BJJ tips: preventing the guard pass and recovery of the guard in BJJ and grappling.

How can I prevent my opponent from passing my guard? What is the best way to prevent the double under guard pass? What guard recovery methods are there to damage control and reguard after the opponent has passed to side control but hasn't yet settled his weight?

Photo borrowed from

I recently attended a great BJJ session by my friend and instructor Martyn Cahill, BJJ black belt under Mr David Onuma and the De La Riva International team, where he covered the exact topic above: guard recovery and preventing the double under pass. He first showed a classic Bjj drill that taught hip mobility and guard recovery against the stack pass but then explained that while that drill was very useful it didn't convey the full picture. He then proceeded to share 3-4 methods that focused on dominating the hand, elbow or, failing those, armpit of the arm that the opponent reached towards our collar with. We drilled all these methods individually and in combination with each other against progressive resistance and, after a few rounds of sparring, the session could have ended there if it wasn't for the brilliant question by one of the white belts attending:

"What if we're dealing with a brute who simply throws our legs aside, rather than meticulously trying to pass?"

"Oh that's easy. You just stay relaxed and pliable, let them throw you then you swivel back and re-establish the guard. Let's drill that scenario for a few minutes."  

To a black belt, that's a non-issue but to a beginner, that is THE issue! 

The art of identifying the most important "indicator" for each technique and then identifying which indicators are most relevant to where we are in our BJJ journey came first to my attention thru Ryron and Rener Gracie's Gracie University and the Gracie Combatives programme. Obviously, their father Rorion had done a great job covering that topic in his earlier Gracie jiujitsu tapes back in the nineties but he didn't have a name for it and since jiujitsu was still mainly a new and fresh self defence art outside Brazil back then, he didn't need to. The common indicator back then was, naturally, the attacks if a bigger, stronger opponent unskilled in grappling yet hellbent on punching your face in. 

I noticed this discussion of "indicator" when training with the legendary Rickson Gracie. He too was very clear in his mind on why jiujitsu was created: "this is NOT for jiujitsu competition. This is for Vale Tudo!"  He'd say when explaining how strikes to the face can help prevent your opponent from passing your guard. 

Before learning how to deal with the slow, methodical attacks of those who have trained for 5, 7 or 10 years, white belts want / need to know how to stay safe and make jiujitsu work against the big, badass brute that, in reality or imagination, bullies them around the mat and while the technical answer is often a small drill or technical adjustment, failure to acknowledge and work these scenarios can lead to fundamental gaps in the students' understanding of how to make jiujitsu works against someone who's not necessarily playing by the same rules.

Here's a simple yet absolutely great BJJ guard retention drill by none less than ATT and Carlson Gracie black belt Mr Renato Tavares:


Ken Zimmerman Jr. said...

Thanks for sharing the article and video. Great stuff. I am always looking for good drills.

Liam H Wandi said...

Many thanks for the kind words Ken. Mr Tavarez has got some mad skills :)