Understanding the battle – Half guard notes week 1

Thursdays at 80/20 is the day in which we focus in detail on a single area for a period of about three month. We’ve just started a new cycle and our topic of study is half guard bottom. Each week, I’ll be posting my personal notes as we go. For this topic, I’ll consistently refer to the athlete playing half guard as female and the passer as male for convenience.

Most are familiar with the side control battle, the fight for the underhook. Half guard also has a battle, one of head positioning. The bottom player is trying to put her head against the chest/belly of the top player so she can easily achieve an underhook. The top player is trying to prevent this.

The mindset of the bottom player is defeating the defenses of the top player so she can put her head in this dominant area.

Bottom player is on her hip (not flat) so it is easier to raise her head in an arc to the desired position.

The top player’s defense has three components:

  • Moving his body outside of the plane of this arc (moving sideways).
  • Moving his body within the plane of this arc (forwards and backwards).
  • Using his hands and arms to prevent the bottom player from raising her head and shoulders.

This class focuses on this last component – the hand/arm battle.

The top players far arm (crossfacing arm) is the most dangerous so the bottom player begins by controlling this arm. Wrist or biceps grip. Now the bottom player only has to think about the near (underhooking side) arm.

If top player stiff arms (blocks with hand) then there will be an opening between his elbow and ribs. The bottom player swims her underhooking arm inside this opening and sit up for the underhook.

If top player blocks with bent arm (blocks with forearm) bottom player pops this arm upwards, forearm against tricep, and then gains the underhook.

It is important to keep in mind that the bottom player’s objective is to put her head in the dominant position. The underhook is a consequence of this head positioning, not the main objective.

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