Obstacles: Sometimes when you run into a skilled guard player and it seems nothing will get you around their legs it gets frustrating. How you react to that frustration will determine your success or failure as a guard passer. We all have a natural tendency when frustrated to get the mentality of a ram and just go on butting heads until one drops. Don’t get into this mindset. Remember always that it’s always better to go AROUND obstacles rather than THROUGH them - guard passing is no different. No matter how tired and frustrated you get, focus on moving from one side to another - as feel strong resistance on the left, move to the right and renew the attack and keep working aide to side until you get the breakthrough you seek. Don’t just kept hammering away on one side against a good guard player - that’s a ticket to frustration and eventual failure. If you feel yourself getting frustrated it’s ok to back off a little and start again. The main thing is to stay on top and work side to side - that alone will usually result in the bottom player working harder than you over time and thus become less effective as fatigue becomes a factor.

Guard passing - two directions for your game

Guard passing - two directions for your game: There are a vast number of ways to pass an opponents guard, but at the end of the day they can be divided into two camps. The first are those passes that focus upon USING YOUR MOBILITY TO OUTFLANK YOUR OPPONENTS LEGS. The second are those that focus upon IMMOBILIZING YOUR OPPONENTS FEET AND HIPS AND GOING PAST HIS IMMOBILIZED HIPS. So one is concerned with using your mobility to pass, the other is concerned with restricting the opponents mobility. Toreando (bullfighting) passes are a good example of using your mobility advantage (you are on your feet, opponent is on his back so you should be able to move much faster and more freely than him). Bodylock passes would be a good example of passes that shut down your opponents hips and feet and prevent him following your movement as you pass. It’s natural that you should favor one type over the other, BUT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AT LEAST ONE OF EACH (and preferably a few more than that) so that you can play both games to throw off difficult opponents. Here, Gordon Ryan puts his opponent under tremendous pressure with his powerful body lock passing style

Passing guard as a route to the back

Passing guard as a route to the back: When you first begin the study of Jiu jitsu you learn to pass the guard into top pins, usually side pins but sometimes directly to mount. As you go against better and better opponents you will soon find that they employ many methods of guard retention that make passing very difficult. It can be a very frustrating thing to run into the many roadblocks that good opponents can create to your favorite passes. Understand however, that many of these methods of guard retention are intended to stop passes into top pins, but in doing so they very often create momentary BACK EXPOSURE. You must have your mind programmed to jump on this new opportunity immediately - it won’t be there for long. Every sequences of guard passing versus guard retention is essentially a PROLONGED SCRAMBLE and as such, the back is one of the best targets. Program your mind to hunt for the back in these scrambles just as much as you do for the side pin and you will double your chances of a score against tough guards

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!

Dominate the space between the knees

Dominate the space between the knees: A fundamental premise of guard position is that THE TWO LEGS MUST WORK IN UNISON IF THE POSITION IS TO BE EFFECTIVE. If you can place the your body between his knees and prevent the legs from working together, you will have taken a big step towards shutting down your opponents guard. In addition, you will have placed yourself in a fine situation to pass. Look at Craig Jones wedging himself between the knees of his opponent in a way that totally shuts down the bottom athletes ability to use his legs in unison. Now he has shut down most forms of attack and resistance from the bottom player, he can focus on a choice between passing and leg lock attacks - and there is very little his opponent can do to stop either. Look for this situation whenever possible as you pass. You will find the other fellow can’t attack with much, whilst you can attack with whatever you want.

There is a strong relationship between guard passing and taking an opponents back

There is a strong relationship between guard passing and taking an opponents back: We normally think of passing an opponents guard to the side, or occasionally to mount; but some of the most commonly occurring and profitable opportunities come in situations where opponents turn into defensive turtle positions to prevent giving up passing points. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO CAPITALIZE UPON THESE OPPORTUNITIES!! Not only can you potentially score more points with a back take than a guard pass, but in addition you are now in the single best finishing position in the sport. Keep you eyes open for the back when passing!!! Be ready to capitalize immediately upon the great opportunities in front of you!!

