Half guard is, without doubt, a fundamental position in jiu-jitsu. Regardless of experience or ability, you will often find yourself in half guard, potentially numerous times, each time you roll. Many people see the half as a transitional position. From the bottom, there are numerous sweeps available as well as set-ups for triangles and other positions. From the top, half guard gives a clear route to mount and side control while also opening up routes towards submissions. Many people focus on one guard to early in their careers, be it X-Guard, Butterfly or De-La-Riva. I would argue that half-guard should be right up there as a guard to master early on.

How to Master the Half Guard

1. Frequency

Half guard happens so often in a round that it warrants a decent chunk of attention. Whether during a pass, take down or scramble, it is so common for players to find one leg caught in half. It is wise to focus your attention to half guard so you are comfortable when you inevitably find yourself in that neutral position. Many players seek to move straight away to advance position but if you can be comfortable in the half, you will instantly have that advantage over your opponent.

2. Attacking Options

Why advance your position when you can attack from half guard? The unique positioning of both your postures allows for a myriad of submission attempts from the top and the bottom. From the bottom, my personal favorites are toe holds and triangles. Both of these techniques are so far from your opponents mind during half guard. This makes them very easy to slip in when they aren’t clued in. From the top, I like to hit Kimuras and Darce chokes. Although these attacks are more signaled, the greater the control you develop on top, the more straightforward they are to implement.

Master the Half Guard

3. Sweep Options

If a two point sweep is more your style, then half guard can help in that department. Obviously, here we are talking solely from bottom position. The beauty of half guard is that, with good technique, it is relatively straightforward to get under your opponent and offset their balance. Underhooks are the key component to bottom position. With that in place, it is all about bumping and shrimping until you control your opponents center of balance. As a wrestler in MMA, a good bottom half guard allows you to control where the fight takes place.

4. Master of Transitions

The half-guard is used primarily as a transition from one position to the other. Being comfortable in half allows you to decide where and when the those transitions take place. If you feel like your opponent wants to advance, you have the ability to slow them down. If your opponent is happy sitting in half, you can advance as you wish. In many ways it is like having a pause and play button. The importance of this harks back to point number one: Frequency. Half guard occurs over and over from one position to the next. Being able to control the rate at which that plays out is invaluable in competition or even in friendly rolling.


The half guard is widely regarded and respected. Personally, I don’t feel as though it receives the same amount of attention as other guards, open or closed. Dedicating you attention towards the half guard in detail will not only elevate your attacking game but will also help to bolster your defensive game extensively.