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Half Guard: Basic Offensive Concepts and Back Take


The BJJ half guard is an incredibly technical and offensive position that offers many sweeps and submissions against top-level opponents. Being a master half guard player requires knowledge of distance management, dynamic control, and offensive options.

In his “Half Guard Mastery” series, black belt world champion Felipe Costa breaks down his half guard system.

Felipe includes details on both the conceptual and technical level, beginning with the overarching concepts and proper way to behave when you are playing half guard.

The following article briefly breaks down Costa’s basic offensive half guard setup and goes over the back take from this position.

This is a brief glimpse into the detailed breakdown of Costa’s world-renowned half guard system and a sneak peek into the JiuJitsu.com Half Guard Mastery series.

Establishing an offensive half guard

Starting from the closed guard position, begin with light grips on both wrist sleeves. The goal is to establish initial control, however Costa cautions not to over-grip, as this will cause your opponent to react strongly to break the grip, which is not the goal of this setup.

Once you have your light sleeve grips, you will open your guard and hip out to the left ending up on your right hip. From there, slide your left shin into your opponent’s right armpit to establish a strong knee shield. Weave your right foot onto your opponent’s left hip to establish the guard.

Since the goal is offense, you bait your opponent by allowing them to pass your right leg between his legs. In this scenario, you must not allow your opponent’s left knee into your right hip.

You will utilize your right knee as a shield against your opponent’s left leg or knee. You left arm establishes a strong frame against your opponent’s neck with your left elbow anchored to your left knee.

With this framed position, you can now begin ‘behaving’ properly in half guard. The basic concept is to control your opponent’s ability to smash you as well as their ability to back out of your half guard setup.

To accomplish this, you need to adjust your behavior based on their movement.

If your opponent tries to smash you, frame against their right shoulder with your left elbow anchored to your left knee and your left forearm framing against your opponent’s neck. If they try to cross face you, frame against their left elbow to prevent the hug.

If your opponent tries to back out, control behind their triceps or grab a sleeve grip with your left hand to prevent the pull out. 

If your opponent tries to smash your knee shield, use your left elbow against the inside of your left knee to prevent the smash.


Establishing an offensive half guard:

  1. From full guard, take a light sleeve grip on both your opponent’s arms near the wrist
  2. Hip escape to the left – you will now by on your right hip
  3. Slide your left shin up your opponent’s torso and establish a shin-on-arm frame on your opponent’s right arm near the armpit
  4. Pull your right leg in and place your right foot on your opponent’s left hip
  5. Bait your opponent by allowing them to pass your right shin between their legs – maintain a frame with your right knee and do not allow your opponent to bring their left knee into your right hip
  6. If your opponent tries to smash you, frame on their right shoulder with your hands to prevent their forward pressure
  7. If your opponent tries to back out, control behind the triceps or sleeves to prevent them from pulling away
  8. If your opponent tries to smash your knee shield, frame your left elbow inside your left knee to prevent the smash.

Knee shove escape to back control

Once you have established your offensive half guard position, it is time to launch your attack. The first attack you will learn in Costa’s half guard system is the back-take off your opponent’s knee-shove pass.

As your opponent pressures into you for the pass, extend your left leg and dive your left arm for a low underhook across your opponent’s lower back. Ensure you maintain your right hand framed against your opponent’s left arm to prevent the cross face until you are ready to move.

As you dive for the underhook, tuck your head towards your opponent’s left knee to ‘hide’ it from the cross-facing arm.

At this point you should be completely on your right side, curled deep into your opponent with your left arm underhook across your opponent’s back near the tailbone and your left hand anchored on their right hip.

You will now switch your leg entanglement and bring your left leg over your opponent’s right calf and stomp your foot between your opponent’s legs.

You now use your left leg to torque your opponent’s right shin and knee outward, which relieves enough pressure and gives you the space to pull your right leg completely free.

You will now be completely outside your opponent’s body with your left leg still anchored between their legs and your left underhook established.

From there, you take your opponent’s back as they are turtled up.


Taking the back from half guard

  1. Extend your left leg straight and dive your left arm for a low underhook
  2. As you get the underhook, tuck your head into your opponent to prevent cross facing
  3. Place your left foot between your opponent’s legs
  4. Torque your opponent’s right leg outward and slide your own right leg out to come to your knees
  5. Continue to take the back as your opponent turtles up.

The bottom line: offensive half guard to back take

Costa’s details on setting up an offensive half guard, proper half guard behavior, and half guard attacks are second-to-none. This sneak peek into his system gives you a glimpse of how effective his system is in dealing with the normal range of responses you will likely see from an opponent when you attack from half guard.

For full access to all the attacks and the system that makes these moves work together to create an unstoppable half guard system, pick up Felipe Costa’s Half Guard Mastery Today! 

Be prepared to astonish your training partners and opponents with your technical and unstoppable offensive half guard!

Jordan Fernandez

Jordan Fernandez 

Jordan is a 10th Planet Purple Belt, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and personal trainer. When not on the mats or at the gym, he writes about all things BJJ and fitness and aggressively stretches and foam rolls on the living room floor.

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