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Chapter 1: Half Guard Fundamentals

This chapter introduces a theme which will be maintained through the book. I teach step-by-step according to the problems most of my students come across when I introduce half guard to them. This means each layer of technique and detail added is in response to a real need you will come across rather than overloading you with detail disconnected from experience. You will remember details better and more meaningfully if they are introduced as solutions to specific problems you have already experienced. Detail works best as servants to relevant problems, in my opinion. So what I’m saying is, take a technique and go spar with it, go gain some experience, and come across some problems. Then come back and add new layers based on the problems you experience!

To solve some of the first level problems you will likely deal with, there are some fundamental concepts I want to make sure are in place before we dig deeper into half guard. Like making a good sandwich, if you have quality ingredients you don’t really need much. Half guard is no different. You can play a relatively simple game quite well if you go back and make sure all of your basic ingredients are the best they can possibly be.

First, it is important to capture your opponent’s leg and always have some kind of control of it. Without this piece, half guard does not exist, and it is this piece which is the difference between your being smashed in side control or mount and being able to work into a better place. No matter what style of half guard you play, you have to use both of your legs like chopsticks to both control and monitor your opponents trapped leg. Triangling the legs is only the most basic form of control, but using clamping pressure with both or one leg and developing dexterity and sensitivity with your legs to do this well becomes a skill you will develop which will serve you well.



Knowing how to angle your body, relative to the ground and your opponent, so that you can support their weight is important. There are a number of details necessary to creating this structure on the ground, but the concept is essential to get to your side and stay there while supporting a lot of weight on top of you. Your arm positioning is what will allow you to defend your structure and dig yourself out of trouble and into better positioning.