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Can’t Pass?  Go for a Knee Bar

Can’t Pass? Go for a Knee Bar


The minds of the Jiu Jitsu greats work in ways that mine doesn’t yet approach. 

My mind has trouble assembling breakfast in the morning. Meanwhile, Gordon Ryan is turning a problem into a victory.

In the video below, Ryan demonstrates how to turn a failed over/under guard pass into a submission via knee bar.

(I hope to one day get to the point where I can see all of the opportunities in front of me, but until then, I’m going to have to just follow Ryan’s lessons.)

Ryan begins in the over/under position and has captured his partner’s leg, but his partner prevents him from passing successfully by hooking down hard and preventing Ryan from getting his leg around hers.

For you or me, this would likely be a problem.  For Ryan, it’s an opportunity. He simply forgets about passing guard and goes for the submission that his partner has made available.

Ryan begins his knee bar by locking his legs together in a figure four.

From this point, Ryan has his partner’s leg trapped.  Keeping the figure four lock, he then walks his knees downward toward his opponent’s feet.  Ryan’s goal is to situate his partner’s knee against his outer (in this case, left) hip while his calves are near her ankle.

To apply pressure and get the knee bar submission, Ryan splays his knees outward (still maintaining that figure four lock!) while lowering his hips.  This puts the weight of his body against his partner’s knee.

At this point, Ryan explains that his partner has only two options: she can tap to the knee bar or she can defend by turning her knee.

However, if she turns her knee to prevent the submission, she immediately makes it easier for Ryan to complete the guard pass that she was preventing earlier.

Now that Ryan’s leg is free from his partner’s hook, he can slide his left leg up and push her leg away with his left knee.

After pushing his partner’s leg away with his left knee, Ryan can transition to his right knee and continue pushing his partner’s leg out of the way.

From this position, he has passed both legs and he can go about establishing side control as he chooses.

Ryan next discusses a third scenario.  If his partner locks her legs together (as in the image below), Ryan can neither complete the over/under pass nor get the knee bar submission.  However, he can pass over the top.

To pass over the top, Ryan releases the under-leg hold on his partner’s leg (note the new position of his arm in the image below) and moves himself to the point where he is directly over his partner.  

From here, he has several options for passing or attacking, including opening up his partner’s arms with inside biceps ties, sitting through and attacking kimuras, or sitting through and using scoop grips to pass.  

For Ryan’s complete discussion of all these options, see the BJJ Fanatics video below:


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