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Finally, Open and Pass the Closed Guard with Travis Stevens

Finally, Open and Pass the Closed Guard with Travis Stevens


There’s no shortage of troubles that we experience while trying to pass the closed guard.

When we’re on top and the action funnels us into the closed guard, there seems to be an immediate halt to activity. Once the bottom player begins trying to break your posture and control your hips, it just becomes an awful place to be.

We are definitely limited when it comes to options here, and if your opponent is proficient in the position, it can definitely be a spot where we can become very run down and defeated.

Travis Stevens has simple concepts that he applies to his throws, take downs and guard passing. His approach is simple, and makes him one of the best grapplers ever.


I’ve learned countless ways to break the close guard. Putting your knee under your partner's butt, twisting the bottom person body to tray and open the legs, standing up, you name it, I’ve tried. I can honestly say I’ve never been consistently successful with any technique I’ve ever learned. Maybe my understanding of the position just isn’t that good.

Whatever the case, it’s important to always continue exploring and looking for new answers. The closed guard isn’t some obscure position you’ll never experience. It’s as relevant as any guard, and you WILL end up there. So, we’ll need options to try and dismantle it.

Travis Stevens may have some of the answers you’ve been looking for. In this video, Stevens takes us through three different ways to open the closed guard. You may be surprised at his approach, but I was quite intrigued and excited to apply what I saw here in my training. There are some unique themes being presented here. Check it out!

Stevens begins with some details that were passed to him from the legend himself, Renzo Gracie. He starts by angling his body slightly, so that he is no longer square to his partner. This disrupts the structure of the bottom man’s body a bit, and appears to put Stevens in a more favorable position to begin passing.

From this angle, Stevens steps up and turns his knee into his partner a bit, twisting his body and taking it out of alignment. From here, he pushes down on the opposite side knee and opens the guard. He makes mention of the omoplata threat, but is quickly able to thwart it by bringing his arm to the inside of his partners leg upon breaking the guard.

Now, I have seen this method of breaking the guard many times, but it’s usually followed by an aggressive stacking pass, or a fight to get over the legs. But Stevens forgoes the fight to simply back out, removing himself from the closed guard scenario in order to have a chance at becoming more offensive. This is an interesting approach, let’s take a look at some more ideas.

Pass Like An Olympian! Click Learn More below!


In this second option, Stevens begins with a grip on the belt knot, and he makes himself tall to “Jam his partner up” He then places his right knee in his partner’s tailbone, and opens his opposite leg, taking it back away from his partner. He then retracts his elbow and places it on the inside of his partners thigh, pushes the opposite knee down, and steps over the leg into a half guard situation.

Again, Stevens is using the idea of retreat here to simply exit the close guard. He’s not trying to defeat he closed guard all in one effort. I’m liking the idea of this more and more. I personally find that passing the half guard is much easier than trying to power our way through an entire closed guard pass in one big aggressive attempt.

I enjoy this third idea quite a bit. It’s tricky and seems pretty effective. Steven starts by securing the lapel on the viewers far side. He then crosses the hips with the lapel and jams it down next to his partners hip on the opposite side. He then makes a post with his free hand and switches his base in a way reminiscent of the Sao Paulo pass.

Stevens is careful here to keep his elbow as a frame to control his partners mobility. From this position a scenario has been created where the bottom player believes he can make his way to the back. As his partner takes the bait, Stevens can press the lapel to the floor and begin moving himself away, eventually stepping over the leg in to half guard, where he can again begin to become offensive.

I got a lot out of this. I have to admit, I’ve been a little one dimensional in my approach to opening and passing the closed guard over the years. This is a fresh look at the position that I really enjoyed. Hope it helps you as well!

If you enjoyed this video by Travis Stevens, check out his new series Magic Guard Passing.  You can get it here at BJJ Fanatics!




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