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How to Pass Scissor Half Guard (Z Guard)

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


Scissor Half Guard

Scissor half guard, sometimes also referred to as "Z guard" or "93 guard," can be among the toughest types of guard to pass. On the surface, it looks like a traditional half guard, but there are many more attacks available to the bottom person (Kimuras, leglocks, and more) than might be present in half guard, and the space made by the knee or shin across the body makes closing the distance so you can smash and pass considerably more difficult. Here are two different approaches (and some key details) to give you a good starting point for dealing with this challenging type of guard.

Approach #1: Arm Thread Method

As mentioned above, dealing with the knee (or shin) is the most problematic area. It can keep you from closing the distance to do a more conventional half guard pass. Start by threading your right arm through, hugging your partner's bottom leg with a pocket pants grip. Next, switch your hips so that you can drive their knee to the ground, pinching your partner's knees together, and making the distance close a bit easier for you. Next, grab the collar with your left (free) hand, anchoring close to your partner's head. Switch your hips slightly so that you can free your trail leg, using a "yogafoot" maneuver whenever possible. Finish in side control.

Key Details

This second, quicker look provides some additional key details. Note the beginning of the move, when you don't want your partner to control your sleeve. While hiding it behind your back may not end up being necessary, it's important that you don't allow your partner to control your sleeve before you get the "crossface" control (collar grip) you want. You can try grabbing the pants here, but you can also thread your arm all the way through and "punch" the ground, effectively blocking them from following you. Either way, controlling the bottom leg is the key lower body detail, and controlling the head and shoulders is the key upper body detail. You might, in fact, say that last sentence about virtually any guard pass.

Approach #2: Power Slide Pass

Failing in the above approach, another technique is sometimes necessary. Here, start by controlling both lapels, one with each of your hands. Meanwhile, cinch your left leg in tight, trapping your partner's bottom leg from sneaking back through for a guard recovery (dealing with half guard is tough enough!). Next, execute a rock and roll "powerslide," not directly forward (toward your opponent's head), but instead, toward their hips and shoulders, approximating a 45-degree angle. The angle is crucial, because this will help you skirt around their knee shield. From here, it's a relatively simple matter to drop your hips down and use the left-hand lapel grip as a crossface, keeping your partner's head turned well away from you as you enter into a classic half guard crossface.


As we can see, there are multiple approaches to dealing with each type of guard. In jiu jitsu, there is seldom one correct approach to solve any individual problem, particularly as the complexity of the situation rises. Inevitably, most situations tend to become more complicated over time, as additional options open up for people. This means that your solutions will, no doubt, become ever more complex in return. Scissor half guard is one such situation, where there has been considerable evolution over the past two decades (including Kimuras and leg attacks).

As always, please let me know if these techniques are working for you!


Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on November 16, 2018:

It's almost as though there is a counter to every move!

Scott on November 15, 2018:

The Arm Thread gives your opponent an instant lasso if he can grab the sleeve.