“Does pressure passing work for small guys, or is it just for the big, heavy guys at they gym?”
I’m getting this question a lot now that I’ve released The Pressure Passing System instructional with 4 x world champion Fabio Gurgel. And it’s a good question!
First things first, let’s define what we’re talking about…
Table of Contents
The Styles of Guard Passing
Fundamentally there are two styles of guard passing: speed based and pressure based.
Yes, yes, yes, there’s some overlap between speed and pressure passing. Some passes are a bit of both… and you can switch from one style of pass to the other in mid-sequence… and you can do some pressure passes fast… and yes, if your timing and technique is perfect then you can sometimes do a speed based pass a bit slower.
But basically you have two choices for guard passing:
- SPEED: Go so fast past your opponent’s legs that he can’t keep up, and/or
- PRESSURE: Pin his hips, neutralise his legs, and then slowly inch your way past the guard
In speed based passing you use quick footwork, left and right direction changes, lots of fakes, and breakdancing moves like flips, rolls and cartwheels.
It’s a dynamic and very entertaining style of guard passing to watch (have you ever seen a Rafa Mendes highlight video? They’re amazing…).
But speed based passing isn’t for everybody.
You need to have endurance, speed and a certain amount of athleticism to pull it off. If you didn’t win the genetic lottery, or if you’re getting into your late thirties or beyond, then successful speed passing becomes harder and harder.
This brings us to pressure passing…
In pressure passing you stay low, put your opponent’s legs into a bad position, and then spike your bodyweight into his diaphragm or his upper body. Then you slowly work your way past his guard and finalise the side control or full mount position.
Bearing your weight and struggling to get his legs back into position is exhausting for your opponent. He can totally burn out his legs straining to get back into a good position, exhaust his arms pushing you away, and burn up all his remaining energy fighting you.
A ninja strategy is to go extra slow and take extra time in your pass. You could pass to sidemount but instead you stop, hang out in mid-pass for a while, and let the guy tire himself out so that he’s easier to finish. This hurry-up-and-wait strategy is discussed in more detail in the video below…
Do You Need to be Heavy to Use Pressure Passing?
So back to our original question: is pressure passing just for big, heavy guys?
No, not at all! There are lots of smaller guys who successfully pass the guard slow and low with pressure.
Now it’s true that there is an upper limit to the size difference between you and your opponent. If you’re a 100 lb girl you won’t be able to pressure pass the guard of a 225 lb meathead who eats ground up kettlebells for lunch. The size and weight difference is simply too large.
But the exact same thing applies to speed passing.
Imagine that you’re trying to use speed-based passing on a black belt who has the fast twitch muscle composition of Usain Bolt, the reaction time of Bruce Lee, and the processing speed of some teenage gamer’s overclocked, nitrogen-cooled desktop computer…
You wouldn’t be able to speed pass that guy; he’s legitimately twice as fast as you.
And you can’t use pressure passing if someone is twice as large as you.
Of course those are extreme examples. There are far more situations where pressure passing will still work for smaller guys..
Small Guy Pressure Passing
First of all, pressure passing works great on other people in your own weight class, even if you’re small.
Let’s say you’re a lightweight facing another lightweight in a competition. That other guy is probably expecting you to run, jump, skip and cartwheel your way past his guard, just like all the other lightweight guys in the division.
But if you change things up and go low, slow and heavy on him all of a sudden then you’re doing something unexpected. You’re changing the rules of the game, and that will likely give you a big advantage.
This is probably why both Bruno Malfacine (10 time world champion at 129 lbs) AND Cobrinha (9 time world champion at 154 lbs) BOTH credit Fabio Gurgel – an infamous pressure passer – with improving their guard passing game.
By combining speed passing AND pressure passing they end up with an improved, dominant top game not typically found in their weight divisions!
Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles
2013, 2015 and 2017 ADCC Champion
5 x World Champion
4 x World No Gi Champion
But pressure passing isn’t only for guys your own size and smaller.
Big Guy vs Bigger Guy Pressure Passing
In my experience I’ve found that pressure passing works well even against guys who are one or two weight classes heavier than you.
I’m about 210 lbs and have regular battles with a guy who only weighs 175 lbs. He has developed his over-under pass to such a degree that if he gets this position on me I feel like my hips are stapled to the floor and I’m in for the fight of my life. Having 35 lbs on him definitely isn’t a get out of jail free card – the over-under is that effective.
Similarly I regularly use pressure passes on guys who weigh up to 240 lbs (and even on a 280 lb black belt once, but the guy was getting tired so I’m not sure that counts). Is it a little bit more work than smashing a smaller guy? Sure, but tell me one thing that’s easy about fighting a 240 lb in shape guy! You’re going to have to work no matter what kind of passing you use.
Bottom line: pressure passing doesn’t work in every single situation – no tool does – but you can definitely use with a very wide size range of opponents.
More Pressure Passing
If you want to get better at pressure passing then you should check out The Pressure Passing System. Admittedly I’m biased since I produced it, but it truly is the single best resource I’ve ever seen on this topic.
In it 6th degree black belt Fabio Gurgel shows the passes and strategies that allowed him to coach over 50 BJJ World Champions on his team.
The Pressure Passing System is available in DVD, online streaming, and app form for your smartphone. So whichever way you like to consume your BJJ instructionals you can get it!
Click here for more information about The Pressure Passing System with Fabio Gurgel.