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Half Guard Sweeps - "Old School" - a BJJ Tutorial

Updated on April 16, 2017
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Andrew Smith is a 2nd degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs the BJJ Tutorial Encyclopedia here.

Half guard training

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Why half guard?

Half guard is likely the single type of guard you're going to spend the most time in at white and blue belt, and as you advance through the ranks, it remains an incredibly accessible and useful guard. The sweep sequence contained herein has been tested by the instructors at Revolution BJJ, myself included, numerous times over the years, especially the "old school" sweep itself.

For a few of the basic half guard bottom concepts, check out this tutorial. Once you have mastered the basics, this is a very good place to head to next. For more advanced concepts of deep half guard, this tutorial is what you're looking for.

Old school sweep #1

Here's a great place to begin: the classic "old school" sweep (coined by Eddie Bravo, as taught by Jean Jacques Machado and many others over the years). Remember: the concepts of fundamental half guard bottom posture are always the goals first, but sometimes your opponent has a difference in opinion as to where your arms should be. As a result, the person on top isn't allowing you to have a proper (deep) underhook. In this video, you're taking your underhooking (left) arm and grabbing the belt at first, but keeping your shoulder high, which is an excellent alternative posture. Next up, bump your opponent forward by planting your outside (left) foot on the mat, forcing them to come forward. This will allow you to hook your right arm underneath their shin, thus blocking them from basing out during the following sweep.

Next up, switch your "inside hook" (as described in the basic tutorial) for your outside hook, never losing control of the trapped leg. Once your outside leg is in there, you can "windshield wiper" your opponent's right leg, forcing their base to rock back and to the side. You can use their momentum to come up on top, and your pass will be really easy from here.

Opposide direction old school sweep

Old school "opposite direction" sweep

Sometimes, your opponent really works hard to shut down the "old school" sweep, really doing a great job of basing out forward. As usual, jiu jitsu provides a great, simple solution to this. Start by considering where your opponent's base is off: it is no longer to the rear corner, as before, but rather forward and to the side. If you can entangle his trapped right leg with your feet, thus torquing the knee and putting outward pressure on the ankle with your foot, you can easily off-balance your partner. A word of caution: use this technique with care, and don't use any sort of jerking motion when executing the sweep.

MOAR half guard!

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Quick second look at the old school opposite direction sweep

Another opposite direction sweep - "dirty" version

Here's a second approach. In the video, you can really see the legwork and the potential torque of the knee of your partner, even more dramatic in the previous technique. Be sure to understand the inherent danger of the position when practicing this with your training partners, especially if you hit this during rolling for the first time on someone. Do not jerk your hips to the side underneath them in order to facilitate the sweep; instead, use a slow, steady approach to the finish.

Just like before, you need to have your hips underneath your opponent when executing the sweep, utilizing a "reverse shrimp" motion to position yourself to come up on top.

Sweeping with the overhook and lockdown

Sweeping from half guard without the underhook is a very risky endeavor unless you have a few tricks. One such "backup plan" is the lockdown, where you trap your opponent's leg with your legs in a manner making it virtually impossible for them to simply base out or pull their trapped leg free. In this case, Trey first sets up the lockdown in response to his partner's dominant underhook position. From here, he is able to first stretch out the leg, then turn it to his partner's right, before switching his feet to facilitate basing on the mat with his now free (right) foot. This can be a pretty big surprise when you hit it. Here's How to Use Overhooks in Butterfly Guard, a related topic.

Half guard or closed guard?

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Versatility

Half guard bottom is one of the most versatile positions you'll find in BJJ. Not only can you execute a wide variety of sweeps and submissions, but 90% of the movements work just as well in both gi and no-gi. Your opponent will often work to force you to play half guard and you won't have a choice at first, but over time, you may develop a strong love for the position, especially as your understanding increases over time. Be sure to check out some of our more advanced half guard tutorials as well, including kneebars from the bottom and advanced passing from the top.

About the author
Andrew Smith teaches gi and no-gi seminars across the country. Check out his schedule of upcoming seminars and bio here. If you're interested in booking Andrew for a seminar, email him here.

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