Curriculum Planning – Fundamentals of Half Guard

Half-guard has a ton of options. The neck, arms, and legs are all exposed for submissions. The person on top is in a strong passing position if they can control the head and the orientation of the shoulders. The person on bottom is in a strong sweeping position and has an easy route to the back if they can control their own shoulder orientation and use their legs to stay safe from the pass attempts. It is probably the most open-ended and versatile position. To that end, specific techniques are not overly beneficial here. A discussion of the fight over the head and shoulders (often boiled down to the underhook) is the biggest gain we can give to brand new folks – techniques that illustrate that fight and what each person wants are useful, but only in so far as they help people understand that fight.

Okay, having said all of that…


  • Underhook to the back
  • Switch back

Underhook to the back means using the underhook to get past the arm and come up into a back take. The hook should be shallow for taking the back, deep for baiting a whizzer, high for many moves from the dog fight, low for a lot of wrestling-style moves. I favor starting with a shallow, high hook, pretty much just on the near-side shoulder blade. Your elbow should be at your ribs. This stops the whizzer and makes ducking and shucking to the back really easy.

Invariably, someone will misplace their hand or a strong whizzer player will get a useful whizzer somehow. This is where using the underhook to keep the person on top close and switch under their legs to toss them to the side. There are a bunch of ways to do this, but you need to pinch their arm to you so they can’t just pull the whizzer out and be in a strong passing position. This movement, to me, mirrors a lot of other patterns like entering into deep half. I want this to be a broad stroke though – they whizzer you, you toss them sideways.


Get the underhook, grab the head, get your hips high to get over their knee. This can become a knee cut, switch base out to a back step pass, switch over the body to a knee ride pass, or even become a form of float passing.


Touch their head – tori (top) wants to touch uke (bottom)’s head by any means necessary. Any part of the head – face, crown, back of the head, whatever. If tori succeeds, reset to the base half guard position and try again. Switch roles after 30 seconds. Switch partners after each person has played each role. Uke should be using their legs as frames, their hands to block, and doesn’t have to keep their legs where they are. Ryan Hall’s leg over the shoulder half guard nonsense is a totally valid solution to the problem. Tori should be trying to fill the openings in space uke leaves to get close enough to touch the head.

Reguard – tori wants to pass, uke wants to establish closed guard. Uke can move through any other open guards to do this, even stand up and just pull into a closed guard, but if tori ever gets passed to side/KoB/mount/back and holds for 3 seconds, reset.

Positional – tori wants to pass to any position better than half guard (side, KoB, mount, back) or submit uke; uke wants to sweep tori to any top position (including top half) or submit tori.

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