The curious case of half guard: Here’s an odd thing – many of the most respected Jiu Jitsu authorities claim that getting to half guard is one of the very best strategies in the sport and so advocate forcing your way to half guard as a superior passing strategy. Just as many respected Jiu Jitsu authorities claim that bottom half guard is one of the premier sweeping positions in the sport and so advocate actively getting to half guard whenever playing bottom position so that you can sweep an opponent. How can this be? How can the same position be seen as both the most desirable top position and at the same time the most desirable bottom position for the respective athletes? I am part of this seeming contradiction myself. I always encourage my students to actively work to get to half guard whenever they can and exploit its strengths as a passing position. Yet I also claim that bottom half guard is a great position to play for sweeps and submissions. How can you have it both ways? Much of the answer is bound up with THE CONTROL (or lack of) OF THE BOTTOM PLAYERS HEAD AND SHOULDERS. If the top player can pin the bottom players head and shoulders (usually through some of under hooks and crossfaces) then yes, it’s a superior passing position. If not, and the bottom player can move his head and shoulders as he pleases (usually by getting his own under hook to deny head and shoulder control to his opponent), then it becomes a very fine sweeping position for the bottom athlete. This fundamental element of control or denial of control of the bottom athletes head and shoulders determines much of the in half guard. All the other battles you will face in this position, distance control, Kuzushi/balance, grip etc are most fought over either getting control of the bottom athletes head and shoulders or actively seeking to deny that control – depending on whether you are on top or bottom. Here, Georges St-Pierre looks to bolt down the head and shoulders of Gordon Ryan from top half guard. in this light you can see how one position can be both the path to heaven and hell depending upon the outcome of the crucial battle for head and shoulders

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