São Paulo Pass – A Nightmare For Closed Guard Players

Last updated on 27.11.2022 by

We all know what a pain it is to be stuck in someone’s closed guard. Especially when your posture is broken, and they’re controlling an arm.

It’s frustrating to deal with, but there is an effective pass you can use to make guard players lives miserable. The Sao Paulo pass.

Check out our detailed breakdown of the Sao Paulo pass below to help you blast through stubborn closed guards.

What is The São Paulo Pass in Jiu Jitsu?

The Sao Paulo pass is a closed guard pass that was developed by Roberto Tozi in the early 2000s. During a match with Gracie Barra black belt Erik Wanderley, Tozi spent the whole match stuck in closed guard. 

Roberto Tozi
Professor Roberto Tozi
Credit: Instagram

Wanderley had his posture broken along with a tight overhook, which resulted in a decision loss for Tozi. Being stuck in that closed guard left Roberto really frustrated and looking for answers.

He went back to his academy and began drilling for hours on how to escape this style of closed guard. What he came up with would become known as the Tozi pass.

Roberto would show how effective his pass was in competition, which caught the eyes of many top grapplers. The technique would also be referred to as the Sao Paulo pass, since that was where Tozi trained.

His closed guard pass was so effective that many of the best BJJ athletes of the area adopted the technique. Today, the Tozi/Sao Paulo pass is taught in nearly all BJJ academies in the world.

Executing The Sao Paulo Pass

The Sao Paulo pass is an effective pressure pass to use when dealing with someone with a tough closed guard. Here is a full breakdown of how to do the basic version of this pass.

Setting Up Grips 

Before going into the pass, you have to set up your grips. Pin one of your partner’s arms to the ground and begin working for an underhook on the other side.

Don’t try to go straight into the overhook, because this gives your opponent an the opening to set up attacks.(omoplata, armlocks, etc.) Going straight for the underhook also makes it easy for your opponent to turn on their side and defend.

Instead, you’re going to cup/grip at their armpit and then get the underhook.

Body Positioning 

Once your grips are set, you can start putting your body in position to start your pass. Place your head on the mat, right next to your opponent’s head to close space, and prevent them from turning.

With your head in place, take a long step to the side and drop your weight on your partner’s leg. Make sure when you drop your weight that you force their knee to the mat and stay tight.

Breaking Closed Guard

Now that your body is positioned correctly, you can go into the guard breaking sequence. Switch your base, drop your far knee under your partner’s hip.

At the same time, you’re going to push their leg down and step over your partner’s crossed legs. Immediately after doing this, switch to a knee grip, walk back into your partner, and pass to half guard.

Finishing the Sao Paulo Pass

The finishing sequence of the Sao Paulo Pass needs to be methodical, mixed with some heavy pressure. Keep your grips, flatten your body to the mat, and place your foot on your partner’s thigh.

Use your foot to push your partner’s thigh and move your trapped foot to quarter guard. To finish the pass, pull up on the arm and slide your knee out into side-control.

Troubleshooting the Sao Paulo Pass

When you’re attempting the Sao Paulo pass, the most important thing you need to remember is to keep your partner flat. If they’re able to turn and get on your side, completing this pass is going to be more difficult.

There’s also a chance that they can put their arm across your body and escape their hips during the finishing sequence. 

To prevent this, place your head on their chin, and drive into them as you complete your pass.

Alliance black belt Leonardo Nogueira put together a great breakdown on affiliate partner BJJ Fanatics on the Sao Paulo pass. Check it out here.

How to Prevent the Tozi/Sao Paulo Pass 

If you’re a guard player, you do not want to be on the receiving end of a heavy pressure Sao Paulo pass. Here are some methods you can use to stuff the Sao Paulo.

Win the Hand Fight

To set up the Tozi/Sao Paulo pass, your partner is going to need to establish control of your arms. Hand fight to get underhooks, sleeve grips, collar grips, or a mixture of these controls to defend the pass.


If you are going against somebody who is bigger and stronger, that might just force their head down. When this happens, the best defense you can do is framing. Frame your arm across their neck to create space and take away their pressure.

Get on Your Side

Your partner is going to want you to be flat on your back in order to do this pass. As soon as they try to set up the Tozi, you’re going to need to get on your side and move. Staying flat on your back makes it easier for them to pass your guard.

The Tozi Pass and Pressure Passing Mechanics By Roberto Tozi

Roberto Tozi made an entire instructional on the pass. The Tozi Pass and Pressure Passing Mechanics By Roberto Tozi is a complete instructional on the Sao Paulo pass available online.

Another recommended instructional on this pass is The São Paulo Passing System By Leonardo Nogueira.

In Summary

Tight closed guards can be annoying to deal with, but the Sao Paulo pass can pressure right through them. This is a must know pass that you really should implement into your guard passing game.

Once you get good at the Sao Paulo pass, guard players are going to hate rolling with you. They’ll have nightmares about your heavy pressure passing.