Passing the guard is 80% of the game of Jiu Jitsu! At least according to my not so scientific calculations. I didn’t spend anytime researching that number, I didn’t review any stats, I just declared it as of right now. How did I come to that conclusion? Well, the statement was made specifically to get your attention. Did it work? I guess I could have said something like, it’s 97.7% of the game, that might have been more shocking, but probably less believable. Anyways, now that I have your attention, let me get to my point.
Guard passing gives you freedom! I don’t want anybody telling me where I can and can’t go. The more options I have to move about the body, the more options I can go when I’m shut me down in one way or another. It will also give you the mobility to get into advantage positions, (mount, back, north/south). It will give you the ability to control, and submit at a higher clip, because your opponent has less tools from which to defend with. On the other side of the coin, being on your back, passing will keep you from being put in these bad positions. Knowing what the top player is going to do before he does it, will allow you to stifle, and counter.. Thus, keeping you safe, while putting them into worse positions.
Today, I can’t imagine a world where I can only use submissions from the topside of the guard. If you decide to bypass passing you’re limited to a very small game. You don’t have to pass to submit your opponent. D’arces, neckcranks and foot locks are all available. There’s some crazy kamikaze fly over or rolling techniques that are available as well. I look at these moves as shortcuts, and although you may be able to tap your opponents now, once people figure out that’s your game, they will be less likely to be taken off guard. I know this all too well from experience. When I first started Jiu Jitsu, I was all about the quick submission. I wanted to beat you as fast as I could. It was my own ego trip. I wanted to trick you with superior technique. When I watched Ken Shamrock heel hook Pat Smith at the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship, I wanted to be just like that! I thought if I could sub you quick with some wild foot lock, I wouldn’t need to get good at clearing the legs and passing the guard. It worked well for a while, but once guys figured out that was my schtick` I got crushed. Point is, there’s not substitution for hard work and consistency.
In Jiu Jitsu, the match always starts standing, right? Yes, and takedowns and techniques from standing are important, I wont dispute that. You don’t have to stay on the feet for very long however, even if the rules in a tournament require you engage, touch, or are even penalized for pulling guard. The fact is, if you want to nullify the wrestling advantage, you can pull guard, and butt scoot towards your opponent. So basically, if I trained since I was 5 at wrestling, and I got into a match with a jiu jitsu guy, and he just dropped to his bum, all that skill and experience would be taken from me at that point. Now, I’m forced to what? Play the guard passing game. Now if I’m the guy who pulled guard, I’m not playing the guard passing game right? No, actually that is incorrect, I AM playing the guard passing game. I’m having to defend the guard pass. Even if, simultaneously, I’m trying to sweep, I still have to make sure I don’t leave an opening for the top player to pass.
Guard passing can be overlooked quite a bit. I’ll see guys working on the latest and greatest techniques without any context of the big picture. Many times they’ll completely overlook how they are going to get to the technique they’re practicing. They’ll be practicing the move like it exists in a vacuum. I suggest this, whenever you work on a new technique, have an idea what would have lead you that position. Most times you can trace it right back to the guard. This kind of thinking is what builds great game plans because it forces you to connect the right techniques together in a series. ie takedown > guard pass> mount > armbar or guard pull > sweep > pass > americana. When this is done smoothly, and with efficiency you’ll get a beautiful chain of events that looks like a work of art.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog for part 2!