Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Dealing With the Knee Cut Pass
The knee cut pass is one of the highest percentage and most common methods of passing the guard in all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and grappling. Fortunately for you, you're going to have to deal with the pass on a daily basis while training (unless you're training with people from outer space or from another dimension), so this gives you a very good chance to get good at defending the pass.
What follows are some solid defenses to the pass at a somewhat later stage of the pass, plus a quick review of some of the simpler, earlier stage defenses at the end.
Late Stage Defense!
Because the pass is so common, you're very likely to have a solid fundamental understanding of the mechanics of the pass yourself. This is your best asset any time you're trying to figure out how to defend anything: understanding how the move works and then reverse engineering it so that you can defend it. For a great idea of the basic mechanics of the knee cut pass, check out this tutorial.
If you'll take a look at how Ben moves to finish the guard pass here, his head position switches to my far shoulder as he ends up in side control. We can use this knowledge to our advantage: just redirect the head as your partner tries to slide through to side control. In fact, if the head is far enough away and your partner stubbornly tries to hold on to finish the pass, you can sometimes even come up for an armbar attempt (but you should fully expect your partner to simply retract their arm, completely nullifying the pass either way).
Note that this head redirection concept works well regardless of whether your partner is using an underhook or collar control.
Heading Into the Brabo
Dealing With the Underhook
When your partner finishes the knee cut with the underhook, they've got incredible upper body control and the ability to pin your far shoulder to the mat. However, once again reverse-engineering the pass, we see that you're going to want tricep control of the inside arm before securing the pass. We can use this to our advantage on the bottom.
As your partner goes to secure your inside arm (typically one of the last steps of the knee cut pass with the underhook), just shoot your arm underneath their arm on the inside, allowing you free reign to circle away from your partner underneath. If you play your cards right, you can actually slip out into a brabo choke (commonly called a "D'Arce", much to my dismay). When I first saw this, it looked like absolute wizardry, but deconstructing the pass, the escape makes perfect sense (and the brabo is, after all, right there).
Combo of Simple Defenses (Knee Shield, Back Door/Underhook, Head Redirect)
More Fundamental, Earlier Stage Stuff
- The first thing to think about is to use your shin across their thigh (like a "scissor" position) to free your bottom leg. This goes back to some fundamental guard maintenance stuff, and it works really well.
- A second solid go-to move is to give a nudge forward with your knee to your partner's butt, forcing them forward, and allowing you to re-pummel for the underhook. This will allow you to come out the back door and end up on top.
- Finally, redirecting the head across (when your partner releases the underhook) allows you the space you need to sit back to guard.
These are solid early-stage defenses to the knee cut pass.
I am certain that there will be a follow-up to this tutorial, because there's a lot more to defending the knee cut pass, including opening up options to escape from the turtle position (and to get there during the pass safely). I'll get videos for these some time soon and add words to them so that you can work on this stuff right away. Meantime, you might also enjoy some of these leglocks from the knee cut position.
As always, please let me know how this works out for you. If you're able to get the moves to work for you, I'd love to hear about it, and if not, let me know so that I might be able to help!