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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

15 February 2016

15/02/2016 - Teaching | Half Guard | Shoulder Pressure Pass

Teaching #462
Artemis BJJ (MYGYM Bristol), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 15/02/2016

On top of half guard, your opening goal is to get them flat on the mat: there are passes you can do while they are on their side, but generally speaking it is much easier if their back is pinned to the floor. A simple method, drawing on the Ribeiro brothers, is to drive your free knee into their hip, block their head with your same side arm, then step your trapped leg up and away from you. Having generated some space, drive the trapped knee forwards as your return it to the mat, which should also help you drive your opponent to the mat as well.

If you are able to get the cross-face and an underhook, there is now the option of generating lots of shoulder pressure. This is the simplest way I've learned to pass the half guard: both Saulo and his brother refer to this as the 'esgrima pass', but I call it the shoulder pressure pass in the interests of clarity. Cross-face their head (if you can't get the cross-face, you can also use your own head), so that they can't turn in that direction. Put your own head on the other side (or your arm, if you're already using your head to cross-face), locking their head into place: your shoulder and head work together to form a vice. Combined with your underhook, it should now become hard for them to move their upper body, because their head is stuck.

From here, come up on your feet so that all your weight is driving through your shoulder. Even if you're small, this should maximise your weight. I'm only 66kgs, but if I can get all of that weight against somebody's head, it becomes more significant. From there, bounce your trapped knee to wriggle it free (if you're having trouble and need additional leverage, rotate your free leg back to hook their leg with your instep). As soon as it is clear of their legs, twist in the direction of your cross-facing arm and put that knee on the mat. You can then kick their leg off your foot: some people prefer to kick the top leg, but I would generally go for the bottom leg. Turning your hips to the ceiling can also help if you're struggling to get that foot loose.

Teaching Notes: Although I've done this pass for years, I think it might be time to change to a variation. I was watching how Saulo teaches this on BJJ Library, and the version there was a little different. Rather than reaching all the way up to the head on a cross-face, he instead stays lower. He still has the underhook, but drives his shoulder into their ribs, head on the other side. That leaves his other hand free to push on the leg, which is useful. It's also good for when your opponent is much taller: that was emphasised tonight, as one of the students is really tall.

Another good thing about this other version of the esgrima pass is that if you can't get it, there is the option of hooking your instep into the knee you're pushing down, switching to what the Ribeiros call the 'super hold' and squeezing through into mount. I think I will try teaching that version next time and see how it goes down. Or perhaps even teach it tomorrow? I'll see who turns up. At the moment, I'm planning to go with either the hip switch or the opposite side pass.


  1. I thought the Ribeiro version and most of my students were skeptic, but it works. I was not convinced myself as you have to drive up, but you can keep your balance nonetheless.

    1. The high version definitely works and I've been doing it for a long time, but I think I'll switch it up with Saulo's lower version next time.

      One of the many things I like about BJJ Library is that occasionally Saulo (or Xande, though I haven't seen as many examples) will revisit a technique from JJU or one of his other instructionals and say he now does it differently. Cool that he's still progressing and trying stuff out. :)