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PASSING GUARD BJJ
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PASSING GUARD BJJ

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become one of the most popular mainstream Martial Arts worldwide. With the iconic traditionalism of the IBJJF World Championships, and the modernised format of the international No Gi circuit, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become the premier combat sport. The art showcases a highly dynamic series of takedown maneuvers, a formidable guard passing ability, intricate guard systems, and a prolific sequence of different submission moves. These days athletes will usually become a top game player, or a guard player, but the more advanced athlete will gain comprehensive skills in both systems. 

What this article covers:

The top game player will commonly look to set up their opponents for throws, or takedown maneuvers. Once the fight has hit the mat, they will use different styles of guard passing to move past their opponent's guard, as they look to neutralise their opponent.

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The top game player is all about heavy pressure, and how they can control an opponent, as they look to dominate their opponent with positional controls like the mount, side control, or the back control position. Having the ability to use pressure to stay on top of an opponent can help an athlete in a number of different ways. An athlete will usually spend less energy controlling an opponent, then trying to sweep them. Being on top also means they are free from being crushed, and in a competition match it is usually the top game player that is judged the winner in the event of a tie. 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF PASSING THE GUARD

In the modern format of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there are two major technical components, the guard, and passing the guard. The modern day grappler has become extremely dynamic with guard systems, as they use a plethora of different tricks to entrap athletes into submission moves. The leg entanglement game is one of the big factors as to why an athlete needs to become highly proficient in passing the guard. These days there are too many dangers associated with guard techniques, where athletes will be stuck in high calibre submissions like heel hooks, arm bars, knee bars, and triangles. Learning how to effectively pass the guard is one of the most valuable weapons that an athlete can have in their arsenal. There is a lot of power in pressure passing, and a lot of technical systems involved with shutting down intricate guard systems. All athletes need to be all rounders in the modern era, but having an extensive guard passing game is crucial to controlling a grounded opponent, and this is good not only for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but for real life conflict scenarios too.

IMPORTANT GUARD PASSING CONCEPTS 

There are a few different concepts that athletes need to be aware of when looking to improve their guard passing. The first one is all about keeping their centre of gravity low, and not lifting their hips too high off the mat, this will only result in an opponent achieving a sweep. It is important not to over lean an athlete's weight, because leaning too far forward or too far backwards will only compromise an athlete's base structure, and this is the same if they lean to one side, or post their hands on the mat. It is crucial that an athlete stays in a postured position at all times, so they have a stronger base, and a greater ability at giving their maximum efficiency. 

When looking at effective guard passing, an athlete should be shutting down an opponent's hips. It is the hips that control how much of an angle an opponent can make, and whether they can create enough distance to sweep, or submit. Stifling an opponent's hips, and isolating a leg can become an extremely effective way to pass their guard. In most cases it is the strength, and dexterity of an opponent's legs, and hips that will make their guard hard to pass, so athletes should be actively controlling these aspects of an opponent. This will lead into the concept of climbing up an opponent's body, because after stifling, and controlling an opponent's legs, they will need to climb up towards the head in order to control, and submit them. 

There are two main aspects that athletes will need to choose when they are deciding on which guard pass to use. These are speed, or control, and this means to either move dynamically in order to achieve the pass, or use more controlled pressure, and slowly inch past an opponent's guard. Either way can be extremely effective, and athletes need to decide which style suits them best. Commonly it is the smaller, and faster athletes that use dynamic passes, and the older, and stronger athletes that use controlled, and pressure passing. Another important concept is to continuously look for submission entries, because a guard player that is under threat of different submissions is often overlooking the fact that the top game player effectively wants to pass their guard. This could be setting up an ankle lock, but then using a bjj leg drag to get past the guard, and secure a dominant control position.

PRESSURE PASSING 

Using pressure passing is one of the best ways to move past an athlete's guard without giving them an opportunity to attack. There are different types of pressure passes, all of which require an athlete to use crushing pressure into the sternum of an opponent. One of the most successful pressure passes is the over under pass, as athletes like Bernardo Faria, and Fabio Gurgel use these movements to perfection. To secure an over under pass the athlete will apply pressure into the shin of one of their opponent's legs, as they over hook the leg and secure a tight grip. Their other arm will be under hooking the opposite leg, as they lean the pressure of their shoulder into the sternum, placing their ear into the hip of the leg they have under hooked. The athlete will then walk their hips towards the shin that is trapped, before using their grip to pull backwards on the leg, and step over into a pressurised pass. All the athlete has to do once they have cleared the leg is climb up the body, letting go of the legs and securing a cross face position. 

Another good pressure pass that is extremely effective is the bull pass. This pass is extremely similar to the toreando pass, as it requires the same grips. An athlete will secure a grip on the inside of the knee, with their other hand gripping the outside of the opposite knee. This is a good control system that will allow an athlete to move their opponent's legs from side to side, and when they are ready to go for the pass they will move their body towards the grip that has the outside of the knee. The athlete will push the knees to one side just like in a toreando pass, but instead of switching their knees through, they will lock their arms straight, and dive straight into their opponent's legs with their shoulder. This will make it impossible for the opponent to achieve any form of guard retention. This may seem like an awkward pass, but once an athlete understands the mechanics it is basically like shifting all of their body weight through their shoulders, as they crush their opponent, and look to secure a cross face, and a side control position.

