Monday, 31 March 2014

Is The 50/50 Guard Ruining Jiu-Jitsu?

I guess the 50/50 guard is the biggest marmite move in Jiu Jitsu, you quite literally either love it or hate it. Personally, I love the 50/50 guard, I would say it's my second favourite guard behind closed guard, and a guard I feel very comfortable in.
However, it wasn't always this way. I actually started out with a deep hatred for the position due to a guy in my academy kept getting me in the position and I had no idea how to defend. I kept getting my guard passed from the position, and it was VERY frustrating. Although, one day I decided to learn the position itself and learn the key aspects of the position, and since that day I never really looked back.
Fast forward a couple of years and now it seems like everybody these days in competition is using the 50/50 guard. So why is that? Well, the position itself, if utilized correctly is very effective. Actually, I asked a similar question in an interview I did with Atos brown belt Michael Liera Jr (which can be found here). I asked him why he thought modern jiu jitsu techniques like the berimbolo and the 50/50 guard are commonly used in competition, and he replied "The berimbolo and 50/50 guard are used in competition because they are effective". And I guess that pretty much sums it up. If you are stuck in the 50/50 guard of someone who is really good at the position, they will most probably turn out to be your worst nightmare!
A lot of people in the Jiu Jitsu community are very negative about the 50/50 guard position. Many people don't like it because it's not relevant in 'street' jiu jitsu', but who is going to try and pull 50/50 guard in an actual fight? 
Also, often people consider the position as either boring or a stalling position. With that in mind I can say that sometimes two people locked up in 50/50 guard can be extremely boring to watch, and if you want to stall your way out of a match the 50/50 guard does have the potential for you to do that. But the position itself does have a lot of attacking options from it. Lots of the top athletes in our sport such as Rafael Mendes, Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles, Guilherme Mendes, Bruno Frazzato, Caio Terra, Ryan Hall, and more recently Keenan Cornelius and the Miyao brothers all use the position very effectively to either submit, pass, or transition to the back.
Quite a lot of people actually know very little about the 50/50 position itself, and the options you can get from the position. The submissions you can achieve from the position are mainly limited to leg attacks, although Keenan Cornelius has pulled off a few arm bars from the position, most notably against the Miyao brothers.
Keenan Cornelius submits Joao Miyao with a 50/50 armbar
The potential leg attacks which can be achieved from the position include:
  • Straight Foot Locks
  • Knee Bars
  • Toe Holds
  • Heel Hooks (Standard & Inverted)
Since I am only a purple belt, the only leg attack accessible to me is the straight foot lock, which happens to be one of my favourite submissions. If I'm honest I only really attack the foot lock in the 50/50 position, as for me I prefer to attack the foot from that position rather than the traditional foot lock guard position as I feel I have much greater control over my opponent. It should be said however that heel hooks are illegal under IBJJF rules, but the 50/50 guard is a perfect position to set one up, this is something which is covered extensively in Ryan Hall's DVD on the 50/50 guard.
Personally, I use the 50/50 guard to transition to the back, either by using this technique:
Or alternatively, by stepping my near side leg over my opponent putting them into a leg drag position where I have the opportunity to take their back. I find the 50/50 guard particularly useful against bigger opponents and also people who may be slightly better than me. I remember Ryan Hall saying on his DVD that the person who comes out better from the 50/50 is not the better grappler but the person who has the greater knowledge on the position itself. To an extent I think that is true, but just because I have a decent amount of knowledge on the position doesn't mean I will be beating black belts anytime soon.
The 50/50 guard has a reputation for being extremely hard to pass. Actually, if you research 50/50 guard techniques on the internet, probably 85% of them will be passes, and they range from everything from the decent to the absolute awful. It always seems to me that people just want to learn to pass the guard rather than try to learn to be offensive with it. Personally, I think that's a shame. The 50/50 guard, if yielded correctly can be a very dangerous tool to have, and there are many effective options from there.
I would recommend everyone to try the 50/50 guard, and try and see beyond the stalling side of the position. I would be interested in hearing some of your guys opinions on the 50/50 guard.
If you would like to see some effective use of the 50/50 guard, then watch the video below:
I hope you guys enjoyed this article.
Catch you later,