Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter cascao vital and runs cascao bjj hard knocks out of Las Vegas nv.
Back in the day, half guard was seen as a position that was halfway to mount or halfway back to guard, very transitional. The last thing that it was thought of was its own position with countless advantages. Today’s perspectives on half guard has not only taken a 180 degree turn, but it is now realized that in some circumstances, this position is superior to the classic full guard.
Most of us have been there, your opponent has such a large girth, that crossing your legs to close the guard becomes a challenge in itself. This is where playing half guard is smart. No matter what the size of your opponent, it is just easier to wrap around one leg then the whole torso. Keeping with the size difference theme, being able to stay on your side and maneuver to a back take or to a sweeping series is definitely easier then being flat on your back in full guard against a larger opponent. Escpially when you take into account the lockdown, deep half guard and the knee shield being at your disposal.
Another time to choose half guard over full is when your opponent is known for their heel hooking. Although top half guard is a nice entry point to knee bars and toe holds, the leg attack game is much more limited when compared to full guard, where every leg lock is available. To shut down all the leg locks, posture control is key, but in general the path to a heel hook is not as clear and effective from top half then it is from full guard.
Half guard is also a more advantageous play when facing somebody that has great standing passes from full guard. Everybody has their preference when it comes to guard passing styles, whether it is low with pressure or standing and dynamic, it is up to the bottom player to figure out which guard play is best to counter each passing game. If standing passes is the opposing play, then half guard shuts those techniques down fairly easily.
There are times however that half guard does not have the clear advantage. If there are strikes being thrown, half guard does not have the posture control ability of full guard to defend them as effectively. On the offensive side, the half guard takes away bottom up kicks from the striking options, which when legal can change a fight. This position can also takes away the space needed to throw effective elbows from bottom much easier then full guard. And if you are a big sports guard player who likes using sleeves and lapels, half guard is not the first choice.
With everything in life, there are pros and cons, and guard positions are no different. Half of the challenge is knowing how to use each guard and the other half is knowing when to use each guard. Gone are the days when half guards effectiveness was overlooked, here are the days where we really use this position in a strategic fashion. See you on the mats.
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