My favorite way to pass guard

My favorite way to pass guard: There are many effective ways to pass an opponents guard, each has their good and bad points - but if I had only one way to pass guard for the rest of my life I would unquestionably choose the method of FORCING MY WAY TO HALF GUARD AND PASSING FROM HALF GUARD. Of all the methods out there, this is in my experience the most versatile and the most high percentage. It works equally well gi or no gi, grappling and fighting. All my students excel at it and it figures very heavily in their passing game. No other method of passing can create such direct pressure upon the opponents head, which is a big part of why it is so successful in world championship competition. Next time you get stymied in a tricky guard, break it into two steps - force your way forward into half guard and then pass from there!

When you can pass guard you get to choose the battleground

When you can pass guard you get to choose the battleground: The beauty of guard passing is that it enables you to put yourself in positions where your opponent cannot use his best weapons - his LEGS - to defend and attack from bottom position. It creates an immediate and devastating ASYMMETRY where you can attack at will whilst your opponent can only defend. A second great benefit is that you can now attack the whole body and choose where you want to to attack - legs, arms or neck. No other positional skill opens up so much variation in submission choice as guard passing - there is a reason why it is the centerpiece of the top positional game in Jiu Jitsu - make it the centerpiece of your game too!

Why does Jiu Jitsu put such an emphasis on passing guard?

Why does Jiu Jitsu put such an emphasis on passing guard? From your first lesson in Jiu Jitsu you were told that if you are in top position your first priority is to get past your opponents legs and pass his guard. The reasons for this are important. A fundamental principle of Jiu Jitsu is to seek always an asymmetry in attacking potential in your favor. We always want situations where you can attack your opponent more readily and in more devastating fashion than he can attack you. The best way you can do this is to get past your opponents legs. Almost All of the major submissions and strikes from bottom position require the use of your legs. If you get past those there is very little to be concerned with. You on the other hand, now have a vast array of strikes and submissions that you can use. Even in matches that don’t give points for guard passing it is still very much worth your while to pass an opponents guard just to be able to exploit this desirable asymmetry where you can attack at will whilst an opponent can barely attack at all. Think about a situation where you had no guard passing ability whatsoever. What kind of offense could you apply to your opponent from top position? You would be limited to leg locks - you could only attack 50% of the human body. Interestingly, when you can only attack the lower body your leg locks become predictable and easy to defend. When you can pass guard you can attack the whole body - you still have the leg lock option (even better leg locks because your opponent doesn’t know if you will be passing or leg locking) and now arms locks and strangles as well. The whole realm of strangles only opens up when you can pass guard - and strangles are the single most high percentage finishes of them all. So even if you are, as I obviously am, a lover of the leg lock game, KEEP WORKING YOUR PASSING GAME AS THE FOUNDATION OF TOP GAME JIU JITSU. Only then will you be able to fulfill my ideal of Jiu Jitsu - to attack the whole body rather than half of it.

The fundamental choice in Jiu Jitsu - inside control or outside control

The fundamental choice in Jiu Jitsu - inside control or outside control: When it comes time to control the human body the fundamental choice you will have before you is whether to control your opponents body by gripping outside/over his limbs or inside/under his limbs. They represent very different methods of control with different goals. As a general rule, inside control is best suited for opening an opponents limbs out and away from his torso, whilst outside control is typically best suited for pushing limbs across the center line and exposing an opponents back - but these are generalizations with important exceptions. When it comes to open guard, probably the most well known and proven method of outside control is DE LA RIVA guard, where your leg entwines the opponents lead leg from the outside. There are many variations utilizing different grips. This is an excellent position from which to launch your open guard offense, or, if you prefer inside position, to transfer to guards based upon inside position, such as ashi garami, X guard, reverse De La Riva etc. Train yourself to tie up your opponents lead leg with your de la Riva hook and get whatever grips you want from there - then it’s time to decide whether you attack directly from there or switch to another guard - either way, De La Riva guard will prove an invaluable means of initial control and a fine staging point from which you can direct an opponent into any kind of open guard that you favor