(Originally posted February 27, 2021)
Back when I started training Jiu Jitsu in the late 1990's and early 2000's, everybody was playing closed guard. I was no exception. Most gyms (like many today) started on their knees, and since I wasn't a wrestler I'd just pull guard from the get go.
It didn't take long before people got really good at stuffing that guard pull. Then any time I tried to pull guard, I'd end up in bottom side control. Which really sucked because I wasn't very good at escaping side control yet.
While I couldn't pull guard anymore because people were too good at stopping it, I found I was able to pull half guard pretty easily. People didn't view half guard as an offensive position yet back then, at least not at our gym. It was also easy to get to from bad positions like bottom mount and side control.
At first all I could do with my half guard was stop the guard pass. But eventually (with the help of some books and instructional DVDs) I was able to off-balance my opponents, and even sweep once in awhile. While everyone else was playing closed guard, I was racking up hours spent in bottom half guard.
I got pretty good at half guard over the years. Eventually half guard became my go to guard, and a dangerous guard at that. It's a guard that is easy to pull, easy to recover, and easy to maintain
Then this deep half guard thing started becoming popular. I did some research on it and even picked up some DVDs on the subject, but nothing really clicked.
Then I discovered Bernardo Faria's Battle Tested Half Guard instructional on BJJ Fanatics. My wife Robin got it for me some years back. It really is my favorite half guard instructional of all time.
Let me start by saying what it is not. The Battle Tested Half Guard is not an exhaustive encyclopedia on all things half guard. Bernardo makes this clear up front. He's a big fan of specialization. The idea that you don't need to know every possible technique from every possible position. You just need to know a few techniques from any position you might find yourself in.
That's where this set really shines. Lots of folks these days film a collection of unrelated techniques, and slap a label on it with words like "system" or "blueprint" because they know it'll get people to buy it. Bernardo doesn't do that.
You can't tell from the title, but this is Bernardo Faria's complete half guard system. And it's a complete system that you can use. Work through the modules. Memorize the techniques. Practice them on a partner. And you will have a fully functional guard that will give the toughest opponents all kinds of wonderful problems.
He doesn't give you every technique ever invented for half guard. But rather gives you a handful of techniques from a handful of half guard positions that all work together like a well oiled machine. He essentially answers every possible what-if-my-opponent-does-this type question within the system.
I love instructional products like this because provided you take the time to memorize and practice the moves, you can snap an entire system onto your existing game in a relatively short period of time.
I watched the DVDs over a weekend and was able to implement the system on Monday. Was I perfect? No. But I was able to sweep most people. And the ones who gave me a harder time? I was able to go back to the DVDs that night and find answers to the problems they were giving me. The next day I was able to sweep the more difficult guys too.
The crux of Bernardo's system revolves around deep half guard and what he calls single leg half guard. He shows you how to get there, what to do from each one of those positions, and how to go back and forth between the two. He shows you what your opponents are going to try to do to beat your half guard, and how to counter each one of those techniques.
He also has an entire volume full of him sparring from the half guard position. It's narrated by the man himself. So not only do you get to see all of the techniques in action, but you get a glimpse into his thought process. It's also interesting to note that he uses no techniques during the sparring matches that aren't covered in the earlier volumes. It really is everything you need to be successful from half guard.
Once you've digested Bernardo's instruction, it's like you're a mind reader. You know what your opponent is going to try before he tries it. And when he does, you know exactly how to counter it. If you're a blue belt, and you internalize this stuff, you won't make you a black belt in BJJ. But it will make you a feel like a black belt when someone is in your half guard.
Another thing I like about Bernardo's style is you don't have to move like a Marcelo Garcia or anything to pull it off. Bernardo says his style is really good for older guys and I agree. You can be really clunky with it, and it just works. You really don't have to be fast, or strong, or graceful. It's just really simple Jiu-Jitsu that works really well.
If you've ever been interested in developing a half guard game and didn't know where to look, do yourself a favor. Head on over to BJJ Fanatics and pick up The Battle Tested Half Guard by Bernardo Faria today. It just might make the half guard your new favorite position!
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