As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, I have always found the half guard position to be one of the most versatile and effective positions in the game. Whether you are attacking or defending, the half guard can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal. One of the most important aspects of the half guard is the ability to sweep your opponent and take the top position. In this article, I will go over the only sweeps from half guard that you’ll ever need.
Understanding the Half Guard Position
Before we dive into the sweeps, it is important to understand the half guard position. The half guard is a position where you are on your back with one of your opponent’s legs trapped between your own legs.
Actually, you are not on your back, per se, as you need to be lying on your side (the side of the leg which is in between the opponent’s legs). This makes you more mobile and helps you protect the position more easily.
This position works extremely well in controlling your opponent’s movement and limiting their ability to attack while you are on the bottom.
To be successful in half guard, you need to be able to control your opponent’s leg and prevent them from advancing (i.e. passing your guard). This is done by using your arms and legs in various ways (half guard variations) to create frames and maintain distance.
Once you are able to keep an opponent in half guard. You can use strategically placed grips to ensure you can sweep or submit them. When it comes to the sweep or submission dilemma, the half guard offers a lot more in terms of the former than the latter.
That is precisely why sweeps from half guard should be your go-to offensive moves from this position.
The Fundamentals of Half Guard Sweeps
Sweeps are one of the most important aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They allow you to achieve a dominant position over an opponent by essentially trading places with them.
Whenever you start on the bottom and manage to turn the tables on your opponent, gaining top position in the process, you’ve successfully swept them.
Since you want to be on top as much as you can, whether you’re in a grappling match, an MMA fight, or a street fight, sweeps are an invaluable tool to add to your arsenal. And one position that really makes sweeps look easy is the half guard.
Sweeps from half guard are very difficult to prevent when you use them in combination. The mere fact that from the position, you can sweep an opponent in any direction introduces the crucial aspect of unpredictability to the situation, putting you firmly in control.
The basics of sweeps are the same as with every other guard:
- Ensure your opponent can’t post in the direction you’re about to sweep them to
- Take away their balance by disrupting their center of gravity (destroy their base)
- Rotate your body 180 degrees in the sweeping direction relative to your starting position.
The half guard already has an opponent in disrupted balance as a result of the immense control over their trapped leg. Moreover, you have immediate access to their arms and the other leg, thus being able to easily pick which post to take away, and in doing so, the sweeping direction.
Simple, isn’t it?
You Only Ever Need A Few Half Guard Sweeps
Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners make the mistake of trying to learn too many techniques at once. The truth is, you only ever need a few techniques to be successful. In half guard, there are many different sweeps that you can use, but you only need a few high-percentage ones to be effective.
By focusing on a few key sweeps from half guard, you can become very proficient at executing them and have a higher success rate. Moreover, picking sweeps that you can launch from the same half guard configuration and which you can combine means you don’t have to remember a bunch of needless setups, grips, and “what ifs”.
When it comes to success in BJJ, the golden rule to follow is to move less, not more, and try to achieve the most success you can with the smallest number of tools. Why bother learning 12 different sweeps when you can sweep anyone by focusing on just a few high-percentage half guard sweeps?
The 5 sweeps that follow are all easy to learn, high-percentage, and have been proven to be effective at the highest levels of competition.
5 Easy High Percentage Sweeps from Half Guard
The following 5 sweeps from half guard are examples of techniques you can do at any level, involving different sweeping directions and gripping combinations to ensure any opponent is unaware of what you’re about to do.
The Kimura sweep from half guard is one of the most effective sweeps from half guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It works off of the double trouble principle, which means you threaten the opponent with both a submission (Kimura arm lock) and a sweep, ensuring that either one (or sometimes both) will succeed as they can’t defend on both fronts.
To set up the Kimura sweep, you need the Kimura first, which you can achieve by attacking the far side arm of the opponent.
You can either capitalize on their mistake when they place the arm on the mats or grip a collar, or you can force them to plant their arm by attacking their base with your legs.
Once you have the figure four grip, a.k.a. Kimura grip, you should be looking to finish. However, the Kimura setup is pretty straightforward and most people will promptly hide their palm in between their legs or reinforce it with their free arm to prevent the submission.
