Review: Bolo - Ultimate Half Guard

Michael 'Bolo' Jen isn't a three time mundial winner or a well established mma fighter. What he is however, is an instructor who constantly churns out some of the most intuitive and informative tapes on the market.

Bolo is a black belt under Professor Joe Morriera and has been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over 10 years, having also trained under the Gracies, Machado's and Roy Harris.

The production quality of this instructional is a vast improvement on Jen's earlier productions. With so many instructional tapes available, many covering the same positions, not only does the content have to be up to scratch but so does the production if someone wants to put out an instructional that will make people stand up and take notice.

In his half guard series, Bolo gets the camera to zoom in a number of times in order to show details of how he grips his hands or his gi of his opponent. The clarity of picture when he does this is brilliant and you wont miss a single detail.

A quick point about gi instructionals. Many instructors, whether on videos or not, do a number of things subconsciously and will fail to pass on such minute details when explaining techniques. Years of practising and honing techniques leads people to develop their own methods of countering certain types of resistance. Therefore it is essential that you not only listen to the explainations given but also make a visual note of hand, body and feet positioning. With gi instuctionals this is sometimes difficult, as often both parties wear white gis. In this set Jen wears a white gi and his assistant wears a blue one. This helps to visually aid the viewer, as it is clear to distinguish between movements made by Bolo and those of his assistant.

This is a two tape series covering the half guard and a number of different scenarios you may find yourself in. Throughout the tapes, Bolo refers to each separate position or variation of your opponents hand, leg or body position as a reference point. In total the series covers 12 separate reference points and a number of variations that come about when executing the techniques.

The first three reference points Bolo demonstrates all occur when there is distance between you opponents chest and your chest. From reference point one, Jen shows a way of retriving the guard and how to take your opponents back when they react and counter your movements. A number of times in this series, Bolo says that many people are always looking for a fancy sweep when the option of regaining their guard is always there. From reference point one he also covers an entry into the kimura. He shows the mechanics of the submission and also deals two forms of resistance you are likely to encounter when trying to obtain this submission. Throughout the series Bolo states that 'when you feel your opponent do this, then you do this' and will then go on to show how to effectively deal with the resistance. I see this as a noticeable difference to 'when your opponent does this, you do this' When dealing with the opponents counter to the kimura, Bolo shows how to link the kimura with the way of taking the back shown earlier. Nice :o)

The from the next reference point, that Bolo refers to as a sitting half guard, where Bolo rests on his elbow nearest the opponents near leg and has an underhook on the arm on the same side as the leg is trapped, he shows three techniques and how to counter the resistance you may face and how to use this to take the back.

Before going onto the third reference point, Bolo spends some time on a sweep that he says he considers an advanced sweep. He considers it advance because he feels that beginners to BJJ do not always have the necessary level of body coordination to pull the move off successfully. Bolo then shows the mechanics of the sweep without a partner. He shows a variation of the sweep where you take your opponents weight on your shin and sweep them, a very nice move :o) Also shown from this sweep is retrieval of guard. Bolo states that these moves are some of his favourites from the half guard.

From reference point three, Bolo shows how to set up the previous sweep and then spends some time covering some combinations of how you may flow between the first three reference points. Bolo makes a note of pointing out you should not try and force any reference point, instead your goal is to be able to 'flow and not just force one position or the other.'

The rest of the reference points covered on the series involve either chest to chest contact, or your opponent hugging around your body or an arm.

Four techniques are shown from the fourth reference point, after which Bolo shows how your opponents resistance links reference points two and four.

The rest of the reference points covered on the series involve either chest to chest contact, or your opponent hugging around your body or an arm.

Four techniques are shown from the fourth reference point, after which Bolo shows how your opponents resistance links reference points two and four.

