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Tozi/Sao Paulo/Wilson Pass - No-Gi Troubleshooting Details (a BJJ Tutorial)

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

Troubleshooting for the Tozi pass.

Troubleshooting for the Tozi pass.


This is the third installment on the Tozi pass (also sometimes called the São Paulo pass or the "Wilson pass"). In this tutorial, we're going to get into some more specific troubleshooting tips, and all of the demo videos will be no-gi, emphasizing some aspects that are universal for gi passing as well, but especially pertinent in no-gi jiu jitsu. For the initial video and to get a good idea of how to get started with the pass, start with volume one. For details uncrossing the feet, move to volume two. For a much more conventional look at getting the closed guard open, check out this fundamental tutorial.

Dealing With the Overhook and Passing To Half Guard

When your posture is already compromised in closed guard in no-gi, most particularly when your partner either has an overhook or is playing with a Shawn Williams guard (or "London" from the earlier days of rubber guard), you're going to be fighting quite an uphill battle to free your trapped (right) arm. This is the perfect time to go into this pass. Start by controlling the opposite bicep with your free (left) hand, and then sprawl your hips down and back. From here, walk to the side until your stomach pins your partner's knee to the mat. Note: you need to walk laterally here, not in a circle; otherwise, your partner will simply lift their hips and see you off balance, or scoot back to center! Once hips are switched and the feet are uncrossed, we're opting to step over to half guard. The most effective way to do this is to make sure your left thigh is above your partner's right knee, and as soon as you have that, walk back to center, dragging their knee with you. From here, you already have the underhook, so hunting for a crossface would be a logical next step.

Elbow in and Knee Pin

Here's a great illustration of the importance of pinning the knee before switching your hips. I don't do this at first, and Keith simply moves his hips back to his right, getting underneath me and seriously off-balancing me (instead of being swept here, you're much more likely to simply end up back at square one over and over again). Second detail: make sure to keep your left elbow in super tight, lest your partner drive their right knee through that space, facilitating an omoplata or triangle attempt (or worse, depending on their flexibility!).

Head Positioning

While it's ideal with a classic Tozi pass to have your head smashing down in the center, as immovable as the Juggernaut from Marvel Comics and as heavy as a stone statue, realistically, my head gets moved all the time from center (as big as it might be). However, you can minimize the impact of your head being pushed away by instead going straight up with your head. In one sense, you are yielding to what your opponent wants by allowing your head to be moved, but in a very important sense, you aren't quite giving them what they want. It's much, much better to let your head go up than it is to let it go into the direction in which you're passing. This fundamental concept of guard passing applies across a wide variety of techniques, including the over/under pass. A second detail that helps prevent the omoplata: lift your right palm to the ceiling to reinforce the "elbow back" technique with the original Tozi pass motion.

Troubles Abound

With a pass as intricate as this one, you're likely to run into other issues as your skills and corresponding boldness increase. As you try the pass on higher-ranked partners at the gym, they'll no doubt present you with new challenges to overcome. The issues presented in this tutorial represent the most common ones, but there are new techniques being employed (and even invented!) every day. If you hit a stumbling block, go back to the first two Tozi pass tutorials and check to see if the details are addressed. If not, please let me know and I'll help if I can! I've used this pass successfully in black belt competitions and consider it my go-to guard pass, but there are always new discoveries being made.