Smash Pass Study with Craig Jones, Cyborg, and Lachlan Giles
Gordon Ryan did a fantastic job of labeling the three types of passing as part of his newest instructional release.
He referred to these as loose passing, tight passing, and passing using submissions. I think for a lot of people this sort put passing under a new lens, and made the themes easier to digest. Ryan developed unique ways of chaining each of these passing methods together, and it made quite a bit of sense. If you’ve never seen Ryan’s video on the subject, you can check it out here.
Makes sense, right?
When you’re looking to pass the guard, what method do you prefer? As Ryan suggests, chaining all of the different passing methods together is certainly a great way to get the job done, but usually we’re drawn to particular passes based on the instruction we receive, body type, and preference.
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The smash pass has a reputation in the BJJ world as one of the more dominant forms of passing the guard. Done properly, the bottom player becomes somewhat immobilized as the pass progresses and they ma find it quite difficult to do much of anything about it. But there are certainly key elements of positioning and placement of the body that must be present if we hope to be successful with the smash pass.
It may seem that the smash pass lends itself more readily to larger BJJ players, and of course having some weight behind it will certainly not hurt, but it’s really all about how we position our bodies and sound technique that make the pass work.
I’ve always struggled with the smash pass and its positioning. I seem to always allow the bottom player to have too much freedom in the hips. I tend to lose them during my attempts to find the best way to keep them pinned as I work.
But enough about my troubles…
Let’s see how some of the best players in the game approach this monster of a pass. We’ll take a look at three different variations of the smash pass and break them down to see what the inner workings look like. Hopefully we’ll all get a little more clarity and get a look at how to make this pass stick a little better in our own passing endeavors.
This first one is brought to us by Craig Jones. Check this out!
Beginning in a common passing position with his right knee up the middle, Jones initiates a knee cut by pinching his knees and juking to his left. This cause his partner to give some resistance in the opposite direction. This is the perfect time for Jones to begin the sequence. He acquires an under hook and begins to sprawl out to his right, folding his partners hips and smashing the legs together. Jones stays tight on the hips and heavy on the legs as to not allow any movement or hip escaping.
To begin flattening his partner, Jones secures the bottom elbow and begins to lift it upward. The path to the mount is a bit obstructed by the top knee, so this next detail is critical. With his partner’s legs split, Jones is able to walk his leg using his knee and foot in combination to push the bottom leg over. This movement will eventually cause the top leg to move as well. Once the top leg has been removed, Jones can bring his shin tight to his partners rib cage and step his opposite leg over his partner’s body unobstructed. Having the under hook in place allows Jones to achieve a high mount position, which will always be favorable if its available.
If time is of the essence and the pass needs to be expedited a bit, Jones can place his right instep in front of his partners top leg, stretching him a bit. He then replaces his instep with his hand, acquires a grip on the shoulder, and makes a swift movement to the opposite side of the body for a quick guard pass. This also opens up a pathway to the back, which is never a bad thing.
One more quick idea to consider here. As Craig initiates the guard pass, his partner may choose to immediately turn away. This quickly puts the back within reach. Be aware of this and take advantage!
In this next segment on the smash pass we find ourselves being treated to some instruction from the legend himself, Cyborg. In this scenario, Cyborg begins his smash pass from the De La Riva Guard Let’s take a look!
At the onset of the technique, Cyborg addresses two very important key elements of passing the guard. This is great lesson in itself. Controlling the posture, and controlling the distance will always be relevant to guard passing in any setting. In this case the posture is being controlled by a grip on the collar, and the distance is being managed by his partner’s foot, opposite of the DLR hook. Before he can advance, Cyborg breaks the grip on his collar using a heart shaped clamp on his partner sleeve, and keeps the cuff of the sleeve for himself, and then secures a grip on the pants near the calf on the bottom side of the leg.
He then trades his sleeve grip for one at the collar. Cyborg will now backstep to remove the hip from his foot, and then return, now squatting down on the foot. After he sits, he uses a quick pushing motion to make his partner’s knee travel to the other side of his arm that’s gripping the collar. This captures the knee in between his ribcage, elbow, and thigh. He then drives his body tot eh right, releasing his foot and straddles his partner’s legs, with his left knee pinching the back of his partners calf.
With an under hook acquired, a post on the mat with his head and hand, and a kickstand with his right leg, Cyborg now looks to slide his back knee forward and then backstep with his front leg. This allows him to travel to the rear of his partner and back to side control.
There’s some great movement at work here. Cyborg is not a small guy, but he’s known for his ability to move like one. I love the change in position of the legs to complete the pass. The way he keeps the hips at bay and then moves back to the other side is an excellent detail of this variation.
Lachlan Giles provides us with our next variation. In this video he shows us two different ways initiate the pass, as well as two different ways to finish it. Check it out.
Giles begins in an open guard scenario and initiates the first entry by dropping to his partner’s level. From here he begins driving his head forward in to his partner’s chest. As his partner begins to tilt, this is the perfect time for Giles to apply pressure with his right hand to the bottom knee and position his chest over his partners legs. As they descend, Giles lands in position, straddling his partners legs, and making sure his weight is positioned on top of the legs. He warns of being on top of the hips, as this will give your partner increased mobility and the chance to use hooks to being dismantling your chances of advancement.
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Giles now continues by posting his head on the floor and securing the bottom elbow. Acquiring the bottom elbow will keep his partner from getting up and also prevent him from pushing Giles away. Giles will now employ a very common movement in BJJ to finish the pass. He first uses a windshield wiper movement with his back leg to cover his partners legs. This is immediately followed by the same movement from his front leg. This pins the legs and keeps them in place while Giles makes his exit tot eh backside of his partner, completing the guard pass.
Giles will be working towards the mount in this particular scenario, and to do that there are a few more important details. Taking a small step forward with his top leg, Giles will point his knee towards the floor, blocking his partners knee. Immediately following this step, he transitions his head to the other side of his partner body. Giles rolls his hips to the right and then steps over his partners leg planting his foot behind the knees. He then bundles the knees using a triangle. If you can’t make a fully locked triangle, crossing your feet is ok, but be sure to do it at the knees and not the ankles for the best control. Once the triangle is locked, Giles pommels for an under hook on the side of the controlled elbow and then climbs in to a high mount.
The second entry deals with a partner that’s lying down. By taking control of the feet, Giles keeps his partners legs at bay while he steps his right leg up the middle and imposes himself on his partners guard. The goal of smashing legs here is the same, and to do that Giles takes a grip on his partner’s collar and begins to back up a bit. This causes his partner to rise off of the ground, and provides a moment of vulnerability where Giles can push the knee to the side using his forearm and enter the smash pass position.
Another advantage of this entry is that it pulls Giles’s partner’s knee away from his chest as the technique is performed. This will keep the knee from being a detriment later in the sequence. At this juncture, things look very similar tot eh first variation, but Giles finishes to the back side and establishes side control instead of traveling in to the mount.
I was able to pick up a number of great details from each of these videos. Each one was unique, but there were definitely some common themes that these great teachers and athletes all shared. I hope this little study on the smash pass helped you to understand the technique better, and shed some new light on what makes it tick. Thanks for reading!
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