The half guard is one of the premier grappling positions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. It is a position where you open your guard intentionally and wrap your leg around your opponent’s. The aim of the half guard is to maintain distance and prevent guard pass attempts. There are different half guards you can do. Examples include knee shield, z guard, deep half guard, butterfly knee shield, and lockdown half guard.
In the context of mixed martial arts, any form of guard that prevents you from getting hit in the head is considered viable. Not all guards you typically see in a grappling match translate to a sport that includes strikes. This is important to note because many world-class grapplers have fallen into the trap of using their sport BJJ style inside the cage. As a result, a lot of these BJJ stars get knocked out in the process.
Today, we’ll talk about the application of the half guard in mixed martial arts. We’ll explore the options open to you from the top and bottom positions.
Why Even Use the Half Guard In MMA?
The half guard is a very good option because it gives you the flexibility to move from one variant to the other. Contrary to what most people think, the half guard can be highly offensive and is super tricky in the hands of a master grappler. Many legendary figures in mixed martial arts have used the half guard to nullify attacks from dangerous opponents.
Perhaps the most famous of all is UFC Hall of Famer and former world champion Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. Minotauro and his twin brother Minotouro are experts in a variant of the half guard known as the deep half. They have applied the technique in some of the most memorable MMA matches of all time.
Even today, many MMA athletes use the half guard to stay safe and improve their position. It is a good recovery tool if you get boxed in and run out of many options.
Remember that while MMA has grappling elements, it should not be treated as a regular no-gi match. You have to be mindful of strikes at all times. This means you can’t simply go to your back and wait for your opponents to engage. If you plan to include the half guard as part of your MMA game, always work on moving to better positions as best as you can.
Also, as good as the half guard is in keeping opponents at bay, other guards like the closed guard are far safer to use as you use both legs to control the opponent. With this, it is recommended that you use the half guard if the closed guard is not available.
Attacks From The Half Guard (Bottom)
In this video, Shane from the fightTIPS Youtube Channel collaborated with Vince the Anomaly to demonstrate the basics of an attacking half guard. They recommend using the knee shield variant since it is a defensive form of the half guard. Vinc highlights that the knee shield is particularly useful for smaller fighters as it allows you to maintain distance effectively.
It is critical to not get flattened out when using the half guard, especially in MMA. John Danaher said that one of the great “cardinal sins” of guard retention is to allow chest-to-chest connection. Once you allow yourself to get pinned, it is doubtful that you’ll get out of the position without being hit. Always stay on a hip to stay mobile and always be wary of incoming strikes.
What makes the knee shield half guard unique is that you use your knee as an extra frame. The placement of the knee should be just the right height, right around the chest area below the shoulder. If your shield is too low, you are at risk of getting smashed. If the shield is too high, you will not be able to effectively keep the opponent at a safe distance.
Your arms also play a critical part in this position. If you are on your right hip, use your left arm to frame against the opponent’s neck. This serves as a frame and can also be used to block incoming punches. Your right hand should actively block the opponent’s left arm to prevent their attempts to attack from that side.
Lastly, always keep your hooking leg active by bracing it near the opponent’s ankle. Your opponent’s goal is to clear the hooking leg, so ensure that you do whatever it takes to stay attached.
Now it’s time to talk about the offensive options from the knee shield. Most attacks from this position start from the underhook. An easy way to get the underhook is to shoot under the arm as you remove your knee shield. Techniques that allow you to get inside position are helpful as it makes your body configuration more stable. Vince likes to move to the side as he grabs the opposite hip once he gets the underhook.
Bring your leg over the opponent’s to get to the dogfight position. This is an extremely powerful position for sweeps and back takes. From the dogfight, they show three fundamental attacks – the basic sweep, roll under sweep, and limp arm to the back. These attacks are very high percentage and work well in submission grappling and MMA.
Attacks From The Half Guard (Top)
In this video, Coach René Dreifuss explains the principles of attacking the half guard from the top position. He mentions that striking and passing the guard are two of the best ways to stay on top and force the opponent to make mistakes.
Striking from the top half guard is easy as your opponent is directly underneath you. Stay active from the top position and be wary of your base as you hit your opponent.
As previously discussed, chest-to-chest connection makes the half guard much weaker as it negates a lot of transitions, sweeps, and submissions you can do from the bottom. Therefore, forcing your opponent to stay flat (using techniques like the underhook and crossface) will make your passing attempts much easier.
These techniques are proven to work in the highest level of competition. MMA is a sport that requires you to be well-rounded in all aspects of fighting. Include the half guard to your repertoire and see how it can help improve your overall game.
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