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BJJ Guard Passing: Insights for Those New to the Game

Updated on November 21, 2016

Guard Passing is an Envious Skill to Develop in BJJ

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, certain skills are a must to develop. Among all the skills to become significantly proficient with, guard passing ranks way at the top. Beginners might spend a huge amount of their time trying to learn a lot of submissions, but this approach has a lot of drawbacks. There are other critical elements to the overall BJJ picture. Learning how to pass the guard is among them.

Guard passing remains one of the most important skills to develop in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The guard is a significant part of the Jiu Jitsu game since it offers both offense and defense on the ground even while situated on the back. The ability to pass the guard gives a Jiu Jitsu player an edge as well. If you are able to consistently pass your opponent's or, for that matter, your training partner's guard, you automatically diminish a great deal of his/her offensive and defensive capabilities.

Diminishing an opponent's capabilities delivers a very noble result: it helps establish a higher level of skill, a trait necessary for moving up the belt promotion ladder.

Passing the Guard: It Is Downhill for the Other Fella

Passing the guard means you have literally taken the guard away from someone. Yes, the player can scramble away from you, try to recapture the guard, or go for a neutral position. What he no longer has is a guard. Without a guard, a BJJ player is in a lot of trouble.

Scrambling, recovering, and going for neutral ground, however, are only possible options if a pin is avoided. Really good, solid guard passes lead to pins. A good side control or scarf hold pin open a lot of doors for submissions.

In a BJJ tournament, passing the guard delivers a full three points. From the guard pass, knee on stomach and mount options open and they offer scoring chances at 2 and 4 points respectively.

Once you really look at just how valuable guard passing is, the notion that getting really skilled at guard passing begins to take on a very important precedence in training. How you train guard passing though, is going to determine whether or not you develop the necessary skill to make the Jiu Jitsu life difficult for your opponents.

Learning Guard Passing: Refinement and Building up the Basics are the Core to Success

Becoming talented at guard passing does not refer to learning a ton of different guard passes and merely memorizing them. Good guard passing skill is based on understanding a number of basic principles and being able to effectively execute them against a non-compliant opponent.

Certain things are common to all guard passes in BJJ. In order to pass the guard, you must go over or under the legs. This is not always safe. Without decent control of an opponent and good posture on your part, a weak guard pass leaves you vulnerable for sweeps and submissions.

The process of passing the guard the properly begins with establishing good base and posture. Base refers to maintaining both stability and a low center of gravity, two traits critical to prevent from being off balanced or swept. Posture means your positioning protects the neck, arms, and legs from attacks.

Once your posture and base are solid, the time comes to control the legs and, if the guard is closed, uncross the ankles.

Opening up the closed guard required putting some level of pressure on the legs to force the ankles to uncross. Again, without good base and posture, this is not going to be easy at all. Once you have opened up the legs, you must control them along with the hips. With the open guard, you do not have to uncross the ankles. You simply go right into controlling the hips and legs AFTER eliminating any contact your opponent's feet are making with your body. This can sometimes be difficult based on the how well the feet are being pressed into you or hooked behind a limb. The little matter of how the opponent is gripping you with his/her hands can also make passing tough. (Hey, no one ever said guard passing was easy. If it was, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would never be as effective as it is.

Whether you choose to go over or under the legs, you positively must put pressure on your opponent. Controlling the hips is important to prevent an opponent from putting you back in the guard, although focusing solely on the hips while ignoring the importance of pinning him can make a guard pass weaker. The finishing positions of a guard pass is a pin be it side control, the scarf hold, or even the North/South position. To make a pin work effectively, you have to really drive your weight down. This process has to start during the guard pass because, quite simply, a loose guard pass is not going to help keep anyone in place for a pin. The lack of pressure makes it easier for an opponent to scramble away or recover the guard. After all, nothing is keeping them in place down on the mat.

(On a side note, once you start putting guard passing together with attacks, you become even more formidable. A guard pass that goes directly into an armbar or a footlock without previously establishing side control is going to be difficult for someone to deal with)

Drilling and More Drilling

Developing these skills can take time. Among the best ways to become better at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guard passing is to drill. Your training partner can put you in a number of different guards. While the partner offers moderate resistance, you work on guard passing and pinning. Correct your flaws and mistakes and try to improve with each training session. Your guard passing skills might increase immensely as a result.

And great improvement in your Jiu Jitsu guard passing game could come far quicker than you ever imagined.


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    • TCaro profile image

      Tony Caro 3 years ago

      thank you!

    • Philturnip profile image

      Phil Turner 3 years ago

      Awesome article. Really good info.