The stack pass is another extremely efficient pressure pass that inspired the over under pass bjj, and all passes in the sport, and it was the first pass to be used by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors. The athlete will begin from the closed guard, securing a grip on the lapel about midway, and a grip on the hip, as they step up their leg on the same side as the lapel grip. The next step is to stretch their other leg backwards, and lift up into a standing position, and this will help to break open the guard. The guard player will now commonly try to put their foot on the athlete's hip, as the athlete will block this move by connecting their elbow to their knee, and then using the same technique on the other side. From here they will grab two lapel grips with both of their knees connected to their elbows, as they wait for their opponent to try and switch their hips to regain some form of guard. As soon as their opponent moves, the athlete will thread their arm around the leg, securing a grip on the lapel, and making sure their opposite elbow retracts into their body so they do not get stuck in a triangle. Now the athlete can apply a lot of pressure, as they tilt their shoulder, and stack pass their way into a side control position.

TECHNICAL GUARD PASSING

There are many different positions that a technical guard pass can start from like the bjj headquarters position, or a double Gi grip. These are quality positions that athletes can use to gain control of their opponent. The knee cut pass is one of the most fundamental passes that athletes will learn at the beginner stage, but it is also highly efficient against a higher level athlete. To secure this pass an athlete will start in a combat base, as they look to split open an opponent's guard. The athlete's hand will be inside of their opponent's leg, posting off of their hips, as their other hand begins to push their knee to the mat. From here they will start to slide their cross knee up over into a knee slicing position, as the hand that is posting off of the hip will slide up into an under hook position, connecting up with their other hand that has just formed a cross face. The next step is for the athlete to use their head to push up underneath the jaw of their opponent, as they squeeze the under hook. This will start to put an extreme amount of pressure into the opponent, allowing the athlete to cut their knee through the guard, and then square up into a side control position.

The origami pass is an extremely technical system that allows an athlete to either go for a submission, or two easy passes. To set up the origami pass the athlete will secure a standing ankle lock position, which will commonly force a reaction from the opponent to use the other foot to try and free their ankle. This is the reaction the athlete is looking for, and as the opponent pushes their second foot in, the athlete will guide their hook underneath the shin of their other leg, and hook it with their forearm that has the ankle lock secured. An easy gable grip over the top of both shins can form a nasty compression lock, but to execute the pass the athlete has both of their opponent's legs entangled, where they can easily use their hips to grind past their opponent's hips, and fall straight into a side control position. Furthermore, from this initial origami set up the athlete can bring in their free hand, and  direct their opponent's foot that is trapped in an ankle lock, creating almost like a pretzel position, with both hooks trapped with the athlete's forearms. From here they can cup above the knees of their opponent, and look to stack pass to either side, giving their opponent very little chance at retaining any form of guard.

One of the most common problems that guard passers face against a good guard player, is the knee shield. This position can be extremely threatening, and hard for an athlete to get close to an opponent's upper body to achieve a pass. Using the weave pass is a great way to tackle  opponents that have really good guard systems. To secure this pass the athlete will thread their hand underneath the thigh of their opponent, gripping onto the bottom leg. The athlete's other hand will reach around the corner, and secure a grip on the lapel. This is quite a solid grip, and a great way to cut through a high level opponent's guard.  Once the athlete has all their grips secured they will lift up their hips to free their leg, and look to knee cut through, as they maintain control of their opponents Gi. This can be an extremely effective pass against all levels in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This pass can also work in the No Gi format, as all the athlete has to do is secure the grips by cupping onto the neck, and the bottom leg, and all of the technical components work the same.

PASSING THE GUARD WITH LAPEL WRAPS 

Passing the guard can happen a number of different ways, and feeding the lapels can work in an extremely proficient way. A good lapel wrap pass can be achieved from the closed guard, so it is always a good idea from the outset of any match to unhook an opponent's lapels. Once an opponent has broken down an athlete's posture, and secured an over hook, the athlete can reach underneath their opponent's back, and grab hold of a lapel that their opposite hand has fed to. This will create a tight wrap underneath the opponent, which is a good point of leverage. The athlete's free hand will now push into their opponent's opposite hip, as they pull tightly on the lapel, forcing the opponent to shift their angle more to the side. From here their legs will already be starting to open, as the athlete begins to push the knee down, as they start to knee slice their way through the guard. It is important to keep their elbow trapped to the body that has the lapel wrapped, so that their opponent doesn't secure an under hook, which can be problematic to a guard passer. Because the athlete has such a strong grip from underneath the body, it is easy to slide through into a side control position, or continue into a position where they can attack a kimura, or an arm bar submission.

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Using lapel wraps in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are extremely efficient, and can be stifling to an opponent. There are a number of different ways that an athlete can wrap up their opponent's legs by threading their own lapels over the top, through the middle, or underneath the legs of an opponent. This type of weave wrapping will allow an athlete to switch grips, creating a leverage point with the lapel wrap. This will allow the athlete to then switch their hips, and put pressure into the knee shield, and begin to move around the guard, while their opponent struggles to free their legs from the wrap, and fails to use any form of framing with their legs. Using this type of passing mechanics is extremely high level, and can be a great way to achieve a guard pass. Lapel wraps can also be threaded around the leg, and then secured to an opponent's arm, creating an even more problematic situation for the opponent. The lapel acts like a rope, and becomes extensively hard for an opponent to maneuver any of their limbs, while being wrapped up in this type of position.

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