Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that emphasizes positional dominance. One of the best ways to do this is to pass the opponent’s defenses (guard) and transition to a dominant position. Guard passing and retention are significant ingredients to a practitioner’s game, so much so that these skills must be developed from your first week of training (white belt) until you get your black belt. Today, we will focus on the defensive side of the game, specifically on countering the classic double under-guard pass.
The Defensive Guard
Playing guard is a highly complex skill that all BJJ practitioners should study. The guard is a position that allows you to stay safe while you are on your back or seated on the mat. Having a strong guard game is what sets Jiu-Jitsu apart compared to similar martial arts like Judo and Sambo, as BJJ matches typically have longer bouts where competitors play the guard.
It is important to note that guard play is not just about survival. Playing guard means that you use your body configuration to defend, counter, and attack a fully resisting opponent, especially when they are trying to pass. Having a good understanding of these should make you a formidable Jiu-Jitsu player.
Defending The Double Under Pass
Before we discuss our recommended ways to counter the double under pass, let’s first go over how to defend the dreaded passing technique. The double under pass is a staple technique and is typically used by those who love to use pressure to pass the guard. If you have training partners who are on the bigger side, they more often than not gravitate to using stack passes, which includes the double under pass. With this, it is imperative that you learn how to effectively defend and counter this technique.
This video by Stephan Kesting and Rory Van Vliet is a great introduction on how to defend the double under pass. Rory and Stephan are both highly regarded BJJ black belts with decades of experience in grappling.
Rory mentions that the central concept of a solid defense versus the double under pass is to not get your hips raised off the ground. In order for the guard passer to use the double under pass (or any stack pass variant, for that matter), they must stack the bottom player’s hips above their shoulders. Preventing this from happening will instantly nullify the passing attempt. This is a simple yet often overlooked idea that will save you hours of frustration on the mats.
To prevent the guard passer from raising your hips, please remember these critical steps: control the opponent’s wrists, lift and arch your hips slightly, and straighten your body to create space. Let’s break these down one by one.
Establishing solid grips on the opponent’s wrists lets you track their next move. Several variants of stack passes are available for the passer to use, and it only takes a slight variation in their grips to transition from one variation to the next. Controlling their grips helps you stay connected to your opponent and gives you the upper hand in limiting how they can move or transition as they attempt to pass.
Lifting and arching your hips ever so slightly as you keep your grips counteracts the opponent’s attempt to raise your hips. If your back is arched, the opponent cannot stack you (lift your hips off the ground).
The last tip is to straighten your body as you do tips 1 and 2. Straightening your body (this includes your legs) as you keep a firm grip and a slightly lifted hip will make your body much harder to control. It also enables you to create distance as you defend the stack attempt.
Doing these tips is guaranteed to level up your defense almost immediately. We encourage you to try them in your sparring sessions. Now that we’ve discussed the basic defense, let’s move to our recommended counters to the double under pass.
3 Counters To The Double Under Pass
In this video, BJJ black belt and competitor Dominique Bell shares his best counters to the double under guard pass.
The first technique is the classic elbow push, a move popularized by the legendary Marcelo Garcia. When the opponent starts the double under stack motion, post and sit up on your elbow as you cup and push the opponent’s elbow across your body. Drive your hips up and follow through with the elbow grip. Finish the counter by sweeping the opponent over using a motion similar to the hip bump sweep.
The second technique is the backward roll sweep, a flashy technique that will surely surprise your opponents. The initial steps are identical to the first technique, but once the opponent pushes back into you, you can switch your grip from the elbow to the shoulder, perform a backward roll, and quickly sweep the opponent.
The last technique is another variation of the backward sweep. Start the technique using the same steps as the previous ones, and do a big hip escape as soon as you sit up. Switch your elbow grip to the belt and your other hand to the elbow. The last step is to use your butterfly hooks to sweep the opponent backward. This is a super strong sweep and can work even on larger opponents.
Learning to defend and counter common guard passing techniques is a smart and efficient way to improve your Jiu-Jitsu. We suggest that you drill these counters for several weeks so that you can fully understand their nuances. Start by drilling with no resistance and slowly add them to your rolls once you can perform them well.
Remember that the key to mastery is consistent practice and fine-tuning. Once you master these counters, you can then focus on countering other guard passing techniques as you see fit. We hope that you learned a couple of new tricks in this article. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!
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