It’s one thing to pass a standard BJJ guard. However, pulling off a guard pass for someone’s butterfly guard is a whole different ball (or should we say “mat?”) game. Because of the sweeps and submissions that come from the butterfly guard, grapplers need to learn to defend against it and pass it effectively.
With the butterfly guard pass, students can avoid sweeps and submissions, score points in competitions, and get into better positions — positions good enough for a submission attempt.
Of course, like all things BJJ-related, there’s a whole universe of techniques. The variety will confuse if not overwhelm even the most eager of students.
Luckily, we at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu have handpicked the three best butterfly guard passes for grapplers of all levels. We’ve seen these guard passes to be high-percentage with a relatively flat learning curve.
Let’s expand your BJJ toolkit with these three butterfly guard pass variations!
What’s a Guard Pass in BJJ?
We’ll start by explaining what the guard is.
The guard is a position where an athlete locks the opponent’s body with the legs. The grappler can also lock the opponent’s legs. Such is the case for positions like the half guard and 50/50 guard.
Athletes use the guard to immobilize their opponents who are on top. Because grapplers lock their legs in this position, their opponents can’t finish the fight with a submission. The opponents won’t be able to move to better positions either, at least for a few moments. The guard buys the athlete more time to escape, sweep, or attempt a submission from the bottom.
Now, one may ask:
“What if I’m in the opponent’s guard and I want to move to a better position?”
To this question, we give this answer: “go for a guard pass.”
A guard pass is any maneuver that opens up the opponent’s guard. A standard BJJ guard pass involves applying pressure on the opponent’s inner thigh, forcing them to release the lock they have on the athlete. This allows the athlete to “pass” and get to a more advantageous position.
What’s a Butterfly Guard?
The butterfly guard is a unique type of guard in BJJ. Grapplers don’t immobilize their opponents by locking the legs; rather, grapplers using the butterfly guard sit and lift their opponents with their shins.
The butterfly guard requires grapplers to place both insteps of the feet deep into their opponents’ inner thighs. From here, grapplers sit up and get double underhooks on their opponent. The underhooks prevent the opponent from mounting any effective escape or defense. When the grappler sits back while maintaining the position of the feet and the underhooks, they can sweep the opponent. From here, grapplers can take the top position.
Some world-class BJJ athletes use the butterfly guard as a setup for submissions. Here’s a video of Renato Tavares’s black belt Nick “Chewy” Albin demonstrating a shoulder lock variation from a butterfly guard!
A Butterfly Guard Pass Cheat Sheet: 3 Passes for BJJ Athletes
Now that we’re clear on what the butterfly guard is, let’s talk about getting around it. As mentioned, there are three elements to the butterfly guard — the insteps in the thighs, the underhook, and sitting upright. Take any one of these away, and you’ll be avoiding butterfly guard sweeps and submissions.
All of our butterfly guard passes involve eliminating these elements. Let’s begin with one that our students pick up quickly:
1. Double-leg Pass
The double-leg pass resembles the double-leg takedown. Here’s why:
As soon as the opponent sets up the butterfly guard, the grappler must grab both of the opponent’s legs. The grappler must clasp the legs as tight as possible to remove the insteps from the thighs.
From here, the grappler drops to the mat. The opponent’s legs will be straight, allowing the grappler to pivot to one side.
While pressing on the opponent’s upper thighs, the grappler steps over their legs. The grappler ends up in a position that resembles a completed double-leg takedown. The grappler can now release the legs and move to side mount.
2. Semi-cartwheel Pass
To perform the semi-cartwheel pass, it’s important to break the opponent’s posture as they set in for the butterfly guard. As the opponent scoots in for the butterfly guard, the grappler must push the opponent away using the head. The grappler’s crown must be directly under the opponent’s chin. Doing this will prevent the opponent from scooting farther in for the butterfly guard.
From here, the grappler continues to drive the head forward, forcing the opponent to lie flat. At this point, the opponent will be flat on the mat.
The grappler should then loop the arm over one of the opponent’s knees. The motion will be an overhook. As the arm loops over the knee, the grappler should grab the opponent’s ankle. For gi matches, grapplers can grab their pants instead.
With one hand on the opponent’s ankle, the grappler should post up with the other hand. After this step, the grappler digs one shoulder on the overhooking side and hops over the opponent’s leg. The grappler will land on one side of the opponent, ready to consolidate the side mount.
3. Smash Pass
To perform the smash pass, a grappler needs to break the opponent’s posture. One way to do this is with the same head-to-chin technique used in the semi-cartwheel pass.
Once the opponent is flat on the mat, the grappler should drive one fist on the mat next to the opponent’s hip. From here, the grappler should press the forearm against the opponent’s inner thigh. This will cause the opponent to angle toward the side of the pressed thigh.
As the opponent turns to one side, the knee on the pressured side will be farther away. The resulting position allows the grappler to climb over the knee and move to the side mount.
A Whole Universe of Guard Passes and Submissions Await You
You’ve just read our top three butterfly guard passes — each one deserves a place in your BJJ arsenal.
Of course, the road to mastery never ends. If you’re interested in fortifying your submission and guard-passing skills, you need an academy and like-minded BJJ trainees.
A universe of techniques awaits you at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu. Try a free week to experience the benefits of evidence-based Jiu-Jitsu training first-hand!