An effective guard pass is a key component of any effective ground game. A guard pass is one of the most important techniques in BJJ because it is both a defensive and offensive position that dictates who controls the match.
If you want to improve your jiujitsu game, a great place to start is by developing your guard passing skills. In this article, we explore the most popular (and perhaps best) guard passes in JiuJitsu and show you how to use them effectively and efficiently.
What does it mean to pass guard?
The guard position sets Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) apart from many martial arts. The guard involves the person on the bottom using their legs and arms to block the person on the top from advancing. Said another way, the “guard pass” is the effort by the person on the top to move forward past the opponent’s guard position. In jiujitsu, there is a constant battle between one player trying to maintain the guard position and the other player trying to pass over the guard.
It is very difficult to launch offensive attacks while trapped in someone’s guard (although it’s not impossible). By passing the guard, the player can move forward to advance their offensive from a more helpful position (such as side control, mount, etc.).
What are the Fundamental Elements of a Good Guard Pass?
Before discussing the best BJJ guard passes and how to use them, lets talk about what makes a good guard pass. The guard pass can be divided into three fundamental elements: posture, control and grip.
Posture is the most important element of a good guard pass. Good posture will allow you to control your opponent and also to use your body weight to push him/her away from you. Without proper posture, you have nothing.
Control of your opponent (especially the legs and hips) is another essential component of a good guard pass. You need to control your opponent’s body better than he or she has control over their own body in order to push or pull them away from you without being countered into an escape attempt or a submission attack .
Grips are the third fundamental aspect of a good guard pass. You need to hold on tight in order to prevent your opponent from escaping or countering with a sweep. Clamp down on your opponent and maintain control of them with a firm grip to make your guard pass work.
Explore BJJ’s Best Guard Passes
Here is our list of the best guard passes in Brazilian jiujitsu. These passes are great for both beginners and veterans of jiujitsu. Do you agree with these? Let us know in the comments!
|Guard Pass Name||Best Against||Type||Style|
|Double Underhook Pass||Closed Guard||Under Legs||Traditional|
|Knee Cut Pass||Half Guard||Through Legs||Traditional|
|Torreando Pass||Open Guard||Around Legs||Traditional|
|Leg Drag Pass||Open Guard||Around Legs||Modern|
|X Pass||Butterfly Guard||Around Legs||Modern|
|Stack Pass||Closed Guard||Over Legs||Traditional|
|Cross-Grip Pass||Open Guard||Around legs||Traditional|
|Cartwheel Pass||Butterfly Guard||Over Legs||Modern|
Double Underhook Pass
There are many guard passes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but this one is the most basic and can get you past your opponent’s guard when you’re on top. The double underhook pass is a very common guard pass in BJJ. If there is one pass you should absolutely master as a beginner, it’s probably this one.
In the Double Underhook pass you use stacking pressure on the opponent’s leg to pass across them.
Here are the steps to do the double underhook pass:
- You scoop under their leg and put pressure on it to move it to your shoulder while you step forward.
- You then carefully move around your opponent’s body while maintaining this pressure.
When done correctly, the guard passer has complete control over the defender’s posture and movement. Simple and effective.
Knee Cut Pass
With the knee cut (or knee slide) pass, the attacker uses his knee to cut across the legs of the defender.
Here are the components of the knee cut pass:
- First, the guard passer penetrates his own shin between the defender’s thighs. This forces the opponent’s legs to the ground where it becomes pinned by the passer’s knee.
- The passer next uses his hands to help maintain the pressure on the opponent’s leg.
- The guard passer then slides his hips across the opponent’s legs while maintaining close contact.
When performing the knee cut pass, don’t penetrate the knee directly into your opponent’s belly button. Instead, advance into your opponent’s thigh and then move away from his body.
The Toreando guard pass (or bullfighter pass) is an effective guard pass for both gi and no-gi situations. This pass uses control of the legs as its base component.
According to BJJ world champion Jon Thomas, the Toreando pass “is one of the most important passes in jiu jitsu because the first thing you’re going to have contact with when you’re passing is your opponent’s leg so knowing how to properly control an attack immediately dictates the offense of the match.” The Toereando pass is best used against the open guard.
Here are the basic steps for the Toreando Pass:
- Drive one of your opponent’s legs down with your shin into his thigh.
- You drive down in one forward direction, and as soon as you feel resistance you take your outside leg and pull it away and back to open up a path for you to walk around the opposite direction you had initially started.
- You simultaneously push your opponents’ legs away as you complete a big step around their body, eventually leading you to a knee-on-belly position.
When doing the toreando pass, make sure you understand the action-reaction principle. This is required to learn good timing. As you push in with your shin, the opponent will push back. Once you feel the resistance back, it is time to give way to that pressure and pass the guard in the opposite direction.
