The Many Guards of Jiu Jitsu: 50/50: Innovation or two idiots on a seesaw?

Photo/Youtube: Stephan Kesting

Perhaps one of the most controversial guards out there, the 50/50 has been described by Xande Ribeiro as looking like “2 idiots on a seesaw,” but the proponents of it have used it to win high level competition ever since its popularization began within the past decade. What is the 50/50? What are its strengths? Why is it mocked by some of the best in the sport?

I’m not going to explore the history of 50/50, I’m sure that some Judoka or catch wrestler in the late 19th century found that if you get into a certain type of scramble you wind up in this weird position with the legs laced up together… Let’s look at the actual function of the position, what it can accomplish at a high level.

For starters, the 50/50 is a position of neutrality as its name suggests, however if one person knows a trick or move that the other doesn’t or is simply more aggressive it can become a great entry into various sweeps and submissions. I’m personally a huge fan of the arm bar from 50/50 as well as the heel hook (when allowed.) And yes, you can heel hook from there without ever reaping the knee.

The 50/50 becomes tedious when one of the competitors decides to stop trying. In order for the position to have any real effect, both people have to be moving. If one person tries to anchor themselves down and stall, it can become a very difficult and annoying match, definitely not spectator friendly.

50/50 has many innate inadequacies. For starters, in a heel hook game the person who initiates the 50/50 can be very exposed. Also in a street fight 50/50 would limit a person’s movement so if you are only training for “the streets” then 50/50 may not be your best bet, given that when you lock in 50/50 you can be quite exposed which isn’t always smart.

I can criticize the position all day, but the reality is that with correct training, 50/50 is a formidable weapon. If you learn to shift your hips over the other person’s to create a counterweight, you can sweep guys very quickly and easily. Also it transitions really nicely to other guards. I mean seriously check out some of Ryan Hall’s material on 50/50 and tell me it’s not sweet.

As long as the person who initiates 50/50 has a set plan in mind and is aggressive the position can be a very good choice. However, if both competitors dig in and refuse to act it can be extremely boring to watch.

What are your experiences with 50/50? Do you use it? Or do you like many others shun it? If you favor 50/50 learn to be aggressive with it. No one wants to see two idiots on a seesaw.

50/50 Pass


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