Class 2014-03-24: Knee Slide Passes

TransitionsThis class covers two ways to drive your knee from combat base to pass the guard.  You only have two choices for the direction of your lead knee when doing this style of pass, and one direction will feel more natural than the other.  There are many shared features, like getting an underhook, but there are enough differences that you’ll tend to gravitate to one or the other. 

Cross Knee Slide

If you have your right knee forward, this pass is directed towards your left.  It may feel like you are twisting awkwardly to complete the pass, but it has some positional advantages and is my preferred pass.

As with many other passes, establishing an underhook on the far side is important because it prevents your opponent from getting their own underhook that they may use to take your back or initiate a sweep.  You should try to establish this underhook fairly early in the pass since a skilled opponent will be focused on either pushing that arm away, or they will be hunting for their own underhook when they feel like their guard is about to be passed.  Another small benefit of this underhook is it tends to place your body in a better position for finishing the pass.  If your opponent does beat the underhook, you’ll need to whizzer their arm (strong overhook) to help nullify their options.

When you slide your knee over your opponent’s leg, try to aim towards the knee.  Sliding your knee across near the crotch risks some serious discomfort your male oppponents, and it actually give you less control over their leg, which improves their ability to use that leg to block your pass.  Once your knee hits the ground, your foot should remain on the leg as a pinning hook, and your foot should be flexed (dorsiflexion / curling your toes towards your shin).  A good position to aim for is your foot near your opponents knee while your knee is closer to their hip for a more vertical pass, or your knee away from their body for a more horizontally oriented pass.  The vertical orientation enables starting various attacks before you release the hook, while the horizontal orientation tends to be more forceful and quick and gets your hips to the ground and makes guard reclaiming much more difficult.

Once your knee is where you want it and your hook is controlling your opponents leg, bring your trailing leg through and past their leg.  You must leave the hook in place until your trailing leg is completely free, otherwise you risk an easy path to half guard.  If your opponent attempts to control your hook, adopt the horizontal pass style and use your hips to block their leg and kick your trapped leg forward to pop your foot from their control.  Getting your hips in the sideways orientation aligns your foot with their legs and makes it nearly impossible for them to retain control of your foot.

It’s common to grab the near side elbow and treat this pass as an entry to a Kuzure-Kesa-Gatame (broken scarf hold).  Although I am a big fan of various scarf holds, I rarely establish that position off of this pass, so my technique demonstration focuses on establishing side control and not worrying as much about the inside arm.  That being said, side control will also be easier to attain if you control the inside arm as well.  The down side is that starting your attack off of the pass is going to be more difficult if both of your arms are occupied with your opponents arms and you are simply trying to establish your desired side control variant.

Same Side Knee Slide

This pass trades the early awkward twisting with late stage twisting, but it doesn’t require quite the gymnastics, and the position feels very similar to a back step half guard pass.

As with the cross knee slide, your goal is to drive your knee across your opponent’s leg, keeping your foot near their knee and pressuring their leg at the knee.  On a quick pass you can often drag your trailing leg through, but if your opponent is aggressively trying to capture that leg with their outside leg, you may need to step in towards their leg  to clear their control before you bring your trailing leg through.

As with the first pass, you can either take a vertical angle and drive your hooking leg along the ribs to establish side control, or you can do a complete back step and get your hips on the ground.  Either way, you should already have a good underhook on the outside arm, and you should supplement with an underhook on the head as well.

Although there are some choke attacks that can be performed off of this pass, they are not high percentage and it’s better to focus on establishing a conventional side control.

If your hooking foot gets trapped by your opponents legs, make sure you have your far side underhook, then use your free foot to push your opponents legs off of your foot.  If you are having trouble getting your free foot on their leg, hip escape away a little, then try again.


As you can see from the videos, there are a number of shared elements.  You must control the leg you are passing over until your trailing leg is completely out of danger, otherwise you’ll end up in half guard.  The underhook should be established early in the pass to avoid back takes, and any time your trailing foot gets trapped, keep your hips on the floor and either kick through for the cross pass, or use your free foot to kick off their legs if you are using the same side pass.

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