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Pressure Passing 101
The ability to pass an opponent or training partner's guard is something every practitioner starts to think about from the very first time they are placed in their partner's closed guard during their first intro class. In those early days, our thoughts are focused on how in the world we can get free of our partner's legs and get around to a better spot.
Passing comes in an infinite number of forms. There are low passes from the knees and high passes from standing. Some passes rely on quick footwork and the subtle movement of one's hips, while others utilize strong pressure maximizing one's body weight and angles to maintain control and stimulate discomfort in one's opponent.
It's important to research and find the best passing style for you and the situation you find yourself in. To learn more about the intricacies of passing, you can check out this article on passing from BJJ Fanatics.
This use of pressure, sometimes called smash passing is a very effective way to nullify the opponent or partner's ability to maintain or even regain their guard. There are some key concepts that will help one get started on the path of becoming a pressure passing pundit.
Proper posture is important in all aspects of BJJ, but during passing, it becomes even more crucial as your opponent works to regain or maintain their guard against you. Key elements of pressure passing are using strong hip pressure. During a pressure or smash pass, the hips are usually kept tight to your opponent, maximizing the amount of force that they are put under to keep them in a strong defensive posture. In addition, the back must remain strong and tight to supplement the forward and driving pressure of the hips.
Maintaining a strong connection to your opponent via grips is extremely important. There are times when you need to push to increase the pressure on the opponent and times when you may be pulling them in or towards you. There are even times when you will be doing a combination of both. Finding that proper grip can be interal to the success of your pass. Whether it's grabbing each lapel to curl them towards you to intensify the pressure of your hips, or whether you're grabbing the knees, either outside or inside depending on the pass you are using, making sure that you are effectively connected to your opponent to control them.
The effective use of shoulder pressure allows you to sharpen the overall force of your pass into a smaller area which makes the pressure much more intense and increases the discomfort of your opponent, almost making them wish you would get the pass over with.
By seeking the underhook on your opponent during your pass, you will most effectively keep them flattened out and more controlled. Whether you achieve a full underhook or simply collapse your arm over their underhook attempt from bottom, you will thwart their progress and make your pass stronger.
Balls of One's Feet
Whenever possible, it's important to make your opponent uncomfortable. There should be no positions where they are able to rest or recover. This includes during a pressure pass. The devil in the details cliche is never more evident than on the jiu jitsu mats. Adjusting one's stance from being on the balls of your feet, instead of being on your knees or on the "laces" or instep of your foot will greatly increase the pressure and help guarantee that the pass is successful.
To explore the philosophy smash pass even further, take a look at the BJJ Fanatics article which explores it in more depth here.
In the video below, world champion Bernardo Faria who is well-known for his powerful pressure passing in competition outlines his key principles for improving your pressure passing.
Ready to incorporate more pressure passing into your BJJ game? Check out the Pressure Passing Encyclopedia referenced in the video above by world champion Bernardo Faria available on DVD and On Demand.