Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 13/07/2015
With the knee cut pass, the basic idea is to step between their legs in open guard, with one leg on the outside. Of course, most people aren't going to just let you cut across their leg, so you'll need to get into a solid position to do it. A while back, Dónal showed me a good option for this, which he in turn learned from his instructor.
First off, you want to get a good grip on their legs, to limit their mobility: grabbing the material by their knees tends to be a good option. Next, you want a grip on their collar. If you simply reach for it, you're asking to get triangled. So, being careful to keep your elbows inside their legs, drive your leg forwards into theirs. Keep driving forward until you can safely grip high on their same side collar (keep your elbow by your knee), pulling them back towards you as much as possible. You want to curl their body, so their shoulders are off the ground. This makes it much harder for them to sweep you.
Drop into a relatively low crouch, legs apart for base. They will probably have a foot on your hip at this point: if they do, your grip will be on the trouser material by their shin. Turn your leg inwards slightly, pressing into their foot. With the grip you have on their trousers, shove their leg down, swinging your own leg backwards, then stepping over their leg. The grip you have on their trousers is important here: you're going to roll your knuckles down so that they are pressing into the shin, straightening your arm. This provides a firm control.
Next, you're going to cut across their thigh (still on the leg you just stuffed with your grip), using your opposite knee. As you do, also be sure to yank them towards that side with your collar grip, again to prevent sweeps. Drop in low, trying to secure an underhook, also keeping your head in tight. To get the underhook, put your elbow on their side, then circle your arm around, rather than diving straight for the underhook. You can also just maintain your grip on their collar, keeping your elbow low.
Either way, it is essential that you have your elbow inside. You don't want them to either be able to bring their arm inside for an underhook, or insert their knee in front of you. If they can manage the knee or the underhook, the pass isn't impossible, but it makes it a lot more difficult to finish. Imagine you have a short steel bar attaching your wrist to your driving knee, which you'll only detach as you switch into the underhook or collar grip.
When you've pinned their leg with your shin, you can switch your grip from their leg to their arm (or even better, just below their elbow) and pull up. To further establish control, you could try shoving your head next to theirs, like in the picture I've included of Xande demonstrating a similar technique. To finish, you'll slide through over their thigh. To secure your position, walk your hips back before you settle (there is a good Mendes brothers video on this), getting your hips underneath them to shove their legs out of the way. That's when you can then solidify your side control.
If you are having trouble cutting across their knee, you can turn that slide into a more horizontal motion, sliding your knee right out. Make sure you have some upper body control when you do that: otherwise you could be presenting them with an easy route to your back. Ideally you'll have an underhook, but if not a firm grip on their same side collar is good too, keeping your elbow right down towards their hip. You don't want them to be able to establish their own underhook and start spinning to your back.
Teaching & Sparring Notes: I'm continuing to go with the push into their ankle for this pass, using the 'v' of your finger and thumb, rather than the knuckle-down grip. I think this is a great pass and use it all the time myself, but I may need to simplify next time. There are quite a lot of details, which beginners aren't going to be able to retain all at once.
Therefore next time, I may leave out the pointers on driving the leg forward and grabbing the collar, as that was confusing people. Instead, I could just go with the crouch, cutting across, blocking their underhook/knee shield and underhooking for control. I can always bring in the other details during drilling if people are having trouble. It could also be part of a more 'advanced' lesson on the knee cut, once I get to the point where I need to have a 'higher level' class. That's going to be a long while though, as it's almost 100% white belts right now (in terms of higher belts, there are currently three blues, then me).
In sparring, I was trying to work on the shin-on-shin sweep where you swivel underneath. Doing that with Rafal, I was leaving myself at risk of guillotines, so need to jam my head close to the leg, on the inside. I want to have an option for when I can't get the collar. What Mackenzie Dern calls 'koala guard' is something I'll be playing with too, having watched a few videos from her mini seminar on BJJ Library. That fits with what I'm doing already, especially the single leg variation. I've got the rest of July to focus on it, should be interesting. :)