50/50, A Comparative Review

Let’s talk about 50/50. It’s not my leglocking position of choice because it’s theoretically symmetrical, benefiting the individual who knows the entanglement better. There’s stuff the person on top can do and stuff the person on bottom can do. I may be sour on it because after messing up a Victor Roll the last time I competed we ended up in 50/50 rather than the saddle, and it didn’t end well for me. But folks in the gym have been really into it since ADCC last year, so it’s something I’ve been looking into more.

Before we proceed a quick disclaimer – none of the links are affiliate links. I’m not that fancy. They’re just plain links to where you can buy the products. I do not know, nor has this post been endorsed by either Ryan Hall or Lachlan Giles. This post is just my impressions and opinions after watching the 50/50 videos from each while on quarantine.

Lachlan Giles released Leg Lock Anthology: 50/50 after his stunning ADCC 2019 run. Last year also brought us Ryan Hall’s Modern 50/50 as an online offering. I’ll be briefly summarizing the kind of content each offers, comparing the approach to 50/50 each provides, and giving my impressions of each of them as pieces of instructional content.

Lachlan’s instructional is an 12 hours 18 minutes over 8 discs. While 50/50 is discussed in some fashion throughout the set, the fourth disc (1 hour 23 minutes) is the bulk of the discussion of 50/50 as a guard, while the rest of the discussion tends to be 50/50 as a leglocking position. This is on message for the set which is primarily a “leg lock anthology”. The rest of the series is an insanely detailed look at leg locks from various positions and entanglements with a focus on the inside heel hook. I feel that most of Lachlan’s qualms with the reaping position come from trying to finish from Postion 1 of the leg knot series rather than advancing to Positions 3 or 4 where there is more secure control over the leg and the ability to mitigate the free leg, but given that few people are playing the leg knot these days and how much easier the inside heel hook is to finish compared to the outside heel hook, I don’t think it’s consequential. Lachlan’s approach to 50/50 is very much to be the person on bottom. He addresses options from standing, but makes it clear that standing in a 50/50 puts you in quite a bit of danger of sweeps, back-takes, and even just getting elevated a couple of inches for the heel hook. In terms of presentation, Lachlan demonstrates the technique while explaining, then walks his uke through performing it so you can see some debugging, and then a clip with no sound of Lachlan performing without explanation is shown for each technique with the end of each DVD having a nice summary of the techniques and concepts covered over its duration.

Ryan Hall’s instructional is 5 hours 2 minutes broken up over 69 individual videos. Riddled with jokes about 90s culture including Ghostbusters and Pogs , Ryan seems to have had some fun making the video series. This is a pleasant change from how dry other instructional videos can be. Whereas Lachlan spends easily 11+ hours on leg locks and their defense, Ryan spends surprisingly little time talking about the heel hook. He talks about safe leg positioning throughout, but only six of the 69 videos (about 42 minutes) are on the heel hook finishing, and two on defense (about 17 minutes). The remaining 4 hours cover options for both top and bottom with a conceptual framework and linking 50/50 to other positions such as crab ride. Yes, heel hooks are sprinkled throughout, but with an attitude that even a bad heel hook is still a heel hook so don’t worry too much about it. Ryan’s emphasis is heavily geared toward being the person on top whenever possible, owing largely to the discussion of MMA tactics throughout the series. While the series spends far more time on attacks from the bottom, these are generally framed as options you have if your partner is taking the initiative of remaining on top. In terms of presentation, the individual videos are relatively short which makes them easy to follow and digest. Ryan explicitly has his uke describe how things feel, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. It’s a nice touch since, as he emphasizes, things that are right don’t always look too terribly different from things that are wrong, so knowing what the mechanism is and how it should feel is important for drilling it with someone else who also has limited experience. I think Ryan’s series presents a better instructional for someone to pick up and start working on with a friend in this regard.

These two series conflict pretty starkly in what they advise for 50/50. Ryan explicitly advises against the extraction technique Lachlan covers as an advanced escape. Lachlan explicitly details how to recover a heel hook from the positions that Ryan describes as safe when he talks about going to the leg drag. However, their concepts for what to do on bottom are remarkably similar, with Lachlan also covering the back-side 50/50 that Ryan advocates for finishing the heel hook from. The difference largely seems to be in whether being on top means standing (which Lachlan sufficiently shows is a generally bad idea) or being in a the defensive position Ryan shows (which Ryan sufficiently shows is generally good). Ultimately they’re both good in their own rights, and it seems likely that each expert is glossing over some things that they didn’t feel like covering. Both are accomplished in using the 50/50 at high levels of competition, though with different focuses.

So, after watching both, which would I personally recommend as a 50/50 instructional? Ryan Hall. It’s got my style of humor, it’s emphasizes a top game, and it’s more focused on the position. Having said that, it’s not a great leg lock instructional. For that, I’d go for Lachlan’s set. My goals are just having fun in the gym and maybe competing at a local level though. If your goal is MMA, maybe listen to Ryan. If your goal is sub-only tournaments, maybe listen to Lachlan. If your goal is IBJJF tournaments, probably ignore both of these and go pick up Kristian Woodmansee’s 50/50 guard (Digitsu, Fanatics) – I haven’t watched it yet, but his videos on YouTube are good and his series doesn’t seem to focus on heel hooks. There’s also cost to keep in mind. Lachlan’s is $147 normally, and if you’re not in a rush you can pick it up even cheaper as a Daily Deal (plus Fanatics is always running coupon codes if you look around). Ryan’s is $199 and I haven’t found any way to lower that cost shy of piracy (I do not advocate piracy). Given that Lachlan’s can be half the cost for over twice the content, if you’re hard-pressed to only buy one, I couldn’t fault you for picking Lachlan’s.

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