Deep Half Guard- A Simple Guide

What is the deep half guard?

The deep half guard is a variation on the classic half guard. In this position you will typically have one of your opponents legs trapped between your legs (classic half guard) and will also have one arm underneath the leg which allows you to hug the leg.

Once you have this position there are many options to sweep / transition to different guard positions.

Why is it effective?

Like any good sweep the deep half upsets your opponent’s base and it puts them in an unstable position. In this position they cannot comfortably put their weight down and are more susceptible to being swept. They are also limited in the amount of attacks available and any transition is tricky as they risk the chance of a scramble or being swept.

It is an excellent position to use when competing against bigger stronger opponents. Many sweeps against larger opponents fail because they require a level of strength that is often not possible for a smaller opponent. However the Deep half guard uses their own weight against them and leaves them vulnerable to a number of different sweeps.

It is a relatively high percentage sweep and many of the top BJJ players in the world have some version of it in their locker. Some players such as Jake Mackenzie and Bernardo Faria have built their entire game around it and have even used it to win world championships.

The great thing about Deep Half Guard is that it is set up from half guard. This is one of the easiest positions to get when playing from the bottom. In a scramble or open guard situation, it is often easier to capture one of your opponent’s legs than trying to lock up a closed guard or set up another type of guard.

The other reason it is effective is that once you manage to sweep your opponent from the Deep Half guard you will find yourself in strong top position. If you learn the deep half guard and combine it with a pass such as Over Under you will quickly develop an ability to go from a unfavorable position on bottom (half guard) to a very strong top position (top side control).

How do you do it?

In my opinion the Deep Half Guard sweep can be divided into 3 parts:

  1. The Entry
  2. Securing the position
  3. The Sweep

1. The Entry

This is probably the most difficult part of the sweep but if perfected you will find that the other parts of the sweep will fall into place.

In the following video at 3.15 Ryan Hall perfectly demonstrates how to shoot into the deep half. Notice how he makes the space which allows him to get deep underneath his opponents base. As you become more proficient at the technique you will need less and less room to complete this shoot and will soon be hopefully able to make the deep half entry from any half guard position.

2. Securing the position

Once you have the entry it is time to secure the position. When you shoot in you might find yourself still facing your opponent. In order to secure the position your goal should be to try and ensure that you are directly underneath your opponents center of gravity. This is done by elevating your opponents trapped leg and scooting yourself further into the space created underneath the leg.

In the final position you should be facing away from your opponent with your ear tight to their thigh and your arm should be securely hugging the leg. The picture of Jeff Glover below perfectly shows a secured deep half position. Notice how the opponents base is elevated and that Jeff has secured the leg with his own leg and the arm.

3. The sweep

Now that you have the position secured it is time to sweep your opponent and gain the top positon. The most simple sweep from this position is done by bumping your opponent back so that their ass is on the mat while at the same time turning onto your knees and coming up into the top position.

Once you have secured the Deep Half position, there are many sweep variations that you can do. See some of the examples in the video of Jake Macenzie below:


Deep half guard counters

Like any position in BJJ there is always counter options. With the Deep half guard the 3 most commons counters are as follows:

  1. Attack the opponents non hugging arm with a Kimura

This is definitely the most common defense that I have seen to the deep half guard. This is done by attacking the arm that is no hugging the trapped leg. Even if the player on bottom completes the sweep you can continue to attack the kimura from bottom.

  1. Sit to side and stall and wait for sweeper to move

This is also quite common and is generally done by experienced players with an understanding of the position. They simply place their weight on the ground without conceding the sweep. It can be very frustrating for both parties and results in a bit of a stalemate unless the sweeper can transition to another position to continue attacking a sweep.

  1. Press down on head and pass over to other side

This is Marcelo Garcia’s favorite counter to the DHG sweep. You can clearly see around the 1 minute mark in the following video how he presses down on the head to pass to the far side before freeing the trapped leg.

Other resources

When looking at technique videos you need to be careful that the technique being demonstrated is being done by an expert. The people listed below are all experienced competitors and teachers and they are also some of the best known practitioners of the deep half. They all have DVD products on the sweep but there is a also a large amount of videos of them competing and using the technique that are free to watch on YouTube.

Ryan Hall is a master  grappling technician and his level of detail is one of the reasons he has excelled in BJJ and now MMA. He gives some excellent details in his deep half guard DVD that I have incorporated into my own game successfully. The most impressive thing about his deep half is how he links it with other positions and attacks.

Jeff Glover– Although primarily known for his donkey guard and whacky grappling style, Jeff Glover is an extremely skilled Deep half player and uses it regularly when competing.

In this DVD Jeff includes some competition footage of him successfully using the Deep Half guard.

Jake Mackenzie- I have attended a couple of seminars that Jake has done and I can confirm he is really is a master of this position. There are many excellent videos out there of Jake demonstrating the deep half and the DVD listed below is one of the best resources available on the position.

The Deep half guard in action

In terms of competition Bernardo Faria is probably most successful practitioner of the Deep Half Guard. He has pulled half guard in nearly every match I’ve seen and uses a lapel grip from the deep half position to come up and finish a single leg take down on his opponent. He also uses the conventional deep half sweep but the lapel single leg is his preferred technique.

In 2015 he used this sweep to win double gold at the 2015 IBJJF World Championships. Check out the video of his win over João Gabriel Rocha in the final of their division.