Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Tozi/Wilson Pass Overview
This guard pass perplexed me for years. I would watch Roberto Tozi do this pass relentlessly in competition, having no sense whatsoever of what was really happening until, in 2006, I was fortunate enough to meet Wilson Reis. Wilson is a world class grappler in his own right, with a gold medal at worlds (brown belt) and numerous pro division competition wins, along with a prospering pro MMA career. Wilson has shown the efficacy of his particular variation of this pass in competition again and again, and I had the opportunity to learn how to do this trademark pass from him. Ever since then, I've obsessed over the details of this pass, particularly in the last five or six years, having some minor knee issues that don't agree with me standing up in the closed guard. What follows are the most important details as I see them with this pass, and the way I've been able to use this pass successfully myself, both on the mats at the gym and in black belt competition on the local circuit at numerous US Grappling and IBJJF events.
Please note: this is a five-part tutorial series. You can find part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.
Simple Entry: Hand in the Collar
One very simple way to get started with this pass in the gi is to allow your partner to get one hand in the collar. In this case, your partner's right hand reaches across to your right collar. It's important that you don't allow them to get the second hand in (clearly), and one way to do this is to drop your head and turn it away, centering your ear on their chest. The more firmly you can keep your head planted here throughout the initial stages of this pass, the better of you're going to be. As you drop down, it's important that your right arm stay glued extremely tight to your partner's ribs (like an underhook), and that your elbow drops back (more on that later). Some people like to control the wrist with their left hand, but I prefer to keep my elbow in super tight (and this isn't to say that doing it the other way is wrong by any stretch; I'm just giving you the way that works for me.) From here, you need to sprawl your hips back, keeping them extremely low to the ground. Next, walk your hips to your left, not switching your hips until your partner's knee is pinned to the mat. From here, you can open the legs with your free left hand (making sure not to open your elbow!) In this particular variation, I drop back to knee slide over both legs. We'll cover other variations in a later tutorial.
Troubleshooting: Preventing the Omoplata
By far the number one attack from the Wilson pass is going to be the omoplata. The good news is that you can prevent this by following two basic tactics, both of which were alluded to briefly above. First, be sure to keep your head glued to your partner's torso, paying particular attention not to allow your head to deviate from the center. This is pretty straightforward, but not necessarily easy once your opponent knows what's happening with the pass. The second detail (and the one that made me fall in love with this pass) is that you can draw your elbow back (downward toward their hips), inhibiting your partner's ability to move their hips forward. Without the forward hip movement, your partner is unable to bring their foot in front of your face, since true mobility starts at the hip (not at the knee, contrary to common belief.)
Elbow Back/Down Details
This detail is worth further investigation and explanation, because it's really a "make or break" detail with this pass. As you drop down and start to pin your partner's hips, have your partner try to set up an omoplata. First, try it with a high underhook (your arm underneath your partner's armpit.) Note the relative ease with which your partner (assuming a reasonable level of hip flexibility) can set up the position. Next, try focusing on dropping your right elbow back all the way to their hip, pinning their hip back and down (mostly down toward their feet, not necessarily down to the ground.) Turn your palm up to the ceiling, accentuating the "elbow in" position you're going for. This adjustment should make it an order of magnitude more difficult to set up the omoplata.
One More Thing...
Another really important detail occurs a bit later in the pass. You really, really need to keep your left elbow in close to your body. If not, your partner has a very easy path to a "stockade" position (hooking your elbow with their far leg), and they can sweep or finish you from here really easily. The elbow being in tight is also the key to them setting up a triangle choke, so be sure to keep both elbows in tight. This is pretty easy to remember, as your left elbow is sort of mirroring what your right elbow is doing, right up to the point where you pass the guard (or pass to half guard.)
Think of this tutorial as a "foot in the water." There are numerous details present throughout the pass, and missing any one of them might spell doom for you against a savvy opponent. However, over time, you can definitely make this pass a huge part of your game! Have fun training with it, expect to get submitted and/or swept many of the first times you play with it, but also expect to get a lot better over the next year or so that you play with this pass. As always, let me know how it works for you! Update: here's a follow up on uncrossing the feet from this pass.