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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

03 January 2012

03/01/2012 - Gracie Barra Bristol (Guard Pass)

Class #440
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Luke Chamberlain, Bristol, UK - 02/01/2012

My first class of 2012 was, unusually, taken by Luke, one of the better blue belts at GB Bristol. I knew he had an interest in teaching from discussions we've had in the past, so I was intrigued as to what and how he would teach. Normally it would be Dónal, but I think he's skiing in Austria, and Geeza was also busy.

Luke more than lived up to expectations: he taught a very technical, carefully structured class, with loads of detail. That kicked off with a look at grip-breaking, which I'll definitely be keeping in mind for when I teach passing. Luke started with grip-breaking from the closed guard, from the perspective of the person on top looking to pass. If they grip your collar, the basic option is to place both your hands under their gripping wrist, then thrust upwards and away as you move your torso slightly backwards.

The second collar-grip break was a little more complex, which I hadn't seen before. IIRC, you start by bracing the elbow of your outside arm with your hip, cupping your hand underneath their arm, just before their elbow. Your other hand goes to the wrist again. Luke mentioned it was a bit like an armbar motion, as you're locking the arm out. As before, your then push up to break the grip (though I think I might be missing some details there).

Having dealt with the collar, Luke followed up with a grip break if they grab your sleeve. This was nice and simple, as you just circle your wrist in the direction of their thumb. If you try and go the other way, they can adjust and maintain the grip. Going against their thumb makes it much harder for them to retain their hold. Finally, if they grab your trousers near the knee, bring your hand underneath, then slide it up past their wrist to dislodge their grip.

Open guard grip breaks was next, focusing specifically on the spider guard. To escape my preferred lasso (where you wrap your leg around their arm), circle your hand behind their leg, then crawl your fingers around. I can't remember if the next one was also for a lasso or for the standard foot in bicep (I think it was the latter), but either way, you bring your arm down next to your knee, scraping their leg off, then circle your hand free of their grip as in the previous closed guard grip break.

If they are being sloppy with their feet in a foot-in-biceps spider guard, you may be able to simply circle your forearms under their legs, cupping the back of their ankle or leg with your hands, then push their legs off your biceps. That can then lead straight into a guard pass, as you take the opportunity to move round into knee on belly before they can recover their leg position.

The main technique of the night was the Margarida pass, named after Fernando 'Margarida' Pontes (read more about him here), a famous competitor from a few years back, who has beaten huge names like Saulo Ribeiro. Begin by grabbing their collars up high, near their chest, which is a common grip for when you want to stop them sitting up. Your other hand is going to grab low on their same side lapel, pulling it tight to take out any slack.

Use a swaying pendulum motion to stand up, then put the leg on the same side as your high collar gripping arm behind their bum. You want to get your knee into their tailbone: finding the right spot can be difficult, but if you just bounce your leg, that should be enough to jar their guard open. As soon as their legs open, drop down into a tight combat base: the knee on the tailbone break leg side will be raised. Your other knee will be on the floor, with the foot of that knee curled behind you, while your high collar grip is pressing into their shoulder.

It is important that you sink down quickly and tightly, as otherwise they may be able to sneak a leg behind to establish a de la Riva hook. I was finding that as I'm skinny, there was normally some space, but you can generally use your elbow to block what little bit of foot they manage to insert. Also, your weight should be mainly towards the leg you have on the floor rather than the raised knee. If your weight is leaning towards the raised knee, you're vulnerable to being swept.

Next, you want to slide your raised knee forward, up into their sternum, still pressing your high collar grip into their shoulder. The low grip you have on their lapel should help with this, as you can pull on that for additional leverage (a note of caution for drilling: you may end up squishing male training partners' tender areas if you're not careful). After that knee is into their sternum, you can shift your low lapel grip to the front of their same side trouser leg, about a fist's width below the knee.

Shove that leg down, coming up on your hips slightly if you need more force. Do a 'sumo step' over that leg once it is on the floor. Keep hold of that leg until you can slide your sternum knee to the mat, which will block that leg, meaning you can safely let go. Switch the leg gripping hand to instead grab their same side sleeve and pull it up high, across your chest.

If you can establish an underhook with your other arm, great, but most likely they'll be wise to that. In that likely event, drop the elbow of the high collar arm across to their other shoulder, so that your forearm is now pressing into their throat. Keep sliding through, until you can free your trapped foot, then move into side control. You also have the option to apply a collar choke, particularly if they're being very squirmy after you free your foot.

We didn't get a chance to practice that in specific sparring, moving straight into free sparring. I was paired up with three people not too far off my weight, which meant I was able to get into top half guard. I'm having a reasonable amount of success tightly underhooking their arm then bracing my other elbow against the back of their head, dropping my hips and sprawling back. From there, I found I could gradually put them flat on their back, then establish the usual cross-face and gable grip.

However, that was mainly because people weren't putting their knee up high towards my chest when they went to z-guard/knee shield. Instead, they were keeping it low by my hips, where I was able to sprawl on top of the knee and essentially negate it. That isn't a wholly reliable tactic on my part, as Callum used to knee-shield me all the time and I really struggled to get past: I think he must have had his knee a little bit higher.

I also failed to launch any real threat from top half guard. About the only attack I ever do is an americana, which is what people are expecting. I'm also often too hesitant about shifting from my secure grip to a position in which I can attack. I need to think of some options for offence based off that solid grip, with one arm under their head and the other under their armpit. Maybe some kind of choke?

Getting to mount a few times didn't help my attacks, as I'm limited there too. I'll either go for an ezequiel, but normally struggle to finish the choke (at least partially because I keep raising up, which gives them space to defend), or again an americana, but I'll often get stuck because my arm is still under their head. To complete the lock, I have to circle the arm over their head, at which point they can either block with their head, or take the opportunity to try and free their arm.


  1. I like the ezekiel from top half, it often surprises people when their hands go low to try and elevate your hips. Can also be finished if they get back to guard.

  2. Yeah, I should definitely attempt more chokes. I'm still very reliant on having that solid grip in top half, so I tend to be loathe to loosen it: something I need to start forcing myself to try.