What is the Toreando Pass in BJJ.
Leg Drag Pass
The Leg drag pass is a more modern style of guard passes. Unlike more traditional passes, it is not a close range pass as you are standing further away from your opponent.
The leg drag pass requires that you initially control both pant legs (or ankles) of your opponent and then proceed as follows:
- With control of your opponent’s legs, you need to redirect their legs and start to pass around them in the opposite direction.
- Then, you must consolidate your control of their legs as you pass around. Typically, this is done by dropping your weight and locking their leg in your armpit area as your crouch downward in your pass.
- Finally, you place your hips with your shin and knee on top of your opponent’s bottom leg so as to lock in the position and immobilize him. From here, you have plenty of control to set up your attack.
This is a guard pass that is a variation of the Toreando pass. The pass is called the “X” pass because your forearms make a criss-cross pattern as they move across your opponent. This pass works great against the butterfly guard. This pass involves deception of your movement.
Here are the basic steps on how to do the x-pass.
- From a semi-standing position, you faint a pass to one side, forcing your opponent to over-commit his defense to that side.
- Then, using your speed you change direction and move to the opposite side.
The stack pass is one of the most fundamental passes in all of jiujitsu. The stack pass is a type of pressure passing. While basic and traditional it is effective when used properly. While many BJJ players like to “move on” from this pass to other more fancy or modern passes, the stack pass should be part of any jiujitsu players arsenals regardless of skill level. For instance, BJJ champion Andre Galvao believes the stack pass is one of the best guard passes in the jiujitsu.
The concepts and application of the stack are quite simple. The pass is a type of “under leg” pass: meaning you are driving your opponents on to his shoulders by lifting his legs up over him with your body (ideally your shoulders).
This is how you perform the stack pass:
- With your opponent in closed guard your first step to make sure you have a sturdy base. This means you need to have your right arm (lead arm) over his chest and your other hand on his hips.
- You then lift your right knee up to crouch a bit.
- Next, you step back with your left leg away from your opponent to open his guard. You must maintain pressure on his hip to continue to block his defense.
- With the guard opened you then need to bring your left leg back so you can get your elbow back to his leg while applying pressure.
- To increase the pressure and complete the pass, you have to still be driving your opponent’s legs forward. To do this, you will have put one arm under his leg, pushing his leg and up onto your shoulder while you advance forward. This is the “stack” aspect of the pass.
- This “stack” will lift him up such that you can insert your knee behind his buttocks to maintain the pressure. Afterword, you should be in a position that allows you to simply slide your body over his legs easily.
Cross Grip Pass
The cross grip pass is sometimes known as the crazy dog pass. This can be a useful strategy if you don’t want them to engage in their guard.
How to perform the cross grip pass:
- Make grips on the same side of your opponent (such as pants or collar). Having grips on the same side means one of your hands is crossing over your body (hence, the cross grip.)
- Pull your opponent down and to the side as you move around the side of your opponent.
- Pull your opponent’s leg out to make sure it’s on the floor.
- Drive pressure into your opponent with your hips to flatten him out.
Kazushi Sakuraba and Marcelo Garcia made this guard pass famous. The cartwheel pass can add a special surprise to a match and can shift momentum in your favor. To be successful with the cartwheel pass, you will need to know how to do a decent cartwheel (and over a live person). The Cartwheel pass is great against an open guard like the butterfly guard.
Here are the simple steps for a cartwheel pass:
- Put your left forward and your left hand on the ground.
- Your opposite hand goes on your opponent’s outside shoulder
- Lunge forward and perform a cartwheel over your opponent’s outside shoulder.
- Consolidate and take your opponent’s back.
Why is it so hard to learn to pass guard in BJJ?
Even those who have played BJJ for a few years can still struggle with passing the guard. Why is this? First, passing the guard is difficult, it is very hard. Second, passing the guard never really stops, it simply continues and evolves. You cannot rest in BJJ and the same goes for passing the guard. Further, like all things in BJJ, one minor mistake can trip you up. Sure, you did steps X & Y, but if you miss Z, your opponent will capitalize on your mistake.
So, what’s the solution to learn how to pass guard better?
Learn one guard pass really well. Focus on the component parts and nail them down. Train against opponents of multiple sizes and skills. Last, ask your coach for help. He or she will identify the mistakes you’re making and offer suggestions about your guard pass.
Also, study the pros and how they pass guard. For instance, this guard passing study might offer you some interesting tips for your own game.
These variations of the guard pass require advanced skill sets and experience. Since the guard pass is the foundation of BJJ, it is important to learn and master this technique before moving on to more complex submissions.