When it comes to passing the guard you basically have two options: pass with speed, or pass with pressure.
Speed-based guard passes typically rely on creating some distance between you and your opponent, getting some kind of control on his feet or legs, and then blasting your way past your legs with some quickly manoeuvring. The ‘Toreando’ pass and its variations would be classic examples of speed-based passing.
In pressure-based passing you incrementally gain control over more and more of your opponent’s body until you slowly edge your way past his guard.
Your opponent should feel like he’s in a box which is getting smaller and smaller. With every adjustment of your body your opponent should feel more pressure, have less options, and find it just a little bit harder to move. Your progression is like a ratchet: it only moves forwards and never goes backwards.
Pressure based passing is a great tool to use against those guard players who always create lots of distance and movement in their guard game. Typically these players want to open up the playing field and then use their speed to take advantage of the different opportunities that pop up. Pressure-based passing is a good antidote to all that movement and chaos; it slows the game down, turning it into a bit more of a chess match where planning and technique can compensate for lack of physical attributes like speed and explosiveness.
The stereotype is that speed-based passes are used mainly by smaller fighters, and pressure-based passes are used mainly by larger guys. There might be a grain of truth here, but it’s important not to go too far with this idea.
First of all, there are lots of larger competitors who use speed-based passing, and many lightweights who put a TON of pressure on their opponents when they’re competing in their own weight category. Also keep in mind that in competition you’re usually in a weight class, so there usually won’t be a huge disparity in size, strength and speed which might steer you towards only using one style of passing or the other.
So both styles of passing are applicable for every weight category.
I’ll go a bit deeper into speed-based passing another time, probably via a video that I’ll shoot for my newsletter subscribers, but for the rest of today I want to focus on pressure-based passing.
A friend just sent me a sneak preview from a not-yet-released instructional video where four time BJJ world champion Rodolfo Vieira teaches the ‘Weave’ guard pass against the knee shield half guard position. I thought this video perfectly illustrated the concept of pressure passing, which is something that Rodolfo is known for.
The knee shield half guard can be incredibly annoying to deal with, but in the video below Rodolfo systematically dismantles it.
First he kills the bottom leg, collapses both legs together, secures a grip on the collar, frees his legs from the half guard entanglement, and then passes the guard. There aren’t any fancy athletic leaps or jumps, just simple movements that link together in an inevitable forward progression that characterises pressure-based passing.
As you would expect from a multiple time world champion, he makes small adjustments that exponentially multiply the effectiveness of the pass. In particular, I found the walking motion to increase ‘traction’ used by Rodolfo to increase the pressure on his opponent very interesting (he starts talking about it at c. 2:50 in the video below).
It’s little adjustments like this – the walking motion – that take the commonly-taught Weave pass and turn it into a technique that works again and again at the highest level of competition.
(Rodolfo’s demonstration partner laughingly told me yesterday that he still has PTSD about the amount of pressure that got put on him during this guard pass. Once again, it’s the little details that really make the difference.)
Then, just for fun, at the end of the video there’s a cool variation of the baseball choke. The baseball choke is one of those chokes that high level guys use all the time, so if you fight with the gi then studying it is probably time well spent!
Click play on the video below, or click here to watch it on my Youtube channel.