Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Oh Noes! Toreando!
One of the very first guard pass sequences you're likely to have learned is the toreando (bull fighter) guard pass, wherein you grab the pants and throw your partner's legs to one side to pass their guard. As a result, you'll no doubt have to deal with this frequently when you're on the bottom playing open guard.
In every action your opponent takes lies an opportunity not only for you to defend their action, but also to counter it and use their own movement against them. What follows is a small collection of some of the easiest options to get started with for not only defeating the grips but also using them to start reversing the position.
Note: guard pass prevention is a much more comprehensive concept that includes stripping the grips along with guard maintenance. Be sure you're well versed in all of these areas, not just focused on stripping grips!
Inside Pants Grips When You're on Your Back
Whenever your partner grabs inside your pants, you can immediately recognize the threat to pass your guard with a classic toreando. However, there's also a great opportunity to take control of their wrists or sleeves here. Start by angling your hips out to one side, leveraging the angle to limit your partner's ability to follow you with their hands. Taking control of your partner's wrist or sleeve (here Trey prefers to control the wrist because there's less slack than grabbing the sleeve), you can then kick your leg free. You can now come back to the center and do whatever you'd prefer with your hook (your right foot, in this case), making a hook or replacing it on your partner's hip, and so on. Note: this is different than the X-pass, although many of the strategies for dealing with the guard pass will be the same.
In this next technique, your partner has forced you to sit up before you've had a chance to get control of their sleeves (or wrists). Making sure to follow, keeping your knees to your chest, and immediately switch from trying to grab their sleeves (this is likely hopeless) to hugging their wrists with the crooks of your elbows. Clasp your hands together (if possible, in an "I Dream of Jeanie" gesture, grabbing your own triceps), and then open your knees outward. Your partner will almost definitely be unable to maintain grips on the inside of your pants.
Adding Insult to Injury
Not only can you strip the grips here, but by pinching your elbows together, you can often keep one (or sometimes both) wrists under control to start off-balancing your opponent. Here, keeping your opponent's left wrist under tight control with your right elbow, put your left foot on their right hip, and fall to your right shoulder, essentially creating a "tomoe nage" style sweep opportunity. Although you might not finish the sweep, your partner is going to be off balance long enough for you to capitalize and move to a different position, or follow up with another sweep (or, at a minimum, recover your guard fully).
Flaring Elbows Option
Sometimes, you're going to determine that you simply aren't going to be able to break your opponent's grips, or you'll want a different option. This one is simple and beautiful: simply flare your opponent's elbow out with your hand as they move to one side. You're going to want to open up their outside elbow (away from the direction they're passing), and this will invariably tilt their shoulders forward, ultimately making them choose between a face plant (not pleasant!) or simply releasing their grips, thus nullifying the pass.
Transitioning to the Arm Drag
Simple Add-On: Moving to the Arm Drag
A very simple add-on to the "elbows flaring" technique, once you have your partner off balanced forward and toward the ground, simply reach up with your opposite arm and hit a basic arm drag. Pulling up on their arm, you're simultaneously pulling them down to you (and "dragging" their arm across their body), and pulling yourself up to them. Once you get on top, just turn the corner and finish in a top position.
Always remember: any time your opponent tries to pass your guard, they are going to be open for counter-attacks. You can use the above techniques to break their grip, or you can use them to move immediately to more offensive types of guard, or getting underneath for submissions. Have fun with these techniques, and be sure to stay loose and open when experimenting. Your guard may be passed some at first, but gradually you'll figure out how to stop your partner from passing!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Andrew Smith