Close this search box.

How to Pass Guard in BJJ

March 5, 2024

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) unveils a world of intricate ground battles where strategy and technique reign supreme. At the heart of this martial art lies the guard, a defensive position wielded by practitioners to thwart opponents and launch counterattacks. For those seeking to ascend the ranks and gain dominance on the mat, mastering the art of passing the guard is an indispensable skill, and a way to earn three points in a gi match.

This guide delves into the strategies, techniques, and principles that empower practitioners to achieve positional control. Whether you are a novice or an experienced grappler seeking to refine your skills, you could say this article lays the groundwork for becoming an expert in guard-passing techniques. 

Join us as we explore the various guard-passing techniques, from classic pressure passes to dynamic leg drags, unveiling the intricacies that make each approach unique. Learn the importance of timing, leverage, and adaptability as we break down the art of guard passing into digestible components suitable for practitioners of all levels.

Whether you find yourself entangled in the spider, de la Riva, or any other guard variation, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and tools to gracefully navigate the defenses and emerge victorious on the other side.

What is passing the guard in BJJ?

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), “passing the guard” refers to maneuvering around an opponent’s legs and hips to establish a dominant position from which you can either control or submit your opponent. The guard is a defensive position where a BJJ practitioner uses their legs and sometimes their arms to create a barrier, making it challenging for an opponent to pass and advance to a more advantageous position.

Download Schedule

When someone says “pass the guard” in BJJ, they typically refer to various techniques and strategies used to navigate through or around the legs of the opponent to achieve a position, such as side control, mount, or back control. Passing the guard is a fundamental skill in BJJ, and it involves a combination of body movement, weight distribution, and awareness of your opponent’s defensive reactions.

There are numerous guard-passing techniques in BJJ, including pressure passing, leg drags, knee cuts, and torreando passes. The choice of pass often depends on factors such as the specific guard used by the opponent, body positioning, and the practitioner’s preferred style.

It’s important to note that passing the guard requires technical skill and an understanding of timing and leverage. Successful passing can neutralize an opponent’s defensive capabilities and set the stage for positional control or submission attempts. Conversely, a skilled guard player can use their legs and hips to defend against guard passes and potentially sweep or submit the passer. Guard passing is a dynamic and strategic aspect of BJJ central to the art’s ground-fighting dynamics.

Why is passing the guard important?

Guard passing is a fundamental transition in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and failure to learn how to pass the guard will severely limit your progress as a fighter. This technique requires overcoming your opponent’s guard and establishing a more dominant position. Guard passing is important because it lets you take the initiative and dictate the match’s pace. It puts the passer in a more offensive position, forcing the opponent to react and defend.

Guard passing becomes more important as you progress in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because you will face opponents with more advanced guard retention capabilities. You will inevitably need more strategic and tactical expertise to get past your opponent’s guard. Here are three reasons strong guard passing skills are vital: 

  • Positional Control: Passing the guard allows a BJJ practitioner to progress to more dominant positions, such as side control, mount, or back control. These positions offer greater control over an opponent, making it easier to secure submissions or transitions.
  • Scoring: Passing the guard is part of earning points in BJJ competitions. Successfully navigating past an opponent’s guard demonstrates positional control and can contribute significantly to a competitor’s overall score.
  • Submission Opportunities: It opens opportunities for submission attacks. Once past the guard, a practitioner can work to secure submissions such as armlocks, chokes, or joint locks more effectively.

Guard passing can be physically demanding for the practitioner on the bottom, requiring energy to defend against passes. By effectively passing the guard, a BJJ practitioner can wear down their opponent physically and mentally, creating openings for further attacks. 

Passing the guard also often sets the stage for transitioning to even more dominant positions like the mount or back control. These positions are more likely to secure submissions and offer greater control over the opponent’s movements. Finally, if you are playing guard, preventing passing is essential for defense. The better you understand guard passing techniques, the better you can anticipate and counter an opponent’s passing attempts.

The importance of basic positioning

Many practitioners neglect to hone their fundamental basic positions (mount, side-control, rear-mount). Instead, they focus more on advanced guard and guard passing techniques. A good pass is only helpful if you can maintain the dominant position. The last thing you want while competing is to open your opponent’s guard and establish side control only to have your opponent re-acquire his guard a few seconds later. Completing positional spars will help you learn to maintain these basic positions. Your guard passing improves when you can hold these positions with as little energy as possible.

Improve you posture

Posture is the most essential element of a good guard pass. Good posture will allow you to control your opponent and use your body weight to push them away from you.

Practice control

Control of your opponent (especially the legs and hips) is another essential component of a good pass. You need to control your opponent’s body better than they can control their own body to push or pull them away from you without being countered into an escape attempt or a submission attack.

Strengthen your grip

Grips are the third fundamental aspect of a good guard pass. You need to hold on tight to prevent your opponent from escaping or countering with a sweep. Use a firm grip to maintain control of them and make your guard pass work.

Ten common techniques to pass the guard

Here are descriptions of the different types of passes:

  1. Knee Slice Pass (Knee Cut Pass): From the opponent’s guard, you use one knee to slice through their legs as you control their head and arm to prevent them from following you, thereby gaining side control.
  2. Double Under (Stack Pass): You control your opponent’s legs by going under them with your arms, lifting their hips off the ground, and stacking them to limit their mobility before passing to the side.
  3. Torreando (Bullfighter Pass): Holding the opponent’s pants or legs near the knees, you move to the side while pushing their legs in the opposite direction, allowing you to move to side control.
  4. Leg Drag: Grabbing one of the opponent’s legs, you drag it across your body while controlling their hips, which allows you to pass to the side or transition to the back.
  5. Pressure (Over-Under Pass): You use one arm to control and underhook one of the opponent’s legs while your other arm goes over the other, applying pressure and sliding into side control.
  6. X-Pass: From standing, you control one of your opponent’s knees and use your other hand to push on their hip or thigh, quickly stepping around their legs to pass the guard.
  7. Long Step: From half guard or a similar position, you control your opponent’s head or upper body while your free leg takes a long step backward to clear their legs, allowing you to pass to the opposite side.
  8. Toreando to Leg Drag: You combine the Torreando and Leg Drag passes, using the motion of one to set up the other, creating a dynamic pass combination.
  9. Smash Pass: When your opponent has a knee shield or a similar defensive structure, you use your weight to smash their legs together, creating pressure before passing to the side.
  10. Standing Pass: When your opponent has an open guard, you stand up to break their grips and create space, using footwork and hand control to maneuver around their legs and pass the guard.

Controlling the mat

In the tapestry of BJJ, the ability to pass the guard unlocks a vault of strategic prowess and technical finesse. This skill is not merely a means to an end but a continuous journey of growth and refinement on the mat. Mastering guard passing goes beyond memorizing techniques; it involves understanding the dynamic interplay of movement, balance, and anticipation. It demands adaptability, patience, and a willingness to evolve with each training session.

Embrace the diversity of guard variations, relish the challenges presented by your training partners, and view every roll as an opportunity to sharpen your skills. Each technique contributes to your expanding repertoire, making you a more versatile and formidable BJJ practitioner.

Ultimately, passing the guard is not just about gaining a positional advantage; it’s about asserting control, imposing your game plan, and demonstrating the artistry that makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a dynamic and evolving martial art. So, step onto the mat confidently and continue your journey toward mastery of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As the saying goes, the journey is the destination, and in BJJ, each guard pass is a step forward on the path to excellence.