. The idea is to use momentum against an unsuspecting opponent, ducking under to rotate onto their back.
You can set up the back attack by first establishing a good half guard base. As a start, you should be off to your side and not flat on the mat. If your right leg is between the top opponent, you should be on your right side. Your left knee will typically be in front of the opponent to create distance. Your arms will be blocking the arm and shoulder to prevent the cross face.
To get the underhook, use the leg with the knee shield up and kick straight out to get some momentum. At the same time sit up hard and fish for the underhook. As you do so, keep the side of your face against their chest and grab across their back.
Momentarily after getting the position, you can use your free knee and your grip across the opponent’s back to bump them forward. The opponent will have to base and catch themselves with their hands.
Quickly come up on the knee that’s between the opponent’s leg. As you rotate up, you already have one of your hooks! Simply come up on top and put your second hook in by climbing the free leg right on top. At that point drop your hips down to flatten them out and grab for the rear naked choke!
Coyote Half Guard Sweep
Probably one of the more common and extremely effective half guard sweeps is the Coyote Half Guard Sweep. Popularized by Lucas Leite, who is arguably the best half guard player in the game, the Coyote Half Guard Sweep utilizes the half guard to get into the Dogfight Position (Or Coyote Position, as it is sometime referred to).
To set it up, use the same method to establish a good half guard base – stay on your side, block the cross face, and put up a knee shield for distance. When you’re ready, explode up by slipping the knee shield off and coming up for the underhook.
For experienced grapplers, as soon as you go for the underhook, their likely reaction is to go for a whizzer, overhooking the arm to prevent you from completing the sweep.
To come up, place your free leg and hook over their ankle and pull it off to the side. This will tweak their knee a bit and get them off balance, allowing you to pull your knee out. Prop up to your knees and you will be side to side with your opponent in the dogfight position. Normally you can go for a back take at this point but the whizzer will prevent you from doing so!
In the dogfight position, make sure to squeeze your legs together to trap the opponent’s leg. To finish the sweep, look to grab across the opponent’s far knee with your free arm. At the same time, pull their trapped leg back, drive forward and land on top to establish the side control position.
Rolling Half Guard Sweep
Now, we know that if your opponent whizzers your arm, it will prevent you from taking the back. At that point you switch to the Coyote Half Guard Sweep. But what if your opponent defends that sweep? That brings us to next half guard sweep on the list – the rolling half guard sweep.
As all half guard sweeps are set up, the first step is to establish a good half guard position using the same method of getting the underhook. Once you have established a good underhook and propped up to you knees, you then look to take the back.
But as your opponent sees it coming, your arm gets trapped in a whizzer, bringing you back into the dogfight position. As you look to finish the Coyote Half Guard Sweep, one likely thing to happen is that your opponent bases with the opposite arm or even drive his weight onto you.
This opposing force against you will be stopping you from finishing the sweep. For the rolling half guard sweep, you can use this opposing force against your opponent.
To perform the sweep, still look to grab the far knee with your free hand. As your opponent drives their weight against you, simply roll onto the outside shoulder. By ducking and rolling under, you create a momentum to get underneath your opponent and flipping them over, and you end up on top side control.
The half guard game has surely evolved over the years and has now become a powerful attacking position from the bottom guard player. It’s no longer a last-ditch attempt to prevent the top person for passing their guard. It truly has become a powerful position that even top BJJ players like Lucas Leite and Bernardo Faria prefer it over “more dominant” positions.
Many BJJ players find that sweeping their opponent is much more exciting than the submission. There’s just something super rewarding about being able to topple your opponent’s over by using simple leverage and momentum. And with these three half guard sweeps, you will give even the strongest top player a tough time against you.
These are the most effective half guard sweeps you will ever need. Add these to your BJJ arsenal and you bottom game will be deadly!
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