In BJJ you will spend the majority of your time either trying to pass someone’s guard or preventing someone from passing your guard, and so logically, you may be wondering what are the most effective guard passes?
This info has been gathered by countless hours of listening to bjj instructionals (specifically John Danaher sped up to 2x playback speed of course) and endless experiments in live sparring.
These are the guard passes that have come easiest and have been the most effective for me.
For an example of Mr. John Danaher – check out the below video as he breaks down jiu jitsu in simple steps:
Ok listen, I love the knee cut pass, who doesn’t, but, if you’re looking for a few of the most effective bjj guard pass positions along with a structured, controlled method of guard passing you’ve come to the right place.
What Is Passing the Guard in BJJ – and Why Is It So Integral to the Martial Art?
One of the first phrases you will hear in bjj is passing the guard.
In the simplest terms, passing guard means getting around your opponent’s legs in order to enter into a dominant position and have more submission attacks available to you.
Specifically, I will be focusing on no gi guard passing from different positions as well as how to pass closed guard.
So what are the most effective no gi guard passes? They are:
- Torreando Passing
- Passing from Half Guard
- Body Lock Passing
Its also worth noting that bjj is constantly evolving, trends come and go, and once effective techniques can be countered or dismissed over time.
However while these passing positions are very popular at the time of this writing, they have also been considered some of the most effective guard passes since the rise of Brazilian jiu jitsu.
The reason why guard passing is so important is because when you effectively pass someone’s guard you are getting around your opponent’s largest muscle groups that they can use to defend and that can cause the most damage.
In the video above of John Danaher on Joe Rogan (if you can get passed the strong middle manager vibe Danaher gives), he goes over the specific steps of jiu jitsu and why passing guard is such an important part.
The steps he lists are:
- Step 1: Take your opponent down
- Step 2: Passing their legs
- Step 3: Work through hierarchy of pins
- Step 4: Attack submissions
First up – How to Pass Closed Guard
With closed guard being one of the most instantly recognizable positions in bjj you may be wondered “how to pass closed guard”.
Closed guard is when the bottom person has their legs wrapped around the top player as seen in the below image:
While there are many ways to open and pass someone’s closed guard, the most effective is by standing up and working open their legs or push their legs down off of you.
Some key points to focus on when breaking someone’s guard:
- while there may be more risks by standing to pass close guard such as them trying to break you back down, sweeps, or upper and lower body attacks standing to pass is the most effective way to pass a closed guard especially in no gi
- with your hands inside their biceps, bring your head over their head then step up and stand up to vertical posture
- lean your body to one side and post on their other leg with both hands on their upper shin to break their guard
- if they grab your legs circle your leg forward, up, and around to break their grip
- stuff their knee outside of yours to maintain inside knee position
Below is a video of Lachlan Giles demonstrating the standing closed guard break:
Torreando Guard Passing Explained
Torreando in Portuguese relates to bull fighting. In this sense you are attempting to spin or step around your opponent in order pass their guard.
- To utilize gripping techniques on their legs
- To completely avoid being entangled in their guard
- To point their feet away from you or get them up over their head in a stacked position
- To get to your opponents “J-point” (jeopardy point) past the line of their hips in between their knee and elbow connection
- To get to the “king” or “queen” position (as explained by John Danaher in his New Wave Passing Instructional)
Torreando Key Points:
- You can use misdirection and fakes to to the j-point and/or king and queen positions
- You must make a “cranial shift” after getting past their legs by controlling your opponent’s upper body via crossface, overhook, or underhook or some variation of the three
Here is a video from the guys at South Boston BJJ that go over the basics of the torreando pass in detail. They also go into further details as well within this series of videos:
Passing from Half Guard
Passing from half guard is one of the most effective jiu jitsu techniques that have stood the test of time and have been effective at every level.
It involves you starting from a half guard position (as shown below) and working to get passed their knee shield followed by upper body control to flatten your opponent out then using your leg to free your trapped leg to successfully pass.
Half Guard Passing Process:
- Get pass their knee shield
- Gain upper body control (via cross face, under/over hook combo)
- Free your trapped leg
Half Guard Key Points: there is a battle of distance and control – this battle is often won by upper body control the bottom person wants to keep you framed away (most effectively with a cross shoulder frame and a knee shieldthe top player wants to work to get through those frames and get the bottom person flatted out
Here Gordon Ryan goes over effective guard passing from half guard to side control:
Bodylock Passing – Time to Smash
Bodylock passing rose to popularity recently (as of this writing) with several instructionals going over the passing position such as the ones from Craig Jones, Gordon Ryan, and John Danaher.
It likely rose to prominence since it gives the passing person a massive amount of control over the defending players hips and effectively shuts down a lot of possible defenses by doing so. It also stops your opponent from entering into any leg attacks.
Bodylock passing process:
- gain access to opponent’s torso via underhook and/or overhook
- pull them tight into you to smash their butterfly hooks
- work to sprawl back and free your leg from one of their butterfly hooks (optional)
- look to step over their knee and into half guard or directly into side control
Here is a clip from Gordon Ryan’s Bodylock Passing instructional:
How to Learn Guard Passing
One more time – so what are the most effective no gi guard passes? They are:
- Torreando Passing
- Passing from Half Guard
- Body Lock Passing
When considering how to learn guard passing, its important to begin to integrate these new positions and techniques in a structure manor. I get it – you’re being hit with new techniques about as fast and as often as that lanky white belt is throwing up triangles (okay that was me – see image for proof)
Just like learning anything else in jiu jitsu, you need to actively put yourself in those positions very often and at the beginning this is best done against bjj practitioners who are less experienced than you.
Since you will be spending majority of your time sparring working to pass your opponent’s guard its important to choose one or two guard passes that come naturally to you, are effective at the highest level, and then invest your time in them.
By spending more time in these guard passing positions:
- you will learn common reactions from your sparring partner and hopefully, learn counter techniques to deal with them.
- using guard passing a a place to build from and learn techniques and submissions that connect directly to your passing
Both of these things will make your bjj game excel and soon you’ll be passing higher belts with all the speed and agility as a rabbit on pre-workout.
Have a good day and thanks for reading – zack