24 May 2019

Review: Half Guard Mastery by Oli Geddes

Following the success of his Footlock Mastery tutorial set, British black belt Oli Geddes presents his second official release: half guard mastery. Oli’s tournament game has focused almost exclusively on the half guard (and more specifically, the underhook half guard) so this set brings together 13 years of competitive experience in using this position. Half guard mastery is offered as a complete system that teaches position, submissions, sweeps, counters, re-guards and less common variations. It contains techniques suitable for beginners and advanced students alike.

Available as a digital download only at: https://halfguardmastery.com
Price: £29.99
(Photo of the DVD box above is only for marketing purposes)

Disclosures I have known Oli personally for over 10 years. He asked me to review an advance copy of this tutorial. I am not paid nor have any business-related dealings with this product or with Oli. The views expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Oli Geddes is a second degree black belt under Roger Gracie. I have known Oli since around 2005 when he was studying at Imperial College (where I was teaching traditional jujitsu). Oli is one of the most prolific competitors from the UK and has competed at tournaments all over the world. In the vast majority of his matches he deploys the half guard.

Below you can see one video of Oli in action - he pulls half guard, acquires the underhook, isolates a leg and executes the dogbar.

Chapter Listing
00:00 Titles
00:12 Introduction
00:32 Defensive Structure - Knee Shield
02:24 Defensive Structure - Shoulder Control
04:38 Underhook Half Guard - Establishing the Underhook
06:34 Underhook Half Guard - Establishing the Knee Twist
08:17 Underhook Half Guard - Establishing the Pants Grip
09:33 Underhook Half Guard - Turning to Knees Sweep
11:25 Underhook Half Guard - Rollback Sweep
13:36 Underhook Half Guard - Defending the Knee Slice
17:10 Passing Following the Underhook Sweep
21:07 Underhook Half Guard - Combination Sweeps
23:03 Defending Flat Half - The Head Clinch
24:20 Defending Flat Half - The Lockdown
25:38 Defending Flat Half - Lockdown to Underhook
28:11 Defending Flat Half - Half-Butterfly to Underhook
30:05 Establishing Overhook Half - From Flat Half
32:44 Establishing Overhook Half - From Half-Butterfly
33:44 Establishing Overhook Half - From Knee Shield
35:55 Establishing Overhook Half - Countering the Leg Weave
38:44 Overhook Half - Stretch Through Omoplata
42:50 Omoplata Finish
45:47 Omoplata to Triangle
47:27 Establishing the Half-Octopus Guard
51:14 Half Octopus Guard - Hip Bump Sweep
52:59 Half Octopus Guard - Back Take
56:21 Half Octopus Guard - Leg Lace
58:47 Half Octopus Guard - Cross Face Counter
1:00:58 Kimura Attacks - Basic Finish
1:06:36 Kimura Attacks - Kimura to Straight Armbar
1:09:35 Kimura Attacks - Leg Curl Finish
1:12:05 Kimura Attacks - Leg Lace Finish
1:14:13 Kimura Attacks - The Roger Sweep
1:18:34.Establishing the Dogbar Position - From Underhook Half
1:21:27 The Dogbar - Sweep to Top Position Finish
1:23:23 Reverse Half Guard - Defending the Step Over
1:26:07 Reverse Half Guard - Butterfly Sweep
1:30:07 Reverse Half Guard - Octopus Guard Back Take
1:32:09 Loop Choke - From Knee Shield
1:36:10 Defending the Over / Under
1:38:05 Defending the Over / Under - The Bundle Sweep
1:40:40 Establishing Overhook Half - From Over / Under
1:42:06 Escapes to Half Guard - Leg Trap from Mount
1:45:30 Escapes to Half Guard - Technical Mount Recounter
1:47:52 Escapes to Half Guard - Pants Grip Replacement from Side Control
1:50:28 Escapes to Half Guard - Single Leg Escape from Side Control
1:53:22 Escapes to Half Guard - Back Mount Slide Escape
1:56:28 Credits

Oli's set starts off with all the basics that you need to know on how to use the half guard correctly. It then moves onto basic sweeps and continues to advance on these techniques as the set progresses.

