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Simply put, if you cant pass the guard your top game will suffer massively.

If you have a heavy top game and can't defeat the guard?

That's about as useful as a lapel on your elbow.

Relying on sweeps and your guard to get your top play rocking?

Forget about it. 

How many times have you slapped and bumped with a higher belt only to have them *do you a favour* and sit into guard so you can attempt to run the gauntlet?

Or you've had a tough roll, finally got on top of another beginner but they've retained guard.

It can be pretty daunting, right?

Thankfully we've devised this easy to follow guide on how to steer the ship when passing the guard, so you'll have a much better understanding of how to pass the guard more accurately and more often

What is guard passing?

For those of you who are raw to the grappling game, the guard is the position of being on your back and using your arms and legs to repel them. 

Think about the safety of having someone's back and how their tools to fight you are facing away into space, plus you are above their legs with yours creating "hooks". 

Almost inversely is the guard position or being in your opponent's guard.

They have all their tools facing at you; arms, legs, eyesight creating the ability to sweep or submit you.

This is the guard passers conundrum!

Guard passing is getting past your opponent or training partner's legs into a better position where their legs are no longer a barrier between the two of you.

The guard is this barrier and many consider guard passing the most difficult part of jiu-jitsu.

However, we have a sneaky little secret that is hidden in plain sight that will help you navigate your guard passing experience. 

We're calling it Guard Passing Clockwork.

A double over guard pass


The Concept.

See the above image?

The top player is working his passing with a double over guard pass, the guard is negated at this point.  

For the sake of the concept consider both guys are arms on a clock, bottom player small hand and top player big because he's going to be faster and moving a lot more.

Therefore, let's call this position 6:30. 

The guard passer moves around the guard like a clock.

As he (the big hand) moves to pass the guard he does so in clockwise rotation (again just for your understanding, you can pass any which way you choose!).

Start to notice the positioning of the chest of each grappler. 

Ideally, you'd like to be sternum-to-sternum with your opponent to maximise this clockwise passing effect. 

Let's call the above image 6:45, as we have moved about one quarter/15 minutes from our original 6:30 position. 

Starting to get the idea?

It might seem pretty obvious but the plot will thicken a bit. 

Guard passer transitions from side control to north-south position

As predicted, our passing friend moves to north-south position or what we'll call 6:00. Notice the sternum-to-sternum connection. 

So in summary of what you should know:

Guard passing can be thought of as the hand of a clock. If you keep your sternum in the centre of their chest you can create effective angles and pressure to pass. 

Now let's see where this becomes more of a game. 

Is someone just going to let you pass their guard?

Hopefully not, otherwise they might need medical assistance. Even day one people know that you getting super close to their face is bad, and creepy!

Something that you can watch out for is framing to keep you off them. Click here for our guide on the frame game.

The guard player defends the guard pass by using frames

Our guard playing pal chooses not to allow the sternum contact and frames against the top player with forearms and a shin. A very strong barrier indeed.

What we can do as savvy clock passing players is come up to our feet and move around to the exposed far side of the bottom player.

Up to our feet and deflect the frames.

Then we add 15 minutes to the clock to reach north-south again...

The guard passer beats the frames and moves to north south

And then another 15 minutes will land us here in the far side control position. 

The long way 'round but with a happy ending!

In summary.

  • Pass the guard with the intention of meeting with sternum-to-sternum to create pressure and a pivot point. This will make lateral movement faster than your opponent. 
  • If you're on the bottom, try to use frames to negate this action and keep them away from your sternum and shoulder line. 
  • If they counter your guard pass with frames, try to deflect them and add more "time" to your guard pass and take the long way around to success. 

Give this a try on the mats today and share with a friend who needs some fuel in their guard passing arsenal. 


Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life.

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