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Backstep Deep Half Guard Pass: Taking the Back From the Bottom

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

The Backstep Pass

The Backstep Pass

The Backstep Pass in BJJ

In sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the "backstep pass" (sometimes also called the "stepover pass" depending on how the person gets there)—essentially a kneebar attack position—is a formidable positional threat, not to mention all of the submission attacks your partner might have. As such, it's important to shut the pass down before it gets too far along and to understand some basic maintenance from the bottom person's perspective. Here, we'll go over a very early-stage defense, followed by a somewhat later defensive option.

Background on the Position

Here, you can get an idea of why the backstep pass from deep half guard can be so accessible. Danny simply steps over my head, keeping his base low as he goes (so as to avoid any absurdly easy sweeps from my end), and ends up sitting on my hips, facing my feet. While this is just one scenario in which your partner might end up in the backstep position, it is a fairly common one, and once you're familiar with the deep half guard, you will find yourself in this position a great deal against better opponents and training partners.

Additionally, your partner has access to a wide variety of leglocks, so knowing how to preempt these attacks is crucial. We're going to take a look at two different ways to stop the leg attacks and get on top. Finally, your partner can actually take your back after stepping over, so it's important to understand how to shut that down, too.

The Hook Sweep

Assuming that your partner's right leg is trapped in between your legs in deep half guard, as they step over your head with their left leg, the first thing to do is to establish butterfly hooks. Generally, it's much easier to get the inside hook than the outside because of leg and body positioning, so let's get that done first.

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Your left hook (the leg your partner would be attacking with a kneebar) should find its place behind your partner's ankle, shutting down the leglock possibility very early on. The ultimate goal is to get your right hook behind their leg, close to their knee, but this isn't always possible straight away. However, if you elevate their leg just a bit with your left foot, you should be able to swim your right foot in there. Meanwhile, grab their collar with your right hand, while grabbing the fabric of their gi with your left hand. Finally, butterfly sweep them over to your left.

More Details

Let's take a second quick look at the same technique. You can see that, while the movement seems complex, you can learn to do the hook switch relatively smoothly, and the whole thing becomes one move after a little drilling time. Notice that as I come up on top, I am continuing to redirect my partner's hips to the side with my butterfly hook, making a guard recovery considerably more difficult for my partner.

The Back Take

Sometimes you're not going to be so good at getting the hooks with your feet, or your partner is going to work to prevent you from getting them with better hip positioning. This is a good time to try to untuck their far lapel and use this to set up a quick back take.

This time, as they step over, turn your own hips all the way over, keeping your left leg in between their legs. Keep the grip on the lapel here, or else your partner will be able to take your back as well! Now just sit back through, completing a slick transition to your partner's back.

The Rabbit Hole

Deep half guard is, in and of itself, a highly specialized type of guard, although I fully believe anyone who does jiu-jitsu can learn to use it. The backstep from deep half is an even more specialized position, but it's also one that you'll experience a great deal with competent training partners. Having these two simple counter-attack options at the ready is crucial to being able to effectively utilize deep half at a higher level. As always, let me know how these techniques are working for you!

© 2016 Andrew Smith

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