Half guard is one of the first guards that a BJJ practitioner will master because it happens so often and it’s relatively easy to enter. There are also many variations of the half guard making it adaptable to your preferred style or situation.
The half guard is less known for submissions and more often used to sweep because of the very secure control one has over an opponent’s leg and lower body. There are actually several effective submissions from half guard depending on one’s position, making it both secure and deadly.
One of the key details to applying any form of submission from half guard is freedom of movement. You will find that you generally need to be on your side, not flat on your back and your opponent should not have a secure cross face. We chose two of the most dangerous and most used variations of the half guard for our list of deadly half-guard submissions.
Basic Half Guard
The very first half guard BJJ practitioners learn is the one where we close our legs with a figure four around one of our opponent’s leg. It’s particularly easy to get, but it invites your opponent to put all his weight on you. You will find that by simply blocking your opponent’s cross face arm, shrimping sideways, and inserting a butterfly hook, you can quickly turn it into a more dangerous position.
When your opponent underhooks your arm, you can enter the butterfly half-guard position or z-guard position, whizzer his arm and lock both hands together (often referred to as an arm-wrap). Finish the Americana by straightening your body. When performing this move, don’t forget to shrimp out to make space — it’s the only way you’ll get enough room to finish the submission.
From the same arm-wrap position, control your opponent’s far wrist, remove your butterfly hook and place your foot on his hip, and then shoot your other leg over his shoulder for a triangle. In this video, Stephan Kesting and Brandon Mullins show the same arm-wrap triangle, but from a z-guard.
The kimura is a staple submission from half guard because of the way an opponent’s far hand is often pitted against both of your hands. It is a good submission that transitions well into other attacks, but be aware of possible counters which could reverse the situation. In this video, BJJ World Champion Garry Tonon from the Evolve Fight Team demonstrates how to do this move. Watch how he uses the kimura to sweep his opponent and set up other attacks.
The knee shield is a form of half guard where you are able to control the distance and pressure of your opponent. This is made possible by the frame formed by your forearm and your shin. The collar grip is also a key component allowing you to secure the frame and threaten chokes. Here are some common submissions from the knee shield:
The loop choke is a submission applied using the collar grip. One of the most effective setups is to first push against your opponent to make him push back and then quickly pull his head into the choke. The loop choke is both effective as a submission and as a deterrent because after you threaten to apply it, you will find that your opponent quickly becomes reluctant to apply pressure! See BJJ Champion Valdir Rodriguez from the Evolve Fight Team demonstrate the loop choke from the knee shield in the video above.
The cross choke setup starts from once again baiting your opponent to lean forward onto you. While he rests his weight on your frame, deepen you collar grip then slide your shin out of the way, forcing him to fall forward. Quickly make your second collar grip to apply the choke. With all his weight on you, it will now be very hard for him to pull away from the choke. Watch in the video above how Roberto “Gordo” Correa demonstrates this move.
Straight Arm Lock
One really good way for the top player to increase his pressure and start to attempt a variety of passing techniques is by gripping your collar with his far arm. While it is generally disadvantageous to allow this grip, you can quickly turn it into a submission. As your opponent overextends to reach your collar or shoulder, underhook his elbow and secure a straight arm lock. In the above video, you can see Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu demonstrate the same move.
The knee bar is one of many leg locks that you can apply when you have off-balanced your opponent and grabbed ahold of his legs. Use your shin and top arm to deflect your opponent’s weight and quickly dive for his legs. The knee bar will be your first submission attempt, but you can easily transition to other leg locks when he tries to counter. In the video above, Gabriel Procopio demonstrates how to do the move.
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