The smash pass: not only does it sound cool, but it is arguably one of the most effective and efficient ways to pass the guard. There’s some confusion about what constitutes a smash pass, however. I’ve seen knee-to-nose and other passes labelled as “smash-passes” because they put weight on your opponent. Simply put, you know you’re performing a smash pass anytime you are directing your opponent’s knees together on one side of their body.
There are several entries into the smash pass including the now-famous leg drag. This feature won’t go into detail about the leg drag since it is one of the most-discussed guard passes on The Jiu Jitsu Lab, although there are two nice leg drag videos show below. When I first started this blog there was little to no information about the leg drag online. Under a year later there is an abundance of “leg drag” material out there, not all of it any good. But the leg drag is only a small piece of the guard passing puzzle. More specifically, it is a good example of how a smash pass can be utilized in a specific scenario, primarily when in de la Riva guard or when you can’t stuff your opponent’s leg between your own.
Thankfully there are several excellent smash pass tutorials cropping up online that can help alleviate any confusion. Additionally, two DVDs from “Little” Tony Pacenski provide systematic guard passing instruction that includes many ideas that can be labelled as smash passes. I’ve been drilling material from Seminar Series Vol. 2 Sao Paulo Approach to Passing the Guard.
Tony Pacenski – Smash pass against the closed guard
Tony Pacenski – Smash Pass against reverse de la Riva guard
This instructional includes footage from a seminar Pacenski taught in Philadelphia and additional footage elucidating Pacenski’s guard passing system that he developed through his training with Rodrigo Medeiros, the Mendes brothers and others. It is apparent that Pacenski has a background in education, as his instruction is very clear as each technique builds into the next. I highly recommend either it, or Pacenski’s Faixa Preta Series Vol. 4., which goes over much of the same material, as a basis for understanding the smash pass.
In all of the material covered today a few general principals of the smash pass become clear:
- Posture – squatting low, elbows tight to your knees, head up and back straight.
- Always on the toes – this postural tip deserves its own point, it’s that important for…
- Driving forward – to take away your opponent’s options, it’s important to pressure into your opponent without bringing your weight over top of them so they can sweep you. You can do this using…
- One foot in – many smash pass variations begin with one leg between your opponents. Keeping a lapel grip will control their upper body and prevent them from sitting up. To keep your leg tight to your opponent’s inner thigh, keep your knee high and use…
- Baby steps – small steps forward will help keep your opponent from creating distance they need to initiate an attack.
- Twist the spine – using a cross face or with your head next to your opponent’s get them looking away from the pass. Bring their lower spine offline by…
- Redirecting the legs – use your body to drive the legs away and pin them with your body. The best way to redirect the legs is…
- Lateral movement – practice your footwork to be able to quickly transfer your weight side to side. This allows you to efficiently use your body weight to move your opponent’s legs instead of relying on your strength.
- Windshield wipers – to deal with unwanted hooks put your knee on the mat and swivel your instep over your opponent’s ankles. This will pin their legs and allow you to complete the pass. Not always needed, but a great skill to have.
- Don’t rush – this point is covered in more detail in this article, but make sure that you securely smash your opponent’s legs before attempting to progress to side control, mount or the back.
See how each of these points comes up repeatedly in the videos below. For example, Chris Visentin of Queens MMA provides a good introduction to the core concepts of the smash pass in his video series.
Chris Vinentin – Smash Pass against open guard
Chris Vinentin – Smash Pass against reverse de la Riva guard
In the first video Vinentin describes the weight distribution needed to make this pass work very well. Notice his emphasis on using lateral movement to smash his opponent’s knees to the side. This is the basic variation and a good starting point for this style of passing.
In the second video, Vinentin shows how the same approach to passing the guard can be used to shut down the reverse de la Riva guard. He applies a Rodolfo-esque passing strategy by relieving the pressure of the inside hook and starting an X-pass style manoeuvre before smashing his opponent’s legs laterally again.
Rafael Lovato Jr. – Guard passing – kickback pass and smash pass
Several of the guard passing details that I do are from Rafael Lovato Jr. Points like having your leading foot in line with your opponent’s belt to prevent the de la Riva or butterfly hook are key details that I learned from Lovato. All of these details and more are included in the above video, which is a longer video about some of the options that you have with this pass. It’s a bit different that the other videos shown here in that it starts with the kickback pass. During the smash pass Lovato uses a pant grip to keep the knees together, a detail that I admittedly don’t use but one that I’m going to try after seeing this video. Like most good instructors Lovato focuses on having good posture and alignment during all steps of this pass.
Albert Hughes – Leg drag pass
Nathan Mendelsohn – Knee slide pass and leg drag
The smash passes above all require that your opponent’s leg be inside of yours. What happens when they don’t comply? This is when the leg drag pass can be effectively utilized. I managed to find two good leg drag video that has yet to be featured on the The Jiu Jitsu Lab. I don’t like the grips that both Albert and Nathan use here, preferring the opposite hand placement. But it’s hard to argue with two absolute studs, so try this variation and see for yourself. I prefer the grips that Rafael Mendes frequently uses – with the knee grip inside to prevent you from jamming the pass with your own arm.
I do like, however, the way Mendelsohn shows the interplay between the knee-slide and the leg drag pass. These passes work together very well and constitute the main branches of my own passing. It’s great to see such high quality leg drag videos online when less than a year ago there was a major dearth in information regarding this pass.
The very best in online material, however, is Martin Aedma’s video series not-incorrectly titled Guard Passes from Hell. Most people’s first exposure to Aedma was Christian Graugart’s original video that was included in our very first post on the leg drag pass. There is more to Aedma’s system than just the leg drag and he went back and re-taped his system to include a brilliant discussion of the principals behind the smash pass. If you haven’t yet check out his blog, martinaedma.bjj.ee, it’s full of Aedma’s awesome approach to grappling that he calls Wrestle-Jitsu.
Martin Aedma – Estonian guard passing from Hell – Part I
Martin Aedma – Estonian guard passing from Hell – Part II
Together that is 45 minutes of guard passing material. After watching all of the video in this entry, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Here are Martin’s tips for passing the guard:
So the Rule is : Hips, Legs, Positioning
This means that you want to pull/press your own hips against the hips of the Guard player while playing in that Posture. Squatting down, leaning in while pulling with the grips. You want to smash your own hips in. This will limit the hip movement for the bottom guy and that’s something you want to achieve.
Smash the leg(s) to the side. Thing to know here is that you want to use your chest to do that. Chest gives you an “extra arm”, you can press heavily with it and at the same still pull in with both arms. This is something people miss quite often in they’re passing game.
Also a little pointer to help out with the leg smashing is to tilt the hip. When you want to push one leg down on the side with your chest then first push the other leg down on that side with your arm. This will limit the range of motion for the top leg and help you with the leg smash. (Watch the video for better description)
Finally, when the hips are close and the legs are on the side, Position yourself in a way that you can develop heavy pressure while having good balance. Simply put it means that you should try to end up in Legweave or Leg Drag control position (those were covered in last post) because they do exactly that – give you the ability to develop pressure and maintain balance.
Additionally, you can refer to the following “Strategy Guide” to take you through some of the key smash passing options. And remember, if you’re stuck in a crazy guard that you just can’t pass remember to press Up, Up, Down Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. It’s gotten me out of some pretty sticky situations before, so it’s worth a try here!