Everywhere you look people are using half guard. You can barely swing your belt around the mats without hitting someone who is working half guard from the bottom or top. Bottom players are utilizing their hooks to keep their opponents from passing the guard.
They are using their hips to attempt to steer their opponents away or over them into sweeps. The bottom player utilizes their knee shields to withstand the pressure of the opponent trying to pass. The last line of defense is the arm frame that supports the knee shield and the bottom arm that protects against the cross face.
The person attempting to pass the half guard, conversely is trying to undo each of these protective elements and work to flatten the opponent to make the bottom player easier to pass. First and foremost, the top player must be mindful of the hips. Whenever someone has free reign to move their hips wherever they want, they become a danger.
Once the hips are addressed, the next item on the top half guard agenda is to take care of the knee shield. The knee shield can be an extremely formidable wall if attacked directly. One way to circumvent the knee shield is to use a step up that is favored by people like Tom DeBlass where he will step up with the same side leg as the knee shield, then bring the knee that is still on the mats not controlled by the opponent tight against the hip. This action will take away the knee shield and allow it to be simply moved aside.
Once past the knee shield the goal should be to seek a far side under hook to keep the opponent flat and immobile. A bit of head control with the other arm will finish the basic half guard control and set up a situation where the opponent can begin to be passed.
But what if the opponent from the bottom is able to secure their own under hook? The under hook from the bottom can divert the forward pressure of the top half guard passer. It can also open the door to sweeps and potential back takes. What if we could turn this situation into an effective series of submissions?
In the video below, Nick “Chewy” Albin uses an effective counter to the bottom half guard player’s under hook to set up a series of devastating leg attacks, each of which is legal in both Gi and No Gi jiu jitsu competition. Check it out below and let’s break it down.
Knee Bar from Half Guard
If the opponent on the bottom should secure the under hook, the top player must quickly assess the situation to prevent the sweep or potential back take. Rather than fight to regain the under hook, which according to Tom DeBlass is one of the worst things you can do, because you are actually giving them more space to establish a deeper under hook or allow them to progress.
In this case, Chewy pops the trapped knee up and over the bottom thigh of the half guard player. Once the knee line is cleared he will do a back step turning around quickly taking away the power of the under hook and putting himself in a position where he can sit to the side trapping and extending the leg of the opponent.
By locking up the straight leg and keeping the opponents foot on the far side of one’s head and keeping control of the toes, akin to keeping the thumb pointed in the proper direction for an arm bar, the maximum torque on the leg can be achieved.
One interesting detail that should be noted is that Chewy does not simply remain on his side and arch back to apply the kneebar. Instead, he rolls slightly to his back and lifts his hips up and into the straightened knee finishing an ultra tight knee bar.
Straight Achilles Lock from Half Guard
Using the same scenario as a starting point with the opponent securing a strong under hook from the bottom, Chewy will perform the backstep and sit on the opponent, but in this case, the opponent attempts to defend the knee bar by forming a figure four with their legs to prevent extension. In this case, Chewy will reach for the far ankle and fall to the opposite hip from what he fell before and secure an extremely tight classic achilles lock.
Calf Slicer from Half Guard
Another option when the opponent locks up a figure four with their legs to prevent the knee bar and you are able to pull the far ankle like Chewy is to hook your arm under the bottom leg and pull the shin of that leg into the calf of the other leg creating a calf slicer.
Toe Hold from Half Guard
This calf slicer attack can also be turned into a toe hold very easily by attacking the toes of the bottom leg that is trapped.
These are just a few of the leg attacks that can be set up with the use of the top half guard back step when the opponent secures the under hook. These techniques will make your submission attempts better and also help open up more passing opportunities as the opponents become fearful of your leg attacks.
We referenced Tom DeBlass several times in this piece and his thoughts on the back step and trying to regain the under hook when it is lost. To explore this half guard guru’s thoughts even more, check out his best selling Half Domination 4 volume instructional series available here from BJJ Fanatics.