Learn the 50-50 Guard

By on May 29, 2013

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I remember when I first started getting into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there was no “50-50 guard.” In fact, outside of a very small circle, there was no term “50-50.” Now thanks to innovators like Ryan Hall, Caio Terra, Rafael Mendes, and countless others, the “50-50 Guard” is one of the most popular sweeping postions in BJJ, and one of the most controversial.

Love it or hate it, the 50-50 is a position is now a big enough part of BJJ where you’ve either got to learn how to use it, to defend it, or to counter it – you can’t ignore it. Below, I’ll go into some interesting techniques from the 50-50 guard, in addition to showing a few videos from around the web that I think are particularly useful for understanding the position itself.

50-50 Offense and Defense Concepts

50-50 Guard Position.

50-50 Guard Position.

In this video I cover the concept of taking initiative in the 50-50 guard. The nature of the position makes it so that your legs and your opponent’s legs are both vulnerable in this position. With that being in the case, the best defense (especially in no-gi where the heel hook is potentially legal) is a good offense. If you set up the 50-50, either be sweeping and getting out, or be submitting right away.

The last time I interviewed Rafael Lovato Jr (one of the only American BJJ World Champions at the Black Belt level), he mentioned how some athletes use the position well, but others tend to cling to the position just to maintain an advantage or win on points. I’m not saying that staying in the position is per-say “wrong,” but my philosophy from this position is to take initiative and dictate where the fight is going.

“If your arms are wrapped around their legs to attack, and their arms are wrapped around your arms to try to defend, then they CAN’T attack, and eventually it’s your submission, not theirs.”

50-50 Sweep Option from the De La Riva Guard

Above is my most reliable and consistent sweep from the de la riva guard, which ends up putting me directly in line for the 50-50 guard. Often times – from what I’ve seen – the 50-50 is seen as the kind of position that you sort of “find yourself” in. Positions like deep half guard, x-guard, and de la riva guard all end up placing you in potentially tangled positions where the 50-50 presents itself. Since the 50-50 is a leg lock orientation, since it significantly weakens the top man’s base, and since in is stationary and involves submission opportunities, it is often a smart tactical choice for the bottom player to go for.

The entry that I show above is one of dozens of entries off of just the de la riva alone. In my opinion, if you’re going to take the 50-50 seriously as a position, it makes sense to find where it “falls into” your game rather than building some kind of a new strategy just to implement it. The above sweep was a good example of this in my own game (this is the guy I pay homage to for my sweep game).

50-50 Highlight – Jiu Jitsu Lab

Jiu Jitsu Lab created this awesome highlight. This can serve as a good “buffet” of techniques from the 50-50 guard itself. I can’t go into all of it, but here are some parts of this clip that I learned a LOT from myself:

4:00 – Ryan Hall gets a slick inverted 50-50 setup (what he’s known for) and turns it into a sweep by passing his leg to the outside and stomping out. He teaches this same technique in his DVD set.

4:17 – JT Torres finds himself in the 50-50 which ends up turning into a gnarly single leg takedown and results in him being driven out of bounds (I like this “wrestler-style” take on the 50-50). Cobrinha does a similar transition against Rafael Mendes at about 6:15 of this same video.

6:29 – Rafael Mendes hugs Cobrinha’s far leg and kicks forward for a very interesting transition which Cobrinha aims to counter right away with a roll-through.

The more you dig into that video that more you get out of it.

Rafael Mendes vs. Cobrinha 2009 ADCC – Some Great Fifty Fifty Action

This is the match of matches when it comes to the 50-50 guard, and in my mind it’s what put inverted guard and the 50-50 in general “on the map.” Not to say Rafa and Cobrinha invented the positions, but this match surely shows that they are the modern artists of this game. This was the video that inspired my entire sweep game to change about three years ago.

Related Articles on the 50-50 Guard / 50-50 Guard Experts

The Infamous “50-50 in the UFC” Post

50-50 Guard Leg Locks

Offense and Defense in Depth from the Fifty

My Free 50-50 Guard Mini-Course (Setups and Subs)

The 50-50 guard is one of the positions that I’ve had the most success with in competition, and it’s one of the positions I get asked about most often (probably because it’s on everyone’s mind now). I have a full 50-50 guard course online, but right now I’m also offering a Free course called
“50-50 Bonus Footage” which goes into all of my BEST 50-50 setups, as well as keys to making sure you get the finish once you get there. The course was filmed on one of my students’ phones, and after class he decided it would probably be a cool bonus to give to people interested in the 50-50 itself.

To grab the “50-50 Bonus Footage” course simply click here or the banner below this post. If you have any questions at all, always feel free to be in touch via email – and I hope you had fun reading this. Keep evolving, keep studying, and keep training hard.

All the best,

-Daniel Faggella

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About Daniel Faggella

I'm 130 pounds, absolute medalist, Brown Belt No Gi Pan Am champion, and total fanatic about lightweight BJJ technique and strategy. I've written for Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and others.

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  1. Pingback: Get Comfortable In The 50/50 Guard With Drilling Concepts! | BJJ.ORG

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