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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

24 November 2011

24/11/2011 - Teaching (Passing Closed Guard)

Teaching #030
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 24/11/2011

The first guard pass most people learn is the single underhook, sometimes known as a smash pass (although confusingly, there is also a completely different pass you might see called the 'smash pass'. The joys of BJJ's non-standardised terminology). After you've opened their guard (this can also work off a failed armbar or triangle attempt on their part), you need to get one of your arms under their leg. Your other elbow – and this is absolutely key – must not slip in front of their other knee. If it does, then you're at risk of being triangled: they simply need to pull the arm forwards to move into a triangle set up, as your first arm is already out of the picture.

You don't want to leave that first arm under their leg, as unless you're much bigger, their leg is always going to be able to outpower your arm. Therefore you need to get their leg up onto your shoulder, either bumping it with your arm, or dropping down to put your shoulder in place. At that point, drive forward so that you're shoving their knee into their face. When you've got them stacked, reach your stacking side arm around their leg and grab their collar. I tend to go four fingers in, but a thumb in grip sets you up for a simple (if somewhat crappy, so it's mainly for distraction) forearm choke. You can also try grabbing their opposite shoulder.

Keep on driving forward, until they become so uncomfortable that they basically want you to pass. Don't lift your head to get past their legs. You are going to squash your body into them until you can slide by their legs, using constant forward pressure. At most, you might need to nudge their legs with your shoulder. To further enhance your stack, you can grab the back of their trousers, or alternatively put your knee there as a wedge.

A similar option is the stack pass, also known as a double underhooks pass (and probably a bunch of other things). The main difference is that you're putting your arms under both their legs instead of just one. Slip your arms underneath both legs and get a secure gable grip (palm to palm). If you prefer, you can instead grip their trousers and lock your elbows, or indeed their belt: the problem with those grips is that the loose fabric may provide them with enough space that they can make room to escape.

Whichever grip you prefer, you now want to stack your opponent, driving forward off your toes. To get them in position for stacking, the two basic methods are to either pull them up onto your hips using your thighs as a ramp, or move forwards so you're close behind them and they are rolled up onto their shoulders. If you don't get them stacked and therefore leave space between their hips and yours, then they can still use their legs to stop you, such as by hooking under your thighs with their insteps. Once you've got them stacked, the aim is again to push their knee right into their face.

At that point, the process becomes much the same as the smash pass, as like before, you'll grab their opposite collar with one of your hands, sliding your fingers inside. That is just one grip, as you could also reach behind their head. An even tighter option is to reach behind their head and grab the shoulder. Be careful you don't start neck cranking with a can opener, however, as that's illegal in most competitions for a reason: speaking as somebody with a currently messed up neck, please don't mash up your training partner's vertebrae. ;)

Move round gradually on your toes and/or press one hip into theirs to shift them to the side, and with the other hand hold the back of their trousers and lift their hips (Ed Beneville has a bunch of other options for keeping them stacked, such as holding their gi lapel, their wrist, or bracing them against the inside of your leg) Remember, it is important to keep maintaining heavy downwards pressure throughout this pass. Keep pushing until eventually you drive past their leg and transition to side control: don't raise your head, just keep pushing until you slide past. Alternatively, you can do what Abmar Barbosa does and drive off your feet to shove their legs out of the way.


  1. Great description mate. Puts what I've written about basically the same stuff to shame. Your ability to translate positioning to words is second to none, have you considered doing a book (or EBook)?

    Keep it going dude (like I need to tell you that) and before long you'll have enough material for a book without even needed to do any writing for it.


  2. Thanks!

    I would love to write a book, but I would need to have a lot more teaching experience first. Loads of ideas for that, but I can wait until black belt.

    There have been awesome books by purples (most notably Ed Beneville and Tim Cartmell, back when they released the first edition of Passing the Guard), but I think those days are gone. ;)

  3. Hell no. I've got that book and it is awesome. I still maintain that it holds the best formula for a descriptive and pictorial Bjj manual out there. I could well imagine you pulling off an equal feat.

    And if you were to publish a book or Ebook I am fairly sure you would have no shortage of advertisement space via blogland.

    From what I can gather from your writing and perfectionism, it does not surprise me that you would not be happy with the finished product until you were a black belt though. It just means it will be all the more amazing when it's realised. Keep up the good work buddy \m/