The next series of moves, Bolo states are advanced. Unlike the sweep he covered before where he said it was advanced due to beginners not having enough body mechanics to pull the sweep off, he states that these moves are not common with beginners because of the method being used to attempt to pass your half guard. The moves taught from this were totally new to me and to my knowledge not commonly taught in many schools.

Two things stood out from this reference point. A nice method of taking the back was shown but most importantly Bolo introduces an important principle that makes sweeping and reversing your opponent from this position easy and then goes on to show how this works.

That was tape one. Tape two continues with chest to chest contact and reference six covering what to do when your opponent has double underhooks on you.

From the double underhooks reference point, Bolo shows how to retrieve guard and take the back. He covers how resistance from your opponent can lead you to ending up in reference point four. Covered next is an interesting method of gaining an underhook on your opponent which would essentially lead you back to reference point two. The advanced sweep shown before is also shown from this reference point.

Reference point seven covers when your opponent reaches over your head and takes a position very similar to reverse scarf hold. Bolo shows how, when this position occurs, you control your opponents trapped leg with your foot. He continually stresses the importance of doing this when attempting the reversals from this position as it can become easy for your opponent to free his leg if you do not secure it. Shown from this position is a strictly sport jiu jitsu sweep and a variation of that when faced with a common form of resistance and another entry into the advanced sweep. The next sweep Bolo shows is the hook sweep from the half guard. This sweep illustrates why Bolo put emphasis on control of the opponents leg. Bolo also shows guard retrieval if the previous sequence of moves fails to work.

Reference eight is a position I particularly like to use to pass the half guard. Bolo shows a move and states the importance of timing with this move. Wrong timing and your likely to get mounted, good time and you gain the back mount or calf crush submission. Bolo uses this move sparring on the preview for the half guard tape and finishes it with the calf crank.

The last four reference points show a number of moves I had not seen before, many of which would be easily applicable and flow well with other techniques shown throughout the series. One move I was specifically interested by was shown from reference point eleven. Bolo uses the hook sweep and his opponent bases by resting on his elbow. Bolo shows how to eliminate this posture by sweeping it out with your bicep, a very nice move. Bolo also shows how the hook sweep can lead you back to reference point four.

All in all this is a very comprehensive series covering the half guard and many of its variations. There were a number of positions and moves shown that I was particularly fond of and would link well with other stuff I have been taught or worked on from the bottom.

At the end of the series Bolo explains that each different position in the half guard has a number of moves and variations from it and many instructors simply do not cover this. Instead they will teach one, maybe two techniques and then the student becomes disillusioned with why they cannot get this move to work.

This set is extremely complimentary to the other half guard tapes on the market. For example the Jean Jacque Machado series covers a number of complex sweeps but does not cover the more fundamental techniques such as guard retrieval. The Bolo set sets a foundation within the half guard that should give the student a lot of sweeps and postitions to work with. When comfortable with working from the bottom of the half guard, I would recommend obtaining JJM's Becoming a Champion series to work on more advanced techniques

Bolo's Ultimate Half Guard tape series is available at his website priced at $60 for over 2 hours of half guard footage and is a brilliant source of imformation with regards to techniques from the half guard which should drastcially improve your game.

To be reviewed in the near future are Bolo's Ultimate Butterfly Guard series, Ultimate Pin Escapes, Joe Morriera's Island Guard passing set and a number of other tapes.


"Michael 'Bolo' Jen isn't a three time mundial winner or a well established mma fighter.Michael 'Bolo' Jen isn't a three time mundial winner or a well established mma fighter."

WHAT?!?! Then I am returning all the tapes/dvds and unlearning all sometimes-damn-near-instaneous improvements they've made in my game!!!!!!!

(great review!)

I have only seen his Ultimate Guard Passing and it struck me as one of the best instructional out there (for passing). I orderd his Ultimate Butterfly Guard for Christmas. When I get finished watching the UG3 I post a review of it, along with the UGP that I have already done.

I'll also review some other tapes by Roy Harris and the Bob Bass/Rick Williams.