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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

28 June 2014

28/06/2014 - Open Mat | Half Guard Shoulder Pressure Pass

Class #576
Artemis BJJ (Impact Gym), Open Mat, Bristol, UK - 28/06/2014

Next Monday is my final bit of half guard teaching for this month, before we move on to open guard. I therefore wanted to cover passing. My favourite passes are the opposite side pass and the pressure pass, also known as the esgrima pass (or at least that's what Xande and Saulo Ribeiro call it). Judging by the Ribeiro brothers' instruction, 'esgrima' is something to do with the initial underhook you get on the top. Unless you're Brazilian, it probably isn't that descriptive, so I've normally called it the half guard pressure pass, or shoulder pressure pass.

The way the Ribeiro brothers have taught this pass has changed over the years. Initially, their version looked much like the one I'm familiar with, as per the picture of Xande on the left. Looking at more recent videos on BJJ Library, where both brothers cover this pass a few times, their thinking has changed since then. Saulo specifically refers to that high hips variation as 'the old way'. His 'new' (or at least, newer) way involves lower hips and a lower position on the body. I practiced that version today, though I'm not sure if that's the one I will teach on Monday, as I think it requires a bit more sensitivity than the raised hips option I'm more familiar with.

Anyway, the high hips pressure pass starts by locking up their head and arm with a gable grip, ideally shoving your head next to theirs as well. All your weight drives through those base points, jamming their shoulders and head to the mat. This should mean you can raise your hips up high without too much worry, bouncing your knee until it's free, then knee cut through. However, like Saulo rightly says in his BJJ Library vids on the esgrima pass, that does mean there is a chance they can wriggle their legs in the way and generally be annoying with their hips. Previously I've tended to feel that immobilising their upper body so much means the legs are less of a worry, but Saulo makes a good point.

His version starts in much the same way, with them flat on their back. That's something I wanted to practice too, flattening them out. Xande has a nice video on this on BJJ Library: dig your free knee into their same side hip, block their head with your arm on that side, then step your trapped leg up slightly in order to drop your knee sideways and forwards (you can also just 'crab walk' that trapped knee to the side). Once they are flat, Saulo then brings his head over to the side, around their chest. The exact position depends on how low you need to be in order to get a good hold on their same side knee with your non-underhooking hand.

You aren't gripping the knee: instead, you are pushing into the top of it, on the inside, aiming to shove it outwards rather than just straight down. I was drilling with somebody who wasn't wearing a gi, helpful in this instance as that meant I couldn't grab cloth even if I wanted to. Having brought his head across, Saulo drives his shoulder into their sternum or stomach, again depending how low you are. He mentions three different grips you can do with your underhooking arm.

The natural one is to grab the back of their collar, locking the grip. If you've got shorter arms, you may find it is easier to just put your hand on the mat and slide your arm into a locking grip, or there is Saulo's favourite option. He brings his hand back to grab their belt, clamping his arm in tight to their body so they can't reach for their own underhook. Testing this in drilling, if you get the shoulder in the right spot (the combination of height, weight and arm length between me and my drilling partner seemed to indicate that this right spot was their sternum, but I imagine it would vary with taller/shorter opponents), you can pin their back to the mat.

Saulo keeps his head relatively low, on their arm. I found that I could comfortably have my head next to theirs, acting as a cross-face, while still being able to reach for their knee and pin that down. He angles his hips in the direction he wants his trapped knee to go, then wriggles that out. He stays much lower with his hips than the 'old way', making it harder for them to try and get butterfly hooks or otherwise mess up the pass.

The key areas, based on drilling and then doing some specific sparring, seem to be:

1. Get them flat. If they are on their side, this isn't going to work. That also means they can start to attack.

2. Get the underhook. If they can block this and get their own underhook, they can get on their side. I managed that a few times when I was on the bottom testing the weak points in the pass, meaning I could then progress to grabbing the toes and moving into the toe grab sweep. I also managed to switch into the whizzer counter roll when they blocked my underhook, but they adjusted their weight well and stopped me getting underneath. Also, I didn't put my head in the gap, so didn't dive under properly.

3. Grip on the knee. This must be in place until you've got your shin over, as if they can move that knee around, they can wriggle their foot in, push, perhaps even get some kind of hook. Jam it to the mat and don't give them any room.

4. Transition to Saulo's shoulder in the chest/stomach. It was at this point I lost the pass a few times, in that transition from having them flat and moving my head across, driving the shoulder in. If I could get the shoulder in place and keep the knee flat, the rest of the pass was easy enough.

Lots of stuff to play with for Monday. I will probably end up teaching the 'old way', having that 'newer way' in reserve. It will be interesting to see if anybody does find that raising their hips up high means the pass gets scuppered, in which case I can bring in that variation.

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