Pressure passing - the power of half guard

Pressure passing - the power of half guard: There are many ways to create pressure whilst passing an opponents guard, but in my opinion half guard passing is the best for pressure for the simple reason that it offers direct control of the opponents HEAD, which creates the strongest forms of pressure. The ability to exert pressure over time is perhaps the single biggest determinant of success or failure at championship level. Working your way to half guard and getting control of the head gives you what I consider the best pressure passing method in the game. It works equally well in all three areas of sport Jiu jitsu, gi, no gi and MMA. Here, Georges St Pierre, who uses half guard passing brilliantly throughout his MMA career, trades pressure with Gordon Ryan, who used it brilliantly in his double gold medal performance at the ADCC Grappling World Championships.

The single greatest advantage of half guard passing methods over regular methods of guard passing - head control

The single greatest advantage of half guard passing methods over regular methods of guard passing - head control: The pattern of events in a guard pass is for the passing athlete get past the feet, knees and most importantly, the line of your opponents hips, and then transition to the head to complete the pass. That transition to the head (the cranial shift) is a constant source of problems, as the defending guard player can exploit the time and pressure release involved in that transition to create strong defensive frames and move back to guard position. Half guard passing methods on the other hand, involve working your way to a situation where your opponent is locked around one of your legs whilst your other leg is free. If you can attain a chest to chest position you can now control your opponents head BEFORE getting past the line of your opponents hips. This means that when you extract your leg from his hold, you already have head control in place and there is no problematic cranial shift. This enables you to impose tremendous control and pressure throughout the pass all the way to completion. Here, Craig Jones shows his ever improving top pressure game, taking a solid cross face grip (the most common form of head control) before beginning the task of extracting his trapped leg. As a result he will be in a fine position to exercise total pin control as soon as the pass is completed.

The power of elbow control

The power of elbow control: A huge part of success in Jiu jitsu becomes from posture - and a big part of good posture in Jiu jitsu is concerned with keeping your elbows close to your hips and torso. The more you can do this, the more difficult it will be for an opponent to control you and open you up to attacks. It stands to reason then, that Taking your opponents elbows out of position, away from the hip and torso, is an excellent way to undermine his game and makes it easier to apply your own. This is particularly important when employing chest to chest pins, but it’s also a valuable idea when passing half guard. Here I use double underhooks to undermine my partners elbow position and thus make defense from half guard bottom very difficult. Note that head position also becomes important in this context as you can see here. The basis of defense in Jiu jitsu is elbow position- there is a reason why the old masters call them elbow escapes - knock that domino over first and all the others will soon fall

Your guard is four limbed, not two

Your guard is four limbed, not two: The centerpiece of guard position is your legs. Your legs are radically stronger than your upper body and so guard position is the best way for smaller people to take on and defeat bigger opponents from underneath. Nonetheless, we must always understand that it is THE SYNERGY BETWEEN ARMS AND LEGS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR GUARD EFFECTIVE BOTH IN DEFENSE AND OFFENSE. In the case of guard retention, when your opponent beats your LEGS, it will be your ARMS that hold him off long enough for the legs to reclaim their position. In the vase of offense, it will be your arms that hold the opponent for your legs to make their way into the various ashi garami, triangle and arm bar position that will bring you victory. Always it will be that critical INTERACTION of arms and legs that will make your guard a stalwart of defense and a powerhouse of offense. Look how Nicky Ryan’s arms form temporary barriers and frames against a strong passing rush and how this creates the time and space to bring the legs back into play and defend the position. Make your guard an interactive four limbed monster of attack and defense and your bottom game will be much closer to where you want it!

Half guard passing - Once you control the head you can focus upon extracting your leg

Half guard passing - Once you control the head you can focus upon extracting your leg: The ultimate goal of every half guard pass is to extract your leg and pass either to the two sides of your opponent or straight up the middle to the mount. A crucial step on the path to that goal is to pin the head and shoulders. This is usually done via crossface and/or underhook, though there are other good methods as well. Here, Gordon Ryan uses only a cross face without an under hook. This means he must pay extra attention to keeping his opponents hips flat on the mat so that he is stable enough to begin extracting his leg. Don’t think the cross face alone is enough to flatten an opponent and keep him flat - your hips are an important part of that process also. Walking your hips forward into his is an excellent way to use your legs to keep him flat rather than rely exclusively on your arm.

