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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

01 April 2015

01/04/2015 - Teaching | Women's Class | Underhook Passes

Teaching #301
Artemis BJJ (MyGym), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 01/04/2015

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 up with your arm, or dropping down to put your shoulder in place behind their knee. 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.

Establish a wide base with your feet, pushing off your toes. As is generally the case with jiu jitsu, stay off your knees. Otherwise, you're transferring the pressure into the floor rather than into your partner. Keep on driving forward, turning the shoulder you have behind the leg downwards. Combined with your forwards pressure, that should slide their leg out of the way.

Although it's tempting, try to avoid lifting your head to get past their legs, as that could provide them with space. Instead, you want to rely on your weight and pressure, finishing with that slight shift of your shoulder. To further enhance your stack, you can grab the back of their trousers, or alternatively put your other 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 both your arms under their legs instead of just one. As soon as you can create enough space in their closed guard, slip your arms underneath both legs. Grasp around the outside and secure a gable grip (palm to palm), or an s-grip (four fingers clasped together). 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. They will also try to walk back on their shoulders to make space: stack them and remove any space to prevent them. 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 earlier smash pass, as like before, you'll grab their opposite collar (or shoulder, if it's nogi or you can't get the grip you want) 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. In that situation, be careful you don't start neck cranking with a 'can opener' (a crude technique from closed guard where you pull their head towards you), as that's illegal in most competitions for a reason.

Once again establish a wide base with your feet, while with the other hand you can hold the back of their trousers and lift their hips. 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, nudging with your shoulder if necessary.

Quite often, they will try to block your pass by bracing a hand against your hip. To remove that arm, bring your nearest knee either inside or outside their arm, pressing into the side of their elbow. That should collapse their arm. On the inside is easier: collapse the arm, trapping it with your leg, then slide into side control. If you go outside, you'll need to shift so that you slide towards their legs instead, keeping your torso low. Once you're passed, you can then readjust into side control.

Another option you should always keep in mind when passing is that you can always try changing direction and going around to the other side. This can be particularly effective if they are heavily committed to blocking your pass on one side. If you're able to quickly shift to the other side, they will probably find it difficult to reset and block that other side in time.

Teaching Notes: I went through the kneeling break on this one too, but spent more time running through the pass. I forget how useful this pass is sometimes, as I've gotten so used to teaching the knee cut pass all the time, as it's a handy drill. Teaching it tonight also taught me something useful, which is that to complete the pass, there is a key motion I use but wasn't previously emphasising in the teaching.

That motion is getting into a wide base when you sprawl back: it was highlighted today when I was running through the pass a few times with the students. When I do this bass, I get that wide base, drive through and nudge with my shoulder to get pass. So, that's what I'll be focusing on teaching next time, given that's what works for me. This is exactly why I enjoy teaching, as it helps me learn techniques better too. :)

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