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What is the Best Passing Style for You?
At the end of the day, to pass someone's guard means to simply avoid and get around an opponent's legs. Pretty simple and straight forward, right? If only. Just as there are countless ways to use one's legs or one's guard to control an opponent's body or distance, there are just as many or more ways to try to get through the guard maze. And to further complicate things, everyone you ask has an opinion on what the best guard passing style is. What is the average practitioner to do as they try to solve this puzzle? Here are a few ideas.
Keep it simple
If you're like me, a human being filled with thoughts and emotions, you can sometimes find yourself faced with a task that can appear daunting at first. As we face a particular problem or challenge, it's easy to let ourselves be overwhelmed. Sometimes how we think about things can shape this need to make it more complex than it is. At the end of the day, when passing someone's guard, I am simply trying to get around, over, or through their legs. Once past their legs, I will attempt to secure a dominate way point on my way to a submission or an even better position. I am not trying to oversimplify this daunting prospect, but in order to attack the problem, we've got to be able to break it into it's simplest terms. I'm trying to get beyond those legs and the opponent is using everything they have available to stop me.
What are my tools?
Now that I'm thinking about my task in it's simplest terms, I need to take a look at the tools I have at my disposal. First I have my body. My body can be broken into various elements. My legs, my hips, my arms and hands with their grips all come into play when I'm working to pass someone's guard. Coupled with these things are things that aren't as immediately identifiable. Things like the leverage and balance I will employ and the pressure my opponent will feel as I'm working a particular passing attack. By properly applying shoulder pressure, one can nullify an opponent's attempt to hip away and create space to maintain their open guard. Jiu jitsu is a seemingly infinite play of one player trying to advance, while nullifying their opponent's attempts to launch their own offensive game plans. If I look at what they're trying to do to me to stop my pass and look to overcome these obstacles in the simplest most efficient way, chances are I can be successful and pass their guard.
Low versus High Passes
Most simply, passes can be broken into two categories: low versus high. Low passes would be passes initiated from a kneeling position, while high would be those passes initiated on one's feet. Low passes are typically some of the first ones learned in BJJ classes and can sometimes be looked at with disdain by practitioners as somehow less effective than standing or high passes, but like fashion, with some experience, one begins to notice the cyclical nature of jiu jitsu techniques. Smash passing will be the rage for a time and then the next big thing will come along and get everyone excited. Whether or not you employ a low pass or a high pass will most often be determined by the type of guard you are presented with.
In the video below, Andre Galvao talks about some of the negative things that can happen when one relies too much on standing passes.
A very good example of a low pass is the Folding Pass demonstrated in the video below by Fernando Reis. In this pass, Fernando relies on properly gripping and and controlling his opponents hips, before utilizing the pressure of his upper body to allow him to hook the opponent's leg moving it out of the way.
The style of passing that one prefers is a personal one that is influenced by the particular guard that their opponent is throwing at them. You are not going to attack the spider guard the same way you would attack someone's half guard. It's important to have a solid general knowledge of the the type of guard you are facing, but equally as important to be able to think in the simplest terms and not become paralyzed with too many details in the moment when a submission or sweep could be waiting for you at every turn.