Here’s How To Not Get Crushed In Bottom Half-Guard

The half-guard is one of the most difficult guards to excel at in BJJ. It takes many hours of getting your guard smashed just to get used to it as you learn your way around. While it is a challenge, knowing how to effectively attack, defend, or move out from the half-guard will never put you at a disadvantage. This article will help you prevent getting crushed in the bottom half-guard.


Defending From The Half-Guard

There are different ranges and ways the half-guard is performed in BJJ, including high and low knee shields, half-butterflies, lockdowns, and deep half-guards. Each type has advantages and disadvantages and unique ways of defending and setting up attacks. Let’s discuss the common concepts for defending effectively from the bottom half-guard.

Assuming that your knee shield has been removed to block the opponent’s torso and their pressure is starting to come in, not remediating this will get you flattened and eventually have your guard passed. In the half-guard, we have to establish layers of frames, and ideally, in addition to the knee shield, you also want to have your elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand framing on the opponent.

The arms are used to establish an upper body frame against the opponent to prevent them from pressuring forward. Remember that when playing the half-guard, you want the opponent to avoid connecting chest to chest, getting an underhook, and applying a cross face. Getting chest to chest flat on the mat from the bottom half-guard will, most of the time, give you problems. You can deal with incoming pressure by having the upper body frames at a long range and your torso as a frame, provided you’re framing against the ground at a correct angle.

Even if you still need to get your frames as the opponent comes in, you can stay on your side with your elbows glued to your body. This allows you to prevent pinning pressure, work your way up into an underhook, and start wrestling up.

Remember to stay on your side when playing half-guard and not flatten your back on the mat. You can prevent the opponent from getting an underhook and a crossface by interfering with your hands framing their shoulders and one arm framing across their chest to shoulder. At the same time, the other arm grabs the opponent’s wrist, allowing you to get your knee shield in.

When the opponent starts connecting with you chest to chest, you can go to your side and start covering by placing your hand on your forehead while keeping your chin down. Covering your head as you chin down will prevent the opponent from applying a cross face using their near arm. Think of the head cover as if you’re running your fingers through your hair while keeping your elbows glued to your body.

Keeping your elbows tight to your body prevents the opponent from slipping underneath your elbow to establish a wedge that they can use for an underhook. Isolating your elbows from your body significantly decreases the power of your arms, especially when the opponent starts dropping their weight and adding more pressure behind it. Keep your elbow connected to your hip bone and not beside your hip, as no matter how isometrically strong your arm may be, the opponent will still be able to wedge underneath your elbow.

As you turn on your side, tuck in your elbow, and cover your head, you’ve set up a series of frames, also having your shoulder preventing the opponent from accessing your torso as a lever and pinning you on the mat. Doing this will save you from playing half-guard and prevent submissions like the D’Arce, guillotine, and different gi chokes.


Attacking From The Bottom Half-Guard

Given that we’ve established the defense on properly utilizing our arms, torso, and knees to prevent the opponent from smashing the half-guard, let’s connect the frames we’ve established to our advantage. Remember to stay dynamic when playing the guard and start attacking to create more threats that the opponent will think of.

With the back mount being the most dominant position in grappling, we must prevent the back take from the half-guard at all costs. Starting from the bottom half-guard, to stay dynamic, try not to leave your top leg locked around the opponent’s bottom leg, as this attaches you to the opponent and limits both your movements. For this technique, use your top leg as a knee shield across the opponent’s torso to maintain distance and as a line of defense against the opponent while keeping their weight off you.

If the opponent is in the knee shield position, they will usually try to control your hip space with their hand. While this is a concern, you must first deal with the idea of the opponent coming around your knee. Use your top elbow as a second frame and post across the opponent’s torso so that you can keep their weight and body away when they pressure forward.

Use your bottom hand and apply a sleeve grip (cross-sleeve grip) on the opponent’s top arm (arm that’s posting on your top hip). Once done, you can remove your top frame and grab behind their top elbow. Perform an arm drag on the opponent’s top arm, and as you do, come up. As you drag them on the mat, keep your cross-sleeve grip to keep your hand on top of the opponent’s hand. Come up on their back and immediately reach for a collar grip, as it gives you a lot of shoulder control while allowing you to move the opponent to move in the direction you want. From here, you can finish the back mount by climbing over and placing both your hooks or dropping to your side while keeping your chest attached to the opponent’s back as you pull them down the mat.



One critical thing to remember when playing the half-guard is to stay dynamic and keep your opponent busy with different threats. Most of the time, they will be pressuring forward to smash your guard. Work on managing the distance; you will soon find the best range to apply your half-guard.


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