Half Guard

Welcome to our article on the half guard. In this article, we will take a brief look at the history of the half guard and how the use of the half guard has evolved in modern BJJ and submission grappling.

According to BJJ Heroes, while the exact history of the half guard cannot be pinpointed, in the Kodokan Institute, it was known as niju garami and was used as a holding position to prevent being pinned (i.e. a stalling position until a stand up) or to try to regain the full guard. Hence, due to the ruleset, there was not much technical advancement in this position until the early 90s, thanks to Roberto ‘Gordo’ Correa.

As the story goes, Gordo then a purple belt in 1989, had a serious injury to his knee, which necessitated the use of the half guard to prevent the pass. From there, he developed the use of the underhook, now a half guard staple. Gordo’s trademark move was attacking the back from the underhook although he also developed early variations of other half guard positions such as the deep half guard.

Since Gordo’s success with the half guard, the use of the position has exploded, with many schools and athletes each favouring their own particular style of half guard. In the list below, we will take a quick look at the various types of half guard, and the known athletes utilizing each style.

  • Traditional underhook half guard – Lucas Leite is well known for utilizing the ‘traditional’ underhook half guard series, however he has added in his famous knee torque utilizing the outside leg, which has increased the effectiveness of the traditional half guard sweeps. User ‘Gambledub’ has done a fantastic study on Lucas Leite’s half guard here:

  • Deep half guard – The three most well-known athletes utilizing this style has to be Bernardo Faria, Jeff Glover, Minotauro, and Wilson Reis, with the latter two successfully utilizing this style in MMA as well. Ryan Hall has a particularly excellent instructional on the deep half.

  • Knee shield/Z-guard – Probably the most common half guard seen as it is used defensively even by athletes who do not specialize or attack much from half guard. Used to maintain distance, which gives it its defensive power, however attacks from there are also possible. Robson Moura is well known for his use of this position, which he calls ’93 guard’. Caio Terra is also another master of this position.

  • Lockdown half guard – Popularised by Eddie Bravo and his 10th Planet system, he has developed an entire system around this position. Eddie himself most recently proved the effectiveness of this position again in his Metamoris match against Royler Gracie.



The above is a non-exhaustive list of the various half guard positions and the athletes who use them. Readers will note that the popular Reverse De La Riva guard was not included; there is some debate on whether or not that could be considered a half guard position. Nevertheless, the Reverse De La Riva guard itself could be the subject of its own article. On a final point, the increased popularity of sub-only tournaments, in which the heel hook reigns king, has also seen the development of many techniques beginning from the half guard and entering into leg entanglements.

To conclude, while the half guard may have originally been popularized as a stalling position to prevent a guard pass, it has since evolved into a dynamic attacking position with numerous variations and attacking options.