Dealing with guards is one of the most difficult things to do in the entire sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For that purpose, there are plenty of passes out there, which further complicates things by paralyzing you when it comes to choosing the best pass for the occasion. The leg drag pass is one of the passes you should look into as your go-to because it offers effectiveness through simplicity in multiple different situations.
Passing to the Side
Before I go into the nuts and bolts of the BJJ leg drag pass, I want to briefly go over the major directions of guard passing so that the variations and technical details on the leg drag make sense.
In terms of directions, the person who is passing the guard has four options. One is to go under the legs (stack passing, for example), a second is to go through the legs (knee slice), the third is to go around the legs (leg drag), and the fourth is to go over the legs (cartwheel passing).
All of them are effective, and it would be ideal if you had at least one option in each of these directions in order to ensure you’re threatening the bottom person in every possible direction.
However, if you only had to pick one, I’d recommend passing to the side (going around the legs), particularly if you are a beginner in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Passing the guard to the side gets you past the legs in a way that immediately blocks the opponent’s hips and makes recovering the guard very difficult for the bottom person. Moreover, forcing the opponent’s knees to one side while you are moving to the other opens up their back, and provides a pass straight into back control.
Finally, going to the side means you’re preventing the bottom person from rolling directly backward or into inversions, making your job a lot easier.
BJJ Leg Drag Pass Essentials
The leg drag pass is, according to me, the most effective representative of passing the legs by going around them. In order to ensure you get the pass, you need to go through several different phases.
First, you need to drag the leg so that you open up the direction of passing you’re after. Second, you must use the leg drag position to pin the opponent’s lower and upper body to the ground. Thirdly, you pass the legs after spending some time cooking the bottom person with top-side pressure.
The pass got its name from the very first motion you are doing when using it. Namely, as you’re standing on your feet, looking to pass an open guard (it doesn’t matter which), your first goal is to get two grips on one of the opponent’s legs.
The grips should control the ankle of an opponent as well as their knee. In no-gi, this means grabbing the ankle with one arm and just above the knee with the other. In gi, you grab the rim of the pants for ankle control, and the gi pants on the inside of the knee for knee control.
Once you have the grips, you use them to pull the leg across your body so that both of the opponent’s knees end up one on the side of your body. This is the starting position of the leg drag pass.
Once you have the leg dragged across your body, your next move is to drop all your body weight down by placing the knee of the leg that is on the same side as the opponent’s legs down on the mats. As you do, you want to aim to place the knee over the opponent’s bottom thigh so that your shinbone ends up across their thigh and your knee in the space between their hip and armpit.
Throughout the motion, you keep the top leg in the leg drag position.
Once you get the knee to the ground, you will end up with the opponent’s bottom leg stapled to the ground and their top leg firmly under your control via the grips. This brings you total control over the opponent’s lower body.
Next, you want to extend this control on their upper body. The goal is to let go of the leg with the arm on the same side as the opponent’s legs and grab their collar. As you do, you need to place the elbow of the arm over the opponent’s top leg (the dragged one) to ensure it stays in place.
The other arm can go in many positions, from the biceps on the opponent’s top arm, to the back of their collar or as an underhook. This will result in twisting the opponent’s spine (knees in one direction, shoulders in another) and effectively pinning them to the ground.
Getting past the legs from the pin is easy, and there are several ways to complete it, depending on the type of staple you used on the bottom leg.
3 Powerful Leg Drag Variations
Galvao Leg Drag
The position described above, stapling the leg directly after dragging and using the collar grip to ensure the leg drag position is in place while controlling the upper body high, is the Galvao leg drag pass variation.
Passing the leg is as easy as walking behind the opponent’s opposed back and doing whatever you want from there.
Mendes Leg Drag
The Mendes brothers variations, one favored by Rafa Mendes, puts your legs in a slightly different position.
Namely, the leg that has the knee on the ground is the leg that is free, and you place that knee right next to the opponent’s butt so that they can’t roll with their back to the mats.
Instead of stapling their bottom leg with your shin across the thigh, you instead straighten that leg so that your shin comes behind the opponent’s bottom leg calf, extending it in the process.
This makes the position very uncomfortable for the bottom person, as their hips are now under immense pressure.
Passing is once again very easy, and you can use whichever manner you want to position yourself behind the opponent’s back
Skip Knee Leg Drag
This final BJJ leg drag pass variation is when you position the knee of your free leg to staple the opponent’s bottom leg (like in a knee slice pass position).
Your other leg is still behind the opponent’s top leg, and you’re keeping it extended, like in the Mendes leg drag variation.
The arm you have in front of the opponent is still on the collar, with the elbow blocking the top leg. The other arm goes around the opponent’s hips at belt level, grabbing the pants where their hips meet the mats.
From this position, you can pass directly into the mount simply by stapling the leg that is stapling the opponent s bottom leg forward, placing your knee behind their hips.
The leg drag pass is a very powerful pass that completely blocks off the opponent’s hips before you even think about starting to pass their guard. The direction of the pass that takes you around their legs, as well as the three different high-percentage variations of the pinning portion of the pass, ensure that you will pass towards back control or mount while completely tiring your opponent out in the process.
The best thing about the 3 leg drag variations presented in this article is that you can easily switch between them to better pin the bottom person, effectively killing off any leg drag counters and ensuring your passing success.
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.