Guard passing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a subject most people approach with a one-track mind. Instead of thinking that movement or pressure will get you past the legs of a skilled guard player, why not consider surfing the guard until you deal with it? Regarding guard pass BJJ solutions, the floating pass is an extremely useful and underrated option.
Directions and Means of Passing the Guard in BJJ
When you’re trying to figure out how to build a guard pass BJJ game, thinking in terms of passing only in one direction or by a single way of passing is not going to get you far. It won’t even get you past the legs (pun intended).
I’ve written this before, and I still find lots of strong evidence to keep my claim – you can’t pass the guard. The guard is there to keep the bottom person in control and open up attacks (sweeps and/or submissions) for the bottom person.
So, what is the answer? Break the guard, then pass the legs.
When looking at guard pass BJJ options, you have four general directions of movement to get you past the legs:
- Through the legs (knee slice, backsteps, staple pass)
- Around the legs (Torreando, over/under, X-pass)
- Under the legs (double-underhook pass, single underhook pass, stacks)
- Over the legs (Cartwheel pass, stepover pass)
The means of passing toward one of the four general directions are:
- Loose passing (based on motion)
- Pressure passing (based on taking space away)
- Submission passing (based on the dilemma principle)
The floating guard pass is a very interesting system that employs several directions and means of passing at once, leaving the opponent confused and powerless to witness you gliding past their defensive walls.
The Floating Guard Pass BJJ Game
Different BJJ guard passes offer different strong suites and work optimally against specific guards. This is part of the problem, as adapting to the guard often puts the passer at a slight disadvantage.
The float pass allows you to kill off the guard while simultaneously providing you with pressure and the ability to move around, offering you ways to pass through, around, and even over the legs.
The entire guard pass BJJ system is that you avoid specifically going for a motion or pressure-based pass and, instead, switch between the two, riding on your opponent’s legs until they allow you to get a pass themselves or you force one upon them.
As with everything else in Jiu Jitsu, how you position your body relative to your opponent’s body is crucial.
I’ll start with the lower body, given the intricacies of its positioning, but that doesn’t mean that it gets into position first. Like everything else in BJ, you’ll need to enter the float pass position by using your entire body.
Allowing the opponent a hook inside at least one of your legs is a great way to get into position. Let’s presume that you are in someone’s butterfly guard, and you simply project your body forward, forcing them to go supine, allowing their hooks to keep you suspended in the air.
By switching your legs (one bent, one extended, like the Jacare animal drill), you can remain in the guard pass BJ position for an extended period of time. You can pass immediately, but you could also opt for better control.
From the floating position, you need to kill the guard completely. The butterfly guard is only powerful if the ankle and knee of each leg are not in alignment. Using your hooks, you aim to trap an ankle and pull it sideways, aligning it with the knee.
Once you’ve achieved this, you can chill in the position – the guard is dead, meaning sweeps and submissions are no longer a threat.
Your upper body plays a huge role in stabilizing your body so that your hips can stay afloat. There is nothing too complicated about the upper body – you want both your palms to be on the ground, ever the opponent’s shoulders, and preferably, as close to each side of the head as possible.
The closer your arms are toward the head, the more you block the neck from turning. As long as the bottom person can’t turn the head, they won’t be able to turn their body and sweep you to either side or go for a leg lock setup vs. your floating guard pass BJJ position.
The position of the arms can change to include one arm underneath an armpit, particularly when you’re only floating on one leg instead of two.
Passing the Legs
The most important part of the floating guard pass BJJ system is actually passing to score the points and get an upper body pin.
When you find yourself in the primary floating position, hands over shoulders and your hips surfing on both the opponent’s legs, while they are supine, your legs need to switch from side to side (the Jacare drill) to accommodate for the opponent’s sweep attempts.
At a point in time of your choosing, you do a backstep with the leg that remains straight, aiming to go as far as possible. This will collapse the leg structure of the opponent, landing you in side control without the risk of the opponent sweeping you because your bent leg forces them into a hip rewind position.
If you are only floating on one of the opponent’s legs (shin), you’ll have to use one fo your legs to ensure the knee of their free leg is pinned to the ground. A simple hook with your foot behind their knee will do the trick, preventing any Ashi Garami entires.
Passing from here will lead directly to mount as you use the other leg to hook the ankle of the leg you’re floating on, align the ankle with the knee, and pull the leg back, ending up in mount with a leg weave control on one side.
Preventing Guard Recovery
I’ll share one tip here that has radically changed my success with passing – make the opponent’s knees point towards one side and their head to the other. It is optimal to get the knees pointing away from you and the head towards you after you land in a passing position like side control.
If I had to pick only one of these two points of control, I’d go for the head. As long as you can control the head, you will control the direction in which an opponent can move, and if yo know where they can move, you can block them, thus preventing those boring guard recoveries that undo all your hard passing work.
Putting it All Together
Now let’s talk about how you can turn what looks like a technique into the floating guard pass BJJ system.
Anytime you feel an opponent is placing an inside hook in the region between your knee and hip, you can transition to a floating top position. Alternatively, you can force a hook by threatening with other directions or means of passing.
Once you get the float, you can choose whether to pressure someone or keep the motion going, methodically destroying the guard.
Even if the opponent manages to usher you to one side or the other, you simply surf their motion, ending up in leg-pinning positions like the knee slice or staple pass. From there, you can even force the float position again by strategically windshield wiping your legs so that you manipulate the bottom person’s hooks.
Combining several moves into one always works better in BJJ than trying to achieve things with tunnel vision. Diffusing your passing to include different means and directions from one single position is the perfect example of this concept, and the float guard pass BJJ system is your highest percentage option.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.