BJJ / Grappling Tips: Half Guard Top Theme Part 1

In a previous post I explained that I will be focusing the blog articles on one theme for the duration of 6-week projects. This is to reflect my focus in training. The past 6 weeks I've focused as much as I could on the half guard top position. I've used this time to investigate the ins and outs of the position with regards to postures, pressures, submissions, strikes and guard passing (or any other positional change that I initiate from the top). Here's a summary of the variables I've been experimenting with.

Half guard top: foot - knee - hip

The Half Guard Player's goal is to dominate and manipulate all three of these joints if they are to truly dominate the leg and, by extension, your whole body, and sweep you. In order to weaken their control, we have to take control away from them and reclaim it back for ourselves.

To completely negate the half guard, we need to eliminate all aspects of control the HGP has on our foot, knee and / or hip, which in turn is the definition of passing and being in Side Mount. The sooner we dominate the control of the feet, knees and hips (starting with our own and progressing to our opponent's) the sooner we will dominate the half guard top vs bottom battle.

"In a fight, only one person can be comfortable. Your job is to transfer the comfort from the opponent to you" Rickson Gracie

The primary (but not only) example of total control of the lower body from half guard that comes to mind is the 10th Planet System's approach to the half guard (the Lockdown plus the Whip-up). I will be discussing more of what makes that particular system work so effectively in a later article (one summarising my 6 weeks HG bottom focus) but for now, here's a quick picture of the top player's lower body being dominated:

The Lockdown (image borrowed from

And now here's one of the same two players in the same grappling geography but with one simple difference. Can you spot it?

(image borrowed from

It's simple. The top player's foot's been freed (and tucked safely away). The consequence of that simple difference, however, is huge for both players. The scales of comfort and control have been tipped in favour of the passer, unless the situation changes in 1 of 2 ways:

1. The guard player regains control of the foot
2. The guard player shifts their focus to controlling the hip, usually with their top knee or shin

Be ready!  The moment you approach the half (open) guard, be aware of what your opponent may try to do to achieve control over your lead leg (foot, knee and hip). The opponent's top leg in the half guard cannot be low (controlling / manipulating your foot) and high (hip / chest level) at the same time, unless there's an extreme height difference.

When you pay attention and make sure your foot is tucked hidden away from their grasp, be aware that their attention may now turn to hip-control. In the next article, I will discuss what I have found to be the most important concept to prevent the opponent from controlling your hip plus 3 auxiliary ones which should ensure you are the one feeling in charge in the half guard top vs bottom game.



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