The exciting thing about developing a game in BJJ is that you can choose from many types of guards. A guard is a defensive position where your body acts as a shield. Doing so prevents threats like submissions and guard passes. Since guards can be widely different from each other, the attacking options from one guard can be different from another.
For example, specific sweeps, submissions, and transitions from the closed guard are different and may not be available from the spider guard. This means that you can pick and choose whatever you like as long as it will complement your overall game. Today we’ll discuss a guard that has been used in the highest level of competition, the 50/50 guard.
What Is The 50/50 Guard?
The 50/50 guard is a leg-focused guard that aims to lock the opponent in a neutral space (hence the term 50/50). It is characterized by the intertwining of the legs, where an athlete’s leg is around the other athlete’s. The configuration of the legs presents a fair set of options to both grapplers. The position involves the competitors to stay seated on the mat, where they can transition to sweeps, lapel controls, and leglocks.
Many BJJ competitors have used the 50/50 guard to great effect. Some of the early users of the technique include Roberto “Gordo” Correa. At first, competitors used the position as a last line of defense to prevent their guards from being passed. It has then evolved and became the dangerous guard we now see in modern BJJ.
The 50/50 guard became sort of a base position during the mid to late 2000s, primarily because of the Mendes brothers. Guilherme and Rafael are undoubtedly experts in the position. They created game plans around the 50/50 guard and built a system that made them highly successful in world-class competition.
Today, the 50/50 guard is still widely used in academies worldwide. Many grapplers still use the Mendes style as it is still very effective. Others use the guard as an option to their overall leglock arsenal.
Perhaps two of the most famous users of the 50/50 guard are UFC fighter Ryan Hall and ADCC medalist Lachlan Giles. These athletes are amazing and show how nasty the 50/50 can be. Regardless of how you use it, the 50/50 guard has proven its worth and is here to stay.
Basics Of The 50/50 Guard
In this video, Professor Tom Davey explains the central ideas of the 50/50 guard. He said that it is essential to stay tight by cupping the opponent’s knee and hiding your heel to prevent leg lock threats. One of the best starting attacks from the 50/50 guard is to get to the top for the sweep. Remember that you need to be at an angle so that you don’t get reversed.
You can also submit your opponents from the position, an obvious one here is the heel hook. In the first few minutes of the video, Professor Tom mentioned that you have to be mindful of the heel hook regardless of the ruleset. What we do in competition is a reflection of our habits in training. If you see your opponent’s leg dangling, applying the heel hook is easy; the same goes for you if you slack off and flop your leg without any protection.
You can also execute an armbar from the 50/50 guard. From the starting position, place your hooking leg outside and pull their body near yours as you lift your other leg to enter the armbar. You would need to squeeze your legs tight here as the opponent’s leg will most likely be in the way.
He also demonstrates two versions of the straight ankle lock from the 50/50 guard. The first version starts with using your right arm, grabbing near the ankle. Scoot your hip to the opposite side and finish the leg lock by turning towards your left side. You can finish the submission using the ashi garami position.
Alternatively, you can place your feet near the ribs to maximize your range of motion as you extend the foot. The second version is where you use your left arm to grab the leg. Reinforce the grip with your right arm to make it as tight as possible. From here, drop to the side and finish the submission using the same leg mechanics as described previously.
Another great tip shown in the video is to always be open to removing your leg if you need to. Many matches end in the 50/50 position because it is highly controlling and can significantly slow down the pace of a match.
So if you are down on points, you can always disengage by extracting your legs and moving to another position (easier said than done, of course). Like Professor Tom says: “If you’re going to lose a match anyway, don’t lose it in 50/50. Try to get out.”
Be Comfortable In The Position
One of the most common mistakes beginners make in the 50/50 guard is to start panicking when they get to the position. Always remember that you first need to keep yourself safe, so always protect your legs and keep everything tight. Don’t engage in a leglock battle with someone who knows their stuff. If you are a beginner in leg attacks, you can focus on sweeping your opponents instead. Never do hail mary heel hooks, please!
Find time to drill the position as consistently as possible. Start with the entries and work on the common sweeps, transitions, and submissions as you get more comfortable. This is just another position that you need to get accustomed to. Stay technical and apply the proper technique at all times.
The 50/50 guard is a great position to learn as you get better in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is one of the best entry points to understanding the leglock game and is highly effective in the gi as well. Talk to your coach and explain your interest in the position. It is a very technical guard and requires a lot of consistent practice and refinement. Try the 50/50 guard today and let us know how it goes!
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