Passing guard is equally fundamental to BJJ as playing guard. In this post we give an overview of all BJJ guard passes (there’s actually not that many).

what is a guard pass in bjj?

I want to introduce a distinction between two types of guard passes in BJJ: generic passes and guard specific passes. This distinction will help you get a more systematic grasp of how to pass guards in BJJ.

Generic passes

Generic passes are guard pass motions that are useful in many different situations and can be entered into from many different positions.

I give a full list of all these generic passes below, but these are for example a leg drag, a knee slide and a stack pass.

Guard specific passes

Guard specific passes are all passes that are specific to only one guard. So for example ‘a de la Riva pass’ and ‘a closed guard pass’ would be guard specific passes.

Guard specific passes often include generic passing motions. However, they always involve a bit more preparatory steps, because you first need to untie yourself from the guard you’re in. For example, a popular reverse de la riva pass is to first clear your opponent’s reverse de la riva hook (a guard secific motion) so that you can then enter into a knee slide (a generic pass).

How to learn guard passing

It’s my belief that to learn to be a good guard passer in BJJ, you first learn the generic passes and then the guard specific passes. I have a few reasons for this:

Generic passes are the building blocks of your passing game

Like I mentioned earlier, most specific guard passes still include one or more generic passes. Therefore, you cannot hope to pass any specific guard unless you’re competent at these foundational generic passes.

A comparison I like is that just as a beginner in BJJ first needs to learn the major positions of BJJ (side control, mount, half guard, etc.), a beginner in passing first needs to learn the major passing positions (knee slide, leg smash, stack, etc.). Only after you have a decent familiarity with all these positions can you start connecting the dots between them.

generic passes are more versatile

What’s also great about learning the generic passes is that you can use them from a wide variety of positions. For example, you can knee slide from half guard, from de la riva, from reverse de la riva, from 3/4 mount, and so on.

Specific guard passes however, can only be applied from within the guard to which they apply (and often even only from specific grips within that guard). For example, learning to break out of closed guard can only be applied from closed guard, and won’t do you any good in any other position in jiu jitsu!

Generic passes give a comprehensible framework to guard passing

The most important reason to focus on generic passes first is that they reduce guard passing in BJJ to something comprehensible.

Guard passing can be very overwhelming, because it might seem there’s a 1000 different guard positions that you need to be able to pass, and a 1000 grip variations in each of these guards. This would never work, and you also wouldn’t now where to begin.

Therefore, you should instead focus on what you want to do while you’re passing, rather than getting overwhelmed by everything your opponent might do. And what you want to do, are knee slides, leg drags, toreando’s, and so forth.

All guard passes in bjj: an overview

So here are all the generic passes in BJJ (are you surprised there’s only so few?):

  1. Toreando
  2. Knee Slide
  3. Leg Drag
  4. Smash Pass
  5. Cross grip (crazy dog) pass
  6. Long step
  7. X pass
  8. Leg Weave
  9. Over/under pass
  10. Stack pass

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