How to Build a Tough BJJ Half Guard Game (Helpful Guide)

The half guard is one of the basic jiu-jitsu positions with various submissions, sweeps, and transitions in Gi and No-Gi. As a result, every Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner should learn to play this guard from the bottom and top positions. So, how do you develop a challenging BJJ half-guard game?

The half guard is one of the most effective guards several world competitors use in top grappling competitions. Furthermore, developing a savage half-guard game necessitates first learning the fundamentals of this position and some submissions and transitions, among other things.

This guide will help you improve your jiu-jitsu half-guard game, whether you are a beginner or an advanced Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. As a result, it gives you some brutal bottom and top half-guard submissions, sweeps, and other techniques. Stay tuned!

Half Guard BJJ Fundamentals

Source: Bernardo Faria BJJ Fanatics

The BJJ half guard is one of the most basic jiu-jitsu guard positions. It’s a position where the bottom player puts one of his legs between the top player’s legs, and the other leg may be used as a knee shield near the opponent’s chest.

Moreover, the bottom fighter uses his legs and hands to control his adversary or transit to other positions, including the deep half-guard, half-butterfly guard, Z guard, X guard, back take, or full guard retention.

One of the fantastic facts about the half guard in BJJ is that many athletes genuinely specialize in it. And many of them make it the basis of their bottom game. Also, many BJJ athletes, such as Rodolfo Vieira, specialized in the top half guard.

Source: Absolute MMA St Kilda – Melbourne

Many players think the half guard is a great position to sweep their opponent from the bottom, so they force their way to the bottom to play their favorite game.

Although other athletes believe this position is one of the premier positions to pass their opponent guard, they force their way to pass the guard.

BJJ Half Guard Key Elements

bjj half guard

Understanding that the half-guard position differs vastly from the bottom and top positions when building your game is important. So, what is the critical element of an effective half guard game?

A good BJJ half-guard game necessitates complete control of your opponent’s head and shoulders. So if I’m working from the bottom half guard and my opponent drives my head/shoulders into the mat, I’m in a bad situation.

If you’re among those Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners who play the bottom half guard, ensure your head and shoulders are free to move.

Besides, you must move from one shoulder to the other. So, your purpose is to make it somehow difficult for your opponent to reach your head and shoulders.

And, if you’re among those BJJ martial arts who prefer the top half guard, the critical element to pass your opponent guard is by controlling the head and shoulders and forcing them to the mat.

Half-guard Game Speed

how to build a tough bjj half guard game

The half guard jiu-jitsu position strongly limits the amount of motion and movement because there are many connection points between the two athletes.

So, the speed and body connection are attached; as a general rule, the lower the speed, with more contact between athletes. So, how should you play the bottom half guard in BJJ?

Source: The Grappling Academy

To build a tough BJJ half guard starting from the bottom position, you need to manage several elements, including the distance management between you and your opponent, the opponent’s body frames, being free to switch to attacks or other transitions, etc.

This could be achievable by controlling the opponent’s hands, using a knee shield, underhook your opponent, etc.

Half guard Hand Control

At the bottom half guard, your first purpose is controlling the opponent’s hands. Therefore, you will prevent your opponent from establishing the cross face that will allow him to hold your head and shoulders and put you in a miserable position.

Otherwise, with strict control of the opponent’s hand, you will have multiple opportunities to manage distance, frame your opponent, or size some good attacks, such as the Kimura lock.

Half guard Knee Shield

Source: BJJ Fanatics

The knee shield could help you manage the distance when playing the bottom half guard. You can use it to push your opponent to create more space that allows you to protect your guard or when you want to make a transition.

On the other hand, you will encounter several problems protecting your half guard if you cannot use the knee shield properly.

Half Guard Underhook

Source: Chewjitsu

The underhook could be an excellent solution to control your opponent from the bottom half guard.

Otherwise, it helps you get a sweep or get back control and more excellent benefits. The BJJ under hook will tremendously change your jiu-jitsu half guard game.