There's no need to watch the chapters in chronological order. I personally dipped in and out of chapters depending on whatever move I wanted to practice that week. But I think for beginners or white belts still trying to find their way through half guard, chapters 1-15 are required viewing. In fact, I highly recommend spending a lot of time digesting the flattened half guard section - most people still newish to half guard find they will get squashed and flattened by the top person, so knowing how to deal with this is essential.

Flattened bottom half guard - the bane of every half guard player's life. Oli dedicates 4 chapters on dealing with this annoying situation.

For more experienced grapplers, Oli's set offers more than enough content to keep us happy. The half octopus guard is a position that's useful to know when top player denies you the underhook and switches base. From the half octopus you can sweep or access back control and several other possibilities. Most important is the ability to maintain a rigid structure that stops the top person from flattening you and taking control.

I took a particular interest in Oli's kimura section. I like using the kimura grip as a hold and lock but usually only when I'm on top. From bottom half guard however the basic kimura attack is prone to the opponent denying the finish by hiding his arm or holding onto his belt. It subsequently becomes a battle of strength in fishing out the arm to finish the kimura. Oli answers this problem straight away with some excellent tips.

Half guard isn't one of the show-off positions in jiu-jitsu. It's a position where the bottom player usually has to endure a fair degree of heavy top pressure from their opponents. The confined nature of the guard also means there aren't too many highlight reel moments but the dogbar and the loop choke are both excellent show-off submissions you can use.

Referring to Oli's tournament clip above you can see how he sets up the dogbar from underhook half guard but his opponent rolls so Oli finishes from the top. Oli reckons he finds the dogbar the easiest way to get a kneebar. The beauty of the attack is that you can apply it from the bottom or the top if he rolls you over.

In the final segment Oli demonstrates escapes from various positions that lead towards the half guard. Stuck under mount? No problem step over hip escape to half guard. Stuck under side control? Let's get to half guard and take it from there...etc. Again, I found these sections very useful as I like to practice my escapes and in many cases, the half guard is the most immediate position of safety I can get to.

Production notes
Oli explains every technique with brevity and clarity. He repeats the technique up to three times and there are brief cut aways in viewing angle for parts that are unseen from the main viewpoint. Lighting and sound are good. It's a basic production set but more than adequate for learning tech. My only minor gripe is that it’s all filmed a little too close to the participants plus the alternative angle viewpoints are flashed up a little too quickly.

My pre-release copy was sent as one long continuous video which made chapter by chapter dissection a little awkward. I prefer the online Digitsu format where I can go straight to a single chapter alone, or play all - it's fiddly having to forward wind and rewind.

I don't think the retail version of this set will come in app form, unlikely given how costly and laborious it is to create a BJJ app - however it's worth again mentioning just how incredible the Keenan Cornelius Lapel Encyclopedia app is. In my opinion his app sets an incredibly high bar for online BJJ instructional learning. I need something portable and easy to navigate when I'm travelling to work.

Discussion and Conclusion
There’s no getting away from half guard. In my opinion it is a fundamental position every student must study and utilize. Even if you prefer to play top game, the half guard will be something you find yourself falling into. Oli’s half guard mastery set offers something for novice and experienced players alike. The opening chapters on position, set-up and sweeps is ideal for the newer student. The set will prove invaluable as the student advances in ability and becomes more comfortable using the half guard, especially the underhook half guard.

At two hours long this is Oli's longest instructional. It focuses entirely on Oli's number one tournament gameplan and is the culmination of 13 years of competitive experience. It covers a heck of a lot of ground and provides a thorough system for attack, defence and recovery. That being said there's no deep half guard for example, or any mention of how to pull half guard (which you see Oli do often in his tournament footage). There's more emphasis on the underhook half guard than there is longer range knee shield half guard techs (I prefer playing the latter). But there's more than enough here to keep everyone happy and is guaranteed to help us all achieve a better more successful half guard game.


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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