This is your cue to go for a sweep. You’ll need to establish a butterfly hook with the top leg to make the sweep work, which is easily done when you hip escape slightly to make space for the top leg to hook inside.
You then use your bottom leg as a power source and launch the opponent overhead by using your butterfly hook. Basically, it is a Sumi Gaeshi type of sweep from half guard, throughout which, you constantly threaten with the Kimura.
In fact, you’ll land in a T-Kimura position after sweeping, still having the opportunity to submit immediately.
Named after Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, this sweep is predominantly done in the gi, although it works just as well in no gi.
This is one of the sweeps from half guard that work against anyone with ease, as long as you can get the off-balancing part right.
From a basic knee-shield half guard (or Z-guard), your goal is to get a cross-collar grip on the opponent’s far side arm, while getting a grip on their pants at knee level of the free leg with your bottom arm. This gives you complete control over the free side of the opponent.
To execute the sweep, simply lie on your back, extending both your arms to the sides and trying to get your knees as close as possible to your shoulders. The opponent is now off balance and you’ve taken away two posts.
In order to get on top, you want to do a backward roll and you’ll end up on top with ease.
Shovel Under Sweep
A personal favorite. This sweep works by sending the opponent to the side of the leg you have trapped in half guard. There is only one requirement – get control over their near side arm.
You can be pretty versatile and creative in gripping this arm, but a common way to control it is to get a two-on-one after the opponent grips your collar, and keep their grip in place, or strip it and push their arm to the mats in front of your chest.
The leg configuration is the knee-shield half guard. The goal is to place your feet on the ground and shovel your hips under the opponent, never opening your crossed feet throughout the motion. The moment you’re under the opponent’s center of gravity, you can pick and choose where to send them flying.
The easiest direction for this sweep from half guard is just to roll toward the side of the trapped leg.
Electric Chair Sweep
This one is the perfect redundancy sweep from the half guard. You may even call it the king of sweeps from half guard, given its incredible success rate.
The electric chair works from the lockdown position, which is only applicable if you are smashed with your shoulder blades on the ground, and the top person has gone past your knee shield. In most cases, this would be a terrible spot to be in, but if you have the electric chair up your sleeve, you’re actually the one with the advantage.
To get the half guard lockdown you want to intertwine your legs with the trapped leg even more. Namely, you want to place the foot of your outside leg over the opponent’s calf, and then reinforce it with the other leg by crossing your feet and hooking the opponent’s ankle.
The electric chair sweep has quite a free working parts, by the gist of it is that you want to underhook the free leg of the opponent, turn to the side of the trapped leg, get the hamstring of the free leg over your shoulder, and turn your chest towards the mats to complete the sweep.
One of the best sweeps from half guard is done from a very unique and powerful variation called the Coyote Half Guard.
This half gaurd works great when the top person manages to pull your head close, usually trying to get front headlock attacks going. As they do, you want ot use the top arm to grab their waist, and the bottom to go in between their legs and grab as far behind the far side leg as possible, aiming to attach your grip to that side of the hip as well.
This half guard sweep’s power is in how you use your legs. The top leg aims to reach as far as possible around the opponent’s trapped leg. Your goal is to trap the shin of their leg and pull it sideways (like a coil).
This motion already sends people falling over, but just in case they don’t just keep doing the same motion as with the shovel sweep.
Putting Together an Unbeatable Half Guard Sweeps Game
By incorporating these 5 sweeps into your game, you can create an unbeatable half guard sweeps game. The shovel and coil sweep work great in the direction of the trapped leg, the Kimura and Shaolin sweep work immensely overhead while the electric chair is your get-out-of-jail-free card.
The best part is they all work from the same knee shield half guard, and are easy to connect to one another.
As long as you can ensure your half guard structure is sound enough to prevent people from passing easily, you can apply any of the sweeps from half guard we covered, and if it does not work simply move immediately to another one, eventually even circling back if needed.
With the Kimura thrown in there, there are all sorts of damage you can do to people from the humble half guard.
The half guard position is one of the most versatile and effective positions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. By focusing on a few key sweeps from half guard, you can become very proficient at sweeping your opponent and taking the top position. The 5 sweeps that we covered in this article are all high-percentage and have been proven to be effective at the highest levels of competition. You simply can’t go wrong with them!
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.