Lesson 1: Escaping the mount when strikes are thrown.
In my opinion, staying safe from strikes when grappling involves a combination of two main concepts:
Range – You need to be out of striking range, either too close or too far away
Balance – You need to have your opponent off balance so they cannot strike you effectively
In the following two examples both concepts are played out.
In the Gracie Combatives they seek to prevent the opponent from getting the proper range to strike by clinching up from the bottom.
In the Henry Akins example, he disrupts the opponent’s balance.
In my mind what could work even better than both examples is to somewhat combine them. It would start off as a clinch, then lead to the elbows down/bridge position. This is still in the experimental stages but so far it’s worked pretty well. So enough babbling on my part, here are the two lessons.
So one thing that everyone will always tell you from half guard is “Get on your side”. Or they will say, “Don’t get flattened out!” But the problem is, everything that’s not supposed to happen in jiu jitsu will sooner or later. And if you don’t have a plan for those things, you will panic and force things. And then you will get tired. And then you will lose.
So keeping that bleak scenario in mind, what do you do when someone has you flattened out in half guard?
Well the good thing is that when someone is smashing you with head and arm control, it’s actually pretty hard for them to hit you effectively. I try to make sure that everything I show can easily translate to a fight so at times being underhooked helps striking defense and this is one of those times.
When there is a tight upperbody control, the hips are usually a little mobile in half guard. In these examples squeezing your knees together then tilting them in different directions allows your hip angle to change.
In my halfguard sweep when smashed example I use the knee pointing to get the far foot closer in order to trap and sweep. I originally saw this sweep done by Bear the owner of Shoyoroll. I really like this sweep and have used it gi, no gi, and in mma training. However, there is always the danger that the right leg can back step or mount if your training partner has good sensitivity.
In Stephan Kesting‘s example he uses the knee tilt to get the closer knee together. I’ve had some success using this version as well but have found that without the foot trapped, someone can post their leg out to stop the sweep. However, as Stephan shows this leads to a potential underhook which can lead to a whole bunch of sweeps.
I’m going to start using Stephan’s version as I’m really working on my half guard underhook game right now. As always I recommend experimenting and seeing what works for you!
So a lot of people do some really cool, fancy stuff from the De La Riva guard. I am not one of those people. I really appreciate the possibilities but frankly, they’re just too complicated for me and my main concern from the De La Riva position is two things:
Don’t be in a position to take shots or get leglocked. This is mainly by being out of range and putting your opponent off balance.
Sweep your opponent in a way that works gi, no-gi, and mma.
Because of this relatively specific scope of things, I started messing around with kicking out the back leg and working on a single leg. Then one day I was watching a video by legendary wrestler Cael Sanderson. He was showing a single leg, but said that since he was now getting “old and lazy” he preferred to switch it to a double leg to prevent his opponent from scrambling.
I realized that I too was already old and lazy thus this scrambling reducing idea might work for me. Once I started perfecting the shoulder punch, it made getting the back foot pretty easy. I’m sure many other people have come up with the exact same technique, this was just my personal journey on how I did it.
Pay attention to the detail of grabbing the far side ankle, not the far side thigh. I picked up this idea from Ricky Lundell, another awesome grappler and coach who was a walk on at Iowa State Wrestling despite having never wrestled in high school.
Part 2 deals with more of a grappling specific situation as I can remember anyone doing it in an mma context but it’s a pretty common reaction to prepare for.