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The Knee Cut Pass

The Knee Cut Pass

When it comes to passing someone’s guard, learning how to carry out a good knee cut is one of the first concepts to master.

It is a move used early on in your jiu jitsu career, yet is still highly successful in black belt grappling matches. Nobody likes to get stuck in guard, but having an arsenal of universally applicable escapes can make it seem less daunting. Since this pass is useful on any grappling partner, it can also boost confidence to compete with upper belts and not feel completely ill prepared.

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You can be countered with so many different things when you’re trying to pass guard, and learning to react to them all can be frustrating. That’s where a basic knee cut can be great! There are so many different starting points for this pass, which gives you multiple options based on one technique. We’ll go through a few different examples here, and you can decide which one fits your style the best, as well as picking one to challenge yourself with in the future.

The pass is commonly started from combat base. Sometimes your partner will dictate which knee you have up and occasionally you can catch them flat and force them to hip out in a certain direction based on the knee you pick. Regardless of the order, the knee that is up in combat base will be the opposite of the direction your partner is shrimping (i.e. if your right knee is up in combat base, your partner will be hipping out to the left and laying on their right side). Here’s an important part- hunt for that underhook!

At this point, your hips should be facing up and slightly left (assuming your right knee is up), which will allow you to have a direct pathway to cut across your opponents opposite thigh. Once you have your underhook, base out with your left leg in a kickstand.

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Now what happens if you’re forced to start from another position? That’s okay! Lucas Lepri explains a knee cut option from De La Riva. Maintaining a close pressure on your opponent and multiple points of contact is very important in a knee cut pass. Being strong on your feet and balanced over the person on the bottom allows you to move them onto their side and resist their frames, which gives you enough space to slide your knee over their thigh and pass their guard.


Alec Baulding also uses a knee cut from De La Riva, but with a slight different approach. Instead of grabbing the gi collar he focuses on controlling the legs. Remember that underhook we searched for originally? That comes into play here as well in order to help you avoid getting trapped in half guard. This method again illustrates that a successful move doesn’t have to be fancy and complex, it can be a tried and true pass. As you rise in belt ranks, it’s great to challenge yourself and learn new techniques, but be sure to also hone the fundamentals you already know!


No matter what stage of Jiu Jitsu training you are in, or who you are going against, you can complete a knee cut. Drill the different options and figure out what you’re most comfortable with and which method works best in different scenarios. Since you are able to perform the pass with multiple different setups, sometimes the most difficult aspect can be choosing which one to use.

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