Use all your options when passing half guard

Use all your options when passing half guard: Half Guard passing represents perhaps the most high percentage and versatile method of passing your opponents guard in the sport. Use it well and use it often. Whenever you choose to use it, be aware that you can pass in three directions. First, to the same side as you initiate the pass. Second, straight up the middle to the mount. Third, across your opponents body to the far side. All three are highly effective and all three combine well with each other. Learning to use all three possible directions, especially in combinations, will make it very difficult for an opponent to stop you. Here, I have back stepped over to the far side to get into a particularly effective passing method that controls an opponents head while while creating great pressure by getting head and hips pointing in opposing directions. Make sure you have at least one trusted method of half guard passing for each of the three main possible directions of passing from half guard and you will soon find your passing game generating a lot more success for you!

The ultimate pressure pass - half guard

The ultimate pressure pass - half guard: There are two main methods of guard passing. The first is based on MOVEMENT. The idea is to move rapidly to an angle and close distance at a rate that your opponent can not keep up with. Good examples would be toreando passes, x passes, long step passes etc. Second, there are pressure passing methods based around the idea of STOPPING THE OPPONENT FROM MOVING. Good examples would be over/under passing, stack passing etc. The best form of pressure passing in my opinion, is HALF GUARD PASSING. The reason is that the pressure is usually applied directly to the HEAD AND SHOULDERS, which has the greatest effect of stopping movement in your opponent. CONTROL OVER THE HEAD IS THE SINGLE MOST SIGNIFICANT FORM OF CONTROL YOU CAN EXERT UPON THE HUMAN BODY. No other passing method offers such unrelenting and intimidating pressure as half guard passing. The main weapons at you disposal are a strong cross face or reverse cross face to control the head; and either a far side or near side underhook to control the shoulders. Look how Gordon Ryan, a truly devastating half guard passer, flattens out his opponent to set up his cross face and work towards an under hook on either side - then with direct control of the head and shoulders the pressure mounts very quickly indeed - leading to the kind of passing success you will need as you progress to the higher ranks!

Passing half guard - head control

Passing half guard - head control: The final stage of most forms of guard pass is to get control of the head and shoulder. In most cases you begin by passing the feet, knees, hips and then finally getting a hold of the head to complete the pass. Half guard passing is very different. In this case you usually get past one knee and then get control of the head and shoulders - THEN you go to extract your trapped leg and pass the guard. The great advantage of half guard passing is that is enables you to control the head PRIOR to the pass rather than as the COMPLETION of the pass. This creates unusual amounts of control and pressure as you pass. Here you can see Gordon Ryan, a true master of half guard passing, exert eye popping pressure on a training partner as he goes to work passing half guard. Though the head is the primary control - don’t neglect the shoulders - this usually done through some form of underhook - here Gordon Ryan has selected double underhooks, a particularly devastating form of control. Take advantage of the unique character of half guard passing to create the kind of match winning pressure you will need to pass the best guards in the gym.

Half guard passing and MMA/fighting

Half guard passing and MMA/fighting: Modern Jiu jitsu has many exciting and very effective methods of guard passing that have risen to prominence in last decade. When it’s time to apply some of these to MMA or fighting however, they often run into problems due to lack of gi grips or the fact that many opponents simply stand up from bottom position as you try to pass. When it comes time to pass under fighting conditions, one method stands above all - half guard passing. When I used to coach George St Pierre for his passing/top control, the overwhelming majority of training time was spent in forcing half guard and passing from there. No other method adapts so well to the rigors and demands of MMA than pressure passing from half guard. He used this with great effect throughout his career - repeatedly passing even world champion Jiu jitsu specialists with no problems. I can confidently attest that no other method of guard passing adapts so well to gi, no gi and MMA as half guard passing does. Even when Mr St Pierre trains in pure no gi grappling he is able to put even elite level grapplers under shocking pressure using this simple but powerful method of guard passing. Notice how his chest to chest contact will make it very difficult indeed for an opponent to stand up on his as he passes

Half guard top - no need to rush

Half guard top - no need to rush: Of all the methods of passing guard, passing from half guard gives you the most ability to slow things down and dictate the pace. You must learn to use this in your favor. When you first get over your opponents knee and enter half guard - take a moment to to first solidify your top position rather than rush into the passing game. Your first goal should be to shut down your opponents ability to off balance and move you (if he can do that he will be attacking you relentlessly). This means there will be a contest for arm position (most opponents will be looking to get an under hook), head position (opponent will be looking to get your head far forward over his shoulders) and hip position (opponents will be looking to get under you and on to one side rather than flat). Who wins these three battles will generally dictate the overall battle from half guard. So when you first settle into half guard - look to win these three battles first before you go into your favorite passes. Here, Nicky Ryan loses the battle for arm position but compensated by winning the battles for head position and hip position, setting him up for some strong passes.