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Guard Passing, Where to Start?
Passing Is A Skill That Requires Patience and Fine Technique. Find The Method That Works For You!
Passing the open guard of skilled Jiu Jitsu practitioners is difficult because it requires dexterity, the ability to switch sides quickly, and ability to alternate between pressure and fast passing as allowed by the circumstances. A common problem with approaching the open guard is deciding how to begin passing. I always recommend to new grapplers that they have one guard pass they consider their base pass as something to start with and continuously return to through a passing sequence.
The two most common passes many grapplers have as their base pass is the leg drag and the X-pass. The reason these two are so popularly utilized are that they are easy to set up, easy to abandon when needed, and can be used to set up more intricate and effective guard passes. Also, because these two guard passes are very easy even for the new student, they can be used on both sides without much difficulty. Also, it is important to mention that one is not limited to these two passes as their base pass as there are many more.
So how do you decide which guard pass you will utilize as your base? Well, it mostly personal preference. Some grapplers are more successful with the X-pass while some are better at leg drags. Some grapplers even find the stack pass or over under pass better fitting for them. It is important to pick a pass that you can easily transition from to other passes depending on the guard player’s defense. If you are a bigger, heavier practitioner, you may want to develop a series of pressure passing sequencing that take advantage of your size. If you are a smaller grappler, you should utilize your dexterity and agility by using standing passing sequences.
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I personally use the X-pass as my base pass. I find it to be equally effective in the gi and without the gi which is important if you do not want to have completely different games depending on the format. There are numerous quick set-ups of the X-pass from most popular guard styles as well so that I always have a quick pass to go to.
After deciding through practice which pass you will utilize of your guard pass it is important to set up systems are guard passing sequences based off the guard player’s counter to your base pass. Also, it might be important to mention that you don’t have to have one base pass, but it is important build a solid system first before moving on to the next.
It has become increasingly difficult and to pass the guard of a skill Jiu Jitsu player as a result of an extensive variety of techniques and guards the guard player can utilize. It is rare to pass the guard on first attempt and it will usually require multiple techniques and side switches to finally complete the pass. This does not make the guard passer incompetent within itself so long as the pass comes to fruition.
There are two basic forms of guard passing in Jiu Jitsu: smash passing and fasting passing, albeit certain techniques fall into the grey area between the two modes. What is important, and you will find this in all skilled guard passers, is the ability to return to a base guard passing position that yields various paths a top player can take. This will be even effective if the guard passer is also skilled at attacking the legs.
One common position that can be described as an excellent passing base is what is known as the headquarters position. This position requires the passer to sit of the foot of one leg of the guard player and using the other knee or shin to smash the bottom player’s far leg. It is also vital maintain a low and heavy base here. This position is very effective at limiting the guard players attacks. It can be used to thwart closed guard entry, De la Riva guard, reverse De la Riva guard, and many other forms of open guard. Adding lapel grips and lifting your opponent slightly towards you can also make it much more dangerous.
The reason this position finds so much success in passing is that it yields both fast and smashing passes such as the knee slice pass, the X-pass, and various forms of smash passing involving sprawling the legs. It also opens up the forward kimura roll if that is something that interests you. The simplicity and effectiveness of this base can be enjoyed by new and advanced practitioners alike.
In the following video, you can see Craig Jones use a variant of this position to set a sprawling smash pass that can land you in mount of side control.
When passing the guard of skilled Jiu Jitsu practitioners, we are often met with intricate resistance such as frames, hip escaping, under hooks, and so on. Usually when passing, grapplers fail to establish good hand control allowing the defender to use their entire body to defend the guard pass. Also, some grapplers are not just good at retaining their guard but can use the passer’s limited control to getting submissions like triangles and armbars.
In order to be skilled and successful guard passers, grapplers need to look for hand control before beginning their movement. If the guard player has dominant control of the passer’s hands, it will be near impossible to pass unless one is going against new white belts. I can’t think of any guard pass that doesn’t utilize hands. Even if there is no hand control from the guard passer, it is difficult to apply the necessary pressure to finish off a lot of guard passes.
Establishing good hand control before beginning the guard pass will lead to better guard passing and defense against guard submissions. In the following video, Josh Barnett discusses the importance of hand fighting when passing and shows a few ways to use it.
If you notice, Josh almost never uses double hand control as it will limit the ability to use the hands the pass the guard. Rather, he controls only one hand of his partner as it is secure enough to defend against guard retention and submission attempts.
If the defender does not have both hands, it is near impossible to finish any submissions like the triangle or armbar. This is especially important when grappling in the gi as there are more submissions that can be attacked due to the availability of the lapels.
One guard pass that is taught often in our academy utilizes a two on one grip to break the guard and then a single hand grip to finish the pass. When in someone’s guard, use both hands to pin the guard player’s forearm to their body. Put all of your weight on that arm and stand up. Let go of only one of your hands while using other to control the defender’s arm and open their guard up and begin your favorite passing sequence. Controlling the hands while passing also opens the defender up to submissions faster than if there is no hand control.
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The days of passing the guard easily on first attempt is very rare except when done on brand new white belts. In fact, passing the guard on the second or even third attempt is becoming just as rare as the guard of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners evolves and leg locks are being added. Because of this, it is important to find better systems for passing the guard. Although technique is important, the approach grapplers take to passing the guard is vital.
Traditionally, there are two methods for passing the guard: standing passing or pressure passing. Standing passing is usually quick while pressure passing is slow. Most grapplers prefer to play one form but not the other. Small grapplers typically enjoy the standing passing game while larger grapplers prefer pressure passing as can be expected. Realistically, however, the best way to pass the guard is being able to use both forms of guard passing effectively when the circumstances are appropriate.
Another important element of guard passing is directionality. I would say over 90% of Jiu Jitsu students practice passes one side while leaving only few techniques for the other. This is odd because when examined, it is obvious the best guard passers in the world are able to quickly switch sides and are equally proficient regardless of directionality.
The Miyao brothers, although mostly known for their impenetrable guards, are also extremely skilled guard passers. There skill level has benefited from them training both sides and both styles of guard passing. If you watch them, you will see that they seamlessly transition between sides and styles very smoothly. In the following video, Joao Miyao goes through one advanced drill for guard passing.
As you can see, Joao starts his passing in the same position almost every time. The versatility of techniques he uses are all based off the guard player’s counters and movements. This is one important trick in guard passing. Rather than trying to force one guard pass against a bottom player, one must become proficient at using the guard player’s movements to guide the pass.
With all that being said, to consistently begin pass the guard, not only must someone be able to transition smoothly between pressure passing and standing passing or switch sides quickly, they must be able to continuously and relentlessly work to pass the guard with no stopping until the guard player makes a mistake and allows the guard pass.