If you’re on top in the guard during sparring you’ve got a very important choice to make…
Are you going to
- Fight him tooth and nail to get to a passing position, or
- Concede the engagement phase and let him have his guard of choice
Both are valid options, but this is a choice you should make deliberately. Let’s go through this in a little more detail…
Option 1: Fight to Get to a Passing Position
In this option you don’t let your opponent suck you into his guard of choice. Instead you fight, fight, fight to deny him his hooks, to establish your own grips, and to get to what is called a ‘passing position.’
What you want to do is win the engagement phase and get to a passing position.
Examples of passing positions include the stacking position, tripod position, cross body grip, flattened half guard, and the bodylock position (all covered here).
Now you’ve denied him the ability to off-balance you or launch serious attacks. And you’re only one step away from starting a successful guard pass.
Fighting to deny his guard and get to a passing position should be your default option. This is what you should be doing 80% of the time in sparring and 100% of the time in competition.
Let’s now take a look at the other 20% of the time…
Option 2: Concede the Engagement Phase
If you wander into your opponent’s guard and let him get all the hooks and grips he needs to play his favorite guard then you’ve just lost the engagement phase.
If you’re in his lasso guard (or whatever other fancy guard he likes using) then he’s definitely got the advantage.
He can now offbalance you with kuzushi and use that disruption of your alignment to set up his sweeps, backtakes, armlocks, chokes, and leglocks.
So why would you want to give your sparring partner this HUGE an advantage?
It’s so that you can learn.
You get to experience first hand how he uses spider guard to spin into an omoplata, the closed guard to attack with the hip bump sweep, or the butterfly guard to take your back with the arm drag.
Once you experience those attacks you’ll learn how to defend against them too, especially at the middle and late stages of the attack (early stage defense was to avoid the guard position entirely).
Letting the other guy get his favorite guard on you is a great way to train with lighter, smaller, less experienced players. You let them into the game, they occasionally sweep and submit you, and everyone gets better.
Plus if you then end up in one of these guards in a serious match you’ll hopefully have enough experience to escape and reset the position.
The takehome message here is that your training time in the guard should be deliberate…
Mostly try to avoid getting into fully formed guard positions. Gripfight, strip hooks, retreat when necessary and then advance again on your own terms.
But sometimes you should do the exact opposite. Let your opponent get the advantage and then fight to survive.
You’ve got to do both to get good
More Guard Passing Resources
There are some important resources for you on this site that’ll help with your guard passing game. And depending on your preference they’re available in online streaming, DVD, and app-based formats.
BJJ for Old F***s, the Passing Game is dedicated to giving older grapplers the techniques, strategies, and training methods they need to pass the guard of any opponent and stay effective on the mats.
In this instructional you’ll first get the critical concepts for passing the guard as an older guy so that you can smash those younger players while staying safe. Then you’ll get 5 complete strategies for passing the guard, including the setups, followups, and finishes. Most of these strategies work equally well gi and no gi.
Pressure Guard Passing with Fabio Gurgel
Fabio Gurgel has coached more than 50 World Champions and is a 4 time world champion himself. And even though he’s almost 50 years old his intense pressure passing and top game still make him a terror on the mats, hanging with much younger players and tapping them out.
His pressure passing system will shut down your opponents’ guards, wear them down, and have them practically give you the guard pass because they’ll be so tired of fighting you.