Butterfly Half Guard

Updated on July 8, 2017
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Andrew Smith is a 3rd degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs the BJJ Tutorial Encyclopedia here.

Butterfly Half Guard

Butterfly half guard is the close range guard from which I'm most comfortable. Because of my inability to get underhooks against every opponent from a traditional half guard position, I was forced to start developing a game that didn't necessarily require having them, and so my butterfly half guard journey began in earnest about 15 years ago. What follows are three high percentage moves I have used consistently (and still use today) for the majority of my jiu jitsu career.

Starting in Butterfly Half, and the Heel Hook

Leg attacks are a must-have from any type of open guard position, especially a close-range guard like butterfly or butterfly half. Start with your left foot hooking your partner's inside right thigh, while your right leg is curling inward toward your butt, helping to facilitate keeping their right leg trapped (and, incidentally, keeping their right knee on the ground for the time being). Most people understand the butterfly hook intuitively, or at least after some time working with butterfly guard, but few really grasp the importance of the half guard hook here. Once you've stabilized the butterfly half guard position, use both hands in your partner's armpits, along with a nice knee nudge to their butt, in order to move them over to your left (their right), getting further underneath your partner. Next, bring your right foot all the way across your partner's waist (yes, this is a knee reap; if heel hooks are legal, knee reaps generally are as well, so you might as well take full advantage here). The general concept from here is to get to the over/under leg position.

The Entry, and a Sweep

Start with your partner smashing you from the top of half guard, giving them both the underhook (under your right arm) and the crossface (with them smashing your face with their left shoulder). Reach up with your left arm and grab your partner's armpit with your left hand, and use this to leverage their face away from your left side (use your shoulder here). Meanwhile, use the opportunity that they're crossfacing you to slide your right elbow in between your partner's hips and you, and use this leverage point to hip out to the side. This will facilitate getting the butterfly hook in. You want the butterfly hook to be higher up on your partner's leg than your half guard hook, or else the hooks will end up fighting against one another. Now you can safely take an overhook with your left arm, and then look to control your partner's left wrist with your right hand. Grab your own right hand with your left hand, and use this phenomenal grip to crank your partner over while using the butterfly hook to elevate them (remember, this is all about using your shin like a jack under a car, not trying to utilize leg strength to get the lift).

The Triangle

From the previous position (established butterfly half guard with the overhook and wrist control combo), go for the same sweep. When your partner leans back in toward you to prevent the sweep, this is an excellent opportunity to shoot the triangle. Retract your left leg first, or else your partner will pin it and then be able to pass your guard. Follow this by pulling your right foot free, and jump for the triangle. This setup works best (by far) when used in combination with the threat of the sweep; it's very difficult to prevent both moves at the same time once the grip has been established. If you can lock the triangle while you still have the overhook, that's ideal, but not strictly necessary to finish the triangle.

Leglock or Triangle?

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Butterfly guard was a staple of sport BJJ and judo competition long before I became involved with both sports (1997). Because of this, and because I was fortunate enough to be exposed to some very good, technical butterfly guard stuff at an early stage. From there, it was a natural fit to discover butterfly half guard, particularly since entering into a proper butterfly guard can be challenging, and further because passing butterfly guard involves several well known systems (many of which I've taught over the years!). As always, please let me know how these techniques are working out for you.


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    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 7 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks! It's definitely go-to material for me.

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      Fullblast 7 months ago

      Excellent material!