Today I’m going to share a tip which – if you actually use it – should make your guard passes twice as effective as they are right now.
I learned this a long time ago from my friend and training partner Ritchie Yip.
One day we were sparring, and unlike our previous sparring session he was absolutely demolishing my guard. It was as if I had butter legs and he was wielding a red-hot samurai sword; basically he was ignoring my guard and just walking past my legs.
It was terrible.
After the sparring session I asked him what the hell he’d been doing that made his guard passing so effective.
“That’s easy,” he laughed, “I just applied kickboxing principles to my jiu-jitsu.”
“Say what?” says I.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I realised that I never, ever throw a punch in boxing without preceeding it with some kind of feint, fake, footwork or body movement. I always set up a punch or a combination so it’s harder for my opponent to see it coming. And then I realised that the exact same thing applies to jiu-jitsu!”
And when I thought about that sparring session afterwards I realised Ritchie had never gone for a guard pass directly. Every guard pass attempt had been preceeded with some sort of fake or movement.
There isn’t one specific fake you should use to do this – the whole point is to be unpredictable.
This misdirection can be as simple as a small step in the wrong direction…
Or a quick twitch of the body…
Or the hands pretending to set up a different guard pass…
Or dropping your weight for second…
Or wrapping your arm around his ankle like you’re about to try an Achilles lock…
Almost anything will work, so long as it disguises your real intent.
If you’re going pass the butterfly guard by stepping forward, then preceed it by taking a small step backwards… or fake the cartwheel guard pass and then go into your guard pass… or reach down and pretend that you want to lift his feet off the ground.
If you’ve got the crossface against the deep half guard then before sprawling back maybe reach down and touch his leg with your free hand as if you’re thinking about going for a leglock… or back away a little bit as if you’re afraid to engage his head… or twist your body a few inches one way or the other…
If you want to jump over his Z guard then maybe move a couple inches in the wrong direction first… or start to come up to your feet… or fake a sleeve choke… or whatever.
In the past I’ve made fun of boxing for being so much simpler than jiu-jitsu. (And had quite a few people freak out about it incidentally.)
Now it’s still true that jiu-jitsu has a thousand times more techniques than boxing.
But the limited number of techniques in boxing has forced high-level boxers to become very clever and subtle in their setups, disguising their combos behind a barrage of fakes, feints and misdirection.
That misdirection is something we can all learn from boxing!
It applies to all areas of jiu-jitsu: guard sweeps, pin escapes, submissions and transitions.
But the easiest place to start is with your guard passes, particularly your standing guard passes because you are already that much more mobile.
(Plus the idea of doing a quick Ali shuffle before you launch into your toreando, leg drag or helicopter pass is just kinda cool anyway.)
Give it a try, OK?
This one simple idea will probably help you as much as it helped Ritchie that day, and me on all the days after that!