Half Guard Attacks in BJJ

bjj half guard game

Once you’re at the half guard position, you must install suitable frames (Knee shield, hand control) to help you secure the position.

Then, several submissions or transition opportunities will cross your road, including the kimura lock, triangle choke, loop choke, back control, deep half guard, and many more.

Triangle, Kimura, Ezekiel, and Baseball Bat Choke Submissions From The Bottom Half Guard

Source: BJJ Joe

Related: Here is an excellent list of the most compelling submissions in Brazilian jiu-jitsu that you should know; click here.

Loop Choke Submission from Bottom Half Guard

The loop choke is one of the sneaky half-guard submissions. In the following video, Caio Terra teaches effectively executing the half-guard loop choke.

Source: Caio Terra

Related: Click here to learn more about the loop choke in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu Half Guard Sweeps

Once you get the basic principles of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu half guard, you’ll be ready to execute some great sweeps, including coyote sweep, etc.

The next video will give you clear thoughts about the BJJ half-guard sweep.

Source: Bernardo Faria BJJ Fanatics

Related: Here is an excellent list of the most effective half-guard sweeps you should know in BJJ grappling; click here.

BJJ Half Guard Variations

To build a challenging half guard game, you should learn more than one half guard variation in jiu-jitsu grappling martial arts. So, what are the different half guard variations?

The following are some fantastic variations of BJJ half guard that you learn and test.

Half Guard BJJ Underhook Variations

Source: The Guide Sites

Knee Shield Half Guard Variations

Source: Kenneth Brown

Otherwise, if you want to develop a solid jiu-jitsu half guard, you must learn some half guard transitions such as the transition to deep half, back take position, x guard, single leg x, lockdown, etc.

Low Knee Shield to Deep Half Guard, X Guard & Single Leg X

Source: Aaron Benzrihem bjj

BJJ Half Guard to the Back Control

source: Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida

Half Guard Lockdown

Source: Evo BJJ

Half-Guard Recovery Techniques

Sometimes, you’re so slow, and your opponent advances you by reaching the cross face or the underhook. In this case, your adversary may pass your half guard, or even he can get an easy submission or a superior position. So, how should you react in these circumstances?

The Next Brazilian jiu-jitsu video gives some nifty moves and solutions to recover your guard and prevent the guard from passing or submitting.

Source: Cobrinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Fitness

BJJ Half Guard Drills

Drills will extend your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skills. During the BJJ video below, you will discover some excellent half-guard drills you need to try.

Source: Chewjitsu

The video above focuses on two sections of jiujitsu drilling. The first focuses on knee slide variations and options, and the other focuses on back step options and variations.

The back steps are one of the great movements in BJJ, but not everyone uses them; maybe the movement is weird.

Besides, It’s almost just like the Knight on the chessboard. While all other pieces move in straight angles, they move in an L and may throw you off.

Here are more BJJ half-guard drills from the half guard by Chewjitsu

Source: Chewjitsu


The half guard effectively slows the match down and takes the dynamic and quick movement out of the equation. Congratulations to you if that suits your game and body type correctly.

Otherwise, the half guard is a paradoxical position in Brazilian jiu-jitsu because it can be the best possible position to pass your opponent’s guard or the best position to sweep your opponent.

Thus, if the top BJJ player arrives to control the bottom player’s head and shoulders, he goes so far as to execute the guard passing. However, the bottom could be denied the head and shoulders control, so the half guard will be the best sweeping position in this case.

To build a tough half-guard BJJ, you must remember the abovementioned points. And don’t forget to drill and apply in sparring constantly.

I hope these steps will help you build a solid half guard in both the top and the bottom game. Always have fun training BJJ martial arts!

So tell us, what BJJ half guard game do you play?

Related: The Z guard is one of the best positions in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is frequently entered from the half guard. This comprehensive article explains the BJJ Z-guard’s basics and offers some effective attacks and sweeps to help you build a savage game.